A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones Spoiler-Filled Discussion

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Out Of My Vulcan Mind, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. Lapis Exilis

    Lapis Exilis Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Interesting - and a very defendable position, I think. I agree that she has a healthy dose of "I'm a queen by birth, and will rule people, one way or another." But that is also the general culture of the whole world - some folks are rulers and everyone else is ruled. Stannis is likewise looking to conquer Westeros by force and have everyone bend the knee. The Lannisters are already there on that score -though less by force than by cunning since Cersei knows quite well that her children aren't the rightful rulers by any law or custom.

    However, Dany's nearly the only character vying for the throne that we've seen give consideration to what justice actually is and how to mete it out. Stannis believes he already knows what justice is and that confidence, while I can see its appeal, reads to me as dangerous.

    As for her "using brown people as guinea pigs" - the whole series suffers from a healthy dose of Orientalist racism. That's more an issue with Martin than any of his characters. I think Dany is working with who she has to hand. She thinks constantly of the former slaves as her children. Granted that's paternalism (or rather maternalism) reminiscent of the slave culture of the American South, but it's not like she's thinking of the Essosi as any more inferior than the small folk of Westeros. That is, she's an equal opportunity classist.


    I'm just dipping my toes into the ASoIaF fan culture since I only just finished the books - so this is an interesting observation. One of the things I really like about Martin's work is that he manages to create fully realized female characters who are true to the limitations placed on women in a warrior culture and who are completely as interesting as the male characters and I would imagine this is part of the appeal of the books across the board. I know it has certainly been a big thing for all the female fantasy fans I know who are into the books or HBO series.
    Eh, it always seems that way because part of the fun of geeking out on a forum is to be wildly passionate about your opinions.

    I agree - while I find her naivete tiresome at times, that is her limitation, just like every other character has theirs.


    Good point, though I still find him much less interesting than the cast of characters surrounding him. His moral absolutism reminds me of my dad, which is probably why he can rub me the wrong way sometimes!
     
  2. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Wow, I'd forgotten how imaginative and beautiful Bran's first dream was in the book.

    Dull as fuck in the show. He just.. walks towards a raven?
     
  3. CaptainCanada

    CaptainCanada Admiral Admiral

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    Stannis on the TV show, sure, but book Stannis is perfectly capable of thinking for himself. That's the big difference between them -- Stannis in the books is aware that Mel has her own agenda and is openly skeptical of her power, whereas Stannis in the show just does whatever she says.
     
  4. Shurik

    Shurik Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, I'm not a purist and I like the TV show, so I would probably get banned from there in about 10 seconds for saying that show's versions of some events were very good and not destroyed the books or something.
     
  5. Venardhi

    Venardhi Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I actually left the forum during the first season because it turned into a circlejerk over the TV show. I think you'd manage just fine. Elio and I talked once about how strange it was to suddenly be an outsider in our favorite fandom. It has been a while, so I don't know how the forums look anymore.
     
  6. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    With the major changes made in season two there's a lot more adverse criticism of the show than there was, and a lot more heated discussion between those who still think it's great and those who think it's adequate-to-awful. No one's getting banned for either position in and of itself; in fact, I feel like the moderation is (blessedly) more open to passionate discussion than on a lot of forums.
     
  7. Stoo

    Stoo Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I felt the Qarth chapters in teh book were a bit aimless myself, with the exception of the House of the Undying. She shows up in the city, asks for help, doesn't get any, oh look someone sent a boat.

    I'm not surprised they changed it around for TV so that something more actually happens, although I do wish they'd been more ambitious with the House scenes.
     
  8. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Qarth chapters are principally an exercise in world-building and mood, a reminder that this is a fantasy series, culminating in a major piece of foreshadowing. It's unsurprising that a TV series that minimizes fantasy and doesn't do foreshadowing would want to change that, especially since the producers are allergic to reduced roles in a given season for actors they like. What is surprising is that, despite TV Qarth's superficial eventfulness, Dany is just as uselessly passive there as in the books, and in the end there's even less reason for the setting to exist. They might just as well have cut it altogether.
     
