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Here Be Dragons
May 5, 2011 12:44 PM   Subscribe

HBO's Game of Thrones, "Narnia populated by super-hard bastards", has been a ratings and critical success and has already been picked up for a second season. HBO have a secret weapon in bringing George R. R. Martin's fantasy epic to screen: An awesome title sequence that doubles as a painless infodump.
posted by Artw (300 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, they did a good job with it. I love the idea of the subtle changes for all the different cities and castles. I like the music too.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having never read the books, that opening sequence was really useful for me to "get" the basic orientation of the series. Now, it seems, having read the article, there are further little details I need to pay attention to!
posted by LN at 12:50 PM on May 5, 2011


I like this linkbait headline "Oral Sex Scenes: the key to winning awards?"
posted by delmoi at 12:51 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that title sequence does an amazing job of info dumping... plus a nice mixture of music and visuals.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:51 PM on May 5, 2011


I've only seen the first episode. Did anybody in it figure out any other position than "Dire Wolf Style?"
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:54 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


It must have been pretty daunting to step in to Brooker's shoes as the Guardian's weekend tv critic but Grace Dent has now totally hit her stride with some hilarious reviews in the last few weeks. She my new total journo crush.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:54 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man, delmoi, this sentence is either bliss unaware or just stand alone greatness from that article you posted.

"More than almost any other critics awards group, BFCA tends to overlap with Academy voters' tastes."
posted by ZaneJ. at 12:54 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Title sequence is excellent.

I figured it was a close up and pan over the gigantic table-map that one of the King's brothers has (Stannis, I think) in his castle. The table doesn't appear in the story until much later though.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've only seen the first episode. Did anybody in it figure out any other position than "Dire Wolf Style?"

Yeah, it's actually a bit of a major character development.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Did anybody in it figure out any other position than "Dire Wolf Style?"

SPOILER ... there's a major plot point in ep 2 where a couple do it Woman On Top
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:56 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is great. And that is a hell of a title sequence. I'm even OK with casting Sean Bean as Eddard Stark, a choice I didn't like until the first episode converted me. Also,am now a slavish devotee of George R.R. Martin and the incredible audio narration of these books by Roy Dotrice. *Looks longingly at Ipod, on which currently listening to A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book II. *
posted by bearwife at 12:57 PM on May 5, 2011


An awesome title sequence that doubles as a painless infodump.

It also works as a statement of theme. The opening looks like an intricate clockwork gadget, kinda like how the story in Song of Ice and Fire is meticulously detailed where each part rolls into the next like a horrible machine.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 12:58 PM on May 5, 2011


Game of Thrones - Opening Credits Cover (Heavy Version)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:59 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The best two GoT twitter feeds are:

THE_JOFF (IN THE HOUSE!)


Rickon Stark (Does anyone remember to feed him?)
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:01 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Episode two has a different title sequence

Did anyone notice the difference? I didn't but there I wasn't really watching that closely.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:01 PM on May 5, 2011


SPOILER ... there's a major plot point in ep 2 where a couple do it Woman On Top

And are both fully aware that it is a deeply revolutionary development that will change their world forever, in ways they can't even begin to imagine.

I think one of them actually says "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
posted by Naberius at 1:02 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, does it get any better? My girlfriend and I found that first episode laughably bad - like the movie Your Highness except it isn't intentionally funny.

We had a drinking game set up on the fly where we had to drink if anybody took a deep audible breath followed by gratuitous exposition that doesn't make sense in the context of a conversation that the characters would have. We were pretty drunk by the end of it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:02 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Threeway Handshake: "I've only seen the first episode. Did anybody in it figure out any other position than "Dire Wolf Style?""

Of course they mix it up, because the sex scenes are only there to attract female viewers.
The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:03 PM on May 5, 2011


Game of Thrones - Opening Credits Cover (Heavy Version)

Merged with the title sequence.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:04 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


SPOILER ... there's a major plot point in ep 2 where a couple do it Woman On Top

I like to think of it as a bit of a shout-out to Jean M. Auel.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just to argue against the "GoT as boy fiction", my mother borrowed the books, loved them, and is waiting (with ill humor) for them to come out on DVD. I think she wants a direwolf for Christmas.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:07 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


That NY Times review is laughably bad, as if the reviewer has not actually watched the show.

Also, does it get any better?

Yes. It's an adaption of a several thousand pages long book, it's gonna start with exposition. I would give at least the second episode a chance.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:08 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I know it's HBO, but I'm really disappointed in the gratuitous boobs all over the place. That lesbo-erotic scene in the second episode isn't in the book, as I recall, and was way beyond anything necessary to the plot. I know fantasy is typically not so feminist, but watching the show really gives me a bad taste in my mouth. I think I'm quitting it.
posted by something something at 1:08 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


That lesbo-erotic scene in the second episode isn't in the book, as I recall

The premise of it is in the book, but it's not quite as gratuitous iirc.
posted by elizardbits at 1:09 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Right, yeah. That's how I remembered it too.
posted by something something at 1:10 PM on May 5, 2011


I can appreciate all the boobs from an aesthetic point of view but it got a bit silly in the third episode where I was actually noticing it was the first time Dany (the blonde chick) didn't take her clothes off.

Then they had a scene in a brothel where a bunch of topless women literally ran past the camera for no real reason.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 1:10 PM on May 5, 2011


The books are full of all this stuff (MYRISH SWAMP) it can be different when you see it on a screen but the book is notorious for gratuitous sex and rape.

I would expect it to calm down a bit as they get in to the plot, take a look at the nudity in the first episode of Rome and compare it going forward. They toss in as much as they can at the start to hook people who watch for that kind of stuff.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:12 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


They toss in as much as they can at the start to hook people who watch for that kind of stuff.

Same goes for True Blood as far as I can tell (being 5 episodes into the first season... seems to be tapering off).
posted by adamms222 at 1:14 PM on May 5, 2011


In the interest of equal opportunity nakedness I think the next episode should feature a lot of slo-mo scenes of Khal Momoa carefully oiling his firm manbreasts.
posted by elizardbits at 1:15 PM on May 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


I really like GoT thus far, they seem to be covering the first fairly faithfully without getting completely bogged down in minutiae. I'm not even remotely upset by the across the board upgrade in the ages of children because I think some of the horrible things that will happen to them will be more tolerable happening to young adults rather than small children.

If anything kinda bothers me about the adaptation it's that they have been fairly hamhanded with some of the hidden plot points (for instance Jon Snow's parentage is much more subtly handled in the books). Furthermore some of the characterization seems a bit off. Peter Dinklage is so magnificent as Tyrion that he's instantly set up as protagonist which I think is perhaps too early of a reveal. I also worry that they are hinting at Jaime Lannister's decency (I know he's murderous, incestuous and has thrown a child out of window) a bit too early. I'm afraid that instead of being reviled as a bastard he'll be magnificent bastard.

However I liked the scene with Cersei and her son Joffrey as it did make her a bit more three-dimensional which was one of the problems I had with her character in the first book when she seemed to be pretty much a two-dimensional bitch 100% of the time.
posted by vuron at 1:16 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


This show is so beautifully shot and portrayed. It makes me forgive a few weird casting decisions. 17-year-old Jon Snow (14 in the book) looks no younger than the 24-year-old Kit Harington portraying him.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:17 PM on May 5, 2011


Same goes for True Blood as far as I can tell (being 5 episodes into the first season... seems to be tapering off).

Oh no. Oh no, no, no. Not at all.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:20 PM on May 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


It's good not GREAT so far. I've had warm fuzzy feelings in each episode BUT the Cersei and Jamie conversations are looking and feeling so "soap opera" awful I have to cringe. I look forward to each episode so it at least has that allure. I prefer the northern area scenes since they delve into fog and beyond. The southern scenes just make me want to take a shower.
I am 1/2 way through A Feast for Crows and I highly recommended the series as a read and experience.
posted by saucygit at 1:22 PM on May 5, 2011


Scrolled down without reading so I could leave a comment so it appears in my Recent History so I remember to come back to it once I'm done with the book. Stupid work getting in the way...
posted by inigo2 at 1:22 PM on May 5, 2011


Yeah, it's true, George does very nasty things to all of the females in his books. The amount of abuse piled on Brienne is shocking. And it seems that the only woman who commands any kind of respect in the series is a complete lunatic who practices incest and flippant murder. Dany is borderline.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:22 PM on May 5, 2011


That opening sequence is kind of awesome yes. It'd be great to play a Civilization-like computer game presented like that. I imagined an announcer saying over the graphics of rising clockwork castles something like "BUILDING PHASE."
posted by JHarris at 1:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm completly okay with the lezing up for important plot purposes.
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Boromir! Boromir! BOROMIIIIIRR!!!
posted by lemuring at 1:27 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hadn't planned to watch the show, but that video gives off a steampunk vibe, which turns me on ... is the show steampunkish in any significant way?
posted by jbickers at 1:28 PM on May 5, 2011


In the interest of equal opportunity nakedness I think the next episode should feature a lot of slo-mo scenes of Khal Momoa carefully oiling his firm manbreasts.

Maybe you'll get them in the Conan reboot.
posted by Trurl at 1:29 PM on May 5, 2011


Yeah, True Blood is completely upfront about being pretty much a bodice ripper. I think Alan Ball kinda likes that it's completely cheesy and inspired by paranormal romances which are essentially my boyfriend is soooo cool because it gives him the ability to subvert the genre is various ways while still being a crowd pleaser.

You can throw a ton of sex into a vampire show which will bring in a ton of viewers without having to shoehorn the sex into a work that didn't already have it.
posted by vuron at 1:29 PM on May 5, 2011


Hadn't planned to watch the show, but that video gives off a steampunk vibe, which turns me on ... is the show steampunkish in any significant way?

Uhh, not really.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:32 PM on May 5, 2011


I've read complaints other places about too much sex and nudity in the TV adaptation of GoT.

I really don't understand the problem. First, I like sex and nudity. Second, there's sex and nudity in the books. Third, there's what, 3-4 minutes per hour long episode that include sex or nudity?

I don't usually watch series TV and only got HBO to see this. DO fans/viewers often have negative reactions to nipples and sex in HBO shows?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


As someone who hasn't read the books, I think Game of Thrones is... pretty good. One problem with the grim-gritty-and-hardcore presentation (that, for example, BSG also suffered from) is that with that kind of tone it becomes much harder to gloss over plot holes. For example, I find it completely unbelievable that a society whose rulers routinely murder each other with such stupid enthusiasm can also have a cultural memory that goes back thousands of years.

The title sequence is very nice.
posted by furiousthought at 1:36 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


That lesbo-erotic scene in the second episode isn't in the book, as I recal

Sure it is. You want me to dig up the page references?
posted by Justinian at 1:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hadn't planned to watch the show, but that video gives off a steampunk vibe, which turns me on ... is the show steampunkish in any significant way?

No.

Also it doesn't take place inside a dysonesque sphere, which was a bit of a dissapointment.
posted by Artw at 1:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can throw a ton of sex into a vampire show which will bring in a ton of viewers without having to shoehorn the sex into a work that didn't already have it.

Uh, have you read ASoIaF? It's chock full of sex.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish the series well, as I'm a long-time SF reader and fan, and I like many of George R.R. Martin's other writings, but when I tried reading the first novel way back when it came out I was left cold and didn't buy the others after finishing it. I may or may not eventually try the series, but I do hope that this goes well, and allows other epic series to be turned into shows.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:41 PM on May 5, 2011


I think one of them actually says "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

Sounds like just another Saturday night for me.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:42 PM on May 5, 2011


I find it completely unbelievable that a society whose rulers routinely murder each other with such stupid enthusiasm can also have a cultural memory that goes back thousands of years.

You do? Not only is routine murder a regular plot point in European history, it was a regular feature for such short term affairs as the Egyptian and Roman empires.

I recently finished Cleopatra and was fascinated by the routine royal practice in Egypt, long before Cleopatra came along of marrying one's sibling, then murdering them.
posted by bearwife at 1:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bwah! The_joff twitter link is great; real time interactive twitter fan fiction... Who knew.
posted by stratastar at 1:45 PM on May 5, 2011


I wasn't suggesting that ASoIaF didn't have sex but merely commenting on the fact that True Blood more closely matches the standard sex/relationship heavy template that HBO shows tends to focus on.

I think the struggle with GoT moving forward will be the relatively high percentage of sex scenes that are non-consensual. They managed Khal Drogo - Daenrys well but I think moving forward that won't be completely possible.
posted by vuron at 1:48 PM on May 5, 2011


Heh: reviewer at Tiger Beatdown says Game of Thrones is Tea Party world, Tolkien remixed by Ayn Rand.
posted by emjaybee at 1:50 PM on May 5, 2011


So far I like the show. I haven't read the books and I have no intention of reading them but as a show it is pretty good and has yet to be embarrassing in the way that a lot of genre fantasy tends to be.

That said, the all-white cast sticks in my craw a bit. To be fair, there is one guy who's half-native Hawaiian, but thus far there has not been a single speaking role for a black person and episode four is airing Sunday.

And just to be clear, I'm not saying the show is racist or that the casting decisions were, either. I'm saying it's something I cannot unsee when watching the show. I've been told by people who read the books that there are non-white characters in there who get introduced later; I'm just wondering why they haven't at least put in a token appearance on the show. I'm really enjoying it but it's kind of sad the way everyone's white.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:51 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


That lesbo-erotic scene in the second episode isn't in the book, as I recall

I was watching the second episode, and turned to my roommate and said 'It's weird, this is an HBO show but they haven't put any lesbia- oh, wait, nevermind."

Same goes for True Blood as far as I can tell (being 5 episodes into the first season... seems to be tapering off).

Hahahaha... I remember describing the second season as one of the few shows that can make me say 'dammit, ANOTHER drugged out orgy? skip foreward, I'm bored.'
posted by FatherDagon at 1:52 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


For my part, I think the series is pretty good for what is is. It suffers from the same problem any adaptation of a 700 page novel into a 10 hour season would have; everything is hugely condensed, a lot of the flavor is stripped out, and character motivation can seem arbitrary because you don't see their choices and changes unfold over long periods of time. If it was a network-like 22 episodes instead of 10 I think it would benefit greatly but, of course, that's impossible.

So it's a great thing but it functions in relation to A Game of Thrones in the same way a band's greatest hits album works in relation to the fully body of their work. You get an idea of what they are about but you lose a lot of the nuance and interesting things they do with narrative flow and such.

Also, my copy of the Meisha Merlin edition of A Game of Thrones is possibly the most expensive thing I own except for my apartment and car. Weird.
posted by Justinian at 1:53 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Episode two has a different title sequence

Did anyone notice the difference? I didn't but there I wasn't really watching that closely.


The Wall wasn't included in the first episode credits IIRC, the idea being that the credits change when new areas are visited during the episode...which is pretty damn cool, but also fairly pricey, I'd imagine. Plus it's a great way to get people to actually watch the credits.
posted by Sparx at 1:53 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh: reviewer at Tiger Beatdown says Game of Thrones is Tea Party world, Tolkien remixed by Ayn Rand.

Reviewer at Metafilter says reviewer at Tiger Beatdown is ignorant and possibly dumb. Hobbesian? Sure. But I can imagine that reviewer going "What does Calvin and Hobbes have to do with anything?"
posted by Justinian at 1:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


My problem with the show isn't that there's sex; it's the completely random, contextless female nudity thrown in for no reason (other than, presumably, the obvious reason - that HBO assumes its audience is going to be mostly heterosexual male). I'm all for sex. I love True Blood. But I don't love how Game of Thrones has, so far, sexualized virtually every woman onscreen for reasons unrelated to plot, except for Catelyn Stark. I'm not even one of those people who strongly identifies as feminist - it's just something I noticed and feel is a little distasteful.

Unrelated, but I also think it's hilarious how everyone in every American fantasy television show and movie always has a vaguely British accent.
posted by something something at 1:57 PM on May 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


The Wall wasn't included in the first episode credits IIRC

Yeah, it was. The difference in the title sequences was that in episode 1 we saw Pentos across the Narrow Sea while in episode 2 we saw Vaes Dothrak because Danaerys and Company had left Pentos behind. It was well done and I did notice.
posted by Justinian at 1:57 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, Justinian, many of her commenters don't agree with her either...
posted by emjaybee at 1:58 PM on May 5, 2011


FAMOUS_MONSTER I completely agree with you on the lack of color thing. The only black characters were the dancers/whores at the wedding; and he's orientalized with the ray liotta amount of mascara.

