Thursday, April 10, 2014
Posting a Little Nerd Sacrilege on the Game of Thrones
I made it roughly two-thirds of the way through, and then I decided I just didn't know why I was putting myself through this. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the plot to do something. Moving forward or even to the side would've been nice. It just didn't. And above it all, I just didn't care when a character was hurt, murdered, betrayed, attacked, or imprisoned. As with the brief introduction to characters, motives seemed to be added later. And so I quit. Perhaps I will go back and try again. I don't think I am an idiot. I love complex stories with multiple story lines and characters. Shogun by James Clavell which basically asks the reader to learn the entire Japanese Samurai culture and the Japanese language was a fascinating read. I was even able to keep track of characters by name and wade through Russian novels like Crime and Punishment without a cheat-sheet.
So I decided to watch the HBO series instead. I've heard that it hits the highlights of the books and makes them imminently more accessible. I find the same problem. I don't like the characters, I find it contrived, and I still have problems following who is who in relationship to whom. And then there are the random deaths.
"Winter is coming" eventually. Doesn't the fact that it seems cold in several places all the time mean it is arrived and exactly how long does it take an army of White Walkers to arrive? What was once established as a central idea just seems to be sitting on the bench at the sidelines to be put in randomly to remind us there was (is?) an over-arching theme to the series. "Winter is coming" and here is a white walker to remind you. And while I'm at it, what purpose do the Stark wolves serve? Is there some sort of meaning to the idea that many of the swords bear a name or is it just a bunch of guys roaming around naming swords? The throne does seem to be made of swords and there are dragon bones in the king's castle. Is there a meaning to this or is it just really cool to have an odd chair and your own personal T-Rex without having to go to the local museum of nature and science? And is it just me or are the Lannisters becoming less blonde.
Meanwhile, in another country, the only character I actually like, Daenerys Targaryen, is gathering an army and raising dragons while never seeming to go anywhere which is okay because other than some brutal battles and betrayals and murders, nothing seems to change or ever happen in the kingdom of the Iron Throne, which seems to be made of steel swords. I am also sure that given the nature and randomness of the deaths, Daenerys is pretty much toast. No don't tell me if I am wrong or right.
I heard once that George R. R. Martin once jokingly, or not, threatened that if fans complain too much about his writing speed or his willingness to kill off virtually any character, that he would kill even more favorite characters in the next book. If this is true, it only supports my point that in the world of Game of Thrones death is a plot point serving no purpose, and the entire series seems to have no real direction.
Then there is Joffrey. I have to say I am actually a bit sorry for the young actor who landed the role of the most vile sociopath on television. He will probably be forever labeled and basically unusable by almost every other series and film. He will really struggle to break the image. There is skill in his acting to get that kind of reaction, especially when you consider how many other vile creatures there are roaming around the kingdom. Let's also face it, everything has been done to make the character so unlikable, that if you saw him you'd belt him one, and when the police later asked, "Why did you hit him?" you would say, "Somebody had to."
I read fantasy for a myriad of reasons, the least of which is meaningless reality. I know the argument may be that we have a sort of antihero or even anti-civilization in the Game of Thrones, but that just does not work. Perhaps the death of the only noble character in the first season was loosely symbolic that all goodness is dead, and there only remains the twisted and corrupt. Perhaps, Game of Thrones seeks to be a first of its kind, a dystopic fantasy, but even in a dystopia, there must be hope. It is the reason we feel so disheartened when Winston Smith dies in 1984 or John the Savage hangs himself in Brave New World. Even in an antihero, there must be something redeeming - something we can feel empathy with or for, and the fact remains that no character nor element of Game of Thrones gives us that hope or empathy. I ask you that in the three seasons that have now passed, has anything really changed other than a bunch of characters are dead?
I realize I am in the vast minority, and I will no doubt continue to watch in hopes that something of value comes from all this in the next three seasons of the series. This rant will no doubt be disliked, hated, or even vilified by any fan that comes across it. But just as my reading of the book, my patience has limits. Who knows? Maybe winter will finally come.