Game of Thrones

I watched the first episode of HBO’s new series Game of Thrones. It is based on the books by G.R.R. Martin. While I haven’t read the books, ask Chuck has, case and we’ve spent many many hours talking about this world of Westeros and Essos.

I like fantasy novels. I like novels that create elaborate worlds with their own morals and rules and cultural structures. And I like books that have complex characters. In Game of Thrones there are an awful lot of ‘bad’ people who end up winning, troche and an awful lot of ‘good’ people who end up dying because of of their principles. This is the type of writing that I like.

In anticipation for Game of Thrones, I watched the teaser trailers, and the introductions to the different families. I signed up to follow Game of Throne on Twitter. The buzz was amazing.

And then I watched the first episode.

Don’t get me wrong, it has a lot of potential. My biggest problem was that they HBO’d it. They ramped up the sex and nudity to the point that it made it uncomfortable to watch. It was distracting and didn’t serve any purpose, other than, I suspect, to get the fan-boys titillated.

After watching it, I turned to Chuck and said, “are the books this graphic?” His response was no. In fact, things of a sexual nature are mostly told but not described.

For example:
* In the book there is no whorehouse scene.
* In the book Daenerys was fully clothed when her brother “inspected” her, there was no mention of Dothraki dancers having bare breasts, and the “wedding night” scene between Daenerys and Khal Drogo was handled very differently.
* Flipping ahead, it’s about a hundred pages before sex is even mentioned again (Daenerys thinks back to her adjustment to Dothraki life, including how difficult it was for her that her husband would insist on nightly sex even though she had hideous saddle sores from learning to ride like the Dothraki).

News is out today that Game of Thrones had been picked up for a second season. My only advice: HBO you don’t need to sex things up to tell a good story. A good story will attract ratings and audiences. And, you’re more likely to attract a wider audience if you keep things a little more discreet.

I really hope the second episode next week is better.

9 thoughts on “Game of Thrones

  1. Something that occurred to me:

    In each of the episode’s sexual “additions,” it was always in the context of degrading the woman. A room full of whores. Viserys “inspecting” his sister like a piece of property. Dothraki women who are nothing but eye candy and party favors.

    Even the “wedding night” scene. In the book, Drogo is gentle and patient, aware that Dany is terrified. His use of the word “no” is actually a question in the book, and he does not… proceed… until Dany takes his hand and says “yes.” In the TV episode, he just takes her.

    Also, I have book open to the the Jamie/Cersei scene right now. Compare this description of what Bran saw to what we saw in the TV episode: “Bran could not tell who they were. The man’s back was to him, and his body screened the woman from view as he pushed her up against a wall.” That scene could EASILY have been shot without showing us anything. Instead, we get the queen on her hands and knees like an animal.

    So not only does HBO seem to feel the need to amp up the nudity, but they have to do so that repeatedly lowers the women to the level of property and animalism. Maybe this has something to do with why I found the episode’s sexuality… I don’t know… course and vulgar. Why is the big hairy ugly Alaskan man the one who is having a moment of feminist outrage over this?

    1. I don’t know if you’ve read the books or not, Rod, so I’ll do this as spoiler-free as possible.

      One of the things that I see running through the Song of Ice and Fire books is the problem of being a good person in an evil world. The Starks are (though not perfect) basically honorable people, and they are about to be put through the wringer. Jon Snow will have his character tested at every level. Later (I think in the next episode, actually), we will meet Sam Tarly, who has to overcome his own weakness and timidity to do what is right, when his “braver” colleagues are abandoning honor and honesty. Davos Seaworth, mockingly dubbed “The Onion Knight,” faces the choice of staying true to his oath when the king he serves is sliding into darkness. Brienne of Tarth, the warrior maiden, is mocked for her ugly face and deviation from gender roles, but is one of the most loyal and selfless characters in the series (don’t tell my wife, but I’ve had a special place in my heart for Brienne for years now).

      So the sexism, the violence, the callousness, all of it creates a world in which virtue is no guarantee of victory (or even survival). GRRM has created a dark world, but that darkness is what makes the kindness and integrity of certain characters all the more powerful. If this episode is only the beginning of the “HBOification” of the Song of Ice and Fire, though, I will be a very unhappy camper, and will have to abandon it. AT least I’d still have the books.

      1. I have heard of the dark nature of the books. From what you say, if virtue is no guarantor of victory, I wonder what that says to Christian virtue ethicists, ala Hauerwas and company. Just thinking out loud here.

        And I did not want to say anything about the dark skinned savages & their very very pale skinned victims….. whoops I just did

  2. “From what you say, if virtue is no guarantor of victory, I wonder what that says to Christian virtue ethicists, ala Hauerwas and company.”

    Well, as a Christian virtue psychologist… it says to me that “In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness.”

    So I think I prefer stories like those to ones in which the virtuous are portrayed as undefeatable.

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