  9. Stoo

    Stoo Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well I agree, I didn't feel like I had much reason to care about power struggles in a city a zillion miles from Westeros that we then leave behind.

    I don't think that part is especially successful. I can just understand how the writers, not wanting to competely ditch Qarth (and have nothing for a main character to do for a season), would try to make some sort of drama happen there.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2013
  10. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, I see why they made the attempt. I just don't think they thought the changes all the way through. That, more than making changes in the first place, is where the show usually goes wrong, in my view. Game of Thrones, unlike the major dramas that made HBO a prestige brand, isn't guided by a clear sense of overarching themes, which leaves it vulnerable to cool-seeming ideas that don't actually make much sense.
     
  11. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Personally I really enjoy the first and third seasons, despite them being unfaithful and pretty dumb. I think they get the overall summary of events kinda right, while being a largely entertaining show in of itself. The second season is a mess though, and I'm not big on it. Despite uh, having an avatar from its first episode.

    My favourite novel all-time is most certainly Frank Herbert's Dune, and I can enjoy the David Lynch movie a great, great deal. Despite it obviously being a terrible representation of the story that lacks all the thematic depth. My favourite author is Robert A Heinlein. I vastly enjoy the Starship Troopers film, despite it having utterly nothing to do with the novel beyond a few surface elements. In fact, it clumsily makes fun of the author's right-wing politics and could almost be seen as a spoof.

    I don't mind unfaithfulness in adaptations as much as some. But Game of Thrones irritates me as most people are too thick to read, so take it as the canonical series of events. In fact, if I bring up why I prefer the books online, I'm told to shut up because most people don't care about books. It reminds me of the classic Bill Hicks line.

    "Well, well, well.. looks like we got ourselves a reader!"
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2013
  12. 137th Gebirg

    137th Gebirg Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Same thing happened when RDM's Nu-Battlestar Galactica came around. Some people in the TOS camp couldn't handle it. I compromised by loving both shows.

    Same with GoT/ASoIaF - both have their good points and bad - and to some limited extent, it could be argued that GoT is a kind of re-imagining of GRRM's original work - it would have to be in order to fit the show into 10 one-hour segments per season. Both are enjoyable on their own merits and both have their problems. To expect anything else is unrealistic and opens one up to eternal disappointment and unhappiness about the subject matter.

    To those purists who strongly adhere to the written word and claim that the show is a worthless bastardization of the original, I say, "Don't be a Languatron!" :p
     
  13. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Quite. I'd wish the show would find a way to fix the Meereenese knot of Martin's fantastical racism, but mostly they've hewed fairly closely to a lot of the dumbest ideas in the books (like the Unsullied).
    Yeah this is the most faithful book-to-TV-series* adaption I've ever seen. You could argue it should be more faithful or whatever, but it's far more typical that TV series will take a general direction from a book and some character points and then just re-purpose the entire thing. This is likely what HBO will do with American Gods (since it's to continue for more than one season and also they've said they will), it's also what HBO did in True Blood, what Showtime did with Dexter, and so on.

    GoT has been remarkably close to the subject matter and done a spectacular job at translating the nuances of the novels, the enormous cast and the complicated plotting to deliver basically the best genre show on TV since Battlestar Galactica went off the air. It's not perfect, and it's made some non-perfect calls, but it's a damn sight better than it could have been and it is on its own rights a good show.

    *The only relatively faithful book-to-TV-show tend to be miniseries, or otherwise limited run programs. GoT's projected seven-or-more years is hardly that.
     
  14. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No one has ever denied that Game of Thrones is closer to its source material than a great many adaptations. One hardly could, since the immediate response to any criticism tends to be "But it might be so much worse!" Yes, it might. It might also be much better, both in terms of adapting the interesting, dramatically complex aspects of the source material and as a television series in its own right. I'm not judging Game of Thrones as a fantasy adaptation; I'm judging it as a prestige HBO drama, which it pretends to be. And on those terms, it falls short. The source material is only relevant to that insofar as it sometimes offers more complicated and less usual takes on fantasy tropes that the show ignores in favor of the obvious thing.

