Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Bleakness Game of Thrones

So I just read the three page review of Game of thrones from the New York Times Magazine. This is a separate review from the incendiary one from the New york Times proper.

The basic gist of this article is that the Game of thrones is too bleak. And could do with a bit of optimism thrown in. Maybe some levity that dosen't involve raunch of jokes about bloodshed. I'd say this is a fair complaint from what I remember of the part of the book I read.

I'm willing to be supportive of the Show for the same reason I was supportive of Legend of the Seeker, Your Highness, Eragon, and a whole host of other Fantasy films and shows. I want more, and I want better. So I better support what we get. Or the next Peter Jackson might not get so lucky. But that dosen't change my opinions of George R.R. Martin's opus.

It's still a gritty, bleak, dark series of novels that leave very very little room for the more noble aspects of the human spirit. Chances are anyone who exhibits them is swept down upon like white on rice in a snowstorm and swiftly eliminated. Martin has crafted a world in which nobility, altruism, and the like are vices at best, and weakness at worst. His enemies are the Self. Rather than the standard Fantasy of having the enemies be the Other. Martin's kingdoms operate the same way a cancer ridden body does.. systems failing and feeding on each other in a confused morass of decay. He simply localizes the problems. It turns your neighbor into the Other.

That's not to say it dosen't happen. You can see it endlessly repeated in a whole host of nation-states on a nearly daily basis all over the world just by turning on the nightly news. It happened constantly in the TV show which Game of Thrones is endlessly compared too.. The Sopranos. A show which, I didn't like. It glamorized criminals. None of them were shown having to pay societies price for their malediction of their end of the social contract. If anything they were shown to be 'Just like everyone else'.. except that they murder and steal to get what they want.. while the rest of us slave away.

I just hope thats not how I feel after watching Game of Thrones. I want to like it. I want to support it in the hopes we get more Fantasy programs. But I have to have characters to like, that I'm sure will survive till the end, or it won't be worth bothering with. It's always darkest before the dawn, etc. But I'm left wondering if Martin intends to include the Dawn in his books. Certainly no shortage of his imitators show no inclination to include anything of the sort.

So this brings us to the other edge of what is as always a double edged sword. If it does well, it won't be doing well "because its a fantasy" but because its bleak and bloody and shows lots of tits. And we can no doubt look forward to adaptions of even bleaker and more bloody books into series.

I suppose I should console myself with the fact we are apparently going to get a Discworld Television show.. At least I can always count on Pratchett to make me laugh. Even if I can't count on anyone else to inspire me.


David J. West said...

I agree in that for me to like anything-TV, movies, BOOKs, I have to like a character(s)
Martin is a master at turning the reader into a puppet, toying with emotions, making you feel the tension in his stories = BUT the overall harshness and tone can be too much.

And I wanna make what could be a pisspoor prophecy-(but history tends to repeat itself) we had a dearth of anti-heroes and grimness in movies etc in the 70's then when Star Wars came out with definite good guys and hope-people responded-I suspect in time (not too far from now) it will swing back again.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Yeah I tend to agree. The thing is though, I really like a lot of those movies from the 70's, Dirty Harry, Death Wish, Taxi Driver.. all way up on my list of movies.. But I can definitely see the difference between those movies and movies like Taken.. Same sort of movie.. but Taken amps up the gore and violence to levels that would have been pretty unheard of Before Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out.. Yet at the same time.. Those movies from the 70's showed a good bit of full frontal nudity that's only just beginning to creep back into films.

Amazing how torturing a man to death is ok for audiences.. but female pubic hair is a no no.

Ted Cross said...

Different tastes and all that. I love the realism and grittiness, and I certainly want more. I like the wonder and beauty of Tolkien also. What I write tries to blend the two.

Lagomorph Rex said...


I'd never tell some one they shouldn't read it.. Simply that I can't find it in myself to enjoy it.

Brian Murphy said...

I know where you're coming from. I guess I can take and even enjoy this stuff in small doses. Betrayal and unfair deaths and wickedness and horrible behavior are a part of the human condition, so I look at Martin's series as addressing that aspect of reality. I can take it in small doses. But I don't want a steady diet of it in my fantasy. I hope we don't get a series of second-rate Martin clones clogging the bookshelves.

I personally loved ASOIAF up until the Red Wedding. I died a little inside after that, and I must say that A Feast for Crows was a marked decline in quality. Part of the reason may have been that, other than Brienne, I didn't like any of the remaining POV characters.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Part of it sure, but not mandatory. I've never killed anyone for instance, never robbed, cheated on my taxes or skipped paying a parking ticket.

People will do whatever they are allowed to get away with. But that dosen't mean you shouldn't show them being punished for it.

Brian Murphy said...

I agree. I do think that Martin could conclude the series with Jon Snow reclaiming his father's crown, or Daenerys returning with her dragons and ranks of Unsullied to annihilate the whole continent in a cleansing fire, both of which could be satisfying.

The problem is that everyone who deserves to enjoy said vengeance is already dead.

Lagomorph Rex said...

So I really have no idea who is and isn't alive.

I don't always make really good purchases, and buying all four volumes of Song of Ice and Fire in Hardcover for full price based only on the reputation of them. Only to be unable to read past Bran getting chucked out of the window. was probably one of my worst.