I was sad to see noble Prince Oberyn Martell die. Still am. Still haven’t gotten over it. He was, without a doubt, one of the most compelling characters on HBO’s television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Though Pedro Pascal, the 39-year-old Chilean who plays Oberyn, is undeniably hot, the Dornish Prince’s irresistible charm isn’t a function of Pascal’s washboard abs, chiseled chin, or piercing brown eyes. It’s a function of the character’s noble virtues.
In Martin’s fictional universe, as well as our own, the love of pleasure and the love of honour are too often presented as contradictory drives that couldn’t possibly coexist (coherently, and more or less peacefully) within the same soul. You can have one or the other, or neither, but never both. The lusty earthbound virtues of a fun-loving Falstaff are—we’re so often told—fundamentally antithetical to the stoic virtues of the honour-loving warrior. Eddard Stark’s character is a case in point. He’s brave and courageous, and he’s just, but he’s also kind of boring. Ned’s a deeply honourable man—no doubt about that—but he’s also a bit of a cheerless puritan. We know he’s overcome his fear of death, but we wonder if he’ll ever overcome his fear of smiling. We know he’s ready to die, but we wonder if he’s ever really lived.
These questions just don’t occur to us when we’re contemplating Prince Oberyn, a man whose lust for life and love of beauty are in evidence in every smiling scene. Sure, he’s a decidedly dangerous dude, a fiery man with a very bad temper—the kind of guy who can fly into a white-hot rage at a moment’s notice. But he’s also the kind of guy who reaches out for pleasure—without guilt or shame—whenever it crosses his path. In short, Prince Oberyn is a lover and a fighter. And he’s also a hedonist. But it would be a mistake to assume that all of this hedonism has made him soft. Because, well, um, nothing could be further from the truth.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)