Hippoi Athanatoi

A Brief Statement

In case anyone wonders why I may still continue watching and reviewing the show as well as providing commentary on Thronecast and in other venues…

If I look just to my own enjoyment and what my personal preference would have been, I would rather have had just one or two faithful seasons that failed to capture the wider audience and ultimately was cancelled pretty quickly than a less faithful show with more mass-appeal. I have no interest in watching mangled characters or new characters, I have no interest in being surprised.

However, since I consider myself both a fan of and a friend to George, I certainly do not begrudge him the success that the continuation of the TV-show means. Furthermore, it will bring more and more fans to the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom and that is a good thing. Based on these two factors, we continue to “support” the show in the sense of covering it our site and participating in other forms of publicity surrounding the show, such as Thronecast.

So, for as long as it is still possible to review the show as an adaptation, we will likely continue to do so. But we won’t be censoring ourselves when we feel that it is not doing justice to the books; I am quite convinced that our reviews—or any even harsher comments on the episodes I might offer outside of them—will not affect the popularity of the show in such a way that we risk causing its early cancellation.

As for Thronecast, I see no problem with us appearing on it as long as they are interested in having us and as long as the show has enough of a connection to the books that we can provide relevant commentary. We are there primarily as experts on A Song of Ice and Fire, often to provide background material that is not covered on the show. We’re not there to cheer on the show’s efforts.

Utterly Underwhelmed

After seeing the first two episodes of this season of Game of Thrones, I was almost feeling as if I didn’t really want to watch any more. The end of season one was so good, so true to the books, and now I didn’t see that closeness to the books. But we went on to episode three and four and suddenly I felt hopeful again. There would be enough scenes from the books that would get adapted really well.

Then we watched episode five. I was almost in tears afterwards.

Four ended in such an amazing way, with the birth of the shadow, and I knew we’d get a fabulous death scene for Renly. Not to mention that they would be able to actually show Loras’s reaction, described so evocatively by GRRM with just a few lines.

But no. The death scene was thoroughly underwhelming, with the horror elements of GRRM’s writing pretty much lost and the death completely sanitized. There should have been more fear, more blood, more terror. Brienne should have been even more distressed, with Catelyn the one taking charge to get her out of there.

And when we returned to the tent after their escape, we got a scene between Loras, Margaery and Littlefinger that in no way captured what happened in the books. How could they not show Loras going mad with grief, killing his own companions? How could they have him conclude that it wasn’t Brienne, just like that? How could they waste that scene in such a way when they had the opportunity to show on-screen what was only reported in the books as no PoV-characters were present?

I wanted that death to be harrowing, I wanted the reaction from Loras to be a grief-filled rage that you couldn’t help but to be drawn in by. Those scenes were supposed to make me cry and while it is true that they did make me teary-eyed, it was for all the wrong reasons.

There’s nothing wrong with the acting in these scenes, I do want to stress that, but I can’t say the same for the writing of the scenes. They’re passable, if looked at just as television and not an adaptation. But compared to the books they were immense letdowns. I just cannot believe that such a pivotal scene was done in such a weak fashion and that they changed the aftermath so much.

There were good scenes in the episode, even some very good scenes—Tywin with Arya was brilliant, Tyrion with Hallyne was very good despite some botched history—but the way it started and the way it ended was quite shattering.

I already knew Qarth would be significantly changed, but actually seeing it was still painful. It bears only a superficial resemblance to Dany’s actual storyline. Of course, that is more than can be said for Xaro. They’ve changed his appearance, they’ve changed his sexuality, they’ve changed his background. There is nothing left of the character in the books except his name, so why on earth wasn’t it changed? Jeyne’s name was changed to Talisa, after all.

So far, I am also completely underwhelmed by these invented characters, such as Talisa and “Xaro”. They are just not good creations, so what are they doing there? Yes, Talisa is replacing a character that was not very fleshed out, but still, why replace her with a trite cliché? “Xaro” is replacing an interesting character with a completely new, completely uninteresting one. Why?

Last season, we saw the episodes get stronger and stronger. This one took a dive beneath the two opening episodes of the season and a mile below episode three.

A Battlefield, Is it?

