Succession is HBO’s searing dark comedy about the wrought, privileged lives of a legacy media family. It’s an excellent scripted take on how out-of-touch billionaires like Rupert Murdoch are destroying the future of media, and with it, their legacies. It’s also just a soapy, scripted version of Real Housewives — in this case, of the Upper East Side.
But I’m having trouble keeping up with the Emmy-winning storylines. Because every time I sit down to watch the latest episode of Season Two, I get distracted by actor Kieran Culkin in his tight dress shirts and 5-o’clock-shadowed jawline. He plays Roman, the youngest, most outwardly awful son of media tycoon Logan Roy. How awful? Well, he once dangled a $1 million check in front of a little kid; he can’t fuck unless he’s humiliated first; and he’s really just a shit employee.
Still, I’m helplessly attracted to this neurotic, vampirically alabaster slimeball. Does this make me crazy? Or better put, is Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy deeply hot or just simply just another interesting looking Culkin? Succession fans such as myself are split, though many have proudly decided they want the dead-eyed actor to murder them.
“Members of Roman Hive are generally willing to disregard his slimy dealings and general sexual dysfunction — and also probably think him jerking off onto his office window was hot,” editor Maeve McDermott tells me.
To McDermott, Roman’s cartoonish evilness is the major appeal — the 2019 version of the 1950s slicked-back hair corporate cat. “How many people who want to fuck Roman also at some point wanted to fuck Pete Campbell from Mad Men?” she asks.
At least two — me and my friend Michelle. She works for a pro bono legal service but still wants to fuck corporate overlords like Pete and Roman. “I really hate toxic people, but I’m extremely sexually attracted to them,” she admits.
In fairness to Roman, every Succession character has commitment issues. For example, to feel less guilty for her problems with infidelity, Roman’s sister Shiv forces her husband Tom into an open-marriage hours after their wedding ceremony. Meanwhile, his brother Kendall perpetually wants to fuck his estranged wife but doesn’t want to do any of the parental legwork, and his other brother Connor is still dangling money in front of his former call girl girlfriend.
And so, comparatively at least, Roman’s vulnerable psychosexual relationship with mother-figure and longtime company exec Gerri Killman feels unexpectedly honest. “That he’s really into and submissive to this older, powerful woman who tells him what to do and what not to do definitely adds a layer to his attractiveness,” publicist Katie Blitz tells me.
Roman stans read his vulnerability as a reason to believe he’s the only truly good character in a family full of whiny assholes who make more in a week than the rest of us ever will in a lifetime (combined). “Every single character is wearing a mask besides Roman,” marketing manager Alexander De Luca explains. “Recovering drug addict Kendall is a shell of a human, and Shiv is only likable because we like a take-charge woman.” And while both have been tapped as successor, they seriously misjudge their own skills. Roman, on the other hand, “owns his imperfections and doesn’t try to be anything else.”
Yet perhaps the most unexpected reason Roman is beloved is that he makes a great case for the importance of queer villains. My friend Michelle swears Roman admits to having fucked dudes in Season One. I haven’t rewatched the initial episodes to confirm this, but we do know that gays can’t sit in chairs normally, and Roman does have a problem with chairs.
Pat, a fan from Nebraska, says at the very least, Roman is coded representation for queer viewers: “He’s an outcast of his family, and the way he craves their approval but doesn’t actually want it reads as queer. I find him very feminine in a good way.”
Either way, I say that we have more than enough proof to determine that Roman — and Kieran Culkin in general — is indeed a witty, pasty hottie definitely worth stanning.