It almost seems too deliberate.
posted by stratastar at 1:58 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My problem with the show isn't that there's sex; it's the completely random, contextless female nudity thrown in for no reason

Right, but as with your other example - Catelyn meeting with Littlefinger in the whorehouse while random topless girls scamper by - these scenes were taken directly from the book. Yes, obvsly HBO is picking and choosing the sexy sex scenes for production, but they're taking them from the source material, not simply pulling them out of their collective asses.
posted by elizardbits at 2:00 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was also told that the wedding sex scene in the books was played as loaded in the way an arranged marriage tends to be but that he asked first and she agreed. In the show it's played as a straight-up rape which kind of adds to the problematic visual narrative of the huge exotic mandingo raping the tiny quivering blonde white woman. I'm willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to the people making the show but in this case it equates to that I am willing to believe they just didn't really think about it nearly as much as they should have.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:01 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


We shouldn't talk about TV shows until after a whole season. Who the fuck can find something to say about a show by two episodes? It's either fine or horrible, there's nothing much else to say.

So uh...It's fine so far, I guess. Dinklage is a genius.

Treme on the other hand has totally lost me. 2 episodes into that series I thought it was god: now it's just church.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:04 PM on May 5, 2011


and he's orientalized with the ray liotta amount of mascara

I'm not sure that's fair. The guy playing Khal Drogo is, IIRC, native Hawaiian. That's not a terribly out of character choice I don't think. Unless you mean the lack of black characters in general in which case all I can do is point out that there isn't a lot of travel between continents in a really low tech world. I'm trying to recall if we'll see more later on in the Danaerys storyline or not. Probably North African equivalent type people but not Sub-Saharan.
posted by Justinian at 2:04 PM on May 5, 2011


Huh. I've fast-forwarded the title sequence every episode. Guess I should actually pay attention next time, seeing as I haven't yet read the books. Big fan of the show though; it just looks so very good (and the sex content seems to be of an appropriate level). HBO certainly has a gift for making really, really pretty television (i.e. Boardwalk Empire). And Jason Momoa is delicious. It'll be interesting to see how he comes off as everyone's favourite Cimmerian.
posted by Go Banana at 2:05 PM on May 5, 2011


I don't like the title sequence. Or rather I think it's beautiful, but it's not right for Game of Thrones -- it's too steampunkish, with all those gears. (I'm only halfway through A Storm of Swords, so maybe things will change dramatically.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:05 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You do? Not only is routine murder a regular plot point in European history, it was a regular feature for such short term affairs as the Egyptian and Roman empires.

Yes, but in Game of Thrones they're almost Quentin-Tarantino-movie-morons about it (except for the queen, she seems relatively cunning) and I don't see any countervailing forces for stability – the picture the show paints is of Dark Age warlords who live by less of a code than Beowulf did scrabbling around for whatever advantage they can get. By comparison, Atia & company in Rome were savage and grasping, but they weren't stupid about it.
posted by furiousthought at 2:07 PM on May 5, 2011


I'm willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to the people making the show but in this case it equates to that I am willing to believe they just didn't really think about it nearly as much as they should have.

I'm polar opposite to you on this; I think it was actually an improvement on the way the book depicted the scene and that it meant they had really thought through the implications of what they were doing. They know what they are eventually going to be showing on screen and they know they don't have thousands of pages of internal monologue and such to make future choices natural, so they are tweaking things to make what they do show believable.

Consider the scene between Eddard Stark and Jaime Lannister in front of the Iron Throne in episode 3. That scene is made up out of whole cloth! No such scene exists in the novel. But it is completely in character and the reasons they made the scene are pretty obvious; we don't have 300 pages of internal Jaime Lannister action down the road to understand his motivations, so without such a scene his later actions would seem bizarre.
posted by Justinian at 2:09 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


who else here is a GRRuMbler, raise your hand!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 2:10 PM on May 5, 2011


I was also told that the wedding sex scene in the books was played as loaded in the way an arranged marriage tends to be but that he asked first and she agreed. In the show it's played as a straight-up rape which kind of adds to the problematic visual narrative of the huge exotic mandingo raping the tiny quivering blonde white woman.

Basically, in the book it was something modern viewers would recognize as rape even though she said yes eventually. It was a forced marriage and her brother would not have let her escape it.

It was gonna look bad however they filmed it, so they just got rid of the subtlety while having her eventual change of heart towards Drogo come later.

I am both bothered and not bothered by the lack of black characters, because it makes sense within the story. There are dark skinned characters but they live elsewhere and don't really come in to the story quite yet. Forcing it would be a bit of tokenism, but I think they should have found a way.

Yes, but in Game of Thrones they're almost Quentin-Tarantino-movie-morons

Well, the first Bran attempt makes perfect sense. The second one makes more sense later. It would be a mistake to think you know what is going on right now if you have not read the books.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:15 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always thing of Khal Drogo as Non from Superman II.

(Other characters include "Boromir", "Those Elric looking motherfuckers" and "the little shit" - though actually the little shit's name being Joffery is just perfect.)
posted by Artw at 2:15 PM on May 5, 2011


Wait a minute-

Do you think there should have been dark skinned actors in Lord of the Rings? This is a ridiculous criticism. The characters being portrayed are supposed to be like northern europeans in a sort of parallel medieval time period. Hell, most of the characters are blood relatives of each other.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:18 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right, but when I say they didn't think about it, what I mean is that they maybe didn't consider how compressing the storytelling (which I'm fine with) equated to playing up the terrifying-savage traits of a group of people and having the only non-white speaking role on the show be a huge, blonde-conquering rapist.

As was pointed out above, part of the issue here was that his makeup is done in such a way that his exotic appearance is exaggerated further and though I can't really say for sure it kind of looks like they slathered fake tan on the guy. I get the need to compress the story but I'd have been happier if they maybe employed their own visual language instead of using tropes which already exist and are kind of problematic.

Again I need to stress that I don't think this was a conscious decision on their part and to be honest if not for the fact that literally every other speaking character on the show was white, I don't think I'd have noticed or cared.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:19 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do you think there should have been dark skinned actors in Lord of the Rings?

Actually, I kind of think that would be cool!

This is a ridiculous criticism. The characters being portrayed are supposed to be like northern europeans in a sort of parallel medieval time period.

The show has dragons. The show has ice zombies.

Those are okay, but black characters would destroy the suspension of disbelief. Got it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


I always pictured the Dothraki as Asian, similar to the Mongols.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes it's a silly criticism. And I'll ask again- do you have a problem with the lack of black actors in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, some nine hours of film?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:24 PM on May 5, 2011


I always imagined the Dothrak as vaguely Arabic or perhaps Mongolian. I was disappointed to see they were generic white nomads.

In the show it's played as a straight-up rape

To be fair, it is in the books too. Danaerys is 12 or 13 when it happens. They've made her much older on screen.
posted by bonehead at 2:25 PM on May 5, 2011


FWIW I went looking for the Daenaerys-Doreah scene. It looks to me like there are two different scenes being stuck together here. The Daenaerys-Doreah scene is actually only implied in the novel, we don't see anything like this until later. So obviously watching the series is already influencing my memory of the novels because I thought I remembered that particular scene being described.

On the other hand, it definitely occurred in the novel, it just wasn't "on-screen" so to speak. Given that you don't get internal dialogue on screen I think it was a legitimate choice. Plus, you know, boobs.
posted by Justinian at 2:25 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it would be difficult to cast dozens and dozens of asian actors and extras in Ireland? Just a guess, though.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:26 PM on May 5, 2011


Plenty of people criticized LoTR for being armies of white people battling dark skinned monsters. I don't really agree that much, but that isn't a great example.

FM, what would you change about that scene specifically?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:26 PM on May 5, 2011


The Dany scenes were filmed in Malta.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:27 PM on May 5, 2011


the little shit's name being Joffery is just perfect.

Hahaha...I thought the same thing. I was annoyed by the name when I heard it and then when I saw it spelled, I actually got angry and I don't even know why. I can't think of a name that annoys me more.
posted by Falconetti at 2:31 PM on May 5, 2011


It's a little too early in this series to see how they'll deal with rape as a larger issue, but rape is talked about in almost every chapter of the books, and the Dothraki make up a tiny portion of the rapists in this story. I think this is an unfortunate example of them merely being the first to really be shown engaging in the practice. If the white folks don't start raping people soon, then THAT will be a serious problem and will point to a much more subversive decision on the part of production.
posted by jph at 2:31 PM on May 5, 2011


I always pictured the Dothraki as Asian, similar to the Mongols.

Oh gawd, they're like the most Mongolian Mongols that ever mongoled. "They don't have a word for thank you!" That's sort of a problem with whole-cloth fantasy storytelling – to save yourself exposition you have to resort to stereotypes.
posted by furiousthought at 2:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


I understand the frustrations that the setting is incredibly "white" but fundamentally we are talking about a fantasy Northern Europe. I think you could've probably stretched and made Varys more ethnic in terms of casting choice but as he's hardly a sympathetic character I wonder if using an actor of another race would've actually presented more problems than it would fix.

It's not like whitewashing of the Airbender movie where the director and producers chose to alter the ethnic background of the characters. If there is a problem with not enough non-white characters I think the responsibility rests with Martin himself.
posted by vuron at 2:37 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I assumed the Dothraki were Klingons
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:40 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


It was gonna look bad however they filmed it, so they just got rid of the subtlety while having her eventual change of heart towards Drogo come later.

The problem with that lack of subtlety is that their romance goes from "problematic by modern standards, but understandable within the social context of the fictional universe" to "Dany gets raped, then next episode she conquers him with her vagina, then next episode they're all lovey-dovey." And yes, I'm aware there's a period of months between the first episode and the third, but still, ew.

I always imagined the Dothrak as vaguely Arabic or perhaps Mongolian. I was disappointed to see they were generic white nomads.

It's almost worse than them being generic white nomads -- they're ambiguously brown people of a whole mishmash of ethnicities. Basically, the two "racial groups" we've seen in GoT so far are the White Protagonists and the Scary Brown People.

I was relieved to see a couple of Dothraki characters get longer speaking scenes in the third episode, but the characters aren't named and I can't even find them or their actors in the IMDB listing, so I'm skeptical they'll be of much importance except as window dressing for Dany's character arc. (I don't remember much of the book, so maybe I'm wrong? Fingers crossed.)
posted by bettafish at 2:40 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Plenty of people criticized LoTR for being armies of white people battling dark skinned monsters.

That's nonsense. They also killed lots of darker-skinned, other-ized humans in league with the monsters.

I assumed the Dothraki were Klingons

It didn't help that they did up Kahl Wossname as basically a shirtless TOS Klingon.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:41 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


And those that think the gratuitous nudity is a bit iffy had better not check out Spartacus Blood and Sand as it might prove fatal. Though they were admirably PC in casting... there's at least one Maori gladiator I think
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:42 PM on May 5, 2011


Yes it's a silly criticism. And I'll ask again- do you have a problem with the lack of black actors in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, some nine hours of film?

You first asked if I thought there should have been dark skinned actors in it, and I said that I kind of think that would have been cool.

Now you're asking if I have a problem with it.

Okay, here's the answer.

I don't see any reason why any of the characters couldn't have been black. As was pointed out above, the movie was about white people fighting dark-skinned people, and the dark-skinned people were all bad, and being bad was just sort of built into their race. Changing even one of the protagonists to a black guy would change the context. Again I say, these works are not based on any version of medieval Europe that ever existed; there's magic and dragons and elves and whatever else. Including a black character is something which could be explained in five seconds without disrupting the plot or any of that, but for whatever reason, that sticks out to people. I say it again: You have no problem with any of these fantastic elements, but you balk reflexively at the idea of including nonwhite characters. Why do you think that is?

'Cause here's the thing.

If you're white - and I don't know if you are or not - you never have to think about this. The overwhelming majority of protagonists in the overwhelming majority of movies and TV shows, they look like you. You've never had to think about how cool it would be to have a positive white role model. You've never had to think it sucks that the white guy in a movie is almost always the sidekick or the friend who gets killed to provide motivation for the hero. And what that winds up meaning is that if someone includes diversity in a cast, you can bristle about it, because to you it's forced tokenism.

You think it's a silly criticism because you have the luxury of thinking so. There are people who don't. There are people who can't help but notice, because it stares them in the face every day.

Something to think about, is all. Honestly I don't expect to change any minds with this and I know full well you're still going to think it's a silly criticism, and that's fine. You asked, I answered. The world will keep turning if we don't agree.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:43 PM on May 5, 2011 [41 favorites]


FM, what would you change about that scene specifically?

Good question. Like I say, I don't think that scene would have leapt out at me the way it did if there had been any other non-white characters who weren't portrayed as othered savages. So, I don't know, maybe toss in an establishing scene or two of them, early on, so the viewer knows they exist. Something like that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:46 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


We don't agree.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:47 PM on May 5, 2011


FAMOUS MONSTER, I would normally agree with you completely but -- have you read the book(s)? They imbed you and enmesh you with the characters, including the way they look. And often looks are critical to plot points -- for example, that Tyrion Lannister is a "dwarf," to quote the book, is key to understanding his difficult relationship with his father and sister, and his identification with another outcast, the bastard John Snow. (That Snow looks like his father, Eddard, but not of course like Eddard's lawful wife, Catelyn Stark, helps to explain his very different connection to each of them.) Looks and genetics are the way that Eddard Stark figures out who his friend Robert Baratheon's rightful heir really is. Daenerys white blonde hair and purple eyes are a mark of her royal lineage as a "Dragon" of House Targaryen. There are a lot of other examples. I don't know how you could make the bloodline backgrounds work, either, if you cast major characters in this first book, other than Khal Drogo, as people of color.
posted by bearwife at 2:56 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I too am digging the heck out of "Peter Dinkage In A Game of Thrones" (Holy Cow he brings the awesome) but I've gotta chime in on the "whiteness" issue.

This is, from my point of view, Euro-Fantasy as produced by Hollyweird. All of these kingdoms are pastiches (Lannisters = Blondcrazys, Starks as Brunettecrazys, Targaryens as Elvencrazys, Dothraki as Generisavages) as envisaged by the author. The Hollyweird lens always tends to whiten things up as they recently discovered that people of color can be middle class and have money also. This lead to confusion for them (cf. "Hemidall Syndrome"). I know that light skinned brothers who ride will be in the horde, Light skinned sisters will also be there.

I'm just thankful that they didn't make them all Black (and I bet that thought was voiced...) 'cuz we are talking Hollyweird does imaginary humans here.
posted by djrock3k at 2:57 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the interest of equal opportunity nakedness I think the next episode should feature a lot of slo-mo scenes of Khal Momoa carefully oiling his firm manbreasts. ... Maybe you'll get them in the Conan reboot.

After watching the trailer, I'd say you're right.
posted by ericb at 3:00 PM on May 5, 2011


...had better not check out Spartacus Blood and Sand

They amp it up even more in Spartacus Gods of the Arena.

I've not read the novels, but if they're even better than the show thus far, I'm a lucky bastard for getting to read them for the first time.
posted by porpoise at 3:00 PM on May 5, 2011


On the race derail, one thing that's struck me as being utterly weird is that there are next to no Asian characters in Grey's Anatomy, when in any Seattle hospital (or anywhere in Seattle really) you'll see a bunch of Asian people. Black people, on the other hand, are over represented - basically because the show has been cast according along east coast demographic lines, and that's sort of the unofficial way of doing things on US TV these days - which is fine and all, better than non-whites being invisible, but it sort for sucks for Seattle and Asian people.

/has been spending a lot of time in Seattle hospitals lately.
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on May 5, 2011


It's a story written by a white guy about white guys and non-white guys in specific roles, playing off tropes common to this specific white guy culture.

If Toni Morrison wrote a medieval fantasy set in Africa that specifically mentioned characters with dark skin, and the film version replaced those characters with white actors and a pseudo-British setting, how would you feel? I'd feel a tiny bit insulted.

Similarly, we now know that an upcoming live-action Akira will feature white actors, and the film's setting, which is metaphorically integral to the story, will be moved out of Japan. How would you feel? Again, I'm a tiny bit insulted.