Oh, my site is a “battlefield” now, is it? Well, we don’t want any miserable, delusional feminazis trampling all over it, so if you think to stir up any shit, rest assured that I’ll bring the battle to you. See, now I know exactly who you are, Winterfox. You ran away from LJ, how sad. I so enjoyed ripping you to shreds there for being the cunt you are.

But hey, in the words of Bronn, “There’s no cure for being a cunt.” True enough, there’s no sorting you out. You are a rabid, man-hating crazy bitch. Actually, you’re a rabid, woman-hating crazy bitch too, towards any woman who doesn’t join your feminazi ranks. There’s plenty of evidence of you attacking female writers and female fans who happen to write or read or say things that don’t fit into your “program”.

Now, how about you crawl back under that bridge or into that dank, dark cave and stay there, like a good little troll.

On Straying and Staying True

So, there we have episode four, with some real highs and real lows.

Talisa…well, the less said, the better, really. This is of course the scene I wrote about here. I am thrilled they changed the name of the character since they changed her back-story so radically. I am not thrilled with that cliché-filled scene. It just sucked, plain and simple. Not the acting, just the concept of the scene and the words being said.

Qarth…gone is the awe-inspiring, magnificent reception, not to mention the fairy-tale like way that Dany’s meeting with the three wise…well, the two wise men and the wise woman plays out well ahead of her getting to Qarth itself. There’s something very archetypal to Dany’s journey in A Clash of Kings and they have lost those elements entirely. I am also disappointed in Dany’s reaction here. Or rather, it may make sense in this desperate situation, but she just doesn’t get this aggressive in ACoK.  She’s still very much caught between that timid young girl she started out as in the first book and the young woman driven by magic and destiny to follow the red comet. I feel the way they decided to play this out sacrificed the actual storyline for some cheap drama.

Xaro…well, he’s not Xaro, in any way, shape or form. Why didn’t they just change the name of this character as well? He’s every bit as different from book Xaro as Jeyne is from Talisa. His appearance, his background and, most significantly for the rest of the storyline, his personality. He’s a warrior. I am dubious we’ll be seeing him crying at will to persuade Dany. Are they keeping his sexual preferences? I think it would be particularly inappropriate to change that and still keep the character’s name. But even with what we’ve sen so far, they really just should have renamed the character if they absolutely had to cast and write him so completely differently. And they had to go and invent some weird ritual…

The scene, as it is, is well acted. I just wish we got the scenes from the books and the characters from the books. Added scenes from non-PoVs are one thing, completely altered scenes another. I did thoroughly enjoy the performance of the Spice King, however. His correction of Dany’s pronunciation was priceless and I feel he really captured the way the Qartheen see themselves as so superior to everyone else.

This episode also has some wonderful examples of what happens when they really nail adapting scenes from the books. The scene with Tyrion and Lancel is hilarious, with great performances from both actors. You can’t help feeling sorry for Lancel here; he really doesn’t stand a chance, caught between Cersei and Tyrion.  And, of course, the final scene is everything it should be. Yes, they are conflating two events, but I am so relieved they really went for it with the shadow birth.

The Joffrey and Sansa scene is very good, both of them act it really well. I also think the added scene with Joffrey and the prostitutes was a good way of showing what the slightly older Joffrey might get up to; its clear from he way he orders Sansa stripped during the beating that there’s a sexual component to his sadism. I also liked the Harrenhal scenes quite a bit, both the way they handled the torture (even if I couldn’t actually watch that) and the terror and the brief interaction between Tywin and Arya. Again, they are conflating a lot of different scenes, but I think it kept true to the core of those scenes. I guess that is what I ultimately look for: does the adaptation stay true to the spirit of the storyline in the books? For the lows of this episode, I don’t think it does. For the highs, it very much does.

Putting the Cliches Back In?

There’s one scene from the first four episodes—it is at the start of the fourth, following on from the amusing (in a good way!) opening scene—that keeps cropping up in my mind. Unfortunately, not because it is such a good scene.

When I first saw it, I was focused on one particular aspect of the scene—a character that appears to not just have been changed but in fact replaced—and I didn’t really think too much about the character interactions and the dialogue.

But since then, I’ve kept coming back to it and I’ve realized that the character (at least based on that scene)  comes across like a horrible fantasy cliché spouting unsubtle social commentary; on the whole, it feels like something that GRRM would not have written in a million years. In fact, all I can think of now is how well the character would fit into the Wheel of Time…

Alas, they’re not from the Two Rivers.

