The cult of Paul Mescal proves it – lockdown has pushed us towards new levels of thirst for celebrities

There’s a familiarity to the ‘Normal People’ actor that feels as refreshing as guzzling on a tin of pink gin down the park

Amy Nickell
Sunday 31 May 2020 16:47
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Paul Mescal says he's worried Instagram account for his chain more popular than his character

This week, Normal People actor Paul Mescal prompted a cataclysmic public discussion with one single simple pap shot. Strolling away from an east London corner shop clutching two cans of gin and tonic in one hand and a bottle of Crabbies cider and some prawn cocktail crisps in the other, the picture abdicated Connell the character and newly crowned Mescal the man. Anyone thinking, “that’s just a man holding stuff”, might want to consider an eyesight-checking trip to Barnard Castle.

The world was first introduced to Mescal about a month ago when the BBC first aired the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s coming of age novel Normal People. The show threw the world into a frenzy and received widespread acclaim from everyone from Richard E Grant to James Corden for every detail, from the casting of the two leads to the positive depictions of teenage sex. Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal kicked every feeling into viewers with their incredible on-screen chemistry, and 16 million people binged the show in its first week on BBC iPlayer.

The timing couldn’t have been better for Mescal’s debut. National lockdown meant that single people were now at the point of chasing their neighbours’ cats just to touch something alive, meaning the sight of a brawny Irishman with kind (and blue, very, very blue) eyes was just the tonic we needed. Connell the character fast became the normal person doing abnormal things to physical contact-hungry self-isolators. An Instagram account dedicated to images of Connell wearing a chain during the show has more than 170,000 followers.

Upon hearing Mescal had moved in, the inhabitants of east London ditched their small lockdown goal of a daily shower and replaced it with a Connell sighting, establishing him as the Bigfoot of east London. Then that photo landed, and the world lost its mind. Working out if it was a bulge or a crease in the shorts quickly became the closest I’d come to sex in months. But there’s more to it than downright objectification as you’ll shortly come to appreciate.

Mescal personifies the times we are in now. He’s got all the time and yet no time to faff around with wireless headphones. He’s been wearing the same white shorts for three days now. He cares for the environment enough to turn down a plastic bag, despite forgetting his Bag for Life. He drinks like Dianne Abbott on a Tube train and takes pleasure in Walkers prawn cocktail crisps, which we are ALL eating right now. If this time could be summed up by a foodstuff, it would be that pink rectangular packet of deliciousness. We’re yearning for nostalgia, comfort, and we can certainly make room for the carbs as there are undoubtedly not going to be any trips to Marbs.

2018 sausage advert starring Normal People's Paul Mescal

With snacking now a national pastime (we’re a nation Googling ways to make at-home sausage McMuffins), Mescal is the personification of our shared McMuffin cravings. It’s probably best for his personal safety that he is self-isolating. However, the additional can of pink gin he was seen carrying has got people wondering. There is also a quiet suspicion that if you want to find three Mescal lookalikes, all you’ve to do is stand outside your local corner shop. While they may not have the same aura of emotional maturity, they will have the shorts and chain. There’s a familiarity to the attainability, and it’s as refreshing as a pink gin tinnie down the park.

Rather than the polished veneer of Hollywood or the stage-managed scripts and half-truths of Westminster, this lockdown has left us craving something real. And it just so happened to come in the form of a pair of pale thighs.

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