Well, not insulted. Saddened. Saddened that a) filmmakers think their audience is stupid, b) they think that because they have objective research that shows the audience really is stupid and c) no one wants to take a chance.

Idris Elba as Heimdall? Interesting...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:05 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


FAMOUS MONSTER, I would normally agree with you completely but -- have you read the book(s)?

I haven't. I usually stay far away from genre fantasy but I'm liking the show. Nevertheless I can't say as the books really interest me.

I've been told that there are interesting nonwhite characters further down the line. As the show already has thrown in some new things for the purposes of storytelling - which I think is a good thing - I'm not sure why there aren't any establishing scenes of these people, even if they don't come directly from the book. Or why wholly incidental characters need to be white. In the first episode I noticed one actual black guy, and he was an extra and the upper half of his face was covered by a helmet (it's in the scene when the king arrives; blink and you'll miss it). We've established that not everyone is white in the series' world already; what we haven't gotten into is why everyone important is white.

The thing is, I don't believe the show needs to be a faithful retelling of the books down to the detail; what it needs is to be a good TV series. So far, I think it succeeds at that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:09 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


what we haven't gotten into is why everyone important is white.

Besides Khal Drogo, you mean? Because the action is mostly taking place where the white people live, in the Seven Kingdoms.
posted by Justinian at 3:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Besides Khal Drogo, you mean? Because the action is mostly taking place where the white people live, in the Seven Kingdoms.

i addressed that already, in the post you're quoting.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:13 PM on May 5, 2011


About the Dothraki, I kinda thought there would be more of them. The last few scenes involving them did not convey "horde" at all to me. It was more like "these five people were all the extras we could get".

Basically, the two "racial groups" we've seen in GoT so far are the White Protagonists and the Scary Brown People.

Yeah, we won't get to see too much of the wildlings, I don't think, but they'd be a nice contrast to the "civility" of the white society south of the wall.

The problem with that lack of subtlety is that their romance goes from "problematic by modern standards, but understandable within the social context of the fictional universe" to "Dany gets raped, then next episode she conquers him with her vagina, then next episode they're all lovey-dovey." And yes, I'm aware there's a period of months between the first episode and the third, but still, ew.

Yeah, I wasn't crazy about any of this, but there's plenty of arranged marriage and rape (and both together!) in the books that I wasn't crazy about either. The consummation of the arranged marriage of a barely teen girl is going to have issues no matter what the dialogue is. In a world where arranged marriage of nobles is common, a relationship that starts with rape, leading eventually to acceptance or at least tolerance and sometimes love doesn't seem that out there. And sure it's disturbing and I'd rather be without it, but I'm not a big fan of weddings that habitually end at least three lives, nor am I particularly fond of pushing ten year olds out of windows.

As for what I think of the show in general, it's about as good as I expect. It sometimes feels like the nudity is a cheap hook for a certain demographic, sure, but I might just feel that way because I didn't focus on that stuff when I was reading. The sex is certainly there in the books. The production values seem really odd to me. It gives the impression of being really well done, but every once and awhile I see things that just look cheap (like the aforementioned Dothraki "horde" in the last episode).

I remember enjoying the books, but it's been awhile, so some of this feels new to me. In movies and TV I generally can't stand people doing stupid things out of character for plot reasons. Everyone's actions seem to line up with their motivations so far, but we'll see what happens.

One thing I liked about the series is that there are shades of gray for pretty much every character. It's not really obvious yet in the series, but you're starting to see it come through a bit. "That kindly knight from your old kingdom? Yeah, he sold people into slavery. No big deal."

As far as race goes, I think they could've put made one of the families a non-white race without much problem. This isn't our world, so it's not like we need to have Europe's ethnic makeup accurately represented in any medieval type show.
posted by ODiV at 3:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I generally think the larger problem is that the world in which a lot of "fantasy" novels takes place is a sort of contextless mish-mash of European historical periods. Has anyone ever written a fantasy novel about a protagonist or group of protagonists in a world drawn from historical eras from other parts of the world? I mean, I don't know about anyone else, but a fantasy novel that has both manticores and the discovery of algebra could be AWESOME.
posted by 235w103 at 3:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I haven't read the book, I have no problem getting into complex plots (Wire, Treme, those are my creds), but I'm having a hard as hell time figuring out what is going on. Most recaps I read are along the lines of, "It sticks to the book!" which is great, but for those of us who haven't read the book and are desperately trying to figure things out without pushing Wikipedia too much ... is there anything out there? Any really good recaps that sort of fill in the missing pieces? I'm even okay with minor spoilers.

Do people live outside that giant wall or just the demon creatures, why don't they come, you know, inside the wall? Also, and this may be really naive, but I'm assuming there's different nations here? Like the girl with really white hair and the Persian guy are opposing kingdoms? Or is it one big empire with a bunch of competing factions? And they're all on one big continent right?

Again, I keep going to Wikipedia, but it is shockingly difficult to get even a condensed "Here is some background" information without getting pounded with a bunch of minutiae.
posted by geoff. at 3:18 PM on May 5, 2011


Well, I found Erikson's Malazan series pretty good if you are interested in seeing more diverse cultures reflected in fantasy. It's really dense but if you can slog through, it is good stuff. The author was educated and trained as an Anthropologist and Archeologist.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:19 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


geoff. - you're doing ok. The first book definitely plays out as a mystery. Ned is thrown into the deep end to figure it out for himself and the reader / watcher is brought along for the ride.
posted by stratastar at 3:22 PM on May 5, 2011


Geoff, the HBO viewers guide is a great resource for answering general questions without spoilers.

I had some more direct answers typed up but they feel spoilery, memail me if you want any detail without spoilers. (anyone else is welcome too)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:23 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thinking about the casting of future seasons: So could they make the Reed siblings black? Green contacts would be needed, but hey, we already have purple ones. Or would casting black actors as swampfolk be as bad as not casting any at all?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:23 PM on May 5, 2011


Along with the viewer's guide mentioned above, here's a list of characters that's pretty useful.
posted by ODiV at 3:25 PM on May 5, 2011


They actually dropped the contacts, they were a pain in the ass for the actors.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:26 PM on May 5, 2011


I'm just wondering why they haven't at least put in a token appearance on the show. I'm really enjoying it but it's kind of sad the way everyone's white.

Because Hollywood sucks at that. Hollywood will cast white folks for anything, but God forbid you cast a person of color in a role where their race isn't specifically mentioned.

One exception was Denzel Washington in Much Ado About Nothing. Don Pedro is from Aragon and you could even make a case that he could be moorish, but people still thought it was wierd (because Spanish people in plays set in Italy should be portrayed by people with English accents. I guess). Me, I thought he was great.

Now, there is a real problem that GoT has that your basic swords-n-sorcery book does not. There are some important plot points that revolve around some characters not looking like this person, but instead looking like that person. Let's just say that Joffrey can't be white and Jaime be black and have things make sense. Okay, I'm down with that.

But still, to hell with it. Daenyrs is supposed to have silver hair and purple (?) eyes, but there is no reason to stick to that. A non-white actress would only add to the character's "otherness". Or, you could take the big leap of a non-white actor playing a character whose race is not specified, but is probably white. But no, we get a white actress. I'm sure she's fine at the role, but it's still not necessary.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:27 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


There are people on the other side of the wall - the "wildlings". Tyrion directly addresses that when he says the only difference between them is that their ancestors were born on the right side of it. They don't come across because they're not allowed to by the people manning the wall.

Most of the major characters are from the main houses on the continent the action is centered on ("westeros"), but the horse dudes are "across the narrow sea" on another one.

The white haired dudes are part of westeros now, but came from a different place a long time ago. You don't know that at this point in the story, but I don't think it spoils anything to say so.

And yeah... there's an awful lot of information that hasn't been presented yet. I'm watching with my girlfriend, who hasn't read (much of) the books (yet), and some questions she has are best answered with "you don't know that yet".
posted by flaterik at 3:27 PM on May 5, 2011


Casting black skinned folk as the crannogmen would probably be worse than not at all, yes. A poor and primitive people disparaged as "frog eaters" by everyone else? I don't think that would go over well.
posted by Justinian at 3:28 PM on May 5, 2011


Oh to answer your specific questions: There are basically two land bodies: The Seven Kingdoms, (a lord and vassal type area, with several competing major families that rule their own areas, but bow before a king) where the main story takes place, and the Free Lands - a set of much looser areas, which are more anarchistic. (See the opening sequence); the land bodies are close enough for a few months of sailing, which allows for trade and some limited migration but not really that much interaction otherwise.

The Targaeryens (the white haired ones) were the long-running ruling family, but the king is now Robert Baratheon, one of the other major families.
posted by stratastar at 3:28 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Daenyrs is supposed to have silver hair and purple (?) eyes, but there is no reason to stick to that.

Are you kidding? I... yes, yes there is a reason to stick to that. I hope the producers do many to find some meaty roles for minority actors and actresses but casting the Lannisters as anything but blondes, or changing the Starks, or getting rid of the Targaryen's pale skin and silver hair would be an incredibly fundamental change. Hell, there are key plot points based on these things!
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Has anyone ever written a fantasy novel about a protagonist or group of protagonists in a world drawn from historical eras from other parts of the world?

Haven't read it since I was a kid, but my recollection is that the Earthsea series was explicitly non-European. Also, in David Anthony Durham's Acacia series, the dominant culture is of a dark-skinned race. And didn't David Wingrove do a whole "Chung Kuo" series set in a mythical China? I'm sure there are more (Octavia Butler? Samuel R. Delany something or other?) but that's what comes to mind immediately.
posted by xigxag at 3:30 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Justinian, why does the pattern of race, breeding, and color have to follow how it is in our world? Is it impossible to imagine an alternative universe where race and color do not define how individuals interact? Do divisions in culture have to go along racial lines?

Why can't each country have mixes of races and colors without it being remarked upon as unnatural? As FM says, its fantasy.
posted by stratastar at 3:31 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone ever written a fantasy novel about a protagonist or group of protagonists in a world drawn from historical eras from other parts of the world?

Plenty. Barry Hughart is an important and respected example. Xigxag mention's Le Guin and, more recently, the Acacia novels. There are so many examples it's hard to know where to start.
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on May 5, 2011


You have no problem with any of these fantastic elements, but you balk reflexively at the idea of including nonwhite characters

And here's the thing that really bothers me about the reaction of some, but by no means all or even many, white fans to black fans expressing a desire to see more black characters in fantasy: not only do they have no problem with the fantasy overlays on top of a vaguely medieval European base, they also have no problem with women -- even commoners -- portrayed as doing and saying things no woman -- even noblewomen -- would have done or said in medieval Europe. That's acceptable to these fans. But throw a black dude in there? Whooooooooooooooa! Suspension of disbelief utterly, irrevocably destroyed!

As a black fan -- and wannabe author -- it's quite upsetting to me that there's often a great deal of resistance to black characters in these settings. From my perspective, it looks like people are insisting that although these fantasy worlds can diverge from our world in any number of significant ways, the one thing that they absolutely must have in common with the real world is that people from fantasy!Sub-Saharan Africa stayed the hell out of fantasy!Northern Europe.

I think that's slowly changing though. I think more authors -- and more fans -- are realizing that it's ridiculous to be accepting of gender-based tweaking of the milieu in order to make it more palatable to modern audiences while rejecting the inclusion of people of color on the basis that it's not "realistic."

So, in short, yay fans and authors!
posted by lord_wolf at 3:32 PM on May 5, 2011 [19 favorites]


Justinian, why does the pattern of race, breeding, and color have to follow how it is in our world? Is it impossible to imagine an alternative universe where race and color do not define how individuals interact?

Have you read the books? It doesn't sound like you have.

It is possible to imagine such a world. But that world isn't the world we are talking about, and there are very good and real reasons for that. Martin is trying to do one thing and you want him to be doing something else. I understand why, but that's not what he is doing.
posted by Justinian at 3:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you haven't read the books, let me point out that there are BIG SPOILER REASONS why a lot of these things have to have been preserved on screen. There just is.
posted by Justinian at 3:35 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


yeah. nthing "no really the way they look matters but we can't tell you why because OMG".

I was really hoping we were gonna talk about game of thrones here, not "a totally different thing that some people wish game of thrones was".
posted by flaterik at 3:38 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


flaterik: You've been on MeFi long enough to know how this works.
posted by absalom at 3:38 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


While it makes sense for the major families for genetic reasons to be one way or another; it doesn't imply that EVERY CHARACTER, has to be white.

There are ZERO black actors in the show. I'm not even talking about the leads.
posted by stratastar at 3:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just shoehorning race into a story which was not written with race in mind is also damaging. Especially if you're attempting a canonical interpretation, where you're purposely trying to stick to the original work as closely as possible, because whoever you choose to be otherly-raced is going to stick out, it'll look like a creative choice when none was intended.

It can be done, and very well, if there is a good creative choice to be made there. But there won't always be.
posted by JHarris at 3:40 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Justinian - I already mentioned (some) of the Lannisters and I conceded that point.

The Targayrens? Hmmm, when reading the books the feeling I get from Daenyrs is that she is unlike everyone else and exotic and "other", but I can't actually recall that it's vital that she has silver hair as opposed to some other color. If her skin were amber and her eyes black and her hair a light blue I don't think I'd blink.

Personally, I'd use a non-white actor for Jon Snow. I think there is still doubt about who his mother is, so there is no reason he was to be the same race as his father. And even if it turns out that he should be white, screw it. Get a black actor to play a white character. Live a little.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:40 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes and usually discussions of my nerdy interests - say, Dr Who or Aliens or Bladerunner, as opposed to politics or current events - tend to be really interesting and fun. I'm finding this one frustratingly derailed and axe grindy, as opposed to interestingly derailed to some terribly interesting topic that wouldn't show up elsewhere.

Oh well. Metafilter is not being what I want today, and GoT is not being what y'all want. We'll all live!
posted by flaterik at 3:42 PM on May 5, 2011


Let me try a non-spoiler approach to this.

One of the things Martin is doing is demolishing a lot of fantasy cliches. You read half of the first book thinking, hey, this is mostly stuff we've seen before but Martin is doing it pretty well so its good. Then he takes those fantasy tropes and smashes them. In order to turn the tropes on their head you have to first spend some time setting up the tropes in the first place.

If things seem kind of cliched so far its because they are, although the producers have actually downplayed some of that. The first half of the first novel is all about setting up things you've seen before. The second half is about trashing them.
posted by Justinian at 3:43 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


lord_wolf: Yeah, it's weird and often inexplicable what will trip some people's suspension of disbelief. And I don't even think it would in a lot of cases. We usually end up seeing people argue more about the concept of non-white characters in genre fiction rather than the execution because for one, it's pretty damn rare and for two, I think it actually works fine most of the time when it is done.

Also, I have a question for you as you're a "wannabe author". Do you think it would be difficult to write a book taking place in a fantasy world similar to ancient China, for example, without feeling like you might be portraying Chinese people unfairly? Just now, thinking about the problem of pretty much all white fantasy and sci-fi, I think my biggest issue, were I a writer, would be obsessing over the portrayal of characters that aren't of my race. If I was writing a book like Game of Thrones full of some pretty vile shit, I would probably end up bogged down in making sure the tally of reprehensible shit that my characters do is equally spread and also that anything I have my non-white characters do does not line up with any real world negative stereotypes.

Now I don't realistically think this is what's actually keeping non-white characters out of a lot of genre fiction. I think it's probably more just a habit than anything for a lot of authors. But it's an interesting question for me anyway as I could see myself having problems with it.
posted by ODiV at 3:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Personally, I'd use a non-white actor for Jon Snow. I think there is still doubt about who his mother is, so there is no reason he was to be the same race as his father.

No, there isn't. From what you're saying I believe you know who his mother is but since we haven't seen SPOILER CHARACTER actually tell us this yet, leaving room for doubt. But I'd eat my own shoes if his parents aren't who you and I probably both believe they are.

