Please, Make It Stop: A Rant About Game of Thrones

DragonAvast there, me hearties! Here thar be spoilers aplenty! (Wait! It’s not Talk Like a Pirate day? What was I thinking?)

Let’s get this out of the way first. We’ve all been holding off saying this for a while, but it’s time.

Game of Thrones is a soap opera.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better after saying it.

I’ve recently found an interview with George R.R. Martin where he argues his book series is not a soap opera, maybe it was his way of preparing an argument before it came at him from outside his circle, but it is. Both the TV series and his book series… two words… soap opera.

Look, I hate to say it as much as the next person. The idea of someone truly doing something new in a very established (and usually predictable genre) is an awesome idea. He combined the history of the middle ages and fantasy… but the result is a freaking soap opera. With history almost being used as an excuse (or as a resource) for twists that help the soap opera continue.

Consider:

  • Soap operas and A Song of Ice and Fire both has multiple POVs of good and questionable individuals.
  • Both end every moment in a cliffhanger (You can almost hear the “stay tuned” at the end of some of the chapters in the books).
  • Both have meandering plots (I feel like I should be capitalizing meandering; no seriously, all caps).
  • Time seems to have its own rules. And both have marriages that seem to last for the same amount of time (and just like in soap operas most are bad matches).
  • And both are not working towards a clean resolution. There is no Mount Doom in sight from what I can see.

Oh, and all of these points is before I even bring up the fact that George R.R. Martin used to work in television and was a writer on a popular fantasy-lite soap opera in the 1980s.

Game of Thrones is a soap opera with people in funny costumes and dragons and we have bought into it.

Heck, I didn’t just buy in, I bought the DVDs, the books, the shirts and even gave them as Birthday presents to people I love. (I was like: “Hi, I love cocaine, I want you to take it too. Here- Happy Birthday!”)

What did women do to George R.R. Martin?

So who broke Martin’s heart in high school? That individual (whoever she may be) has two worlds to apologize to. Not just Westeros, but also our little reading and HBO-watching globe.

The odd thing about it is that the show seems to take everything and times it by another 20 percent when it comes to torturing women. An obvious example? The Red Wedding starts with a pregnant woman getting stabbed in the stomach, a woman who was not even freaking there in the books! And look at all of the rapes we have had this season, mostly directed at young girls. I’m still in shock about Sansa’s wedding night (and about the fans that argue that in the book it was someone else; it doesn’t matter who, it is still awful!) There was even a threat of a rape on the Wall.

From brothels to Winterfell, it seems to be the one current: This is not the place for women. A young teenager who falls in love? Gets killed. A kind little girl gets burned at the stake. And what about the walk of shame?

The thing is, I have heard Martin and the producers use history as an excuse for their plot twists over and over again. “Hey, but look there was that one dinner where a lord killed his guests on such and such a day, so we can do it too.” And, while I find history fascinating, I also see it as an excuse, and a flimsy one at best.

Frankly, they are not writing then, they are writing in the NOW. And their words and scenes have meaning and strength. I’m not saying all literature has to argue for the positive, but this is  cruel and almost becoming rediculously redundant. Harry Potter taught an entire generation to rise up, what does Game of Thrones teach? Well, besides it being a bad idea to be a woman.

So can someone please research into this and have this former high school sweetheart call Martin and apologize? Maybe even take him to a local prom someplace?

Now what?

You know what I really enjoyed about this last season of Game of Thrones? Debating what the plot changes actually say about the books to come and the relationship between the showrunners on the show and Martin.

This is the thing people seem to forget, especially the fans, but the showrunners are some of the few people in the world to know where Martin is going in the story. AND these people in the know looked over this future landscape and said “Nah, we’re going to do something different.” That, my readers, says everything about the next two books in the series.

I had a lot of problems with the last book, A Dance With Dragons. I’m sure there is a post on this site someplace about it. But it was almost redeeming to see the people who are overseeing the show agree with me. Of course, Tyrion and Daenerys meet. Why wouldn’t they?

Game-of-Thrones-Jon-SnowFurthermore the show has answered at least one of the questions I had for a while since reading the book, the fate of Jon Snow. Yes, he is dead. Kit Harrington the actor playing him on the show even cut his hair and has begun looking for other gigs. Which begs the question, why did we read those thousands of pages about him up to that point?

Jon Snow and his parentage… his hero journey… the fact even in the show they had him see the Big Bad? There was a point, right? Right? It’s like having King Arthur pull the sword from the stone, but before he can raise it over his head someone stabs him in the back.

Sometimes I feel like Martin had this idea for a world and began a story in it… and then lost control over it, like a person driving down a hill without brakes. He is just doing his best to avoid crashing into someone else and going off a cliff. The problem is we are all on the side of the road cheering on the accident that is bound to happen.

I’m a committed reader to the point of needing counseling.

I want to see what a writer is doing, taking notes of what is working or not. I read everything (Heck, I do the book reviews for my local NPR station), and I’ve read some ridiculous books and series in my life. I even read a ten-part science fiction series by L. Ron Hubbard that was just… torture. So why did I continue to read it from beginning to end? Because that is how I roll.

