The Addictive Agony of Watching Poldark

August 3, 2017

Edgar Allan Poe, eternal literary legend and one of my favourite ultimate goths, wrote this in a letter during the last year of his life:

‘I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge.’

He was talking about alcohol in that letter, and the sentiment is tough and painful, but I was reminded of it in a far more frivolous tone whilst watching Poldark this week. The BBC drama has, in blunt terms, been complete agony since the finale of series one and it’s hardly let up since. I watch favourite characters suffer (Demelza should be protected at all costs), near-moustache-twirling villains get their own way around 80% of the time, and Ross. Oh, Ross. You are constantly letting me down. And yet throughout all this, you won’t catch me ever looking away.

Despite what the previous paragraph would inflect, I try not to moralise on the fiction I consume. This site gets those intense comments sometimes – ranting for lines and lines about the ‘loose morals’ of some female character who felt restricted in her life and makes the barest of breaks. The fact is, is that fiction where characters follow a certain code of buttoned-up morals is intensely boring. Writers know this: it’s the reason why shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad have dominated viewing figures over the last few years.

Poldark is testing me though. In the early days, I loved it. Consumed in the, admittedly, still less than ideal start for the Ross/Demelza romance, I had the joy of seeing the bad guys lose frequently and of Ross not acting as a (borderline emotionally abusive) husband. This week I found myself yelling at Ross in an empty room whilst he kissed Elizabeth again, annoyed that the betrayal that almost crippled his marriage wasn’t quite over. As a lover of revenge, I also became frustrated at Demelza for not getting her own back and just snogging the posh pretty guy. Go on love, you’ve been through enough.

Many people online derided those angry at Ross and Elizabeth’s ‘beautiful goodbye’ as not ‘true fans’ – the truth is, that despite the fact that I found myself an angry shell after an hour, I still grudgingly love the show. It doesn’t have any subtlety anymore (I direct you to the infamous ‘toe’ scene), but it’s still a fantastic concoction of sweeping melodrama, romance and ridiculous lines. As silly as that sounds, I just don’t really have a positive reaction to a lot of it anymore, because in the ratio of viewer’s dreams and utter misery, the dial has become very unfairly weighted.

In short, I must surely be addicted to the pain, even if I find little pleasure.

There should probably be a scientific study done on hate-watching a beloved show, because as long as the Poldark survives, I’ll be tuning in. Sometimes you just get too invested and you have to stick with something to the bitter end…

That, or it’s the number of attractive guys they keep adding to that cast. I may be more shallow than I think.

Have you got any shows you hate to watch, but love to follow? Post in the comments!

More about Jen Scouler

Jen Scouler is a magazine journalist, film critic and the founder of Lost In Drama. With degrees in both English Literature and Digital Journalism, she has experience of writing for popular print and online publications. Jen is also devoted to her metaphorical novelist aunties - Aunt Jane, Charlotte and Jo are particular favourites - and is usually found with an Earl Grey tea in hand.

Speak your mind, dear reader.

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