Saturday, 13 April 2019

Game of Thrones: a pre-Season 8 thoughtdump

Jon Snow

Crossposted from Dreamwidth

To get this out of the way first: a large proportion of my family and close friends don’t watch Game of Thrones for various reasons. I gather this makes them feel a bit left out of some online conversations, since Game of Thrones has pervaded pop culture so thoroughly by now. I can relate. When I was a kid at primary school, we were the only household that didn’t have a TV. For context, in 1980s New Zealand there were exactly two TV channels, of which only one had children’s programming; so every day, every kid in the school had seen the exact same TV the previous afternoon, which made it ideal fodder for conversation icebreakers and small-talk. Every kid, except us. At the time I blamed this fact for the social difficulties which later turned out to be autism.

...annnd I’m already getting sidetracked in the first paragraph. What I was going to say was, I know how something just being popular with other people creates social pressure, even if it’s unintended, for you to join in and pretend you enjoy it as well. And honestly Game of Thrones is not for everybody. I’m going to be talking about its merits quite a bit, so I want to be clear from the get-go that if it isn’t your thing then it isn’t your thing and that’s fine. (Though I should warn you that I’m assuming my readers are familiar with the series, so this post will be both confusing and spoilery to those who aren’t.)

Indeed, you’ll notice as we go through that I’m not doing comparisons with the books very much, and the reason for that is that the books aren’t my thing. I’ve kind of skimmed through them and occasionally browsed a page or two in bookshops, but I haven’t read them properly, and that’s because I can’t. I understand (and I’ll get into) the reasoning behind the “any character can die” dynamic, and it works onscreen for me, but on the page I don’t get the intended effect. My emotional brain basically goes “Well, if I’m going to be punished for caring about these characters then I’m not going to care about them any more.”

I’m not entirely sure what difference the transition from page to screen makes. I used to think it was because the TV characters had faces and I couldn’t help empathizing with them, but the characters on The Walking Dead have faces too and I gave up on that a couple of seasons ago because I was disengaging from the characters for much the same reason I do with the Game of Thrones books.

Ahahahaha. Yes, yes, I mean the A Song of Ice and Fire books, A Game of Thrones being the title merely of Book I (roughly equivalent to Season 1 of the show). In this instance I’ll grant the book purists the point: A Song of Ice and Fire is a much more appropriate title for the series as a whole.

Whilst most fans as far as I can tell are loving the way things have developed in the later seasons, there’s also a dissatisfied contingent who argue that the whole thing started to go downhill as soon as the showrunners got ahead of George R. R. Martin’s published material. They seem to particularly dislike the way the characters have now fallen into some pretty solid coalitions of people who mostly trust each other, leaving behind all the politicking and betrayals and whisperings and jockeying for power – the game of thrones – that characterized the earlier seasons.

Not to be overly snarky, I think these people are missing the entire point of the series from start to finish. (This is as good a point as any to cut for spoilers.)