Close-Reading a Controversial List, Take 2

Here there be third season spoilers, continue at your own risk.

Many people seemed to be somewhat taken aback by Edith Zimmerman’s aesthetic choices in her recent ranking of the top 26 hottest men in the popular HBO drama Game of Thrones. The word “trolling” was mentioned. Some felt strongly that Gendry should have done better than 21st place. Others were horrified to see Bad Dad Tywin Lannister in a top 10 spot. And, of course, there were those who saw Ned Stark in an even more prominent position than he now enjoys on the walls of King’s Landing, tilted their heads with bemusement, and said, “her?”

Edith is mostly right. By which I mean that I mostly agree with Edith, with some notable exceptions. We’ll get there in a minute. For now, let’s speak more widely about what a ranking like this attempts to accomplish.

To what extent, if any, is a character’s intelligence and bravery and sense of humor a contributing factor in their hotness? To allow these elements to enter in to your calculations at all ensures that it will impact every single choice. It is doing yourself a kindness, ultimately, to treat these men like horses in a halter class. No! I mean this nicely. They probably do not care, especially since all of this occurs solely in the transom of your mind. It is easiest, as a writer, to pretend that you are walking up to each of them for the first time, putting your hand in their mouth to check out their teeth, observing the quality of their grooming, their conformation, and their pure aesthetic potential. And no, of course you will not be objective. Someone who catches their breath at the sight of Khal Drogo’s Clan of the Cave Bear charms is unlikely to drop their panties for the pouty lips and vaguely-wounded expression of Jon Snow.

For a moment, though, let us remember that this list was compiled last Friday. It is, as all hotness lists are, incomplete, as hotness is ever evolving. Had Edith incorporated Sunday’s episode, perhaps Jon Snow’s newly-established enthusiasm for hot lunch would have hopped up to replace his bug-eyed, aggravating brother Robb. Perhaps her waning memories of Jaqen H’ghar would have fallen victim to Jaime Lannister’s loins. I don’t see Theon going anywhere.

If one does, invariably, fall prey to questions of character, everything changes. Varys, you will note, is nowhere to be found on this list, probably because neither he nor his fellow characters consider him to be, strictly speaking, a man. Which is certainly untrue, but who would want to put the poor, maligned guy, with his gloriously twisted sense of revenge, lower on the list than someone we dislike, just because of the actions of an evil sorcerer? He is still a sexual person! Then, too, there is the question of Tyrion Lannister. Edith was correct to place him lower than Jaime, because Tyrion Lannister would be exceptionally suspicious of anyone who claimed to prefer his body to that of the Kingslayer. To prefer Tyrion himself as a partner is perfectly sensible. And, make no mistake, Tyrion could get it. But if you said, “oh, baby, you’re so much hotter than your brother Jaime,” Tyrion would give you the side-eye and start counting the money in his wallet before going to sleep each night. Don’t patronize Tyrion Lannister. Is he sexy? Lord, yes! Is he hotter than Jaime Lannister? Probably not. Is he hotter than Stannis Baratheon, who, in my opinion, could also get it? Probably yes. Are there people who honestly and truthfully find Tyrion sexier than Jaime? I imagine there are.

Now, to Ned. Dead, no-head Ned. I back Edith’s play, here. He is the hottest. For me, he can only be the hottest if his face and body are our only considerations. Why? Because he’s a fucking idiot. Seriously. “Cersei,” he said. “I have found out your dreaded, treasonous secret. Your husband will be home in just a few days, and I will tell him everything, unless, of course, you behave in a manner consistent with all your past behavior, killing your husband and placing me at the mercy of your toad-like, We Need to Talk About Kevin-esque son. So, you just think about that, I’ll be over here, looking at a pretty tree.”

The second-last thing I have to say on this, my favorite topic, is regarding Lead White Walker and The Black Smoke. “Haha!” you say. “That’s funny.” Oh, it is. It assuredly is. But #18–19 exist as a metaphorical Wall standing between #1–17 (the hot men, i.e. those who live on the good side of the Wall), and #20–26 (those who are not-hot, or, to continue the metaphor, Wildings plus zombies.) This is why people objected to Gendry. Gendry, they say, does not deserve to be on the other side of the Wall. He can forge steel for us. He looks good in that one gif in which he is sweaty and has abs. But this is not a list of hottest gifs. That day may yet come. Gendry…is okay. Would I, personally, have placed him on the good side of the Wall? Yes. I would. But he’s kind of a kid, honestly. And, let’s get real, he’s Robert Baratheon’s kid, and that guy was not the best. Much like Ned, he was a fucking idiot, but he also screwed around a lot (admittedly, on Cersei, who is a stone-cold bitch), and was a really messy eater, and, if we are to believe Cersei, not great in bed. Could he get it? Yes. If Jaime Lannister was your ex-boyfriend, and you were dating Gendry now, and it was going pretty well, and you ran into Jaime at a party, would you want to introduce him to Gendry? Or would you be a little worried that Jaime would look pityingly at you and offer to remind you what it was like to climb all over the Kingslayer in your friend’s bathroom?

Only you can answer that. Let’s close with our final consideration, which has not yet been mentioned, in the words of the great Canadian songstress Shania Twain:

So you got the looks but have you got the touch
Don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night
That don’t impress me much

When the days darken and the crops fail, you may wish you’d prioritized a little junk in the trunk over some pretty cheekbones, because you’ll be cutting yourself on them soon enough.

Winter Is Coming.