Netflix’s The Witcher series, which premiered last Friday, might be based primarily on Andrzej Sapkowski’s grim fantasy novels, but fans of the video-game adaptation from CD Projekt were also hoping for an Easter egg of their very own. In an epic story full of rich characters and exciting action set pieces, fans clamored for footage of … a guy in a bathtub.
Geralt of Rivia, played by Henry Cavill in the Netflix series, is a Witcher who roams the land slaying beasts. It is a dirty job and sometimes he needs to bathe. And so, the 2015 game The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt opens with a scene of Geralt in a wooden bathtub. His head hangs over one end and his limbs are spread eagle, with his feet hanging over the sides of the vessel. The most famous shot from this sequence is straight on, with his bare feet in the foreground, flanking his head in the background.
For years, the website PC Gamer has frequently dropped a Tub Geralt image onto many articles concerning The Witcher. The gag became so popular that CD Projekt sent the publication a one-of-a-kind Tub Geralt statue.
Reflecting on the bit earlier this year, PC Gamer writer Jody Macgregor wrote: “At first it was fun attaching the picture to Witcher stories because it’s always fun to enrage the kind of dudes who get mad online because they were shown some male flesh yet never have anything to say about video-game art overflowing with women’s skin. But then the complaints changed. People stopped being mad at Tub Geralt — they started being mad whenever we published a Witcher-related story without Tub Geralt.”
In a way, Tub Geralt functions similarly to a Rickroll, or a “Loss” meme. The punchline is in forcing someone who is not expecting Tub Geralt to see Tub Geralt and his shiny, steamy feet. To deploy a term that is way overused at this point, this is an incredibly horny image. Everything about this shot screams “Deviant Art fetish thing.” In the scene, Geralt scratches one foot with another before spreading his legs, all but begging for someone to create an entry for him on WikiFeet.
The Witcher presents Geralt’s nude body for all to see, but the eroticism of the image is severely undercut by the fact that video-game graphics — as good as they are — are still video-game graphics. With rare exceptions, video games rarely show full-frontal male nudity. So you’re left with this image that feints toward horniness, even as it stops short due to both technical and creative concerns. The horniness is, in a sense, the joke.
Luckily, Netflix and The Witcher’s creators were well aware that fans would be outraged if they didn’t get to see Geralt take a bath. Showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich told GamesRadar ahead of the premiere, “It is fun to visually throw a wink and a nod at video game fans, to say, ‘We see you too. We know you’re here.’ And we want them to be happy with what we’re doing as well.” So that’s why we can see Geralt in the fifth episode, nude and in water, but — say it ain’t so — we don’t get to see any feet, just a single kneecap peeking over the water line and more of his chest. The tub is also a permanent fixture in the show, not a big wooden vat in the middle of the floor.
“Hey, as long as people are happy, that’s all I really care about. Yes, it’d be awesome to see that meme going around,” Cavill told GamesRadar. “If people are enjoying my Geralt, and if I did my job right and presented a lore-accurate Geralt, then I’m happy.” In this case, “lore-accurate” means we see the Witcher lounging in a tub.