I wasn’t sure about Game of Thrones when I first saw a few episodes on Pick TV (they showed the first three as a taster, before withdrawing it behind the Sky paywall). I’m not even going to try to defend the show’s nudity, though there is one way in which I get it (see below).
I confess that I’d been put off the whole fantasy genre by the disastrous Lord of the Rings films. I appreciate I’m probably in the minority when it comes to those extended exercises in CGI and silliness, but allow me to attempt to explain.
- If a so-called “live action” film over-relies on CGI, I lose interest. It’s just a cartoon. I appreciate that CGI is everywhere, and this is an arbitrary category problem, but call me old-fashioned. I like the story to be told in the camera. Anyway, you might forgive (1) if not for
- Over-long. Hey, maybe I might not have hated it so much if it had been a TV series. I quite enjoyed the radio version, back in 1981. At 11 hours 22 minutes for the three extended films, it adds up to about a season of Game of Thrones. Then again, much of the bulk of the book is taken up with lore and poetry and begats, and if you cut down to the bit you’d actually want to see, maybe it’s not even a season’s worth of plot.
- Too many endings.
- Overblown, over-budget. Like James Cameron, Peter Jackson throws money at every problem, but I don’t believe in his stories.
Anyway, Game of Thrones. There was the prejudice. Then there’s the fact that I prefer reading Sci Fiction to fantasy. I’ve enjoyed much of Katherine Kerr‘s output over the years, read a lot of Anne McCaffrey when younger, and love Tim Powers‘ take on urban fantasy. That was abut my limit.
I’d never read any George R R Martin, and though I’ve now got the first volume of this on my Kindle, I’ve barely dipped into it. If I’m honest, I’m just a bit jealous that when TV finally did something like this, it wasn’t one of my beloved books got adapted, but some other set of people’s beloved books. Then again, maybe I’m glad that I wasn’t a fan of the books, so I can just enjoy the TV series on its own merits and not sit complaining that they missed out the important bit.
And it has merits. There are too many characters, and it takes a long time for anything much to happen, and the gratuitous nudity is somewhat one-sided, but it’s delightfully uncompromising and true to itself. Where it wins as a fantasy is that it doesn’t feature elves,
dwarves, hobbits, etc., and it cleverly, oh so cleverly, wears its fantasy very lightly for the whole of the first season. By Season 3, we’ve seen walking dead, dragons, sorcery and resurrection, but by then the audience has been sucked into the story by the human characters, and we’ve never been allowed to forget that these are sweaty, dirty, shitting, pissing, fucking and bleeding human characters.
As to all the fucking, I get it. In a genre that has been ill-served by television, it was essential to send a message that this wasn’t for kids. How do you do that? You could try to tell an adult story with compelling characters, brilliant plotting, and superb dialogue. Joss Whedon did that with Buffy, and still the BBC took one look at it and put it on at 6pm, opposite The Simpsons. They even edited some of the scarier bits, considered too much for the early evening family audience.
So you (the producers of the show) need to send a message, not necessarily to the audience, but to the suits who run TV production companies and channels and networks. You need to say, this genre isn’t just for kiddies. Just like cops, docs, and lawyers, adults like this stuff. Smart scripts, interesting plot lines and well-drawn characters are, historically, not enough to do this. So you need in-your-face blood, guts, swearing, dead babies, nude bodies, fucking, homosexuality, beheadings, and anything else you can think of in order to make the thick-as-shit pen pushers understand. Now they get it, I think.