(Actually, the comparison isn’t necessarily fair to the Wheel of Time, because in that setting the character would have had somewhat more reason to act as they do.)

Season Two Thoughts

Now that Elio and I have seen (and commented on together) the first four episodes of Game of Thrones for the second season, I am starting to get more of a grip on what it is I am troubled by in terms of the adaptation. First of all, I don’t think I can stress enough that I am really only interested in the show as an adaptation. When I know the source material as well as I do in this case, I just cannot see it in any other way. I want to see the characters that I love (or love to hate), I wanted to see the scenes that I love (or dread). In the case of A Song of Ice and Fire, I also do not mind being shown aspects of the story that the strict PoV-structure left out of the book. But I want those additions to fit with what is established, not contradict it.

The first season was, overall, very faithful. With the second season, I think we’re seeing a focus on adapting what the writers and producers feel are the themes of the story rather than, necessarily, the events of the story or the approaches to how the story is told that GRRM uses. Now, as I have said before, some changes are inevitable. Compressions of story are an obvious example of such. Similarily, some aspects of the storytelling in the books cannot be preserved, such as the PoV-structure.

But, I do feel that there’s also a desire to rush the story and the characters, perhaps because they do not have faith in the patience of the TV audience. One major aspect of how GRRM constructs his story is that everything is not what it at first seems to be. Both situations and characters have revealed themselves as being very different from the initial perception. Look at the story of Rhaegar and Lyanna and how it has changed over time. Look at the initial impression of Jaime in the books and the image of Jaime that the reader has after A Storm of Swords.

On the show, we don’t get this. Well, Rhaegar and Lyanna are all but gone, but Jaime is a good example still, being a more complex figure right off. Perhaps it adds something right now, but you lose something in the long run. It feels like a short-term, slightly cheap gain. It also looks as if Margaery is getting a similar treatment, alongside a host of other changes to that character.

In the same vein, I find myself concerned with the desire to insert early pay-offs, such as another look at the Others. Its part of the genius of A Song of Ice and Fire that after the prologue in A Game of Thrones, you get to wait and wait for them to reappear. Similarly, we see the dragons born at the end of the first book and we think they’ll be game changers. We’re not prepared for that not providing an instant pay-off, as so often is the case in other books.

Overall, I don’t think I will enjoy the structure of the second season as much as I enjoyed the first. I know I will enjoy individual scenes where the characters and the dialogue are almost straight from the books, but as a whole I think it will be weaker than it could have been. Some parts will, I fear, be particularly painful to watch as they bear little to no resemblance to the actual story and, in some cases, the actual characters. But I am still hopeful that in terms of individual scenes, the good may come to outweigh the bad. At least, comparing episodes one and two to three and four, things were definitely looking better in the later two episodes in terms of providing more scenes straight from the books.

On “The Song of Achilles”

I really ought to write a proper review, but with everything being so busy right now, I don’t feel as if I can collect my thoughts enough. But I do need to write something.

This Friday, Elio and I picked up the Kindle edition of Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles on a recommendation from a friend. Now, retellings are a sensitive business for me. There’s a couple of stories—or rather, story cycles—that I feel so strongly about that the “wrong” interpretation will, without fail, set my teeth on edge. One such is the Arthurian legends. Another, even more dear to my heart, is the Trojan cycle. These story cycles are among the first stories I remember reading (or having read to me) and they are at the heart of my love for myth and history. If I had not fallen in love with them, I don’t think I would be a reader of fantasy or a student of classical history.

So, perhaps it is not so strange that I have a very strong image in my head of what the “true” versions are like. It’s obviously not completely set in stone, the variability is part of the stories, but there are certain things that are unthinkable for me. For example, I am very fond of—I probably do still love, in fact—Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon. Yes, it does have its issues, but even before reading Bradley my version of the Arthurian legend involved a misunderstood rather than evil Morgana. I was also convinced that Guinevere was a no-good blonde. And Lancelot and Arthur were definitely more than just good friends.

