Thoughts on A Game of Thrones

I watched some Game of Thrones.

I was … greatly discomforted though I do admire quite a lot about it. I was discomforted by the same thing that turned me off the books, but more so.

I’m routinely faced with bad things happening to people almost more to set the tone than anything else. And it’s almost always worse for women.

I’m not comforted by allusion to history or realism. Sometimes I want something to make the show a positive experience without having that thing crushed and brutalized, usually literally. It becomes it’s own self-contained cliche. Is the character flashy and witty and badass? They’re going to be crushed. Is the character feminine? They’re going to be broken. Is the character vulnerable in an interesting way? They will be exploited, hardened and then crushed for daring to harden.

But I knew what I was getting into there; as I said, it already turned me off form the books. It’s not my thing. No surprises.

But the extent to which the show uses rape as wallpaper to fill out blank spaces is just disgusting.

I appreciate … the result of it’s attitude toward nudity, to a point, I will say; it’s one of the few pieces of mainstream film-making that wasn’t absolutely terrified of showing penises, and the idea of nudity being acceptable in any scene where, in a book say, it would be mentioned is nice. But some of the ways in which the nudity is framed fit into the ways in which sex is framed, for obvious reasons, and unfortunately that gets bad quickly.

There is a fine and difficult line between presenting darkness and taboo and unreasonable exploitation of the audience, the characters, and the greater social systems. I feel like this show’s treatment of rape crosses that line several times over. I don’t know if it’s a thing that has gotten worse over time (I’m watching around the time of the wildling incursion and just watched The Mountain … ‘scuse me (vomits) be cartoonishly evil in a world that wants me to believe it’s gritty and historical and also be gross. Ahem. Sorry. Tyrion just had his second trial by combat. Maybe it wasn’t as bad earlier on but it has gotten bad at the point I’m watching and I’m not ok with it. I don’t expect to watch any more of it.

It’s interesting to me, because as a fan of Apocalypse World and related games, I’m quite used to the idea of success with consequence driving a fiction beautiful terrible places. Watching people’s lives fall apart and relishing it. But they get something. Little victories, at least. Success with consequence. The world does it’s dark terrible things and sometimes the characters help; but it is only dark and terrible in the ways you want to allow it to be. You don’t have to mercilously slaughter all of your darlings, only to bring the fiction as established to conclusions that make sense. You must follow through but there are always many ways to do that. At the end of it, you have both a distance and a control that bring meaning to even the most cruel twist of fate and you can always fall back on your friends to keep the experience positive—not necessarily happy and sunshine-and-roses-y, but in some way an overall positive. Here? We don’t have that control or that trust. We ride the roller-coaster and cannot converse with it’s creators directly across a span of only a few feet. We can’t express that we aren’t enjoying this anymore, and that while we like the whole loss-as-a-curated-experience thing sometimes right now, right here we just want this character to be alive and damn motives and excuses and logics for both outcomes. We can’t make Lines and Veils. We can only watch.
I don’t feel like Game of Thrones is interested in understanding the limits of that relationship. I think it’s just interested in being gruff, cruel and violent in as pretty and well-honed a way as possible. And it is very pretty and very well-honed and very gruff, cruel and violent. And I can’t for the life of me now, having attempted both to read and watch it, understand why that’s a good thing.

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About Gwathdring

Lives for music. Longs for sturdy sails and a stiff sea-breeze. Devourers information. Loves curling up with a good book, a good video game, or photographs of Earth's fuzzier creatures. Is quickly becoming obsessed with board games. That'll do for now.

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