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GOT - What's the big deal about it?

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Jessquoi, Jun 11, 2013.

  1. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

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    This may seem like I've been living in the bottom of a well for ages, but I have not read any of the Song of Ice and Fire books and I have never watched the Game of Thrones show. I've noticed a lot of discussion on the internet about it since an episode called The Red Wedding came out. It seems the show and books are getting multitudes of praise, I mean HUGE praise. So naturally one would think Hey, maybe I should try this out.

    However, after doing some more research, I've also noticed that there are a lot of complaints that the story is severely sexist, with excessive and unnecessary (to the plot) nudity, rape and violence. With a lot of these scenes supposedly, ahem, aiding to build strong female characters who despite all fight their way through this bleak story.

    I'll just say right here that I'm a feminist so I'm not sure about investing time in it. Can anyone give me an idea, considering that I haven't read or watched any of it, what the big deal is? Not just in relation to sexism or not, but what is it that makes ASOIAF popular?
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I've read the first three books of the series. Haven't seen the tv show yet because I want to read the books first, but I'll try to do the series justice.

    What makes the series good is that it explores all sides of confrontation, and presents all aspects of that society and world. The "good guys" are never as good as they seem and the "bad guys" are never as bad. All the main cast has a good reason for being they way they are and doing they things they do. Like the real world, good guys fail and bad guys win, but like I said the "bad guys" aren't completely bad so there's always room for redemption and for them to do the right thing.

    There are a lot of strong female characters, each displaying different types of strength. Some female characters are your basic female warrior type, but their true strength comes from within, not from being able to wield a sword. Other female characters, who don't fall into the female warrior type, learn and know how to wield power within in the confines of a male dominated society, showing strength of a different type.

    Part of what makes people squeamish about the series is that it treats marriage as a political tool and rarely is it done for the more modern reason of love. So you there are marriages between very young girls to very old men. If I'm not mistaken, this wasn't uncommon for medieval times, but for modern tastes, it gets icky for some because of the.... marital obligations.

    As I said the cast is a cross section of the world, so there are smart people, dumb people, awesome kick-ass people, annoying people, dishonourable people, honourable people, etc. and the story is told from all those points of view. So when people have to spend time reading about the dishonorable or annoying people some of them get turned off. Some want a simple black and white story where the good guys always win. And where the good guys are easily identified. That's not what this series is about. This is a story that spends a lot of time in the gray area. This a story where being too good/naive can get you killed. This is a series about interesting characters with big flaws that can get them into trouble, but who remain human and are always capable of good or bad.

    Hopefully that wasn't too confusing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
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  3. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    You aren't alone. I read one chapter, but my reading list is too deep, so I never got back to it. I've seen half of three episode. With a career, a writing habit, and several children, I don't have what is commonly referred to as "free time".

    As well, I am also a feminist. Yes, I'm a man, but when there is equality I'll simply call myself a humanist. Some people chafe at men saying this, but as a father of three daughters, and the son of a mother, I feel it's my human responsibility to fight for equality.

    That said, there is a difference between sexism in the story and sexism in the voice of the author. Medieval Christian Europe was not a good time to be a woman. Women were often treated as little more than property, and often exactly like property. The flowering of romantic literature at the end of the middle ages did spark a change in things a little for women, but look where we are today - not quite all the way there.

    If we accept that GOT draws from a medieval Europe as a model for it's society, and I think it does, this is part of that reality. We could argue that Martin included some elements and not others... However, I haven't watched it all, but from what I have seen it shows these ugly elements in a modern light, not glorifying or condoning them. It's an ugly thing to see, but like killing, it is part of the wickedness that people do to each other.

    With my oldest daughter, 20, I suppose I would watch it with her, if she wanted to. We've watched quite a lot of movies containing describing difficult and ugly aspects of reality and fantasy, and she likes horror more than I do. But the difference is at our ages, we know what history holds, we know where we are now, and where we want to go. We can have an intelligent conversation about the events in the show or book.

    It is beyond my young ones (8 and 6) to deal with, should they see me watching it. At this point in their lives, I am fostering the idea that equality exists and is their right. I am raising them to be strong so they will be kicking down the doors of inequality with a sense of entitlement to it, and will not accept this sort of thing in their sphere of influence. I need to take care about what I appear to "endorse". The subtleties are beyond them. If I were to watch it, this is adult entertainment, not to be discussed in front of them.

    GOT is gray fantasy, and as such, any moral or social lessons we want to take from it are ours to take, Martin delivers the story, not the moral - he lets the reader decide. The question is whether you want medieval realism in your medieval fantasy, and how much? And do you want that element of it? It's a choice to make.

    It's his art, that's what he made. I can't ask any artist to apologize for what they made, if that is what the felt passionate about. Neither do I think hiding the ugly realities of life changes reality. What I wonder is whether we can learn anything useful about ourselves seeing this kind of drama unfold. Like any choice I make, I need to consider my daughters in my decisions.

    I always am careful of my own hypocrisy. "It's just a fictional rape." doesn't sound like something I would want to hear myself say. However, I've seen movies with rape in them, and I reacted as most people would, with disgust or anger. I watch movies with killing and torture, and I don't condone either. I think what it comes down to, is that if it tips the scales on your enjoyment, then that's really the deciding factor. If your sensibility does not allow you to enjoy it, then don't. There is plenty else to see. If you are able to put it in the context and it rings true to the story, then watch it or read it.

    I don't believe that by watching it that you are making any kind of anti-feminist statement. In fact, since it is so popular, it might be "important" to some to see what people are looking at.

    I think it is healthy that we squirm about this topic.
     
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  4. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

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    Thank you both for incredible insights. I think I do want to read at least some of it so I can make my own decision about it. So no one thinks that any of the nudity (in the show)/violent scenes are unnecessary to the overall plot at any time?
     