Of course, I also love Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry—perhaps my favourite books of all time—for even though I struggle a bit with Jennifer the relationship between Arthur and Lancelot and the love triangle as a whole is so heartbreakingly beautiful. So, there is absolutely room for variations. But sometimes, it goes horribly wrong. The Arthurian example would be Stephen Lawhead’s increasingly preachy Christian take on the legend—even if I did like the first book and his very Minoan Atlantis—and the Trojan example would, oddly enough, be Bradley’s The Firebrand. Same writer, different legend, and a take on it that outright offended me. As with Mists, she’s coming at the story from a female-centric point of view, but the portrayal of Achilles in The Firebrand as a savage killer just made me furious.

Since then, I have been exposed to a few retellings of the Trojan cycle in various mediums and all too often I see the same trend. Achilles is just a killing machine, no attempt is made to understand him in the context of his setting.

Fortunately, since some years back there’s Eric Shanower’s brilliant and superbly researched Age of Bronze comic. It leaves out the gods but works at getting everything else in there and, most crucially, has to far portrayed Achilles in a wonderful way. It also, thankfully, does not shy away from his relationship with Patroclus. It still has a long way to go before it even reaches the start of the Iliad proper, but I have every confidence in Shanower’s handling of the characters.

And now, now there is another story as well. The Song of Achilles. Given my worries about retellings, I approached the sample that we downloaded with some trepidation, but after reading it I felt both relief and excitement. This was going to be a very good read. So, we bought the whole thing and I dove in.

A few chapters later, I reached the point where I knew that this was perfection. This book would not disappoint. Its a key scene, where Patroclus (who is the narrator of the book) tells Achilles of why he was exiled, of the boy he accidentally killed as the boy tried to take something from him. It leads to the following exchange:

“What would you have done?” I asked.

Achilles tapped a finger against the branch he sat on. “I don’t know. I can’t imagine it. The way the boy spoke to you.” He shrugged. “No one has ever tried to take something from me.”

“Never?” I could not believe it. A life without such things seemed impossible.

“Never.” He was silent a moment, thinking. “I don’t know,” he repeated, finally. “I think I would be angry.” He closed his eyes and rested his head back against a branch. The green oak leaves crowded around his hair, like a crown.

“I think I would be angry.” Oh dear. Oh no. Such heartbreaking tragic irony. “The rage sing, oh goddess, of Achilles the son of Peleus…” I knew at that point that Miller really got the story and got these characters and the rest of the book just confirmed this. Its a wonderful read. The concept of tragic irony, so loved by the Greek playwrights, is employed with consummate skill throughout the book and it builds up towards the inevitable end, making you feel so much more for the characters.

The only thing I could possibly have wished for—but that’s me and my particular love for the hippoi athanaoi—is for more of a presence of Xanthos and Balios. Patroclus, in Miller’s version, is not their charioteer as his presence on the battlefield is limited—the only really significant departure that she makes from the source material—and thus we do not get the poignant scene of the horses grieving for his death as a precursor to Achilles’s own grief. But its a small, small quibble in the grand scheme of things and I can always read Judith Tarr’s “Classical Horses” for my Xanthos and Balios fix.

I am now thinking I will definitely be taking another semester of Literature, perhaps even going straight for a 1-year Masters, just to get the opportunity to write something on this wonderful book. Because I think it will be stuck in my head for a long, long time.

Favourite Added Scenes

On the train back from the filming in Stockholm yesterday, my head was just full of A Song of Ice and Fire & Game of Thrones. I kept coming up with questions I would have loved to discuss, though in most cases the answers would have been too lengthy. One that ended up occupying my mind quite a bit was what my favourite added scenes were during the first season.

Because, yes, I do have quite a few. If a scene truly felt as if it could have been in the book if a character had been a point of view, then I think it really brought something special to the tv show.

First on the list would be anyhing with Harry Lloyd. This is not just because Harry Lloyd is (or was, rather—big sigh) the most beautiful actor on the show, but because he really both became Viserys and extrapolated on Viserys in a wonderful way. I may be a little swayed by the fact that we know he read the books and became quite the fan, but I think it is just as likely that his love for the books is what really allowed him to take the character as written and expand on him without changing him. He is, by far, the best casting choice in the series so far and his performance changed my opinion on Viserys. I no longer seeing him as just a mad villain, I really empathize with his plight. That doesn’t excuse his treatment of Dany (or anyone else), but I can really see where he was coming from.

