Nashville, Season 1

Deacon Is Nashville’s Byronic Hero
Talking television.
April 2 2013 9:00 AM

Nashville, Season 1

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

If Nashville were pants, Deacon would be the drawstring.

Still from Nashville Season 1, Episode 2 with Connie Britton and Charles Esten.
Lord Byron, Edward Rochester, Deacon Claybourne

Courtesy ABC Studios

It’s time to talk about Deacon. Gallant Deacon, sensitive Deacon, mournful Deacon, the show’s very own Deacon ex machina. The pulchritudinous guitar player has lately become the achy heart of Nashville—as well as most of its connective tissue.

Callie Khouri did not need to resort to golden retriever puppies to make us love him. His musical talent, hunkiness, and penchant for rescuing other characters would have been enough. He belongs in a superhero movie, continually called in to save the day, solving everyone else’s problems while wrestling poignantly with his own. Last week, he dashed into a moil of rioting Juliette Barnes fans to save Maddie when a shelf fell on her head. (He even brought her an adorable stuffed bunny in the hospital. Aw.) He faced down Gunnar’s preposterous hoodie without cracking a smile (and, in a lovely soliloquy about friendship and moving on from tragedy, persuaded its owner to abandon his dangerous revenge plot). Earlier in the season, he was the one who got Jolene into rehab. He unlocked Juliette’s songwriting talents when everybody thought she was just an Autotuned Britney clone. When the oily guitarist from the Revel Kings put his hands on Scarlett, Uncle Deacon busted in the door just in time. And, of course, he represents the ultimate goal of the show: Rayna’s romantic and creative salvation.

Shouldn’t it be slightly annoying when a single character gets so exalted? Not when he performs such valuable narrative service (and looks like Charles Esten). Deacon, aside from thoroughly babe-ifying the role of the fairy godmother, has become the through-line pulling together disparate plots. (If Nashville were pants, he’d be the drawstring.) He means something to everyone, is desired in some fashion by everyone, is the consummate musician in a show about music and a romantic hero in a show about love. His birthday party gets all the characters we care about together in the same room. His creative influence flourishes in Rayna’s work as well as in Juliette’s—even, through heredity, in Scarlett’s.

Advertisement

And I don’t drop the phrase romantic hero idly. Weeks ago, David Plotz suggested that Nashville constituted one long female daydream, rife with celestially beautiful men and more terrestrial-looking women (Still not quite buying it). But whether or not you agree with Plotz, it’s easy to see how Deacon might embody a gal’s (or fella’s) savior fantasy. He’s just a hair too perfect—with perfect hair—and he can guess exactly where a lady is from just by looking at her. His womanizing and “still waters run deep” woundedness make him a sort of Byronic idol. Remember crusty Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, brooding but with a heart of gold? Or, fine, Edward Cullen from the Twilight series? The formula for these heroes is angst plus good looks plus elite status in whatever world they occupy. They’ve always been irresistible and they always will be. Except Deacon is deadlier, because he also has a golden retriever puppy.

 

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 1 2014 10:32 AM The Corpse-Lined Hallways of the Capuchin Monastery Catacombs
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 10:44 AM Everyone’s Favorite Bob’s Burgers Character Gets a Remix You Can Dance to
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 10:27 AM 3,000 French Scientists Are Marching to Demand More Research Funding
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.