Casting Jon Snow as a different race from both his mother and father wouldn't work. This isn't Shakespeare where we're all so familiar with the plays and characters that it doesn't matter if you cast a black Hamlet and a white Gertrude or whatever, this is a new work of fiction most people are unfamiliar with. You simply can't do "trick" casting without turning it into a mess of confusion.
posted by Justinian at 3:46 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just shoehorning race into a story which was not written with race in mind is also damaging. Especially if you're attempting a canonical interpretation, where you're purposely trying to stick to the original work as closely as possible, because whoever you choose to be otherly-raced is going to stick out, it'll look like a creative choice when none was intended.

And it will continue to be that way until someone grows a pair. Would Rosario Dawson be good in this? Why yes, she would. Cast Grace Park in some role. What about Naveen Andrews? He should have some free time now that Lost is off the air.

Yes, be careful for the cases where it reeeeeeeally matters, but otherwise, go nuts.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2011


And characters do talk about how Snow has "stark features". It's a part of the book, not just an assumption.
posted by flaterik at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2011


I would take no issue with House Martell and the various Dornish people being cast black. It's not how the books go, but it'd work.

The Summer Islanders, south of Dorne, are the blacks in the story world.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because the action is mostly taking place where the white people live, in the Seven Kingdoms.

I don't think that's actually an answer to the problem of a dearth of non-white people in fantasy. The action is pretty much always taking place where the white people live.
posted by ODiV at 3:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


And I think it's worth mentioning that in a lot of cases I think some race juggling is totally in order - but in Song of Ice and Fire, decidedly not. It's a fairly intricate work, and as other have mentioned the show is still in the "oh you think you know what's going on" part of the book.

At a certain point there's gonna be some actually surprising events.
posted by flaterik at 3:56 PM on May 5, 2011


Hmmm, I'm going to have to watch the sequence again.

I haven't liked it the first couple of times, the song hasn't grabbed me, and I usually skip over it, but I'll let it run all the way next episode.

Disclaimer: After all these years, the first thing my brain fills in after the HBO "static" opening is the opening bars of the Sopranos. I'm still vaguely disappointed when it doesn't start.
posted by madajb at 3:56 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd certainly like to see a Bas Lag series that was racially mingled as fuck, and an Earthsea that was properly cast, doesn't seem like a good choice for this setting though.
posted by Artw at 3:57 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


there's at least one Maori gladiator I think

Both Manu Bennett (Crixus) and Antonio Te Maioha (Barca) are Maori. That series has been pretty good about minority representation, I think.
posted by elizardbits at 3:59 PM on May 5, 2011


And characters do talk about how Snow has "stark features". It's a part of the book, not just an assumption.

Yeah, but there's no reason all the Starks couldn't be black, or any non-white ethnicity. In fact, if Ned and Cat were an interracial couple, it'd make the issue of Jon looking like his father more than the legitimate Stark children (who except for Arya resemble their mother) a lot clearer. I don't think I'd have picked up on that if I hadn't read the books.

Just shoehorning race into a story which was not written with race in mind is also damaging.

Of course Game of Thrones was written with race in mind. Otherwise we wouldn't even be having this conversation, because the characters would be racially diverse already. A story in a generic Medieval European fantasy setting with mostly white protagonists is not a race-neutral setting.
posted by bettafish at 4:01 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


I caught a glimpse of nipple and was disgusted and felt betrayed, because up until then it had been all slow motion close-up brain-stabbings and disembowelings. What the fuck, HBO? I am writing a letter to my church. We will pray for you.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:04 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


"And characters do talk about how Snow has "stark features". It's a part of the book, not just an assumption.

Yeah, but there's no reason all the Starks couldn't be black, or any non-white ethnicity"

Well yeah, that makes sense, because there are so many "people of the north" that are black.

Wait, no.
posted by flaterik at 4:07 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Inuit are non-white people of the north. And it's not even our "North" anyway.
posted by ODiV at 4:08 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am glad they didn't Hollywood focus group the casting. They did a great job with the casting overall. The actor who plays Jaime is kind of lacking. And while not strictly a casting issue, the Dothraki scenes are less than convincing.

But seriously, it's one series based on a particular set of books where people look certain ways. I'm probably more of an extremest liberal than many here, but criticizing this for not including black actors is very silly in my opinion.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:09 PM on May 5, 2011


Well yeah, that makes sense, because there are so many "people of the north" that are black.

Wait, no.


How exactly is that less plausible than a world in which winters last for years but the entire society doesn't die from starvation/poor nutrition despite being at a roughly late Middle Ages level of technological development?
posted by bettafish at 4:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


For the record, I do like the series better than the books. The first ASOIAF book was entertaining, but the second left me wanting to take a shower. Also, the plot became rather tedious and repetitive. I couldn't finish it. I have hopes the series will compress the series' storyline and make it punchier and stronger, IMO.

But, regarding race, I did find the Dothraki depiction to be pretty racist and orientalist. They pretty much are "scary brown people"/Proud Warrior Race Guys/sexed up Mongol-Klingon hybrids-- they fuck in public and kill at weddings and they're so primitive they don't have a word for thank you. Plus, Khal Drogo wears more eyeliner than Amy Irving in the old "Far Pavilions" miniseries-- I guess to make him more exotic. Or something. I noticed pretty early on that the only ethnic people cast in this show are of the Scary Brown Tribe... I guess it's inevitable, but it's still disappointing.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:12 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The latter is a central premise of the series. The former is your axe to grind that would just be confusing. And, again, another part of it is making you think you know what tropes are happening before upending everything.

If people started off randomly different races then it would not have familiar ground to tear away from you later.

Again, y'all are wanting game of thrones to be something that is not at all game of thrones.

Leave the diversity casting for another series - which, again, I non-sarcastically support.
posted by flaterik at 4:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's weird to see comments dismissing the idea of fictional characters being based on Northern Europeans next to criticisms of other fictional characters being based on Orientalist stereotypes.
posted by Hoopo at 4:16 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Barry Hughart is an important and respected example.

Even though he is Korean, I hope that Ken Jeong is around and sprightly in 40 years to play Master Li.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:16 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


How exactly is that less plausible than a world in which winters last for years but the entire society doesn't die from starvation/poor nutrition despite being at a roughly late Middle Ages level of technological development?

I was going to bring this up. People of African descent, or other dark skinned racial groups (Indians and Sri Lankans...) offer suffer from vitamin D deficiencies and other maladies because of the lack of sunlight in sun poor areas such as the UK or Scandinavia.

In a place where the sun doesn't shine for years, there may be an evolutionary advantage in being fair skinned. Perhaps that is why there are no black people.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:16 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem with Jon Snow cast as black is that then the issue of Catelyn's intense hatred of him would receive racial overtones where none exist in the novel. Which might be interesting in other ways, but it would be a different story than the one Martin conveyed.

Similar issues would pop up with black actors being shoehorned into other roles.

Catelyn? Why does she hate the white bastard so much? Is she a racist? And all her children would be black/mixed-raced as well -- might work from a dramatic point of view, but seems likely to be problematic from a practical "we want this to be a ratings success" perspective.

Targaryens? Why is the only black man a raving buffoon, and the only black woman "sold" into marriage and immediately raped?

Jorah Mormont? Oh great. Another Driving Miss Daisy role.

Lannisters? Why is the black queen an incestuous sociopath? Why does the black family have to be the one with the dwarf?

Rob Baratheon? Plot impossibility.

There are still some players yet to be seen, who could theoretically be cast as black. But personally, I don't have a problem with everybody being white. My sense of self-worth is not so tightly bound to my race that any television series where I'm not "represented" becomes a problem.
posted by xigxag at 4:18 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Those who do not remember RaceFail are doomed to repeat it in MetaFilter.
posted by adipocere at 4:19 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fact, if Ned and Cat were an interracial couple,

Except that Cat is Catelyn Stark nee Tully, of Riverrun. So now you're making the Riverruners black? See, Martin actually put a lot of details in his world. You're just thinking of Cat as a blank slate. She isn't. The Tully's and Riverrun have a long and storied history. You can't change Cat to having black skin without changing a lot of things.

I like the idea of casting the Dornish as dark skinned. I think it would work and it would fit pretty well into the world. That's the kind of thing you do, not crazy gimmick casting like Jon Snow or Catelyn Tully.
posted by Justinian at 4:24 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Mercy, if you want to talk about racial casting in fantasy TV, movies or books, start a new fucking post. Yeah, it's an issue in Hollywood but it is thread hijack nonetheless.

My guess is that the House Martell are going to be a bit "Arabic" but we won't see them until the third book.

If Peter Dinklage does not hold an Emmy statute in his hand next September, there just ain't no justice.
posted by Ber at 4:24 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Those who do not remember RaceFail are doomed to repeat it in MetaFilter.

Anybody who thinks this is comparable to RaceFail either hasn't read Metafilter or hasn't read RaceFail. Note: I mean generically, I know you're mostly just making a snark.
posted by Justinian at 4:25 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I did find the Dothraki depiction to be pretty racist and orientalist. They pretty much are "scary brown people"/Proud Warrior Race Guys/sexed up Mongol-Klingon hybrids-- they fuck in public and kill at weddings and they're so primitive they don't have a word for thank you.

Yes, so much worse that the sisterfucking, kingslaying, childkilling, alcoholic, short-sighted cultured white guys.

Frankly, I don't think any 'race' (insofar as that concept exists within the bounds of the story) is standing on the podium so far.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:25 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ok, here's one: How about Brienne of Tarth having darkish skin? You could probably make House Tarth of Dornish ancestry or something without too much trouble. And she's a very major character down the road.

Anyone know if I'm overlooking any problems with that change? I know House Tarth is from a bit north of King's Landing but I don't think it is too out of line.
posted by Justinian at 4:28 PM on May 5, 2011


Do you think it would be difficult to write a book taking place in a fantasy world similar to ancient China, for example, without feeling like you might be portraying Chinese people unfairly?

It might be arrogant for me to say this, but, no, I don't think I would...because I would constantly be worried about portraying Chinese people unfairly.

I certainly would hope I would try to avoid giving the characters some sort of "Chinese-ness" that comes across in their lines or their actions -- I would strive to make it so that the only way you could tell the character was from fantasy!China was by the name and some of the descriptions of physical appearance.

Would I be perfect in my execution? Nah, probably not. Would I still manage to piss some people off and be accused of racism and unfair treatment? Almost certainly.

And I would hope --dear Lord I hope -- that I would stop to consider whether some of the criticism was valid and try to do a better job in the future instead of getting all defensive and angry. I would also hope that my critics would be gracious enough to give me credit for making the effort.

I think most of us who are taking issue with the absence of blacks/non-whites in some f/sf are saying is, "Please, just try a little harder to realize that your world doesn't have to be bound by the racial/ethnic patterns of our world, and remember that you have people of color buying your books and watching your shows" not "No black people? This is the WORST. THING. EVAR."
posted by lord_wolf at 4:30 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]



Anyone know if I'm overlooking any problems with that change? I know House Tarth is from a bit north of King's Landing but I don't think it is too out of line.


HUGE can of worms if you cast the woman described as the ugliest woman on the planet as one of few dark skinned characters among a bunch of white people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:31 PM on May 5, 2011


Goddammit.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


And starring Rosario Dawson as Brienne of Tarth.
posted by ODiV at 4:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you think it would be difficult to write a book taking place in a fantasy world similar to ancient China, for example, without feeling like you might be portraying Chinese people unfairly?

You would be fine if you worked at it, just don't let M. Night handle casting for the movie or TV show.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:34 PM on May 5, 2011


The problem with Jon Snow cast as black is that then the issue of Catelyn's intense hatred of him would receive racial overtones where none exist in the novel. Which might be interesting in other ways, but it would be a different story than the one Martin conveyed.

Oh, so give her a black best friend or do any of a million other things to show that her dislike has nothing to do with race. Or make it be a tiny bit about race. Why not?

Saying that it would be a different story than the one Martin intended is not an argument. The mere fact that we are seeing characters and that actors and actresses are putting their own spin on it is going to change the story. The fact that it's been compressed down from the books is going to change the story. The fact that Daenerys isn't 12 years old changes the story.

Change the story a little. It's okay.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:34 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Onion Knight!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:35 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, so much worse that the sisterfucking, kingslaying, childkilling, alcoholic, short-sighted cultured white guys.

The Klingons aren't detectably more evil than anyone else on the show, but they are really really really one-dimensional at the moment. I hope at some point there will be some nod to a tradition that distinguishes them somehow. For example, the funeral of the king, with the stones painted with eyes on his face, went a long way towards doing that for the Seven-Kingdoms culture (or whatever you'd call it) – touches like that would help a lot.
posted by furiousthought at 4:35 PM on May 5, 2011


Oh, so give her a black best friend or do any of a million other things to show that her dislike has nothing to do with race. Or make it be a tiny bit about race. Why not?

Because that complicates and confuses an already complicated story with a lot of subtlety in character motivation.
posted by flaterik at 4:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Except that Cat is Catelyn Stark nee Tully, of Riverrun. So now you're making the Riverruners black? See, Martin actually put a lot of details in his world. You're just thinking of Cat as a blank slate. She isn't. The Tully's and Riverrun have a long and storied history. You can't change Cat to having black skin without changing a lot of things.

First of all, I did point out that the Starks would be non-white in this hypothetical casting, to deal with the issue of Jon's appearance and possible heritage. Though, regarding the concern over a white Cat coming off as racist towards a black Jon, It's Never Lurgi's ideas could work. Or maybe both the Starks and the Tullys could be non-white, either the same ethnicity or two different ones.

Second, why is whiteness necessary to the characters having storied history? I'm not talking about casting a random character as black here and a random character as Asian there, I'm talking about casting related groups of people as the same ethnicity, just not necessarily white ethnicity by default. (And yes, the setting being what it is, there would be a lot of mixed race people of various permutations.)
posted by bettafish at 4:39 PM on May 5, 2011


Which is the say the story ALREADY has a lot of subtlety in character motivation.
posted by flaterik at 4:40 PM on May 5, 2011


Because who they boned and who they spawned matters, and it's not always who you think it was. If they were different races that would have to be taken into account.
posted by flaterik at 4:41 PM on May 5, 2011


We'll be seeing non-white characters in ASoIaF if the series continues long enough - most of the places Daenys visits are Mediterreanean/Middle Eastern equivalents to our world, if I recall correctly.

I do hope that someday we'll see a proper re-do of the Earthsea books, though, and not just because every character (except perhaps the Kargs, who don't appear much anyway) has a darker skin tone than generic Euro-Medieval fantasy.

The Kushiel's Dart series would offer a similar opportunity - takes place in an alternate France, but moves from there around the Mediterranean world and there's a great deal of intercultural interaction.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:43 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Plus way more boobs.
posted by flaterik at 4:45 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Klingons aren't detectably more evil than anyone else on the show, but they are really really really one-dimensional at the moment. I hope at some point there will be some nod to a tradition that distinguishes them somehow.

Furiousthought - me too. I'm hoping that what happens is that the series takes us on a journey in that respect, from Daenys' initial, one dimensional impression of the Klingons as mindless savages to a more fleshed out understanding of their culture and motivations as she grows in her role as queen.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:45 PM on May 5, 2011


Yeah, I have to admit that I'm a little sad that so many of my SF/Fantasy-reading peer group are so happy about this series being made into a high-budget show, and that it's popular enough that it's getting picked up for another season.

I tried to read the series, but couldn't make it through the first book because the gratuitously horrific sexual abuse of every female character made me ill. I can only handle so much rape before I have to put a book down and back away from it slowly.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good sex scene as much as the next person, but Martin's books are torture-porn. Yes, I know that the violence and death is in there and falls on more male heads than female ones, but you don't see any men getting raped.

Female fans -- can you explain what you find appealing in the series (TV or book)? What is in there that is worth reading (or skimming) the systematic objectification of women and then destruction of those objects? Is there a single character who isn't loathsome who is so well written that s/he's worth it? I'm not trying to start a fight or anything -- this isn't some elaborate set-up to be like "Bam! Hah! Gotcha"! I honestly don't get it, and I'd like to hear the perspectives of fellow females who do like Martin's writing.
posted by Concolora at 4:52 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The title sequence is particularly brilliant. I watched the first episode with some herbal assistance, and the whooshing around the map of Westeros was a trip. People often bitch about CGI (often with good reason), but this is a textbook case of good CGI. A big part of most fantasy books--and Song of Ice and Fire is no exception--is the maps you find in the front. I pored over those maps while reading the books, and even cursed them for not being detailed enough. I liked how maps were used in LOTR, and was hoping that the producers would ground viewers with a sense of geography. And between the first and second episodes, the map changed a bit, revealing different areas of the world. Really great ideas there.