Next on the list would be the private scene with Loras and Renly. I really wish they hadn’t changed Renly, but I think it was a great choice to show the two characters in private. I think it will make the impact of Renly’s untimely demise that much stronger and I hope they play it so that Loras’s reaction is in part driven by the guilt of having encouraged Renly to aim so high. Again, I am perhaps somewhat swayed by the very thoughtful interpretations of Loras and Renly by Finn Jones and Gethin Anthony.

While I loathe the brothel sexposition scene with Littlefinger as an overly obvious, mustache-twirling villain laying out his plot, I really like the scene between Littlefinger and Varys in the last episode. Conleth Hill’s voice is so perfect that I heard it in my head when reading the last chapter of A Dance with Dragons and I think the way he and Littlefinger dance with each other in this scene is quite fabulous. Its perhaps true that they say more than they would, but I think it works.

Honorable mentions go to the farewell scene between Ned and Jon because they snuck in the “promise” part and to the scene between Jorah and Rakharo.

The Cersei Rewrite

Worst after-effect of the first season? The atrocious portrayal of Cersei has caused the Cersei-apologists to crawl out of the woodwork in full force. Poor girl is apparently just the victim of the men around her.

Sure, it wasn’t easy growing up with Tywin Lannister as a father. Sure, being a twin underscored the inequality between men and women in a particularly strong fashion way for her when Jaime got to do things she wasn’t allowed to do.

The normal reaction to that is still not to sleep with your twin, to hurt your infant dwarf brother or to murder your best friend as a young teenager. Cersei is not normal, there’s something wrong with her. She’s not quite as much of a psychopath/sociopath as Joffrey, but she’s clearly lacking impulse control and ability to empathize and sympathize with others. She is also very self-centered and focused on what is good for herself, with her children and (sometimes) Jaime being viewed as extensions of herself.

The worst disservice of the first season was the scene between Cersei and Robert. Cersei was never truly prepared to give Robert a chance, even before he said Lyanna’s name. If he had not done so, she would still have continued to sleep with Jaime, just as she did on her wedding day. Maybe she would have accepted having a child by Robert, its possible, but she would have happily continued to cheat on her husband without any remorse whatsoever. Sure, Robert would also have been cheating on her, but whatever one thinks of that, the fact remains that Robert’s whoring around would never risk any bastards being passed off as legitimate heirs. But such small considerations aren’t allowed to get in the way of Cersei’s own pleasure.

Was she the only one making the marriage bad? No, Robert did his part too, but I don’t think he would have been coming drunk to her bed if she hadn’t been insisting on demonstrating her disgust with him every time after their wedding night. And they both had a duty to produce heirs, so its not like he could just stop trying. He could have been a good deal more considerate, but ultimately he would have had to sleep with her now and then, even if she insisted on just lying there.

I expect the second season will continue this ridiculous rewrite of Cersei judging by how the trailer has her talking about her sins and sounding remorseful. In the end, I don’t really care that she’s unwatchable on the show, but I do care when people bring it into their discussion of canon-Cersei.

Who is a very unpleasant and, yes, a pretty evil person.

Selective Reading Comprehension

I continue to be amazed at the willful blindness and selective reading comprehension that plagues people that otherwise appear fairly capable of producing and interpreting texts. Take this LJ post that presents itself as oh so thoughtful and quotes the following piece from a post of mine:

“You can’t come from a largely female community into a community where the majority of posters are male and expect the same mode of expression to be welcome.”

Taken together with the fact that we decided to close down the so-called “SanSan” threads, the conclusion this poster makes is that female fans are not welcome at our forums. Oh, and of course she also complains about the moderation against misogynistic comments. Yawn. But still, lets look at each issue.

We’ll start with “SanSan”. It is absolutely true that we do not consider speculation as such to fall under fanfiction. However, the speculation in these threads continued to move past certain limits and into more and more elaborate scenarios. We would not mind being able to allow discussion of the “SanSan” subplot, but not when the threads have to continuously be moderated. For one thing, it takes away moderator time and attention from other things…

...such as curbing rude posters, for example. Since this person does not have access to our moderator section of the forum, she has no idea how much work goes into keeping a reasonable tone on such a large forum. There’s plenty of deleted posts every day, for all sorts of reasons. Plenty of people warned and banned, too. Attacking other posters is not allowed. Wishing explicit evils on characters is not allowed. However, it is wrong to single out misogyny. I see no difference between posting that you think such and such a male character should be tortured and posting that you think such and such a female character should be raped. Its equally bad. On the other hand, saying that you hope such and such a character will die or that they will pay for what they’ve done before the end of the series is generally reasonable. The books elicit strong opinions because they are good books. The characters elicit strong opinions because they are well-realized characters.