    There's a separate issue here, of the way minor details play a key role in a work that deconstructs a genre from within, so that an adaptation that's 95% faithful can still omit the elements that make the underlying material distinct, but I'm not sure I have the time to tease it out now. It's also true that some aspects of the story are treated much more faithfully than others, so that readers will have different perspective on faithfulness depending on which parts of the books mean most to them.

    Orientalism, by the way, is a term with a fairly specific meaning, and its only real applicability to Essos is the general notion of a mysterious east of which Qarth is the tip. I'd be the first to take issue with the way Martin writes the Dothraki and Slaver's Bay, but buzzwords don't really clarify the problems involved, which have more to do with his taking a pick-n-mix approach to creating cultures and not thinking about the implications of doing so.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2013
  15. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So am I. Particularly with points of comparison towards Rome and Carnivale, the two HBO dramas it resembles the most (in very different ways). I am not expecting it to be like the Wire or the Sopranos because it's a very different kind of show compared to those.

    It can make some claim to being one of the best current TV dramas (not the best, obviously, I believe Matthew Weiner has that in the bank for another year yet, and Vince Gilligan, Graham Yost et al - to say nothing of Fabrice Gobert, etc.).

    Could it be better? Sure. Anything could be better. But I'm not convinced greater fidelity to the novels is what it lacks, as the series has grown more confident in repurposing elements of the novels (showing us Olenna Tyrell in action, compared to the stiff, mostly novel text of the series pilot.)

    Martin does something similar with Westeros, however, just more 'grounded' in actual English history but never exclusively English, he'll pilfer Byzantine dromonds and eunuchs whenever it suits him. The essential problem with Essos is that it's treated as more absurd and yeah, more orientalist.
     
  16. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Pretty much all of the final 2 seasons of that show was shite, which is a shame as I like Moore and DS9 is my favourite Trek. George R.R. Martin hates the NuBSG ending, promising ASOIAF's will be better. My favourite modern sci-fi shows are mainly anime, but I'd list Whedon's Dollhouse as a favourite too.

    I think people are generally too quick to declare racism in today's society. Slaver's Bay is uninteresting compared to Westeros, but not particularly offensive.
     
  17. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    For Essos to be orientalist, it would have to be basically analogous to traditional representations of actual countries in what was once called the Orient. It's not. Both the Valyrian subcontinent and Slaver's Bay, for example, owe much more to Rome than to any "Eastern" nations. The problem is that Martin's geography, ethnicities, and (sometimes) architecture create an East-West dichotomy like the one in the real world, so readers treat Meereen as an eastern society even though it's equally Roman. right down to the togas, er, tokars. I think he does that in the hope of undermining the perceived differences-- Dance explicitly suggests similarities between Meereenese slavery are Westeros' feudal culture-- but the disinclination to write from and fully investigate the perspective of those characters make it feel more like an exercise in othering. Which is a better buzzword for this case than Orientalism, I suppose.

    You'd have to elaborate on that. The only difference I can see is that one foregrounds its thematic ambitions in its recasting of popular genre material, and the other is content (like, it must be said, the books themselves) to shape itself as a plot-driven entertainment.

    It's difficult for me to see how the show wouldn't be improved if, for example, it had reproduced the complex, strategically smart Catelyn of the books, a non-traditional fantasy female character who represents a voice of reason and peace to contrast her son's adolescent pride and war fever, rather than turning her into a generic wistful mom-figure. Or if it had featured Arya's decline into a cruel, childish brutality, rather than keeping her the delightful fantasy tomboy. Maybe it'll still do the latter, but I have my doubts. Padding out the Olenna scenes because they got Diana Rigg is nice, but it doesn't amount to anything on dramatic terms.
     
