The human race tells a lot of stories. Everyone has a life story and some have a lot of stories…
We call them authors.
But what do these stories do? Why are they important?
I feel that they give guidelines and road maps that help us understand what it means to be human.
Joseph Campbell wrote “The Hero’s Journey” and in it tells how the protagonist faces problems, how he meets these problems and how he is transformed by the problems he faces.
From the beginning to the end, most stories show the struggle of life and how love, loyalty, “Doing the Right Thing” triumphs over wrong and evil.
It’s a template for how we should live our life. A path that points the way for human behavior.
Sure our character stumbles at times, we all do, but perseverance usually wins out to a satisfying ending. Good fights evil with courage and ultimately wins.
Usually, the bad guys go to jail, get killed or suffer. Tragedy reveals that wrong and evil carry a penalty.
And then the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair” came along.
The rich handsome bank robber got away with breaking the law. He didn’t even need the money. The story ended differently.
No one blinked.
Now George R. R. Martin has taken it a step further.
I don’t mind the soft porn sex in the HBO series. It actually got my husband’s attention. Let’s face it, we humans are attracted to sex…
It’s a good thing too…for the continuance of the race.
I don’t mind the grittiness of how the characters live. Both in the book and the series my face is rubbed in the dirt of the rough side of living. Not only does Tyrion Lannister get conscripted into fighting, tramp through the mud, he gets dysentery and we get to read about him throwing up. Can’t wait to see what the HBO version does with that.
Martin piles it on.
What I do mind, however, what enrages me, is that I get to know a character with good qualities…and they are tossed away, usually brutally, while one such as Jaime Lannister who had incest with his sister, who crippled the Stark boy, killed thousands in battle to control the throne is now being portrayed with sympathy. Oh, poor Jaime is being mistreated. And Martin doesn’t just slap his hand for saving Brienne from rape, he cuts it off.
Because he did something noble.
Finally…and gets punished.
Ned Stark loved his family, gave up Winterfell to serve his king because he was loyal, and he is betrayed. He had more than a hand chopped off.
If he were the only example, I wouldn’t be complaining so much.
But most characters that portray any desirable traits of love, loyalty, perseverance, courage, are tossed away, killed, punished, hurt. And the innocent Starke children are punished the most. Whether it’s Sansa in the opulent royal court being verbally abused, Bran on the run for his life in the snow, or Arya in the wilds of the woods scrambling for her life against vicious criminals, innocence and goodness are deadly traits whereas cunning and deviousness ensure survival.
What message is that telling us subliminally? That striving for good is a dangerous and fruitless endeavor? One not worth following?
But like the girl who can’t give up the bad boy, after I am literarily punched, beaten and dragged through the mud, I crawl back to the book or turn on HBO for more punishment.
And get it.
Yet again, I throw the book against the wall and yell, “Enough!” Only later, to pick it back up, hoping, hoping that there’s a good ending somewhere. That there is hope for good. That the struggle to “Do the Right Thing” is worth it.
When the tale is told and the dust finally settles in the Game of Throne Series, I’ll be curious to see who triumphs…
And what it finally says about how we should live our lives.
And wonder if anyone blinks.
8 responses to “Game of Thrones Rant”
In my life experience, cunning will only get you so far. We are a social species and, in the end, must cooperate to survive. I believe Hitler failed and the Allies won for precisely this reason. Good triumphs not because of God’s intervention or some cosmic notion of balance, but because at the end of the day it works! It works slowly, to be sure, but it works all the same. That is why we define sustainable behavior as “good’ and unsustainable as “bad.” If Gorge R. Martin does not understand this, he’s not worth reading.
Clayton: One can only hope. It sure is working awfully slowly. Just when I think we have peace in one area of the world, something new flares up. When do we get smart and learn to co-operate so that we can survive on this planet? Or do we keep playing the Game of Thrones, even now?
The nations that are doing the best economically, politically and socially are the ones best at cooperating. Other nations see this; that is why Turkey wants to be part of the European Union and not just another nation in the middle east. Two steps forward and one and a half steps back. We are a slow learning species, but we do learn.
I sure hope so.
I have not read, nor watched Game Of Thrones. But reading your post I wonder if the purpose of all books is to teach us how to conduct our lives, or if there are books which simply teach us that life is not all nice and fair, and that unfortunately evil can prevail if it’s cunning and efficient. And there are definitely books out there which only served to exorcise some obsession of their author, and have no other subtle purpose.
It’s true that most people (particularly gullible ones) take movies and books at front value and use their “teachings” to steer through their own lives (and how much I despise it when people think “reality TV” reflects reality in any way), but ultimately it becomes a question (at least for me) whether the author has any responsibility in that, or whether his sole responsibility is to create readable, engaging fiction…
It’s a complex issue. And like many complex issues, it has no right answer, no correct way to be interpreted. It’s all a matter of personal preference and belief. Violence and abuse in fiction can be a way to teach, a way to shock or simply a way to sell. Having no direct knowledge of GOT, I can’t tell which was Martin’s motivation.
Hey Valerie: Good point. The title indicates that this is a rant…the kind that leaves the husband open-mouthed not knowing what to say. George R.R. Martin definitely has written something that grips the reader or engages the HBO viewer. My worry is what is he saying and how will that affect how future authors write. He obviously has made a success of the series, both books and t.v. That overwhelming success may influence stories of the future. More violence?
You would think that by 2013 we would be more civilized…but as the other commenter said, just turn on the t.v. and watch the news and you’ll see it ain’t so. Another rant, another day.
I read the first four books in the Game of Thrones series and finally gave up. I was so depressed after the first two my husband asked me to quit reading for a while.
I know many feel the hero’s journey may be trite and overdone, but I like to root for the good guy. I like to find redeeming qualities in people and see that they are rewarded. Martin seems to drag things out, book after book, simply because he can. There seems, to my eyes, to be actual story arc, just more drama and more punishment of the ‘heroes’.
I won’t purchase anymore of his books and I won’t watch the HBO series because I have no respect for an author who shamelessly jerks his readers around. If you are going to write epic fantasy fiction, give us some hope. Don’t we have enough negativity in the world as it is? Isn’t that what books are for? Escaping reality into a better, more entertaining place?
I for one don’t want to escape to a place where people are constantly hurt, dismembered and forced to deal with ridiculously perilous situations. If I want torture stories all I have to do is turn on the news.
Give me a strong story with twists and turns, a bad guy who tries and fails to redeem himself and a good guy who triumphs over adversity. But please don’t kill my protagonist over and over again. It makes me mad.
Aubrey: I did this rant because I wanted to shine a light to see if our stories may be changing and get a dialog going with others to see what they think. Good comments…thanks for your insight.