In a Relationship with: Game of Thrones – Status: it’s Complicated

Valar morghulis, errybody.  It’s hard for me to decide what I appreciate more: “all men must die” serving as a tagline, or the new iconic crow image that’s going to be hundreds of tattoos in no time:

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why not both?

Spoilers for seasons 1-3 and books 1-3 below the cut!

More than ever this season, the premiere of GoT drawing nigh has filled me with a wary kind of apprehension.  On the one hand, Ros is dead now, so perhaps we can move on from leering sexualised violence.  On the other hand, Theon is still in the hands of Roose Bolton, so… doubtful.  I have no illusions about the fact that the good folks at HBO can dig up some naked ladies to be abased for some nebulous plot reason, like Tyrion is lecherous, or to foreshadow that Some Character Is Evil, or just because we’re really unclear on whether Joffrey is a sadist or not.  It’s been so subtle, I’m not sure!

I’ve mentioned my general discomfort with GoT since the beginning (the shift in Dany’s marriage from book to tv is a big one, for example).  There’s been a few times I’ve had to pause and take a breather during a particularly awful torture sequence. I’ve read the books a few times, so nothing should really surprise me – one tough bit was the rats in a bucket at Harrenhal, which is in the books.  Of course, the producers love throwing book readers curveballs by adding in characters like Ros (rip sweet lady), or Sansa’s near rape, just to spook us, I guess? Congrats, it’s working.  In the book, you can skim these things but the medium of tv makes it a lot more visceral.

The continued chapter previews from GRRM for Winds of Winter don’t inspire me to think that the show will get easier with some of the most brutal characters/moments gone.  (Warning for spoilers/graphic rape discussion) The man is clearly obsessed with rape. (And I’m starting to get really concerned about the penis descriptions continuing to sound nothing like things attached to human beings. Yes yes I know, this one is fake. STILL.)

know this.  Ten years of book history and three seasons have taught me that the status quo is well entrenched.  “Stop watching,” I keep thinking, the same way I’d tell myself it’s time to get out of a bad relationship.  But… I can’t.  It’s the cultural cache, the shared fandom, discussions and blog posts (particularly a big fan of Leigh Alexander‘s at Boing Boing), the fact that the actors are really good.  It is, sad to say, one of the only shows with a huge cast of female characters (though it’s not so hot on POC because, you know, ~history~ or whatever), and the actors are great at what they do – even when it’s horrible.

Also, for better or worse (usually worse), the show’s creators have been committed to both surprising book readers with extra scenes, as well as including little nods to the books.  Ros was great for a couple reasons: she was completely new, she tried in her own small way to protect Sansa, she was insight into a bunch of character’s we don’t see much of in the books because they’re never POV characters.  Her death genuinely shocked me – not the least because as a wildcard, she could have provided a great deal of surprising subplots for the entirety of the show, but also because it was another ‘character moment’ that was really unnecessary. Littlefinger’s a sneaky scumbag, Joffrey is a Little Shit, etc etc. Similar to how there was very little fall-out from the mutilation of Daisy in season 2, it didn’t even really mean anything.  The character deserved better. Lady got a more meaningful death, for pete’s sake.

So, stop watching.

There was an article on Boing Boing somewhere between seasons one and two, where a dad wanted to watch Game of Thrones with his daughter, so made a season one clean cut, where all the sexposition and rape was cut out.  People got mad at him, saying “you’ll cut out the sex, but not the violence?”  But here’s the thing – everyone knows violence is wrong.  Don’t murder, don’t hit, don’t behead your horse because you’re bad at jousting.  Society on the whole seems to be very unclear that sexualized violence is wrong.  There’s so little consensual sex in Game of Thrones, there’s no way to know if the guy would’ve kept those scenes in because there’s nothing wrong with sex on tv or in the movies, when it’s not…. you know, game of thrones.  Off the top of my head, I can only think of Loras and Renly, and HBO obeys the “you must Kill Your Gays” law, so that’s not even a particularly useful example.

So, I’ll watch because I’m weak, and despite all the flies in the ointment (also the ointment is made of poop), I still enjoy myself watching it.  Also so I don’t miss a second of JOffrey’s well deserved death.

Yeah, it’s a bad relationship – do not date game of thrones.  But I guess it’s okay to call up on the nights when it’s just you and a bottle of wine, and you’re bored.  Don’t get attached because you’ll have to walk away someday. But as tv FWBs go, it works.

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At least we’ll always have Brienne and Jaime’s bromance.

 

 

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