Friday, May 22, 2015

The Perfunctory Geek Blog Post About Game of Thrones

(Note: the following post pertains to last week's episode of A Game of Thrones, "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken." As a courtesy, I've made this post as spoiler-free as possible, but, of course, I strongly recommend not reading this post if you have any intention of watching the episode in question.)

"Oh, my story is taking off so well, it's like the characters are writing themselves!"

This, Dear Reader, is precisely what happened last week. With King Jeoffrey gone, Ramsay Snow-Bolton is clearly the Biggest Asshole in the Seven Kingdoms. Even before That Scene, there was no denying that. 

Littlefinger brought Sansa to Winterfell under what we discover later to be an if/then plan to become Warden of the North: if Sansa doesn't plot and scheme to bring down the Boltons from the inside, then Littlefinger will let the Baratheon Army crush them from the outside, then swoop in with his Knights of the Vale to cut down the remaining forces and take Winterfell for himself. Littlefinger may or may not have real feelings for Sansa, but either way, he's as willing to throw her to the Boltons as he was to throw dear Aunt Lysa down that big-ass hole in the floor of her own castle. 

I'm sorry, Dear Reader, but you can't have it both ways. You can't love a story for having a life of its own, then get all pissy when that very story takes you to places you don't want to go. A Game of Thrones is a show where the "main" character got beheaded unjustly in the first season. If that didn't tip you off to the "life" this story was going to have, then you got a nice reminder when the son of that same character was betrayed and murdered at his own wedding. Along with his pregnant wife. And his mother. And his dog.

That does not mean you have to be okay with the main character's daughter getting raped. But it does mean that this is a world where that kind of thing can happen. And that is why this show is so damn good; because it goes where it has to, not where you want it to. 

I was very disturbed by the rape. I wish it hadn't happened. Had I been the head writer on the show, I might not have even gone there. But that's why A Game of Thrones works. It's willing to go there. It's okay to disapprove of the rape by itself, but if you're no longer interested in the show because of it, I submit that you never should have watched it in the first place. 

Sorry to go on a rant here, but this is, absolutely, the number one thing that pisses me off about modern storytelling today. We have war movies specifically made to be appropriate for 13-year-old children, with the gore and blood removed so they don't get any nightmares about what war is really like. We have horror films that are neutered down to nothing but "boo!" moments that wash away like popcorn butter from our hands. We have romantic stories that fade to black when the characters finally get to make love. I'm not a pervert, and I'm not some sicko, but I'm also not stupid, and each one of those broad examples is a blatant insult to my intelligence. 

Anyways, the thing that pushed me over the edge and inspired me to write this came from Chuck Wendig, off of his blog. I respect Chuck; I've read some of his work and I think he's talented. But then, he said this:

"Here’s the thing: storytelling is about breaking the status quo. About juking left when we expect you to go right... Where’s the twist? The hook? The artistry? This isn’t artistry."

I couldn't possibly disagree with this more. Storytelling is, first and foremost, about one thing and one thing only: telling a story. Nothing greater, and nothing lesser. Sure, there are plenty of stories that "break the status quo." But there are also stories that are about the sadness and tragedy of the status quo.

So here's to hoping the rest of the series is as rape-free as possible!

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