As for the show, I watched the first episode and as of now about half of the second. The sex and nudity is gratuitous, yes, but it's also gratuitous in the books as well. Hasn't been violent...yet...but the really heinous violence doesn't happen until books 2 and 3 iirc.

It's a solid, well-made show, but feels a bit soap-opera-y at times. The casting seems mostly good as well--Sean Bean is a particularly good choice--but some choices...the actor playing Jamie Lannister looks like he's straight from some 80s soap opera, or The Red Shoe Diaries or the like; blandly perfect good looks, complete with the brushed back hair and quasi-mullet, more a male model than actor. But his charisma--and acting ability--is yet to be seen.

Of course I'll watch it. It's perhaps not great but it's at least good, and hopefully it'll hit its stride in a few more episodes.
posted by zardoz at 4:55 PM on May 5, 2011


Good lord, we've progressed from "cool title sequence" to "epic LJ RaceWank" in a record amount of time. I have some different issues with the casting though. They've aged all of the minors. 14 year old Jon looks like he's pushing 30, Joffrey looks nothing like the description in the book etc... As for the Dothraki, they are clearly,IMHO, based on on the Mongols but in the show they appear to be a collection whatever random "darkish" skinned extras the producers could find.
posted by MikeMc at 4:57 PM on May 5, 2011


Gaaaaaaaaaah. Almost all the characters in the books are white people. Almost all the characters in the book are horrible, horrible people in some way or another. Even Ned Stark is bullheaded and flawed.

This is the stupidest threadjack I've seen in a while. I'm sisterfucking-glad the casting for this show wasn't done by a bunch of Mefites.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:59 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


jeff-o-matic: I think it's kind of a difficult problem. It's a good thing to try to right inequalities. And it sucks when "cool thing X" is singled out for something. But if it's always inconvenient and annoying to talk about it, then how will anything get accomplished?
posted by ODiV at 5:07 PM on May 5, 2011


It's because this particular inequality does not actually apply to this particular cool thing.
posted by flaterik at 5:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aging the minors solves two problems. One, it eliminates the problem of putting young people in adult situations, which is basically a taboo for modern society. Danaerys and Sansa accurately aged would probably cause some minor outcry. Which would detract from the story being told. Second, it eliminates the problem of finding strong young actors. Jon Snow is a weighty role. While doubtless there exist 14 year olds capable of pulling it off, they are much scarcer than 20+ year old actors.

And later on Jon may find himself thrust into an adult situation as well.
posted by xigxag at 5:29 PM on May 5, 2011


Don't get me wrong, I like a good sex scene as much as the next person, but Martin's books are torture-porn.

Torture-porn is a specific thing and I don't think you do anyone any favors by misapplying it in this way. Martin may not be for you, but Hostel it ain't.

because the gratuitously horrific sexual abuse of every female character made me ill.

Both "every" and "gratuitously" in this sentence are manifestly false and are relatively easy to disprove. How many female characters would you like me to name who are not sexually abused? And something is obvously not gratuitous if it is necessary for character development, as in the case of Dany.

I'm having trouble figuring out who you are talking about if you didn't even finish the first book. Dany and... and.. ?
posted by Justinian at 5:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I liked the depiction of the Wall in the title sequence. The scale of it reminded me of how intimidating it seems in the books.
posted by dragonplayer at 5:43 PM on May 5, 2011


MetaFilter: I'm really disappointed in the gratuitous boobs all over the place.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:43 PM on May 5, 2011


"Danaerys and Sansa accurately aged would probably cause some minor outcry."

I told my wife pretty much that same thing. I imagine the producers weren't willing to risk accusations of CP.

"Second, it eliminates the problem of finding strong young actors."

True, Martin probably made some of the characters too young for the roles he put them in. Now that I think about it the weakness seems to lie more in Martin's often unrealistic portrayal of children/teens than the producers trying to write their way out of some of his missteps.

Maybe I'm just too picky. Everyone, including The Academy, raved about the adaptation of James Ellroy's supposedly "unfilmable" "L.A. Confidential, I thought they gave it the" old college try" but fucked the whole story up.
posted by MikeMc at 5:55 PM on May 5, 2011


"MetaFilter: I'm really disappointed in the gratuitous boobs all over the place."

Boobs are never gratuitous.
posted by MikeMc at 5:56 PM on May 5, 2011


I have to concur that aging the minors is probably a good thing. Having an adult Daenarys raped is much less likely to cause massive outrage than having a 13 year old raped. AsoIaF is incredibly grim and gritty and if you sugar coat the story too much you get another Tolkein pastiche and that's exactly what Martin was seeking to undermine in the first place.

I think the Dornishmen could easily be black without much problem. Of course the Dornishmen aren't a massive factor in the first book so what you gonna do. I think the sword master of Bravos could also have been cast as a black man although they clearly stuck closer to Italian inspired casting.

Varys of course would be a decent one to cast as black but it could've been an incredibly divisive casting as well.

You could cast a major character or set of characters as another race but as many suggest that would cause any number of plot complications. The Lannisters are an obvious no go, as are the Baratheons and Targareans, Tullys would be incredibly problematic and Starks would basically make any number of big reveals (many of which still haven't happened in the books) painfully obvious. Furthermore Ned as a black man would basically change the story into an homage to Othello (not necessarily a bad thing but very very divisive).

I think you could possibly stunt cast the Arryns but Jon is not really present in the show at all.

The result is that you basically have to wait for the Dornishmen or be content with minor characters. I for one think the uproar if one of the more repulsive characters like the Cleganes were cast as another race would've been completely justified.
posted by vuron at 6:01 PM on May 5, 2011


Apparently Martin himself has commented that he agrees with aging the kids up and if he were to start over with the books he would make the same changes.
posted by aldurtregi at 6:04 PM on May 5, 2011


Yeah, Martin is also heavily involved in the show as a writer. Not much is gonna happen without him being okay with it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:08 PM on May 5, 2011


You've been on MeFi long enough to know how this works.

Forsooth! Me thinks these beans upon yon golden plate from ye olden medieval times are AWESOME! (Verily!)
posted by KingEdRa at 6:09 PM on May 5, 2011


Race in this series, and Lord of the Rings, is something I've thought about a bit. I actually think LoTR would've been easier to mix up - had the elves or hobbits or dwarves or men or wizards been majority people of color it wouldn't have soiled any plot-points or spoiled any unexpected parentage reveals. And the way the bad guys are always 'swarthy' in the Tolkein books bugs me.

I also think it would've been difficult to fix this in a Game of Thrones, especially the first book, though, because of reasons of parentage, real and alleged. OK, so even if the major royal families of Westeros are white-skinned, I am disappointed, as has been noted above, that the Dothraki are 'generic brown'. It seems obvious to make the Dornish folks non-white.

But I bet the real limiting factor is that Martin hasn't (or hadn't at the time of casting) actually figured out all the mysteries of relationship and parentage - I'm not sure we really know who Jon Snow's father is - let alone his mother.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think he dropped enough hints on that one, once you read through all of them compiled by uber-nerds with five years to blow, but I'm sure there are some other surprises in store.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:13 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh? What is the going theory? 'Wylla' always seemed intentionally weak.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:18 PM on May 5, 2011


Don't click if you haven't read the books.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:26 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm having trouble figuring out who you are talking about if you didn't even finish the first book. Dany and... and.. ?

Dany, obviously. Then there's a nameless (I think, it's been years, but maybe not nameless) woman who is forced to perform oral sex on a man. I think it was on a ship. I don't remember specific others, just a general feeling of revulsion and the impression that the female characters were badly-written and constantly abused.

Which is why I asked for perspectives from women who'd read the series and enjoyed it.

I haven't been willing to revisit the series previously, but with so many people waxing orgasmic about it, I thought I'd ask and see if someone could explain why she liked it in a way that piqued my interest.
posted by Concolora at 6:33 PM on May 5, 2011


Nobody can argue with your feelings, Concolora. I'm simply saying that I don't believe the actual books reflect them objectively. That doesn't mean your feelings are wrong or anything.
posted by Justinian at 6:38 PM on May 5, 2011


Whoa, there's a lot happening in here. I just wanna say that I am hugely sympathetic to the idea of non-white characters up in this piece, and I suspect GRRM, old hippie that he is, would probably be pretty happy with it, too. But yeah, for plot reasons, it's kinda difficult to change the races of the Starks, Lannisters and Baratheons. (Unless, of course, we made all of them black...or Asian, or Latin, or what have you. I'm realistic enough to understand that this would be an unlikely decision on HBO's part, but it could be done!) But I see no great reason why we can't have, say, a black Knight of Flowers (the handsome young man all the girls dream about!), or why the Greyjoys couldn't be black, or why Jon Arryn's family couldn't be black, or why any or all of the families pledged to Catelyn couldn't be...well, you get the idea. I mean, this is a goddamn fantasy land that is only vaguely modeled on the Middle Ages, right? I think we all can agree that the real Middle Ages didn't feature snow zombies or dragons. If we have snow zombies and dragons, we can have people who aren't white. I personally find their inclusion much more plausible, though I may be alone in that.

Page two!

Dany and Drogo are handled very differently in the novel...how differently I didn't recall till I started rereading it a few days ago. Unless you figure in age of consent -- an idea that seems completely alien to either Dany's or Drogo's society -- there's no way that Dany is raped in the novel; she's terrified by the situation, but it quickly becomes clear that Drogo is a gentle sort for a warlord, and they are quite smitten with one another. I mean, is Dany there under a measure of duress in the first place? Sure...but. Martin seems intent on subverting the racist trope of dusky-skinned savage molesting the little white girl, and so it's disappointing to see the show basically run with it. This was really the one false note for me in the pilot.

What else? The source novel is about 800 pages; cut into ten pieces, this would mean -- if one were going to do a literal adaptation of the novel -- getting through about eighty pages an hour. If the episodes seem oddly structured -- if it seems that the story just kinda runs until they run out of time, and then it stops -- that's probably because that's pretty much exactly what's happening. The pilot ends on page 85; episode 2 ends on page 164; episode three ends on page 225 (though the episode incorporates elements of the next several chapters, ending on page 249). I think it's less an effort to turn the novel into a TV series than it is to turn it into a ten-hour movie.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:59 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Most of the rape is of background characters. It is pretty brutally described at times. It would not be fair to say all the main female characters are raped, though they do all have it pretty shitty all together.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:04 PM on May 5, 2011


there's no way that Dany is raped in the novel

In the depicted scene, maybe. But the text makes it clear she is being raped. It talks of her nights of pain and fear and such.
posted by Justinian at 7:09 PM on May 5, 2011


I am both an Official Woman and a fan of the novels. I never got a strong feel that the women were singled out in particular for abuse -- I think all of the main characters suffer abuse. It's interesting to hear that others felt it was pointed at women in some way.

I do think that many of the women are constrained by the medieval time and place: war, violence, rape, theft are common. Which does sort of beg the question: could Martin have created such a brutal world without using rape as a tactic so often? Maybe, and that might have been a more interesting choice. Look, a medieval world that doesn't rely so much on the use of women as property!

But I don't think that's the story he wanted to tell. I really liked the books because, to me, they sort of said "oh yeah, you want to live in the middle ages with jousting and magic and nobles? Well guess what, it SUCKS and you starve and meet many highly questionable knights.

I'd also like to add that I don't think the race discussion is a derail. As others noted above, even if you don't agree, it's important to let the discussion take place. I think it's really meaningful to have the conversation.
posted by lillygog at 7:19 PM on May 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


All that said, Catelyn has a female relative you meet later in the series that is just over-the-top and a bit of a hysterical-woman stereotype. But overall, I thought the women were pretty well-written. And Martin writes Daenerys quite lovingly, to the point that she's almost too perfect.
posted by lillygog at 7:23 PM on May 5, 2011


In the depicted scene, maybe. But the text makes it clear she is being raped. It talks of her nights of pain and fear and such.

I think "rape" is a bit strong; it reads to me more like Drogo's just kind of treating her the way the Dothraki treat women, and doesn't see an issue with it, or even knows why there would be an issue with it. And to be fair, Dany (who, also to be fair, is mortally fucking terrified of both Drogo and her own brother) isn't exactly giving him any better ideas. I'll have to reread further to see whether the novel handles their developing relationship the same way the show does (i.e., that Dany more or less equalizes their marriage by taking gentle charge), but that part does ring true to my recollections. None of the people in these books live by our social mores, exactly, though the characters who are noblest seem to push toward them.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:25 PM on May 5, 2011


It is definitely rape from a modern American perspective. It isn't in the fictional culture depicted. I think both points are relevant, there isn't much reason to debate it. It's perfectly acceptable not to see that as entertainment even if it is done for reasonable creative reasons.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:30 PM on May 5, 2011


It is definitely rape from a modern American perspective. It isn't in the fictional culture depicted. I think both points are relevant, there isn't much reason to debate it. It's perfectly acceptable not to see that as entertainment even if it is done for reasonable creative reasons.

Well, I mean, it's not entertainment, per se; she's obviously in a desperate situation, but I don't think it's meant to be titillating at all. It's clearly rape from the standpoint of our society, but from the standpoint of our society, we've pretty much not been down with this whole scenario since Dany's brother sold her to some dude.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:36 PM on May 5, 2011


I think maybe the cognitive dissonance with people not understanding the rape issue is that being sold into marriage automatically means rape. This is sometimes hard for people to understand because it implies that the majority of marriage in actual history was rape. It was in the light of emancipated femininity. Does that make history problematic in general? Yup. Does it also make the fact that GRRM's supposedly inverted of tropes problematic? Yup.

This critique doesn't mean that if you like the source text you're a dick or uneducated, it just means that some people read the source text and the show and are troubled by it. But that is also tempered by the fact that the troubled people already know that a good percentage of people don't read the text that way.

I find it interesting that many more people in this thread can accept the race issues with the show than seem to accept the bald fact that Dany (and many other women who have no agency in their marriages/sex life) was raped full stop. In the book as well as in the show.
posted by syncope at 7:37 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


lillygog: "oh yeah, you want to live in the middle ages with jousting and magic and nobles? Well guess what, it SUCKS and you starve and meet many highly questionable knights."

I agree with this 100%. This was one of the things that kept me coming back to the book, really the only long-form fantasy I've read besides Tolkein and some awful Shannara books when I was 13. This world really sucks for everyone from the royals on down. (Personally, my biggest longest gripe is that all the damn characters are royals.)

((Actually, I have a bigger gripe, which is "Jaime" has always been pronounced "Hi-may" in my head. I know the audiobooks don't, but come on!))
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Daenerys plotline did give me pause, more so than the others, in that you could say it falls into the charming "she's-raped-but-grows-to-enjoy-it" school of plot. This is interesting to me because I seem to be giving Martin such a pass when usually I'm pretty sensitive to this type of thing, but I just find it to fit so well into the backdrop of brutal times and brutal mores. There's quite a bit of rape in Rome, or Spartacus, and I don't enjoy it, but accept that it was, in fact, part of the time.

I'd agree that being sold into marriage automatically means rape, and that much of human history is therefore made disturbing and problematic. Which is why I accept that Martin puts it so front-and-center. Sansa's use as a pawn, and all the sexualized aspects of that, draws attention to the fact that throughout most of human history 14-year-old girls were used like game pieces.

The books are not without problems, but Martin does such a good job of making all the characters so complex and shaded that even when he's using some stereotyping and broad strokes, he largely pulls it off. In my opinion.

Does it also make the fact that GRRM's supposedly inverted of tropes problematic?

syncope, could you expand on that? I'd like to hear more.
posted by lillygog at 7:47 PM on May 5, 2011


I'm not sure that I agree that arranged marriages which were common throughout history and are still fairly common in many cultures automatically = rape. In the case of Dany she's clearly being traded by her brother in return for her husband's assistance in regaining his throne.

Her role is as complete chattel and bargaining chip initially but she is also a heroic figure and instead of continuing to be victimized seizes agency.