Finally, going back to the quote from my post that the person seems so offended by. That is a serious case of selective reading comprehension. How can you not see that different communities on the Internet have different “cultures”? And, yes, some cultures are predominantly male and some are predominantly female and that does affect the tone and content of the discourse. Lets say someone who is used to posting on Tumblr wants to start posting on our forum. They cannot post images as they are used to. That is a mode of expression that is not welcome. Is that wrong? No, of course not. We also discourage short posts and one-line responses. That is also a mode of expression that (for the most part) is not welcome. Other platforms are better suited to it, quite simply. To some degree, it can be the same with shipping. They’re not part of the forum culture and yes, this is probably in large parts due to the forum slanting towards more male than female posters.

That does not mean we do not want female posters. But some types of discussions simply do not fit in.

(I am, btw, quite sure that there are more than a few male fans out there who feel we do not want male posters based on their posts having been deleted and/or their accounts banned for some of the things this LJ posts complains about, such as wishing various unpleasant fates on certain characters. That does not mean I am comparing shipping threads with threads containing explicit misogony OR misandry, but ultimately they both fall outside of the desired forum culture, albeit for very different reasons.)

The Little Details

As part of the promotion of season two of Game of Thrones, HBO is using the phrase “The North Remembers”. I am ... disappointed by this, because I feel it loses a lot of impact this way.

If you have read all the books, you’ll know that this phrase does not appear in A Clash of Kings. In fact, a quick check suggests that it is never used before A Dance with Dragons. I do not think this is a coincidence. This phrase shows up at the darkest hour for the North and the Starks. It promises that the wrongs that have been done will be set right or at least that someone will attempt to set them right.

The show is many, many gruesome events away from this darkest hour. The phrase does not have the same resonance when all it really can refer to is the death of Ned. It should have come at a time of true despair for the future of the North and the Starks, that is what made it so very powerful in A Dance with Dragons.

In a way, it represents my core concerns about the show: I get the impression that there’s a desire to provide viewers with faster gratification than the books actually deliver. I am not saying viewers should have to wait as long between each season as the books took to write, but it seems even a season a year isn’t fast enough. There’s got to be more action, Dany’s got to be more assertive right off, her dragons have to be played up as a threat, we have to actually see the Others again, and so on.

I am sure many readers thought that A Game of Thrones promised dragon-fuelled action and invading Others in the very next book, but its part of the uniqueness of the books that this did not happen.

Hoping for 50/50

It seems each Game of Thrones preview just has to alternate between making me go “oh, this might be really good” and “ugh, just ugh”. But oh well, as long as its alternating I suppose I’ll mostly enjoy the season. Brienne’s going to be great, though unfortunately the early scenes with her in Renly’s camp will be spoiled by the horribly miscast Margaery. I suspect she will be every bit as changed, and not for the better, as Cersei.

It really it starting to seem as if they feel more of a need to change up the female characters, just look at Shae for example. And not to mention “Jeyne”, of course, though that change seems largely motivated by wanting Robb around more. Hopefully, if the series goes on beyond the Red Wedding, they don’t feel a need to keep using Jeyne because she’ll just be taking up space at that time. Its true enough that George occasionally brings a very minor character to the forefront in a surprising way, but given the amount of characters he is juggling in the later books I suspect we won’t see much of Jeyne in the real story.

Of course, that likely won’t stop the show from cutting later introductions in favour of already established characters. Just look at the lack of Tullys this season. Will we get more Greyjoys when the time comes to that? Maybe not. Not to mention the Dornish. But maybe that’s just as well, I am dreading what the casting folks will get up to with them as I feel particularly proprietary about my favourite part of Westeros.


This? Ugh, bullshit.

No surprise either, given the comments I got from the same source when commenting on Game of Thrones. People have a right to be disappointed in something, whatever it is, and to express those disappointments.That’s an awfully high horse someone is up on and its looking ridiculous from here.

