HBO’s new epic fantasy series Game of Thrones starts on Sunday. This is the sort of thing that I’m expected to be excited about because I’m a nerd, but there are many shades of nerd in the world, and I am not an indiscriminate fantasy fan. Once was enough for Lord of the Rings, and I’ve never bought a book with barbarian on the cover. All I know about George R R Martin is that his middle name is the noise that an excited seal makes.
Yet I am a nerd all the same, and I am open to new nerdy things, and I actually am excited about Game of Thrones. I don’t know what it’s about, but it sounds ambitious, spectacular and sordid, and those are appealing features in any TV show. It also appears to be full of attractive men with big swords, and I’m all for that.
Game of Thrones is going to spark a thousand new crushes, and it’ll probably take a few episodes for viewers to decide who their preferred objects of affection are, but I’m always ready to leap to snap judgements - so here are my preliminary picks for the top ten men of Game of Thrones.
Some of them are familiar names, and some of them are new faces. For all I know, some of them may play characters who die in episode two, and some fresh-faced Guildhall graduate I haven’t mentioned could show up and out-hunk all them all.
10. Finn Jones (Loras Tyrell)
This skinny blond mop is really too much of a twink for my tastes, but you never know; his dewey-eyed peach-skinned prettiness could grow on me if his character shows a bit of grit.
9. Joseph Dempsie (Gendry)
Dempsie was my favourite as Chris on Skins. He’s a bit of a dweeb, and he looks a bit like Sandi Toksvig, but he has ample charm. Of course, on Skins he mainly had to compete with Nicholas Hoult’s wonky mouth. It remains to be seen how he’ll acquit himself now that he’s graduated to MAN action.
8. Sean Bean (Eddard Stark)
Bean is the obvious bridge between the two big fantasy franchises of our age - but I was more of an Aragorn guy. At 51, Bean is probably now playing kings rather than princes - but he was blessed with the sort of handsomely weathered face that it’s difficult to grow too old for.
7. Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister)
Dinklage is perhaps… shorter than the guys that most of us would typically go for. Even so, he’s become one of our generation’s more unconventional sex symbols. He may not be tall, but he is dark and handsome. Unfortunately, Game of Thrones has him playing a blond, and that could ruin everything.
6. Gethin Anthony (Renly Baratheon)
Anthony looks like a cross between Tom Hardy and an otter, and those are two things that make everyone happy! However, the name ‘Renly Baratheon’ makes me very unhappy. ‘Renly Baratheon’ is the sort of name that has stopped me reading books with barbarians on the cover. ‘Renly Baratheon’. What is that meant to evoke? It’s a good thing you’re cute, ‘Renly Baratheon’.
5. Kit Harington (Jon Snow)
Harington is a milky-skinned, dreamy-eyed whippersnapper with a silly Elizabethan name, so he’s basically a male Anne Hathaway. Or he’s Taylor Lautner after nasal reconstruction surgery. Either way, my money is on Harington to be the biggest hit with the Tiger Beat crowd (which includes most gay men in their thirties and forties).
4. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister)
Coster-Waldau has a leading man face that has long been in need of a leading man role. I don’t know if the great Dane has finally found it in this character, or if he’s playing against his looks, but so long as he gets to don chainmail and dash about a bit, I should be very happy.
3. Richard Madden (Robb Stark)
Given an appropriately swoonsome role, Madden’s big blue eyes and pretty lips could make him a huge star, and they may help him stand out from all the other boys in Thrones who have had to grow out their brown curls and short beards. I’m calling it; five years from now, Madden will probably be playing James Bond.
2. Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen)
Lloyd is another victim of an unfortunate enblondening in this show, but maybe he can make it work. He already has a look of teutonic superiority, like a boarding school head prefect that you crush on despite your best intentions. He’s just so commanding on the lacrosse field! Lloyd is also one of the best young actors in the business, and talent is sexy.
1. Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo)
Momoa not only plays a barbarian savage in Game of Thrones (and I speak in the most savage-positive sense, here), but he’s also the star of the Conan reboot, making him the new model Schwarzenegger. This is alarming for a lot of straight men, who know on an instinctual level that old Conan was profoundly unsexy and therefore meant only for them, whereas new Conan is strikingly beautiful and therefore appeals to a broader demographic, and that is a threat to their straight boy cultural hegemony. Well, suck it, straight boys. Barbarians are pretty now. Khal Drogo even wears make up.