8.30.2012

Game of Thrones According to H.B.O.


A very good friend of mine suggested that I should watch the first season of H.B.O.'s adaptation of A Song of Rape and Murder A Song of Fire and Ice after we'd had a fair bit of discussion on the books. An episode of Restoration Radio on the work had been bandied about so I decided to give it a whirl. Wow, what a mistake that was.

After watching three episodes, I cannot stomach it any more. For one thing, it's incredibly sexually graphic. I mean full-on pornography graphic. Stuff that still isn't allowed in the cinema except maybe in the most R of R-rated films. For that reason alone I can't watch anymore because (a) it's toxic waste for the soul and intellect, and (b) once one sees such scenes they are seared into your mind -- you can't unwatch that stuff. I guess H.B.O.'s always had a reputation for being a bit risqué, but I naively hadn't imagined things were this bad on the television these days (I don't own one, so it's always a shock to me when once every few years I am exposed to what passes for entertainment on such machines). Of course, we also have gay porn (of the soft variety, versus the full-on heterosexual scenes) and glorification of said lifestyle which, if it was in the novels at all, was only very subtly hinted at.

Even assuming one overlooks this (and perhaps some of my readers are more forgiving than I), the television series is, if possible even more bleak, darker, more despairing, and more perverse than the books. Perhaps the later books of the series were on par with the TV series ... friend who recommended tells me that "George RR Martin is a huge fan and co-executive producer of the show so it seems like he is okay with this interpretation." No doubt! Considering the progression of the novels, I suppose this was his intent all along, perhaps he didn't think he could pull it off in 1996? Some have complained his writing wasn't as good in the earlier novels, so maybe he had difficulty in communicating his vision to the text. Pity he "improved" because as my rather conflicted review of the books reveals, I found the first two novels palatable.

I'm working myself up into a full froth here, because the more I think about and examine the Song of Fire and Ice series, the more I come to dislike it. Here's a spot-on quote from Sophia's Favourite:

... no work—unless authored on a typewriter with a doppelsigrune key—is more blatantly bigot-propaganda than the Song of Ice and Fire books ...

How so? Firstly, the books are downright misogynistic. Even setting aside the blatant rape fantasizing going on in many a scene, the treatment and portrayal of women is absolutely abominable throughout the work. The army of "happy, content" prostitutes featured throughout being one example. I admit, in someways he gets fallen human nature alright, but the women are a bit far in their vindictiveness. I suppose the feminists cheer him on and don't tar and feather him because they think this is an accurate portrayal of how they believe men view women.

Which brings me to the second aspect of bigotry: the overwhelming anti-medieval and therefore anti-Catholic bigotry that is part-and-parcel of portraying a medieval society as such a vile thing. And especially religion. One doesn't see much of religion or clergy in the first two novels, beyond a few hypocritical references from certain characters. But, I asked Sophia's Favourite if I'd missed anything; allow me to quote you his fulsome response:

Those two themes are plenty, but what about the David Brin-style Socialist Realism? I mean how Martin's portrayal of non-"democratic" systems is the sort of vilifying propaganda generally associated with totalitarian regimes. I didn't find it that surprising—liberal ideology is still an ideology, and all ideologues will pull the same tricks given half an excuse—but I was a little surprised that an allegedly literate public let him get away with it.

Just for example, Martin's nobles are, each individually, and with only a few (doomed) exceptions, worse than Giles de Rais or Elizabeth Bathory, whose bad behavior certainly seems to have excited comment in their societies—but in Martin's? No, that's just how all nobles are. Of course, all the historical aristocrats Martin could claim as a basis for his portrayal were excommunicated and/or jailed and/or executed; the only person who got away with asmany personal or hired killings as the typical noble of his setting, is someone Martin shares at least 75% of his political opinions with—Che "personally shot more than 300 farm-boys" Guevara.

I think I missed that theme as I enumerated the examples of Martin's bigotry because I just take this one for granted. I expect to see this sort of stuff in any modern fantasy work after Tolkien, although it must be said that Martin takes it up several notches. I can't add anything to what the my ever-eloquent colleague wrote above (hence why I quoted him in full).

About the only good thing I can say about the television series is that it's got a great soundtrack.

And, yes, I need to get more of my own writing done and be part of the solution rather than just complaining all the time. Fear not -- I have three short stories on the go right now that I think I can realistically get done within the fortnight. Only problem is I think I might put all three into the anthology rather than post them here.

1 comment:

Sophia's Favorite said...

Put another way, the nobles in Martin's setting are worse than Oda Nobunaga, who may've sacked a few Buddhist monasteries in his day, but at least had the decency—and good sense—to protect his peasants. Vlad III Draculea, propaganda by people who made him a scapegoat for their own screwups notwithstanding, only did horrifying things to his enemies—who had just got through doing worse things in Constantinople.

Even those wackos had their good sides. Is Martin really concerned to claim the typical medieval nobleman was worse than the Devil King or the Impaler Prince? Contemporary accounts—actually, every single scrap of history we have, documentary or otherwise—suggests quite the reverse.

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