  18. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    They seem to have missed the point with Arya. She kills a fuckload of people and goes through absolutely terrifying hell in A Clash of Kings. In the adaptation of that book, she killed nobody and lived a nice, comfortable life where she got to have smiling chats with Tywin Lannister. Still, the actress playing her is amazing so her plot is still watchable.

    Catelyn is the most butchered character of all. The strong, icy book counterpart was turned in to a mopey old crone that got about 3 lines in the entirety of Season 3 before her death episode. Why Littlefinger would be obsessed with her in this continuity, is beyond my comprehension. Still, they've got some characters very much right. I love show Jaime, Varys, Melisandre and Davos.

    For another random bitch, I'm gonna call out the bad casting of Jojen Reed. Supposed to be a kinda dirty, rough kid. In the show he's bizarrely posh and private school. Not a big deal, but it confuses me.
     
  19. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    To elaborate on that, one of the things that most disappoints me about the TV show is not a change but the absence of one. I had expected, based on the way Benioff and Weiss pitched the series, that they were planning to do for fantasy as a form what other HBO dramas had done for mob stories, cop shows, westerns, etc: take the building blocks and do something artful and ground-breaking with them. That would have involved tweaking the source material, cutting away background detail that's charming for readers of doorstopper fantasy but inessential, and changing the emphasis so that stuff Martin leaves unstated comes to the fore. In such a version, scripts by Martin himself would have stuck out as weak points, because he's not a screenwriter in that league. Instead, they've been faithful to the narrative complexity, but played it as gritty entertainment, like a glossy, well-cast version of The Tudors or Camelot. Which makes for great TV of its kind, but more was possible.
     
  20. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Diana Riggs' scenes are entertaining and enlightening, they give us more of a sense of who the Tyrrells are, and why the Tyrells matter in the Lannister-Tyrrell alliance (and that'll be very important once that starts to sour next season). They serve more of a plot purpose than say, the endless faffing about Arya did in A Clash of Kings. The Tywin/Arya scenes were highlights of that season.

    Arya has definitely been less bloodthirsty than her book counerpart, and I'd prefer those kills to be retained, but she has killed somebody by this point so I assume we're on the same trajectory.

    Sure.

    Game of Thrones owes most to Rome and Carnivale in the HBO stable because the former is a grounded Historical Fiction show, with costumes and politics and dozens of different players with different agendas, coloured with some black humour and frank sex and violence. To a certain extent Game of Thrones frames itself as if it is the medieval equivalent of that show, but with one important caveat:

    It is also a fantasy show. And that's where the lineage with Carnivale is important, the last time HBO had a supernatural series featuring a star turn by a dwarf actor. Carnivale legitimizes its fantastic elements by framing them and their vaguely alluded to mythology in low key, HBO-style drama.

    None of these shows are the Sopranos, with its six year study of a man and his family and his job. And none of them are the extensive analysis of the ways the system fails everyone in the modern American city, i.e. the Wire. It is a costume drama and a costume drama about a world that never was, trying to imbue itself with the seriousness of real world costume dramas and the sense of wonder and scope genre fare can manage.

    Game of Thrones is by this point the most successful of those programs in terms of length, it's reached the third season that they could never reach (and there's actually some speculation that Rome's budget was cut to develop Game of Thrones instead). This is not the same thing as being better than them, as the series has often avoided subtext for direct text, particularly in its notorious sexposition scenes - but it's been a staggeringly ambitious program in terms of the depth and length of its multiple character arcs and have executed many of them quite well.

    So tl;dr: Game of Thrones is more obsessively plot driven than most shows. It's all about moving pieces around and there are dozens of pieces and multiple locations, it's arguably quite unique in the sense of narrative spine it's given, and that's the sense it resembles Rome's Roman Civil Wars more than it does the often low-key stakes of a Sopranos episode.

    And re: Essos. As I've said before it definitely reeks of Orientalism in the sense it frames the east as decadent and feminine, and really only the Nine Cities have a specifically European flavour (Meereen is all ziggurats, etc.).
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2013