The Borgias tv show offers an interesting parallel to Dany, in the Borgias Lucretia is offered up to cement an alliance between the Borgias and Sforzas. The pope knows that his daughter will likely be victimized and even feels great guilt at it and sure enough her husband is a complete rapist asshole. She also gains agency and frees herself from victimhood but does it in a much more powerful way that Dany does in GoT. While the actress playing Lucretia is clearly not 13 they are playing her as a 13 year old in the book which is an interesting contrast to GoT as well.
posted by vuron at 7:50 PM on May 5, 2011


Also MeFi please stop being so interesting because I have to get to bed.
posted by lillygog at 7:50 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


lillygog: when you read fan commentary about the books a lot of the time the fans claim that GRRM is inverting tropes in normal fantasy writing. I myself am not sure what they mean, honestly.

SPOILER FOR THE BOOKS



I assume they mean that major characters die and character who seem to be villain turn out to be not so bad and characters who appear to be heroes have serious flaws. But this sidesteps the fact that GRRM Martin misses the big picture of actually changing awful threads in speculative fiction like rape and racism. Like I have said elsewhere, if HBO wanted to make a really forward fantasy series it would have been based on 100,000 Kingdoms.
posted by syncope at 7:53 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the show does a really good job - with the arranged marriage and subsequent rape, the beheadings and pretty much everything else - of demonstrating that one of the narrative foci of the story being told is that in this particular system, shit rolls downhill, and there is a whole lot of shit and it's a very steep hill. I felt like this was crystallized neatly when Sean Bean had to kill his daughter's dog. You might eke out a nice enough living by being kind of careful but when it came down to it the system fucked him as much as it fucked anyone; as much bonhomie and camraderie exists between himself and the king, when the royal family says "jump," the best he can hope for is to ask if he can put on his sneakers first.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


The subversion was to make it gritty and realistic and brutal. The stuff it was subverting was not full of that type of stuff. Think Dragonlance.

I guess that can't really translate to a TV show on a network that doesn't have those issues.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:57 PM on May 5, 2011


I think maybe the cognitive dissonance with people not understanding the rape issue is that being sold into marriage automatically means rape. This is sometimes hard for people to understand because it implies that the majority of marriage in actual history was rape. It was in the light of emancipated femininity. Does that make history problematic in general? Yup. Does it also make the fact that GRRM's supposedly inverted of tropes problematic? Yup.

We-elll-lllll...I don't know. I'm not sure that GRRM has a responsibility to stop the book and underscore that what's happening here is wrong. So much happens in these books that is deeply, horribly fucked up that it would actually be impossible to tell the story in any kind of naturalistic way if it were necessary to have a character make a note of it every time something happens that really isn't cool. In fact, part of the point of the story is that awful things take place that society thinks are just fine...the little boy's murder at the end of the second episode being a good case in point. Or, on preview, what FAMOUS MONSTER just said, more or less.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:58 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vuron: I hate to be this kind of asshole, but: you're a guy, right? I don't think there's any difference between Dany and Lucrezia in The Borgias. Sorry, there is no consent in either case because both girls were sold into slavery by their male relatives to another man for their very male reasons which completely ignored the fact that their female relatives were human beings.
posted by syncope at 7:58 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


(On the subject of Lady, I read that the actress who plays Sansa adopted the dog when the season wrapped, which just goes to show what a happier place real life can be than fantasy, I guess.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:01 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


vuron:I'm not sure that I agree that arranged marriages which were common throughout history and are still fairly common in many cultures automatically = rape.

You know, in thinking about it I might not use the word "automatically", but do want to point out that I'm referring to situations where women are literally sold into marriage, without say in the matter. I see that as different than a more modern arranged marriage.

Thanks, syncope, I appreciate it. I think I see what you're saying. I'd maybe agree, in that I think Martin's "subversion" is in the gritty setting, rather than really doing anything really different with, say, gender relations. At the same time, in some way the fact that Martin is showing how disturbing these forced marriages can be, without really playing it for titillation, is subversive?

On preview, I agree that FAMOUS MONSTER's got it right on. The poo, it rolls downhill.
posted by lillygog at 8:06 PM on May 5, 2011


kitten for breakfast: ok, I'm not at all criticizing artist license or saying that GRRM doesn't have the right to tell his story the way he wants. I'm simply critiquing that work from my own perspective.

You're right, the ENTIRE story is brutal and horrible. I'm just remarking on one aspect of that which I found problematic for me. It's not the only one by a long shot (I've read all the books).
posted by syncope at 8:07 PM on May 5, 2011


I wasn't implying that they are different but actually rather similar in circumstances. The difference seems to be in how they both deal with their circumstances.

Dany seems to go with the grin and bear it school and fortunately Khal Drogo really is kinda soft and they actually kinda love each other.

The Borgias is much more upfront in the fact that Lucretia is a pawn in the games of state between the pope and his rivals. Furthermore she doesn't just grin and bear it but rather seizes control of her situation by making the abuse end. I find that to be a much more interesting resolution than the Dany falls in love with the barbarian which like others have indicated seems to be a bit too close to the heroine falling in love with charming rapist for my personal comfort. It's all just a bit too bodice ripper for me.

The Borgias in contrast present a similar level of political infighting but it seems to not sugarcoat or romanticize rape nearly as much as GoT.
posted by vuron at 8:08 PM on May 5, 2011


Of course, people are more concerned for the dog than the boy.
posted by Artw at 8:09 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find that to be a much more interesting resolution than the Dany falls in love with the barbarian which like others have indicated seems to be a bit too close to the heroine falling in love with charming rapist for my personal comfort. It's all just a bit too bodice ripper for me.

Agreed. In my head, I excuse it with "well, she's only 13 and has been abused by her brother her whole life, so she falls for the first person that is semi-solicitous". But I'm noticing in this conversation that I do really excuse things in this series that I would find problematic elsewhere. I think that speaks to Martin's skill at writing, and actual sensitivity in handling some of these issues? Or maybe I'm just a sucker for action. I'll have to think on it more.
posted by lillygog at 8:14 PM on May 5, 2011


Of course, people are more concerned for the dog than the boy.

That's because people are mostly jerkfaces while puppies are mostly awesome.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course, people are more concerned for the dog than the boy.

Yep.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:19 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find that to be a much more interesting resolution than the Dany falls in love with the barbarian which like others have indicated seems to be a bit too close to the heroine falling in love with charming rapist for my personal comfort. It's all just a bit too bodice ripper for me.

Who says she's falling in love with him? I thought she was manipulating him to gain some power and standing of her own. Establishing herself as his treasured wife and queen seems to be a better way of doing that than resigning herself to being his fucktoy.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not having read the books (though I tried), it seems like most of the problems with race in the show originate in the books themselves, although the visual appearance of racial characteristics are of course more obvious in a visual medium.

I don't know anything about GRRM, whether he is a hippie or no, and I have no idea where the show/books are going, but I do know that this sort of narrative (so far) and the types of concerns underlying it, is itself largely responsible for the racial "problems". This is a story deeply concerned with who is related to who, and thus the races of many of these characters are correlated. It is a story that is both fantastical, and deeply connected to existing cultural/racial structures, including ideas of the powerful-but-duplicitous blonds, the strong dark-haired white-skinned northerners, the dark(ish) barbarians, and even (from last week's episode) the curly-haired mediterraneans. It is concerned with violence as something that may occasionally or often be a justified necessity, and with sex as a similar weapon, a weapon that is (of necessity) deeply important to most of the women in most of the cultures. It is concerned with the heroics of elites, though not exclusively so. And so on.

These are of course all familiar structures, but they are not the foundations of fantasy stories written by those who are deeply concerned with matters of race and gender. Le Guin doesn't tell these sorts of stories, and Delany doesn't either. They tell fantasy stories that may appear superficially similar, but the reason they can populate their tales with non-stereotypic races and gender behavior is in part due to the fundamental difference in the types of narratives they are telling. GRRM appears to like feudal stories where people are related to each other, are fighting for power, and have cultural/racial traits that resonate with (and for all I know, later upend) long-standing european cultural categorizations. If that's your concern, I can can see that it will be hard to just throw a few racial variants in without confusing viewers about who is related to whom and who comes from where and did what to whose father. For me, though, that just means that this business of inventing new civilizations that cleave so closely to existing and highly vexed ethnic/racial divisions is a tricky foundation to start on, and one that people like Le Guin and Delany show is not necessary to produce gripping, innovating, and progressive fantasy.

That said, I'm enjoying the show. And I love the intro, particularly in 1080i.
posted by chortly at 8:43 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I find that to be a much more interesting resolution than the Dany falls in love with the barbarian which like others have indicated seems to be a bit too close to the heroine falling in love with charming rapist for my personal comfort. It's all just a bit too bodice ripper for me.

Agreed. In my head, I excuse it with "well, she's only 13 and has been abused by her brother her whole life, so she falls for the first person that is semi-solicitous". But I'm noticing in this conversation that I do really excuse things in this series that I would find problematic elsewhere.


I'm no historian, but how often did women in this type of arranged marriage not try to gain some control over their situation or try for some sort of happiness? It's unthinkable now*, but what other choice would they have had? I guess if you're lucky maybe you'll have a "nice" husband who only rapes you for an heir or two, but leaves you mostly alone otherwise. Can you struggle and hate the rest of your life, especially if this is what society is telling you is normal or even lucky? I really doubt there is much that would qualify as "rape" in this society that happens between a married couple.

* - Or maybe not so much in certain places.
posted by ODiV at 8:52 PM on May 5, 2011


Wait, now is Ned Stark related to Tony Stark, or do I just not get the pop culture zeitgeist?
posted by sammyo at 9:17 PM on May 5, 2011


Consider the scene between Eddard Stark and Jaime Lannister in front of the Iron Throne in episode 3. That scene is made up out of whole cloth! No such scene exists in the novel. But it is completely in character and the reasons they made the scene are pretty obvious; we don't have 300 pages of internal Jaime Lannister action down the road to understand his motivations, so without such a scene his later actions would seem bizarre.

That conversation did happen in the books, but it was between Jaime and Catelyn while he was a prisoner at Riverrun. They're just moving pieces of the backstory around to cover the whole plot without having time to do each scene as written. And in this case, they were able to describe the manner of Eddard's father's death while also conveying his wariness of Lannister ambition (in the book, the analogue is when Eddard walks in on Jaime sitting on the throne after he kills Aerys.) I thought it was well done.
posted by chundo at 9:21 PM on May 5, 2011


It would not be fair to say all the main female characters are raped, though they do all have it pretty shitty all together.

I think that's a fair description of feudal societies in general.

I'm not a woman, but it's pretty unfair to describe it as torture porn. The more violent scenes can give the story authenticity, but that doesn't mean you're supposed to enjoy reading them.
posted by chundo at 9:48 PM on May 5, 2011


GRRM appears to like feudal stories where people are related to each other, are fighting for power, and have cultural/racial traits that resonate with (and for all I know, later upend) long-standing european cultural categorizations.

Well, the series is inspired by the War of the Roses. So is he referencing European archetypes or a specific time and conflict that happens to be distinctly European? Chicken and the egg?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:56 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Long time lurker, first time poster. It is rare for me to stumble across a Metafilter post where nobody's already made the point I want to make, but here's one, and I've got $5, so hey. Also, these are some of my favorite books (along with the early Black Company books, which will probably be quite unsurprising by the time you finish reading this post).

Here's the bit about the whole race angle that people who haven't read the books don't seem to be grasping: Martin's taken, for his setting, a stock-standard, off-the-rack fantasy world, and corrupted it with frequent, unpleasant reminders that, logically applying what we know of societies with such socioeconomic, political, and technological conditions (in other words, history), the typical, stock-standard fantasy world would be a truly awful place to live. So it's not that all the people in this story are white because Martin* is inherently, even subconsciously, racist, and they're not white because of all the parentage issues which could just as easily be solved by making them all black. They're all white because if they're not, then he's not starting with the stock-standard fantasy world, he's starting with something else. They're all white because he is deliberately, intentionally corrupting a long and hoary tradition of fantasy novels with noble knights and pretty blonde princesses and pristine, idyllic Medieval villages full of hearty salt-of-the-earth villagers, and in that tradition he is corrupting, they are always all white.

What does it do to take a few great families and make them black? Well, then you've got a completely different message. You go from "here's a standard issue fantasy world, except it sucks in all the ways fantasy worlds are not usually portrayed as sucking," to "here's a standard issue fantasy world, except it's got some black people in it, and [inevitably somebody will read an implied "therefore" here] it sucks in all the ways fantasy worlds are not usually portrayed as sucking". This is a pretty significant shift, and in pretty much exactly the wrong direction that people who haven't read the books and want there to be black people represented in the story would like, I expect. And so as much as I can absolutely get behind everyone's desire to have more diverse fantasy worlds that aren't all wall-to-wall white people, this is not the fantasy story you want to do that with. Earthsea? Fuck yeah. Game of Thrones? Nononono. This, I think, is what the people who have read the books, and are telling you "You want Game of Thrones to be something it's not," are getting at when they say that.

Also, I will point out, that if you want to see role models, of any color/ethnicity/gender/anything, this is probably the wrong show for that, too. Seriously people, did you also watch Deadwood** and say "Man, I wish there were more Native Americans depicted, that rotting-head-in-a-carboard-box is not such a great role model"? Some shows just aren't the right place to look for that kind of thing.

As to the Dothraki being "alien" and "other", there are two things in play here: one is, as I said, taking a corruption of the standard fantasy world - where the barbarian hordes are basically always two-dimensional Klingons - and the other is that we are (more explicitly, in the books) seeing them through Daenerys's eyes, and she doesn't know jack about them. Yet. They are not going anywhere anytime soon, though, and we learn a lot more about them.

on preview:
GRRM appears to like feudal stories where people are related to each other, are fighting for power, and have cultural/racial traits that resonate with (and for all I know, later upend) long-standing european cultural categorizations.

No. GRRM is not a fantasy writer; prior to this he mostly wrote sci-fi, with the occasional oddity like a southern-riverboat-vampire-novel thrown in. This is AFAIK the only 'fantasy' he's ever written. That's actually sort of the point - he doesn't seem to like these long-standing fantasy tropes, he mostly just seems to like upending them. But you can't knock 'em down if you haven't set them up in the first place. I'm not in his head, but if I were to guess, I'd describe his view of the traditional fantasy novel as: "a worthy opponent".

tl;dr - to properly understand Game of Thrones, you need to view it not as a typical fantasy but as a deliberate corruption of typical fantasy. This is not, alas, readily apparent after only three episodes to people who haven't read the books.


*(or HBO or Hollywood, not that they aren't racist at worst or spineless at best)
**(and if you haven't watched Deadwood, well, you should)
posted by mstokes650 at 10:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [36 favorites]


Who says she's falling in love with him? I thought she was manipulating him to gain some power and standing of her own. Establishing herself as his treasured wife and queen seems to be a better way of doing that than resigning herself to being his fucktoy.

As someone who doesn't know the books, that was my distinct impression as well. The look Danaerys (is that how you spell it) gives when she asks about learning to please him is very much "welp, guess I'd better make the most of this horrible horrible situation."

On preview:
They're all white because he is deliberately, intentionally corrupting a long and hoary tradition of fantasy novels with noble knights and pretty blonde princesses and pristine, idyllic Medieval villages full of hearty salt-of-the-earth villagers, and in that tradition he is corrupting, they are always all white.

Yeahbut part of the problem the show is facing is that fantasy movies & media have been subverted grim-and-gritty-wise for a while now, to the point where typical fantasy has a short and hoary tradition underscoring the terrible people dirt and grime and horrible fates aspect. Like, have you seen any of the Clash of the Titans remake? I can't watch more than 10 minutes of it but that is typical fantasy now. Game of Thrones is not going to succeed by making a big reveal of that subversion. (I think the show knows that, though.)
posted by furiousthought at 10:29 PM on May 5, 2011


Well, the series is inspired by the War of the Roses. So is he referencing European archetypes or a specific time and conflict that happens to be distinctly European? Chicken and the egg?

Well, he chose to (re)write the story of the War of the Roses, so the chicken (GRRM) clearly precedes the egg (War of Roses rewritten as fantasy). My point was just that, in choosing this sort of story to tell, he ties himself into a huge set of cultural archetypes (including racial and gender stereotypes) that other story choices could avoid.