(Did you know Hubbard created his own religion? And people follow it? Including a lot of smart people in the entertainment world? I kid you not! And it’s all about aliens!… Sorry, that was sarcasm; it doesn’t always work on the page.)

So I can see myself continuing on just out of curiosity. I’ve already committed ten years of my own life as a reader to this shindig, I might as well struggle forward.

Look, I would love to be proved wrong. I would love for all of this to be tied in a nice bow and to admit I was incorrect about all of it (and the first two books were spectacular). I love to be surprised by books and stories, and this would be one I would relish. Prove me wrong, Martin. Pull the bloody rabbit’s head from your magician hat. Show me.

Yet, right now I can’t help thinking that fifty years from now people will still be reading Harry Potter, they will still be reading Lord of the Rings; but I don’t see people reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I truly believe that this is the best it will be for the series. This moment right here with all of us shaking our heads in confusion and debating what Martin is doing and what we are watching.

And then, when we reach the ending we will all stop, look back at the mess and say together in unison: “What the hell was that about?”

…Then we’ll go on eBay to sell our stuffed direwolf toys.

New book! New book! New book!Permanent Spring Showers

My latest novel Permanent Spring Showers was just published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.

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Rebecca T. Dickson, Editor

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8 responses

  1. I don’t know – maybe I’m just in denial that even A Song of Ice and Fire would so casually off one of its four main leads before resolving any of his threads, but even after the show’s much more explicit depiction, I still don’t buy that Jon’s gone for good. Either he possesses Ghost (admittedly a different prospect for the show than the books), or (the conveniently-just-returned in the show and there-all-along in the book) Melisandre brings him back to life.

    But I guess you never know. (>^-‘)>

    • I don’t know. The interview he gave to EW was pretty final. And even the producer mocked fan theories, laughing at the idea of a direwolf carrying a sword on its back.

      If he is truly gone (which I think he is at this point), I expect the Wall to fall pretty quickly in the first few chapters of the new book, and for the rest of the Night Watch to die.

      • Yeah, I read through some of the interviews and articles after commenting. They certainly seem pretty explicit, but…again, maybe it’s just abject denial, but I still can’t wrap my head around Jon getting completely taken out of the picture like this. Ned’s execution and Edmure’s wedding were brutal and shocking, but not entirely unexpected. There was a narrative sense to them. Most of all, they were dramatic. Jon just gets offed out of the blue with no real preamble (at least in the book – they did play it up more in the show, to be fair) or focus. The moment has no presence. Whatever A Song of Ice and Fire‘s proclivities toward harshness may be, it hasn’t strayed so far from sensibility as to not put any weight behind major character deaths. That’s just bad storytelling, and Martin may be unconventional, but I don’t think he’s a bad storyteller.

        Jon’s permanent death at this (relatively) early point leaves too huge a narrative gap and collapses too many threads to make any sense, so if it really is the case – and, who knows, maybe it’ll be a point of divergence between the books and the show – then I suppose it’ll be interesting to see if the story can find a way to compensate for so confusingly derailing itself, if nothing else. (>^-‘)>

      • I guess my thing is why put an actor in the position of lying to the media and his audience? It just seems an uncomfortable decision. Decline interviews, go into mystery mode. Nah, he is outright saying he is done. And so are everyone else. A lot of lying when they could just was easily say “I’m not talking.”

        Like I said, maybe this is Martin setting up an “If they just listened to Jon, this would not have happened…” moment as the wall collapses and the white walkers enter Westeros.

        I said this in the post, but the thing is that the showrunners are in the know about what Martin has planned and they have made decisions contradicting what he has done (or sped up). Which makes me think that some of their changes might never happen (T and D meeting, for example). I think if there was any possibility of Jon staying we would have some hint, his eyes going foggy or something. Nah, they stayed for a pretty long time on his body.

        Again, not a choice I would have made, but I don’t know what Martin has planned.

      • I’m not saying they’re lying about the actor – just that the story doesn’t feel like it’s done with the character of Jon Snow.

        Maybe this is a major point where the books and show will diverge, but his supposed demise was wildly incongruous with how Martin had handled other major character deaths. They’ve been bold and unapologetic, not shrugging cliffhangers. That’s not to say he wouldn’t do something different; there are just too many reasons why he wouldn’t (or shouldn’t).

        The show could be going another route, though. Maybe they just wanted to squash the whole Night’s Watch arc to clear up some more room in the diminishing time they have left for everything else. Maybe they’re planning something even crazier than all the current theories. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. (>^-‘)>

  2. I’m in the same place you are. The term soap opera never occurred to me, but that’s exactly what it’s become. In three years time, nobody has accomplished anything and nobody is happy. I suppose there is a lesson here for us writers in that conflict sells.

    • Conflict is really one of the things tying everything together. You got that right.

      I at least give the show credit for doing things with the Tyrion storyline that wasn’t done in the book. It’s weird to think of that character as boring, but really he had nothing to do in the book and in the end, it just ended up with him going into battle with some sellswords. The show handled it so better. Seriously, if we had to deal with him playing that boardgame and on the boat like in the book, I would have screamed at the TV screen.

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