  5. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

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    I guess there is also potential here to discuss how much fantasy should be in fantasy? How much 'realism' should be in fantasy? It seems to me that more people are discussing the characters and the hardships they face rather than the fantasy element of the story. Maybe it would have made more sense for something like this is be written as a historical fiction novel.
     
  6. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    This is an adult show. It is about the expressions of human passions, and sex and violence are the extreme expressions of human passions.

    I don't need to see all the mechanics, but if a story about adult people with passion is conspicuously missing sex, I feel like I am sitting in the kiddy section. I like many YA stories, but they are quite obviously not about the adult world and the struggles and passions that concern us, as adults.

    As for nudity, culturally speaking it isn't quite a big deal where I live. So maybe I am not as sensitive as people in other countries. Sex, if I can recall correctly, is usually done in the nude. We are too sophisticated in terms of media to believe the simple ruffling of sheets, panning towards the moon shining on the lake. As adults, we can see the adequate amount of nudity to believe the action and be carried away by it. Same principle for battle. I don't need to see guts spilled on the floor, but if I don't see any blood, I won't believe it. It will look like an old Sunday Matinee cowboy movie where everyone who gets shot clutches their gut and falls down, but there's no blood.
     
  7. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

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    OK. Maybe I wasn't clear enough when I brought that up. I can't say much because I haven't actually seen it. But I've read that most nudity is of women. And so, some women and possibly men were offended. I'm not trying to say that you can't have nudity or violence in an adult story. It just becomes problematic when there's too much of it and it's not even relevant to the plot anymore.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The nudity and sex in the books is all relevant to the story. There is one scene near the beginning which arguably isn't - Catelyn, in like the third chapter - but it is necessary in that it prepares the reader for the tone of the story.
     
  9. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

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    Fair enough. I think those complaints were mainly about the TV show.
     
  10. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    How much 'realism' should be in fantasy?

    There's the categories of YA fantasy and "adult" fantasy. There are lines that some people want to draw, where others feel they are hamstringing themselves. I struggle with it, because I will write gore and sex and very visceral experiences quite naturally, and then I get hung up worrying about who will read my writing and how I will feel about that.

    It's completely subjective. Some writers and readers want realism, some don't. Some want certain elements included, some want them excluded. Some want an idealized world, some want a surreal world, some want a gritty, realistic world.

    There's no such thing as should, as far as I'm concerned, there is only what you like, and what you don't.

    There is definitely a line that crosses into "unnecessary" nudity and violence, but I think that line is different for everyone.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  11. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

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    You're quite right of course. Everyone knows what they prefer in a story. Asking how something 'should' be is just a way to open a discussion about it. I struggle with it too. Not because I write gory scenes in detail, but because most of my writing would come under a YA heading except for the emotional side of it. Sometimes I wonder whether the emotions I write would be too complex for that genre.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think this is a misconception about YA. I made a post about it (with a link to a Chuck Wendig blog post), here:

    http://mythicscribes.com/forums/writing-questions/8742-ya-fiction.html

    YA today isn't the YA of 20 years ago. Any emotional complexity suitable for adult novels is also suitable for YA. You should market as you see fit, of course, but given the popularity of YA I'd hate for you to pass it over simply because of a misunderstanding as to what is appropriate.
     
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  13. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    This quote made me understand:

    YA features YA character from the POV of a YA, not the POV of an adult writing YA.
     
  14. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    I'm a feminist. I love the books and did not find them offensive in general. I've watched bits of the TV show, and I didn't care for some of the plot/character tweaks nor the excessive gratuitous sex and nudity.
     
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  15. Ddruid

    Ddruid Minstrel

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    advait99 has been trying for months to convince me to read GOT. You guys just did it in one day.
     
  16. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

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    Haha! Well what I've been able to decide is that I will definitely give the BOOKS a try and possibly skip the TV show.
     
  17. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I've read all the books published thus far (five out of a projected seven), plus a couple of short stories set most of a hundred years earlier.

    I've seen the first season of the television show (DVD).

    I also have a slightly prudish 21 year old daughter who thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons of the TV show and almost bought cable just so she could watch the third.

    That said, the characters involved in this tale are complex. Some could be termed...mostly decent, others come across as utter scoundrels. They change as the story progresses. Many of them are in situations with no easy solutions.

    As to the women...they range from devoted mothers to naive daughters to whores to tomboys to scheming b*tches. There is a fair amount of ...sexual politicing... going on, I guess you could call it.

    From what I've seen, the television show appears to add more in the way of nudity and sex than was present in the books.
     
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  18. kayd_mon

    kayd_mon Sage

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    The show has lots of boobs because it's on HBO. There was an SNL sketch where they had GRRM and a 13-year-old boy as producers on the show. GRRM would make sure that the show followed the books, and the kid would add boobs to the scenes.

    Anyway, the characters are great, the plot has plenty of twists and stays exciting, and the writng is generally good. Books 4 and 5 are sort of tangents that could be mostly ditched if he was going to tell the story fast, but as a fan, I just like going deeper in the world. He gets a lot of flak for his unnecessary subplots, but I usually like them. They are definitely worth a read.

    Oh, and it's definitely fantasy. Seasons can last for a decade, there are dragons, magic, undead creatures... It's not that realistic,. It's just that the characters are so complex, and their motivations - no matter how base - are believable.
     
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  19. advait98

    advait98 Sage

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    That`s advait98, don`t desecrate my name. Well, good for you. It is a long ride, prepare yourself. You better not give up halfway through.
     
  20. Jessquoi

    Jessquoi Troubadour

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    Thanks guys. As always you're all very reliable and have sorted this conundrum out for me.
     
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