To go one step deeper, I presume he chose the War of the Roses as a template in part because he had an existing interest in the sorts of themes and issues that those events involve. So in a sense, the egg of the story is preceded not just by GRRM's choice of template, but by his interests in those themes and frameworks that can lead to problems (from today's pov) with race and gender.

That's actually sort of the point - he doesn't seem to like these long-standing fantasy tropes, he mostly just seems to like upending them. But you can't knock 'em down if you haven't set them up in the first place. I'm not in his head, but if I were to guess, I'd describe his view of the traditional fantasy novel as: "a worthy opponent".

If he's setting these archetypes up just to knock it all down, more power to him -- as I said, I'm well aware that I've only seen 3 episodes of a TV adaptation of the first book of his series. If there's some massive pov shift later on, where blondness is no longer correlated with untrustworthiness, where as many northerners are scheming liars as southerners, where many of the mongols turn to out be articulate intellectuals with a strong strain of Thoreauvian non-violence, and where women have identities and lives unconnected to the power of sex, that will be pretty awesome. And if not, well, as you say, Earthsea and Neveryon are probably the places to go if one wants that kind of thing. But whether these archetypes are being set up for later knocking-down, or are present throughout, that's why it's hard to just add in some racial and gender variety: so far, the cultural milieu, historical template, and medieval conceptions of violence, kinship, gender, race, and ethnicity make that very difficult.
posted by chortly at 10:34 PM on May 5, 2011


So, on the HBO sex and boobs scale, how does this measure up with Rome? My wife was brought up weird, and we couldn't get through an episode of that without her getting awkward.

I'm still trying to figure out if she can handle OZ.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:38 PM on May 5, 2011


If there's some massive pov shift later on, where blondness is no longer correlated with untrustworthiness, where as many northerners are scheming liars as southerners, where many of the mongols turn to out be articulate intellectuals with a strong strain of Thoreauvian non-violence, and where women have identities and lives unconnected to the power of sex, that will be pretty awesome.

I'll just say that you might want to stick it out.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:42 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


part of the problem the show is facing is that fantasy movies & media have been subverted grim-and-gritty-wise for a while now, to the point where typical fantasy has a short and hoary tradition underscoring the terrible people dirt and grime and horrible fates aspect.

I haven't seen the Clash of the Titans remake, it mostly looked like a SFX-fest that I wasn't that excited about seeing in 3D. On the one hand, yes, the dirt and grime and the "help, help, I'm being oppressed!" is not new, but on the other hand, you have people in this very thread telling you they couldn't handle how much the women in these books were abused and treated like property and married off for political reasons as soon as they had their first period; how the books made them "want to take a shower"; no, it's not new, but I'd argue that A.) everybody else is dipping their toes in the edge of grim and gritty while Martin just dives into (or perhaps for the folks that found it too much, goes off) the deep end and B.) he does it better, or at least, far more subversively. There is an odd way that many fantasy books have found of managing to be "grim and gritty" without actually being subversive, I think; yes the peasants are all covered in mud and live short brutish lives, but the heroes (dark, angsty, antiheroes) are still heroes, and still end the villain's menace, and the princess is saved (from a fate worse than death; she may still die in hero's arms, to give him further broody angst). And above all, they're easy to read and still imagine, "Well, hey, I wouldn't be a peasant, I'd have [magical powers or something, like the hero, you see - he's special] and so I'd be okay!" It manages to be grim and gritty while still being fantasy, in the most literal sense of the word - something you can fantasize about. Game of Thrones is really not, in that sense, a fantasy.

But whether these archetypes are being set up for later knocking-down, or are present throughout, that's why it's hard to just add in some racial and gender variety: so far, the cultural milieu, historical template, and medieval conceptions of violence, kinship, gender, race, and ethnicity make that very difficult.

I think we basically agree on this point; I guess I'm just left wondering what you feel he should have done differently? Choose a different project completely, one of making a fantasy world with more racial diversity, rather than the project he chose? Again, this seems to boil down, fundamentally, to wanting Game of Thrones to be something it's not. He is (verrry loosely) basing things on the War of the Roses, and on typical fantasy worlds, and it just feels like you're casting some blame on him for making that choice rather than wanting to do something else.

Also I will say that I am trying very hard to avoid spoilers but I agree with Doublewhiskeycokenoice.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:57 PM on May 5, 2011


Like, have you seen any of the Clash of the Titans remake?

The novel precedes the CotT remake by quite some time. Leaving that aside, Martin isn't commenting on SFX-laden summer movies. He's playing with the conventions of written epic fantasy. If that's not something you care a lot about, well, most people don't. But it's a specific thing that doesn't have anything to do with films like Clash of the Titans which, even leaving aside the whole film-vs-novel bit, is much more of a Swords&Sorcery tale than genre fantasy.
posted by Justinian at 11:32 PM on May 5, 2011


or perhaps for the folks that found it too much

I heartily recommend these folks avoid Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains at all costs. At all costs.
posted by Justinian at 11:34 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Danaerys and Sansa accurately aged would probably cause some minor outcry."

Sansa hasn't been aged up. She's still twelve in the series, as seen in episode one. But the actress is sixteen. She can't be aged up because it's storywise important that she be a virgin that hasn't had her first period yet.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:51 PM on May 5, 2011


The novel precedes the CotT remake by quite some time.

Well that is super obvious, but my point was that the show has to negotiate a different set of cultural preconceptions than the book was concerned with when it was written. Shows get compared with other shows, or movies, and recent ones, before they get compared with books. I also don't think fine (or any) fantasy sub-genre distinctions really matter for TV shows and movies, which are less numerous than books: the genres that Game of Thrones the show is working in are "dudes with swords" and "premium channel TV series."
posted by furiousthought at 11:53 PM on May 5, 2011


I decided to start reading A Song Of Ice And fire tonight based on this thread and I only have one question. Why the fuck would you keep a guy who is known as the "Kingslayer" around? Chekhov's Assassin?
posted by TheKM at 2:13 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting to read that it's essentially a subversion of the ye olde Traditional Extruded Fantasy Product... I've not read the books but I have read the first half-dozen of the Wild Cards series, that Martin edited, and there is a hell of a lot of subversion of standard super-hero tropes in there and some of the super-villians are really fucked up nasty pieces of work.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:13 AM on May 6, 2011


When did Dave Navarro start taking steroids?
posted by bardic at 3:19 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Reviewer at Metafilter says reviewer at Tiger Beatdown is ignorant and possibly dumb. Hobbesian? Sure. But I can imagine that reviewer going "What does Calvin and Hobbes have to do with anything?"

Well, towards the end of the review she says "It’s not mature or sophisticated by playing out this Hobbesian society tearing itself apart, it simply confirms the reality principles of kyriarchical neo-liberalism." That's debatable, but I think it proves that this is a person who is making an educated and informed critique.

This review also does a very good job of summing up why I have never quite liked the Game of Thrones books, even before they metastized wildly: "Now, Game of Thrones has been marked with one of those persistent meme about SFF that really annoys me: namely, the idea that fantastic elements are adolescent and “politics” is Srs Bsns (this, incidentally, is one thing that annoys me about the way people talk about Battlestar Galactica). Because of course, imagining life as different, as otherwise than it is, as it could be, is trite, but Borgias on horses is the mark of mature genre."

But I don't think it will convince anyone who instinctively liked the series, any more than a defender of the series would ever convince me by claiming that someone who thinks differently is "ignorant and possibly dumb".
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:52 AM on May 6, 2011


Ha! Eddard Stark, medieval deficit hawk.

That's a good piece, and makes some good points. I can definitely see the "why do we need another story like this?" At the same time, when Martin wrote it, it was more unique. Maybe?

Honestly, my favorite part of the "subversive" aspect comes in the later books. I don't think it's too spoilery, but just in case POSSIBLE SPOILER...







...eventually there is war and fighting everywhere. And at some point in time I remember putting the books down and thinking about being a villager during the War of the Roses when the Yorks swoop in and burn your shit up, the Lancasters swoop in and burn your shit up, then the Yorks come back and burn the rest of your shit up and on and on. I've read other, "realistic" historical fiction set in the War of the Roses where the horror of the burning and looting came across less.

In some ways, the series reads as strongly anti-war, to me. But as a fan of Delany and Russ and Le Guin I would agree that re: social and capital conditions, Martin does try any wild thought experiments.
posted by lillygog at 5:09 AM on May 6, 2011


TheKM - Why the fuck would you keep a guy who is known as the "Kingslayer" around? Chekhov's Assassin?

I have only started reading A Game of Thrones myself, but my impression is:

1. if you're the King and you're married to the daughter of one of the wealthiest, most well connected families in your realm, you probably don't want to kill or exile her twin brother.

2. if you're an usurper in a medieval realm, taking over a kingdom that is only nominally loyal to you and was, in many ways, fighting a real civil war when you took over, you normally have two choices: kill everyone who was faithful to the old regime and basically replace everyone who has any experience with running the empire with newbies, incompetents and people who are way out of their league; or get everyone who was faithful to the old regime to swear loyalty to you at the point of a sword and then hope that they really mean it.

As you get further into the book, you'll realize that there are a lot of people who run Robert's kingdom who were directly transferred over from doing the same job for Aegon the Mad. A good chunk of the Kingsguard (including Kingslayer), Grand Maester Pycelle, the senior officers in the Nights Watch -- all of these folks should have their loyalties questioned, as Eddard does, but it's likely that they're kept around for the same reason that Nazi scientists were brought to the US to work on the Space Program -- because they're really good at their job.

This isn't just a plot device either. Many countries that have gone through some form of revolutionary transformation -- post Marcos Philippines, post Suharto Indonesia, post apartheid South Africa, have had to address the quandry between purges and compromise. It's magnificent to see this played out in a fantasy novel instead of the standard, "the White Hats win! all Black Hats banished to the Land where Bad People Live!"
posted by bl1nk at 5:28 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


SPOILER ... there's a major plot point in ep 2 where a couple do it Woman On Top

Actually that was Dothraki Bareback Stallion Riding.
posted by srboisvert at 8:38 AM on May 6, 2011


I expect they will do it in every position... on top, doggy and normal.
posted by Artw at 8:42 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeahbut part of the problem the show is facing is that fantasy movies & media have been subverted grim-and-gritty-wise for a while now, to the point where typical fantasy has a short and hoary tradition underscoring the terrible people dirt and grime and horrible fates aspect.

Isn't the book like 20 years old now?
posted by Hoopo at 9:05 AM on May 6, 2011


I love this show. It gives me the same funny feelings that Newsies did. Oh Newsies.
posted by spec80 at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is "nudey dwarf pile-on" a position?
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2011


For those who want fantasy in a different society/race/milieu check out Daniel Abraham's excellent, character driven Long Price Quartet. It is set in a quasi Asia and the plotting, prose, and characters are superb.

Why is the Kingslayer around? He killed the goddamn Mad King, allowing Robert to take power. Plus he is the scion of the house that finances the realm. And once you get further into the series you get to see a few different sides to the Kingslayer/Sisterfucker that explain a lot of his motivations.
posted by Ber at 9:42 AM on May 6, 2011


one of those persistent meme about SFF that really annoys me: namely, the idea that fantastic elements are adolescent and “politics” is Srs Bsns

I do not believe George R. R. Martin would react positively to the suggestion that he believes fantastic elements are adolescent. This is the man who wrote a novel aout Mississippi steamboat vampires. This is the guy who created and wrote the "Beauty and the Beast" television series about a dude who looks like a lion.

GRRM treats his subject matter seriously whether or not he is talking about politics or the fantastic. And the return of the fantastic to the world appears to be one of the themes of ASoIaF, so I think your premise is faulty at its core.
posted by Justinian at 10:39 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the return of the fantastic to the world appears to be one of the themes of ASoIaF, so I think your premise is faulty at its core.

This is true, but at the same time I have sympathy for the criticisms people have about the show at this point. "If you read the books you'd get it" is a deeply unsatisfying response to a person trying to figure out their own take on a piece of art.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:16 AM on May 6, 2011


Well it's no win on that, nobody wants to see people stop watching because of something that is going to develop to their satisfaction later.

Something Awful is obsessed with these books and series too. They have one thread for the show that pretends the books don't exist, one thread for the show that allows spoilers, a thread for the books that is the peak of the GRRuMbler phenomenon full of people who spoil the books for fun, and a no spoiler read-a-long thread.

We don't get as many choices of venues here. :P
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:23 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"If you read the books you'd get it" is a deeply unsatisfying response to a person trying to figure out their own take on a piece of art.

But judging Martin's take on the fantastic based on 3 episodes of a television series based on 4500 pages (so far) of written word is like seeing a grainy black and white photograph of a six square inch section from the bottom left corner of Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam and declaring that he obviously hated the color green.

Stating that Martin appears to believe the fantastic is adolescent is objectively wrong whether or not that is unsatisfying. Martin's entire adult life has been spent writing about the fantastic. I don't think it is out of line to say that when judging Martin's approach to the fantastic you should have at least some familiarity with his work.
posted by Justinian at 12:02 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Game of Thrones the Video Game Details
posted by homunculus at 3:15 PM on May 6, 2011


Here's hoping it will feature stick waggling subgames.
posted by Artw at 3:21 PM on May 6, 2011


I wouldnt hold out much hope for the video games if I were you. Martin will basically license anything to anybody as long as they have the money. Don't get me wrong; I'd probably do the same. But it means some of the third party stuff in his world is done very badly. There have been fiascos with calendars, figurines, limited editions of his work, and on and on.

There have been gems, too. My understanding is that the first board game (without expansions) is well regarded and quite good. But I would expect a mediocre game based on past experience with Martin licenses and with Cyanide Studios.
posted by Justinian at 3:37 PM on May 6, 2011


Water damaged calendars from the previous year.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:12 PM on May 6, 2011


If it was a good enough calendar for last year, it should be good enough for next year! Stop your bellyaching!
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on May 6, 2011


I want to thank you guys for answering my questions. In a novel, when you're reading and you reach a point where you're not suppose to know something, you can kind of flip back and make sure you didn't miss something and be assured that you didn't miss anything. When you're watching a television series based on a novel, the initial reaction is that either I missed something ... or when it happens repeatedly, as it does here, I assumed something was screwed up in the adaptation.

The HBO site, surprisingly, is really helpful in getting a sense of where everything is. I'm guessing the map is what I'd be fawning over in the front flap, really don't have the same experience in a television show. I've been conditioned to ignore opening titles.

On another note, this is the first I've heard of Martin genre busting the fantasy world. Again, I'm not really a reader of fantasy novels, so I was missing the metacommetary. Now that I know this, it makes the series a lot more interesting. The T&A and violence and general depressing atmosphere isn't just an attempt to make it seem like an adult version of Lord of the Rings. That's not readily apparent at first.

Well now I'm looking forward to the next episode. Metafilter A+
posted by geoff. at 6:28 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


The NYT review linked above asked what the point is. To me, what's unique about the books (I haven't seen the HBO series) is Martin's extraordinary sympathy for outcasts, cripples, victims, and losers.

If the story is an epic based on the Wars of the Roses (the Seven Kingdoms being England, the lands across the Narrow Sea being the whole of the Eurasian continent), with King Robert loosely based on Edward IV, then the historical starting point for the main protagonist, Ned Stark--Warden of the North, Robert's close friend and chief advisor--is Edward's brother, the Governor of the North, the hunchbacked, murderous villain of Tudor propaganda (deserved or not): Richard III.

Besides Ned and his wife Catelyn, who are the other main characters? A dwarf, a bastard, a cripple, and no less than three powerless and vulnerable girls (Daenerys, Sansa, and Arya).

A lot of terrible things happen to Martin's characters. The point isn't just that War Is Hell, or even that Life Is Hard (although Martin certainly doesn't hesitate to illustrate both these themes). To me, what Martin vividly conveys is the sense of helplessness in the face of brutality and injustice; the guilt and self-loathing felt by the survivors; and the importance of compassion, to those most in need of it.

I hope some of this is coming through in the HBO series, that it's not just exploitative.
posted by russilwvong at 10:51 AM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's a really great way to put it russilwvong, and so far I think they are clearly making an effort there in the show. The HBO production team seems to have a pretty good idea of what makes the series work so far.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:59 AM on May 7, 2011


The NYT review linked above asked what the point is.