As for the particular analogy the comment linked to concerns? There’s nothing fucking wrong with it. Calling it creepy, stalkerish or bringing out that favourite complaint about “slut shaming” is just ridiculous.

On Adaptations

Over the last few days, Elio and I have been working our way through the bonus materials on the Game of Thrones Blu-ray that HBO kindly sent to us. There are some really nifty add-ons that fill in some of the information the show couldn’t convey about the history of Westeros and so on; I just hope they don’t get watched just by those who have read the books anyway. Today, we watched GRRM’s commentary on episode 8, The Pointy End, and since George comments on some of the changes from the books and from his first draft of the script, it led to another discussion (and some more thinking) about the changes between the books and the show.

Obviously, I know there are a lot of people who think having a “purist” outlook on an adaptation is silly. Well, whatever, is what I say to that. Its a perfectly valid stance. In my case, I am much more of a reader than a TV or movie watcher. There are some shows and a few films I love but as a medium I would pick books over TV/movies any day. As such, my interest in Game of Thrones is purely as an adaptation of a series of books that I love. I want to see as much of what is in the books as possible and how well (or not) the show adapts the books is what it stands and falls on for me. Others will obviously have a different viewpoint, but that is mine and it informs everything I say or write about the show.

Of course, it is silly to imagine that an adaptation can be 100% faithful. You are going from one medium to another. As much as I love the inner monologues of certain POVs, they cannot be replicated, except in some cases where voice-over narration might have worked (something which I am actually rather fond of). Budget, of course, is another inescapable reality. I do mourn that the look of the show is so much less grand than the books, but its one where I cannot fault anyone. I wish it looked like the LotR movies where there are scenes of such breathtaking beauty that you really get the sense of Middle-Earth, but obviously that was impossible.

But what I do take issue with are changes that are driven by how things usually are done on TV or changes done because it was a cool idea. In The Pointy End, for example, there’s the fight where Drogo kills Mago. Cool scene? Maybe, I haven’t watched it (too squeamish). But that sort of change is utterly unnecessary and potentially damaging for the story in the long run since the character does reappear. Then there’s the issue of casting, of course. Actors aren’t factory-made robots that look exactly like what is described in the books. But I see no reason not to cast at least someone who is ... in the ballpark in terms of their physical appearance. However, even worse is when a character is radically rewritten such as in the case of Cersei. There is no justification for that sort of change and no way you can argue that it is necessary. I think it is largely an effect of not leaving Cersei and Jaime out as POVs from the start as is the case in the books; suddenly there was a perceived need to flesh Cersei out and it all went straight to hell.

I should add that there are some added scenes that do work for me. When the characters involved feel as if they are the characters from the books and we’re seeing a scene that we can guess did happen off-stage (since the POV structure means some things can never be shown), then I think it can work really well to give some additional depth to a character. But those need to be done in moderation and they shouldn’t take precedence over canon scenes. And when they are utterly out of character, such as Cersei’s and Robert’s talk about their marriage (the most atrocious scene of the first season, despite great acting from Mark Addy), then its a travesty, especially as one considers the pivotal scenes that didn’t make it into the show.

When you praise a book for being unusual, you really shouldn’t pick and choose what aspects of unusual you are going to keep in your adaptation. Jaime and Cersei were left out as POVs to start with for a reason, we weren’t supposed to get their side of the story just yet, just as Robb isn’t supposed to be on stage as much in the second season as it appears he will be. These changes are not necessary for the medium, they are just conventional. A Song of Ice and Fire makes a point of defying conventions, so by caving into them the show is letting the material down.

The -Ismy

Shrill, crazy, laughable. And, at the same time, almost enough to make me sad and ashamed to be a woman. But, I happen to derive much enjoyment and pride from being a woman (which for me includes finding Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy very hot indeed as well as appreciating it for an interesting story and engaging characters), so I am not about to have that affected by a pathetic creature who clearly suffers from a serious case of twisted panties. Talk about providing an excellent explanation for why the Greeks made a national pastime of misogyny and made all their monstrous mythological creatures female. This particular breed one might call the “-Ismy”. Its sort of like a harpy but it just goes on and on and on about its favourite -isms. Its not really dangerous unless you have issues with your blood pressure, however.