What I do for amusement, Part 1: More thoughts on Game of Thrones

by kipress

It’s been a while since I posted about my experience reading the first Song of Ice and Fire book. So what stories have I been reading and watching since then? This post is Part 1 of about eight or nine months’ worth of books and “TV,” but maybe that’s a good test of what actually stands out in my brain.

After reading A Game of Thrones, I ranted about how angry it made me, yet how addictive it was—and sure enough, I continued, for about two more months, reading, back to back, all five of the massive George R.R. Martin tomes. Only I read them all in my iPad by borrowing the ebooks from the library, so at least I didn’t have to carry them around. (Helpful hint: if there’s a waiting list for a popular book at the library, chances are the waiting list for the ebook is a lot shorter.)

Why did I keep reading? Clearly, because I’m socially conditioned to enjoy narratives glorifying painfully patriarchal and colonialist worlds, because, you know, we really need more of those (narratives, and worlds). To temper the previous statement: I have nothing against writing characters, worlds, or whatever, which are sexist, racist, or any manner of unpleasant things, because those things exist and we need to think about them rather than ignore them. Yet, even given that belief about art, which I hold dearly, I still have trouble with Martin. I am not convinced he is critiquing anything. I’m a conflicted reader.

I have to admit the Red Wedding is a pretty great plot point—but things more or less levelled off from there, so much so that I can no longer remember whether it was the fourth or fifth book that I really hated. The one with Cersei’s point of view. She may be the most annoying character in the history of books. Though the Maid of Tarth is a close second. And whatshername who is supposed to marry the evil boy king is a close third. Catelyn becomes more interesting after she is dead.

After reading all five books, it was time to watch the first season of the TV series, which I purchased on iTunes. (Still haven’t seen second season; I don’t have HBO and I, er, don’t download stuff—on principle, and because I don’t have the patience.)

Three main thoughts that have stuck with me since watching (and I have read no other commentary on this, so these are likely thoughts that everyone else already had a long time ago):

  1. The TV series ameliorated the whole child-bride thing that made the first book particularly icky. In fact, no doubt due to all the legal issues inherent in, first, using child actors, and, second, showing that stuff on TV (even HBO!), the younger characters are all, I think, two years older than in the books (I believe they even rewrote the history of the realm to make the age differences make sense.) In the commentary on the first episode, it is noted that they rewrote Dany’s wedding-night rape to make it more clearly, you know, rape (the legitimate kind), instead of the “and then she found that she really liked it!” (not a direct quote!) nonsense that’s in the book.
  2. I found the story more coherent and easy to follow when it was not restricted to the limited points of view used in the book. On TV, point of view tends to be a lot more neutral. Not always, but you know what I mean: we’re unlikely to find out something we didn’t know about something that happened in the past because now we’ve switched to the point of view of a character who remembers it differently. This does not exactly make the TV series better—it makes it easier. Which TV is, compared to books. Even books like this. Which brings me to number three:
  3. The TV series cannot beat the books on character depth. Even given how caricatured Martin’s characters can be, they are still more complex than on TV, despite the high quality of this production, and the nuances the actors brought. This could partly be a reflection of how I’d read about 4000 pages on these people and then went back to the beginning to watch the first season of the show.

Next post: how I cleansed my palate.