Posted by: markfender | April 29, 2014

Game of Thrones Sucks

Rage of Thrones indeed.

Game-of-Thrones-Season-a-storm-of-crows-mainI’ve been increasingly ambivalent about the show as it has continued. I like the books. They’re certainly not pretty (nor concise), but they are well written. Perhaps Martin’s greatest achievement is making reprehensible characters sympathetic. Jaime Lannister is one of my favorite characters in the books, and yet he has sex with his sister and pushed a kid out a window. Even Theon made a remarkable shift in likability in the last book.

And yet, I can’t be enthused about the television show. I questioned many of the changes made in adaptation to the smaller screen. Many of the scenes that I was looking forward to seeing on the big screen turned out to be let-downs (The Battle of Blackwater featured one or two boats, and the Red Wedding seemed to be attended by Robb Stark and his five closest friends). So, even the thrill of seeing “imagination come alive” has been kind of disappointing. Yes, there are standout performances (There’s no point in even making the show without Dinklage), but it’s been kind of lackluster overall.

But there’s controversy. “Sexposition” should not be a portmanteau in the lexicon, and yet it is. And then there’s the rape.

Last episode, Jaime Lannister raped his sister, Cersei, next to the dead body of their son. Numerous sites have called out the show for this scene. The actors, director, and even Martin himself have responded to the controversy. Many seek to reframe the scene with implied consent, which then gets shouted down by the “rape should not be a story element, ever” crowd. I’m not actually interested in that argument, so let’s stick with “troubled consent” for the sake of argument and move on.

My real concern is that the show runners are not doing a good job of adapting the books. Partially, this is because Martin himself is so adept at writing characters that they feel like real people. And I don’t think the show runners get this. Yes, much of the flashbacks in the books must be presented as exposition in the adaptation to television. And, yeah, sometimes the person the character is delivering exposition to is the last person they should be expositing at, but there’s tons of history and backstory that has to be shoveled in somehow. That’s unfortunate, but necessary in adapting the books. It’s the character violations I have more issue with.

In the first season, Daenrys gets raped by Khal Drogo. This is in violation of the books, in which Khal Drogo does his best, in his ham-handed barbarian ways, to seduce her. While their marriage is arranged, it becomes a mutual thing, which explains much of her outrage at his death. But, on the show, it’s just rape. Not living in a culture with arranged marriages, I don’t have experience with the idea and so it was interesting to see these two people form a real union, despite their circumstances. And the show just sort of breezes past the rape, but has the same situation develop. Bwuh?

Then, there’s Jaime troubled consenting with Cersei. Let’s note that the scene in the books is very mutual, whereas the show removes that entirely. Why? What point does it serve? I’ll hazard that the scene could not have been the same as in the books due to the logistical nature of reframing things. Jaime and Cersei have already had conversations in the show, whereas in the books it’s pretty much the first opportunity they have to be alone together since Jaime’s return. But still, it’s a violation of both characters’ stories. Jaime, with the loss of his hand, tries very hard to be useful. This means he’s going to be a diplomat, like Tyrion. And yet, he’s not very good at it. Jaime, by this point, has built up some goodwill with readers and so his fumblings are more sympathetic than pathetic. But, with this rape in “hand,” he’s going to have more difficulty in establishing that rapport with an audience again (Witness this week’s episode, in which much of the episode focused on Jaime doing nice things and how the media has still not ‘forgiven’ him for the previous week’s behavior). At this point in the books, Cersei has yet to have POV chapters, but her character is pretty well established. Her continued story is her weird quest for vengeance against Margery Tyrell, but I’m afraid, with this latest episode, we’re going to get more shrieking harridan than mother bear protecting her cubs.

But, then shrieking harridan seems to be all the show runners are good at. Shae has become some weirdly possessive person that is more of a trial for Tyrion than a comfort. I have no idea how her scene at the end of the season will play out with the radical changes they’ve made to her character. I have no sense that it will play well at all.

I think that the show runners are terribly tone deaf towards women. Martin is not. Yes, being a woman in Westeros sucks, but there are still a lot of well-written ones. But the show runners don’t get it. They feel like video game developers to me (“Let’s make sure he’s a huge, bald space marine. With giant shoulder pads. And the color palette should be brown.”) without the ability to use subtlety. They saw the books, said “Hell, yeah! Grim Dark! Let’s do it! Sex! Death! Blood!” Hell, True Detective said more about the status of women in eight episodes than Game of Thrones has been able to say in 34 episodes (Granted, True Detective didn’t exactly have nice things to say, but it was able to do it with all the trademark HBO nudity intact). It’s kind of sad to see such well-realized characters thrown upon the altar of “what will shock audiences this week?”

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