I am baffled by that. I don't think I'm better than people who look for "points" in stories, but it's so utterly alien to me, I can't even begin to relate to it. If I ever felt that a story had a point, I probably wouldn't be able to enjoy that story. (Or maybe I don't understand what a point is. I'm assuming it's some didactic statement, some "improving" educational purpose or some grand, unifying theme.)

I read stories because I want to fall in love with the characters in them. Or I want to hate the characters in them and fantasize about killing them slowly and painfully. Or I want to be terrified of the characters and have nightmares about them. I want to feel like the characters are real people that I'm in some sort of relationship with. If THAT'S the "point," then I guess I DO like points.

I read stories for plots. I LOVE being surprised and I love wondering "what's going to happen next?" So I can get behind that "point," too.

And I read stories to be titillated -- in the broadest sense of that word. I want a story to let me lay my head it its lap while it feeds me grapes; I want a story to pull out a dagger and slice my arm open -- and then to pour salt in the wound; I want a story to fuck me up the ass and to kiss me ever so tenderly. Can THAT be "the point"?

I also want my stories to be fair-minded, parcelling out justice to the underprivileged.

AND I want my stories to be racist, sexist and evil. Racism, sexism and evil are a part of life, and I want stories to take me to every nook and cranny of the human experiences. I want it ALL! The good, the bad and the ugly.

With no moralizing. I would like to be free to moralize on my own. I don't need or want stories to do that for me. I just want a story to plop me down on another planet (it could be -- but doesn't have to be -- another planet called "Earth") and let me explore that planet on my own, forming my own relationship with it.

I have plenty of friends who say, "I don't want unpleasant things like racism in my stories. I get enough of that in real lift." And that's fine. I understand. That's just a matter of differing tastes. I like the bitter herb as well as the sweet pie. It's fine if you don't.

I'm not going to claim that I'm not sexist or racist, because I'm continually told that "everyone is," and if I claim I'm not, then I REALLY am. But I will claim that no story has ever made me more or less racist or sexist than I already am. So I'm perfectly happy to read a "racist" story, because I don't look at stories as object-lessons about the real world. And I also don't look at stories as ways to have a relationship with their authors. I don't care if their authors are racist or not. I know that I live in a world full of all sorts of horrible people. Some of them write books.

I also don't understand the role model thing. I respect it. I know a lot of people who look to books for role models, but I don't. I don't care if there are characters in the book who are like me or not. I am not trying to BE Superman. So, even though I'm Jewish, it's not important to me that Superman is Jewish, too. What I WOULD like is a RELATIONSHIP with Superman. And it's more interesting if a book can help me have a relationship with someone different from me than someone just like me. Because I'm bored with myself.

As for Game of Thrones, I think all the cries of racism and sexism are plucking feathers without noticing that those feathers are part of a bird. The bird is a sprawling tale in the tradition of Shakespeare, which means that it's (partly) championing a monarchical status quo.

But like Shakespeare, it's not simpleminded jingoism. Martin has created a world of haves and have-nots. Of course, OUR world is such a world, but in his world -- as in Medeval Europe -- that distinction was incredibly stark. The haves had it ALL and the have-nots had NOTHING.

So... it's racist? It's sexist? Jesus Christ! It's set in a world in which there's a king of an entire continent! Racism and sexism are unjust. We're talking about a world that's totally unjust on a MASSIVE scale.

I think people who claim that Martin is overturning that world are wrong -- not completely wrong, but wrong to think what he's doing is as simple as that. And I think people who claim he's endorsing such a world are wrong, too. He is doing BOTH. He is ROMANTICIZING that sort of world AND he's CONDEMNING it. He does the same thing on the character level. He teaches us to both love and hate almost all his characters. And this seems to make a lot of people uneasy, because -- I guess -- they want things to be black and white.

They may not even want that. They may just be used to thinking of fictional worlds (especially fantasy worlds) that way, because so many fictions are melodramas, even when they hide their melodramatic structure.

I think the voice behind "Game of Thrones" is a little boy saying "That time when there were knights and Lords and Ladies.... that was such a COOL time! I wish I lived back then.... Only I don't, because it was a horrible time. Everyone was fighting. Women were getting raped. Bloodlines (e.g. racism) were all important. There was no 'right' side to be on. Poor people starved. It was a terrible, terrible time... except it was an AMAZING time! Men were real men; women were real women! People really LIVED! ... I hate kings and queens. It's unfair that some people get to have everything while others have nothing. ... but MAN it would be AWESOME to be king! ... except it wouldn't... you'd have so many responsibilities and temptations. Power would probably corrupt you! But -- meanwhile -- think of all the BABES you'd get to fuck! Which would be sexist and horrible of you... but it would also be kind of fun... but..."

This is EXACTLY my relationship to the Middle Ages, which I think is why I connect with Martin's books. I don't want that relationship to ever be resolved for me. I want to be in two minds (or forty minds) about it forever.
posted by grumblebee at 12:22 PM on May 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


I think all the cries of racism and sexism are plucking feathers without noticing that those feathers are part of a bird.

What cries of racism?

It seems like you've come under the impression that the discussion has been calling the story a racist one. It hasn't. I think I was the first person to bring this up and start that part of the discussion (in this thread, at least) so let me be super-clear: I don't think A Game of Thrones is a story with racism in it. At least not what I've seen of it.

What I've said is that I have a couple problems with a few decisions made in the specific way that story is being told via the medium of television: that the brutal savage klingons are also the show's chief dumping ground for non-white actors and that the visual language of the wedding night scene includes some elements which kind of touches some nerves (which I am more than willing to extend them the benefit of the doubt on); and that every speaking role in the show bar one (and mostly he grunts) is played by a white actor.

The latter observation is what seems to have sparked most of the discussion, and some of it has been tremendously edifying and some of it has been a chance to see how people react when confronted with their privilege and overall I'm enjoying it and I hope that maybe folks (myself included) walk away from it knowing more than they did coming in.

But I don't think the show is racist, and I don't think it's sexist. I think it has depicted a lot of sexism very effectively, but that doesn't make it a sexist show any more than Schindler's List is an anti-Semitic film. It's not trying to show a world where things are nice, because that isn't the story being told. I have no problem with that.

Also, I suspect I'd have been better off omitting the term "positive role model;" even though the point stands, it's not really related to the discussion. What I'm trying to say is not that one requires a role model who looks like them in a story, but that fully-developed and interesting characters in TV and film tend to default to white more often than not, even when there's really no compelling reason for the character to be one race or another, and that there are people who notice that and would maybe like it to change.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:46 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


And I would say that casting minority actors as highborn characters would blunt the elitism that is a core part of the story.
posted by grumblebee at 3:58 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's time... time to BLOW YOUR MINDS.

The director of the first episode was Tim Van Patten, who you might remember from Eight is Enough or The White Shadow, but who MSTies will remember as Max Keller, Lee Van Cleef's protege in the TV series "The Master," repackaged as Master Ninjas I and II!
posted by JHarris at 4:16 PM on May 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hahahaha, that did blow my mind. Two of my favorite episodes.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:10 PM on May 8, 2011


The first change from the novels I thought was a mistake occurred in last night's episode. In the novel, Sandor Clegane himself is the one who tells Sansa the story of how his face got burned. It's an important big of characterization for the Hound and establishes his relationship with Sansa. Having Littlefinger relate the story loses something important, in my obviously correct and inarguable opinion.
posted by Justinian at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think moving the backstory up provided much needed setup for the upcoming fight between the brothers, but I agree it was not ideal.
posted by aldurtregi at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2011


"In the novel, Sandor Clegane himself is the one who tells Sansa the story of how his face got burned. It's an important big of characterization for the Hound and establishes his relationship with Sansa."

"I think moving the backstory up provided much needed setup for the upcoming fight between the brothers, but I agree it was not ideal."


I didn't see the point of moving it up literally a matter of minutes. The Hound related the story while escorting Sansa back from the tourney. This exchange does lay some groundwork for later interactions between the two.
posted by MikeMc at 1:29 PM on May 9, 2011


Famous monster wins with an early and complete thread jacking in one post. Well played, well played.
posted by darkfred at 1:46 PM on May 9, 2011


I didn't see the point of moving it up literally a matter of minutes. The Hound related the story while escorting Sansa back from the tourney. This exchange does lay some groundwork for later interactions between the two.

Oh. It's been a decade since I read the book so my in my recollection that exchange happened much later in the story. Now I have no idea what that change was supposed to accomplish.
posted by aldurtregi at 2:12 PM on May 9, 2011


I kinda love that one of the dragons mentioned in this last episode was named Vermithrax.
posted by the_artificer at 2:12 PM on May 9, 2011


Sam has a neckbeard.
posted by inigo2 at 3:43 PM on May 9, 2011


Sam has the neckbeard.
posted by ODiV at 5:28 PM on May 9, 2011


It seems like the first instance of the writers not trusting the audience. The obvious reason for the change was to provide some context for Sandor's intervention against Gregor prior to it occurring rather than just after. But that's not worth sacrificing the Hound's humanization through telling his own story to Sansa.
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on May 10, 2011


Game of Thrones Infographic
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:59 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Concolora, I'm a bit late to the party (was saving this thread until I'd seen at least the first episode) but I'm a woman and a big fan of the books.

I agree that there's a lot of rape and violence towards women in the series. However, what distinguishes it for me from run-of-the-mill genre fiction is that the rapes are presented in a more integrated way instead of as a mere plot device. In a lot of genre fiction and graphic novels, etc, the only reason a woman gets raped is to establish that the villain is really monstrous, or to give the hero a reason to go on a revenge quest. The woman herself is barely relevant, she's just there to provide a minimum level of characterisation for the men.

Whereas Martin shows that yes, men who you might otherwise respect are capable of rape, as well as the most heinous villians. That women dreaming of fairytale princes and castles are sadly mistaken in what the reality of that situation involves. Sansa is learning this lesson, but I feel like the readers are supposed to learn it too, the same way that Robert is shown as a digusting pig not a jolly rightful king, and war is shown as foul and pointless rather than a glorious adventure. As a feminist I'm well aware of the full implications of rape, but most fantasy readers aren't. I feel like Martin is putting the horrible reality front and centre, and that's why I think of the series as being a reply to the usual sword-and-sorcery fantasy, not the 'gritty' dirt and graphic descriptions.

Martin not only has a wide variety of personalities in his female cast, they each react differently to the rape-by-forced-marriage they face. Catelyn wasn't a love-match for Eddard, but they seem to have built a respectful and happy arranged marriage. Cersei was not only raped but deeply insulted on her wedding night, and it's made her bitter and power-hungry. Dany decides that she will take action to secure her own comfort, and gain power and respect in her own right. Margaery's mother (have forgotten her name) is willing to commit regicide in order to prevent her daughter from being married to a psychotic husband. Lysa... well, Lysa might have been hysterically crazy no matter what happened to her, but going crazy isn't an unexpected response to the standard life of women in this setting.

It seems the only way to escape the rape is to do what Arya and Brienne have done - to pretend to be a man, to arm yourself and learn how to lie your way out of tricky situations. If Martin just wanted to get his jollies from sexualised violence to women, Arya and Brienne would be having a good time right now, swashbuckling all over the place - but they've jumped from the frying pan into the fire, and now must deal with the physcial violence routinely dished out to men.

There are definitely rape scenes I skim-read, for my own sake. But I feel that they're necessary to the plot and reveal the character of the cast, as well as being more realistically depicted than your standard bodice-ripper would do.

I feel like the whole series is a big fuck-you to people who wear rose-coloured glasses when imaginging courtly medieval times, and longing for a more chivalrous age. Sure, someone might crown you the Queen of Love and Beauty at a jousting tournament, but after that you've got the choice of being forced to marry a drunken, whoring idiot, or dying in childbirth for the man you actually love. You might be lord of a cool castle with direwolves, but your idiot king will make you fight a stupid war, and your kids will be kidnapped, and your wife drowned trying to escape a battle. Give me democracy, womens' rights and expert medical care anytime, thankyouverymuch!
posted by harriet vane at 10:00 PM on May 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Can someone who has read the book more recently confirm my suspicion? Specifically, I don't recall quite so a gay subtext between [spoilers omitted]. Well, I recall a subtext, but remember it as pretty subtle and not in book1.. certainly no shaving scene!
posted by coriolisdave at 12:44 AM on May 17, 2011


Man, was anyone who thought there might be less violence and doggy as things went on wrong!
posted by Artw at 2:36 AM on May 17, 2011


I'm guessing who you're talking about, because I haven't seen all the episodes yet. But the gay subtext was hinted at in A Game of Thrones but not really an issue until the second book. This summary of it from Tower of the Hand lists all the references to it, and they don't seem to amount to much until A Clash of Kings.

Mind you, I know there were a few people who couldn't understand why no-one was worried about his bride's lack of virginity when she married again, and Martin's had to confirm the relationship, so perhaps they decided to make it very obvious for tv.

And how could anyone think there'd be less doggy while the Hound still lives? Fools!
posted by harriet vane at 4:20 AM on May 17, 2011


"I don't recall quite so a gay subtext between [spoilers omitted]. Well, I recall a subtext, but remember it as pretty subtle and not in book1.. certainly no shaving scene!"

I'm in midst of re-reading the books for the fourth (?) time and [spoiler omitted] is already [spoiler omitted] and there is no scene even close to the shaving scene. They really, really "gayed it up" for the series, I guess they thought relationship between Loras and Renly was portrayed far too subtly in print and really wanted to hammer the point home, so to speak, that they were lovers.
posted by MikeMc at 6:12 AM on May 17, 2011


HBO likes to be inclusive of gay characters and there weren't many to choose from, their relationship is not a major plot point so it's not a big deal to change the portrayal. There was a lot of exposition in that scene that will be important later, and it will help people remember Loras.

I good do without the sound effects though...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:38 AM on May 17, 2011


*could
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:38 AM on May 17, 2011


The Art Of The Title - Game Of Thrones
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:46 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Art Of The Title - Game Of Thrones

Seriously great link there - I rather wish it had been part of the FPP.

I good do without the sound effects though...

Yeah, that's got to be fun for the foley artists.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on May 17, 2011


I was watching the third episode, Lord Snow, last night, and I wondered during the Danny/Drogo bedroom scene how the foleys made the kissing sounds. Because they were gross.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:24 PM on May 17, 2011


Oh, you're going to love this one then.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on May 17, 2011


*sssssshk*
*ssssssssssshk*
posted by coriolisdave at 1:57 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


*slurp slurp slurp*
posted by Justinian at 10:52 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Book Show interview with GRR Martin by fellow writer Joe Abercrombie (1, 2)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:35 PM on May 20, 2011


My literary gaydar is soooo off. I just got to the "I buried him with mine own two hands!" blah blah blah part, and I swear, if I hadn't read spoilers here and heard about the "shaving scene" I still wouldn't have figured out that they're gay. This is what I felt like after my dad told me that Bette Davis' character in "All About Eve" was a lesbian. I feel like a deficient gay that I'm missing my own people's subtext! *flail*
posted by jph at 3:41 PM on May 20, 2011


A lot of people miss it, the books are thousands of pages long all together and you forget some of the details along the way. It only gets super obvious when you take all the quotes and put them together.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:56 PM on May 20, 2011


This is what I felt like after my dad told me that Bette Davis' character in "All About Eve" was a lesbian.

Do you mean Anne Baxter's character? That seems like an odd way to view Davis's character to me.
posted by grumblebee at 3:59 PM on May 20, 2011


Well, now I'm in book four and even I'd have had a hard time missing it at this point. Even I would have had a hard time missing it at this point.

And you're right grumblebee - it is Eve who is the lesbian(ish?), not Margo. I don't know how I got those wires crossed.
posted by jph at 8:46 PM on May 22, 2011


Stupid Ned Stark
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


How HBO Writers Create ‘Game of Thrones’ Episodes
posted by homunculus at 1:09 PM on June 3, 2011


Heh. That whole horse heart scene they use for the first bit of background was fucking awesome.
posted by Artw at 1:15 PM on June 3, 2011


Was wondering earlier what the inevitable pr0n parody of Game Of Thrones would be called (as you do) before realising it is already a pr0n parody of itself
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:52 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


A world that already has Human Sextipede can easily find a way to do Game of Bones.
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on June 3, 2011


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