If you have been living under a rock (or as is permissible in the circumstances – your duvet) for the entirety of lockdown, you will have been greatly deprived of Normal People’s Mr Connell Waldron in the glorious shape of Paul Mescal. Not only has it been suggested that Mescal has “redefined” the term sex symbol, he has even been dubbed as a future James Bond – a bold statement but in my opinion entirely justified. So if you’ve been pleading to the quarantine gods that Boris will let you go back to the pub, I firmly suggest that you change the subject of your prayers and prepare to have your heart stolen. Warning, you may want to reapply to Trinity College Dublin next year in search of Connell reincarnate. Whether you do it the proper way and read Sally Rooney’s novel first, or simply cheat and charge through the steamy twelve part series, you will not regret it. Connell Waldron has rugby tackled Mr Darcy to the ground. Stolen his crown and claimed himself the title of Modern Day Literary Heartthrob… or has he?
If you, whatever your sexual orientation, have walked away from watching Normal People and claim to not have a crush on Connell, you are a liar. Mescal’s flawless performance, and transfer of this rather ordinary character from paper to screen, is outstanding. It certainly helps that he is incredibly pleasing on the eye (did I mention?), with arguably one of the sexiest accents out there. Oh and don’t even get me started on that chain. However in all seriousness, he manages to keep the average teenage boy that Rooney envisaged yet adds a delicate charm that makes us all melt. Connell is that guy in school who everyone likes, easy-going, couldn’t hurt a fly and wonderfully intelligent. His tepid relationship with Rachel, the basic blonde BNOC, seems to be his only shortcoming. On a slight side note, Normal People is a particularly important watch/read due to its sensitive and honest dealing with the mental struggles of adolescent males. Rooney leaves no stone unturned when it comes to showing the raw emotions of her authentic characters. Mescal’s candid execution of the character’s complicated experiences should be commended, especially considering the vitality of improving the difficult discussion still surrounding men’s mental health.
However, I don’t believe Rooney intended for us to fall in love with Connell in this way. She wanted us to fall in love with Marianne and Connell’s relationship and in this case, she certainly succeeded. Although a messy and, in many ways, hugely sexual relationship, we cannot help but adore them and pray that they get married and have lots of little Irish babies. In the novel, Rooney’s alluring and humble male protagonist did not have enchanting blue eyes, a smile that weakens your knees and nor did he (sadly) wear a chain. There is some meagre indication at the start of the book that he is tall and dark, but no mention of any handsomeness.
Despite having a large amount of control over the BBC series, Sally Rooney must have overslept when casting began. Or maybe she too got distracted by that jawline and now the entire country is besotted by Mr Waldron… But let’s not get too excited. He is also a right knob. If you have been reading up to this point agreeing with me, you are guilty of over-excitement and sweet, sweet ignorance. Girls, take off those rose-tinted glasses and boys put your pens down, no need to take note anymore (although I am sure we said goodbye to most males at the line “lots of Irish babies”). Connell Waldron is just like you. An ordinary, normal person. Not a benevolent soul like Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. We are overlooking his behaviours that are more akin to Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones. Let me briefly remind you of those deeply irritating flaws we may have overlooked.
- He invites Rachel to Debs. Enough said.
- He does not want people at school to know he has even had a conversation with Marianne, let alone “done the deed”. I am too irritated to even discuss this point.
- Does not stand up for Marianne when Rob insults her. Really? Grow a pair of bollocks, please.
- Has severe issues with any public displays of affection towards the girl he has been in love with for several years. Now of course, any couple that has ever released a tongue down a throat in public should be sectioned. But an arm around a waist is even accepted in the Royal Family so why is it a defining moment in their relationship when he does this in front of a half empty swimming pool?
- Blatant feelings for Marianne whilst with Helen. Just a big fat NO.
- Lastly, he decides kissing Marianne whilst they’re both in relationships with other people is a smart move. This crime needs no further examination.
The list continues, but I shan’t bore you with any more of his vexatious misdemeanours.
I hope the penny has now dropped. Oh yeah, he is actually a bit of an arse. But Rooney wanted him to have these flaws and these are what make him and all the other characters so blissfully lifelike. Before thinking much about it, we feel that we already know a Connell, a Marianne, a Rob and unfortunately, even a Jamie. This was the intention. Lest we forget the title of the book. Rooney never wanted a wild romance as seen in American movies. Quite frankly, in real life Jack would have tried considerably harder to get on that wooden door with Rose.
Now for those of you who have exhausted Netflix’s highly academic documentaries such as Too Hot To Handle or Tiger King, please take a day or so to read Rooney’s rather mundane novel. I was obviously never meant to have a marketing career but the beautiful truth of this story is that it is indeed mundane – nothing really happens. But no other book has ever captivated me in this way. Once finished please return to the comfort of bed and binge the marvellous series on BBC iPlayer. However, under no circumstances attempt to watch this with a parent. You have been warned.