One of the best things about Game of Thrones is that people who have never or only rarely participated in the online fandom experience have gotten involved with this show and the A Song of Ice and Fire books they are based on. Long-time fantasy fanatics and genre newbies alike bond over the story, and these oddly relatable characters.
That said, I thought it would be fun to chat with a few strong voices from the fandom. I’d like to do this from time to time with different groups. For this first round table, the discussion participants include Tumblefell, Bexclare from ONTD, Elle, Miss, Serena who is a writer and moderator for HBOWatch, Kissed-by-Fire, and the Sookieverse, and finally, XenkanMonk, a frequent commenter here at WiC, who also has an amazing fantasy-centered blog.
XenkanMonk: I would be easier with the changes they made if the entire series books had been finished first. Of course GRRM has told D&D bits of the ending, but I worry that they might either cut out something small and vital without knowing it, or may telegraph the series ending by virtue of what they choose to leave in. Shireen has always been my favourite for the winner of the Iron Throne. However, they have probably cut her out of season 2. (The trailers show a lady who might be Selyse at the burning and so perhaps they also have a Shireen but have not announced it). Does this mean D&D have already partially spoiled the ending before A Dream of Spring is even written, that Shireen is in fact not important? Or are they delaying her introduction for future seasons? GRRM has said that who the story is about will be a surprise. Will D&D unknowingly give it away?
Elle: I think the story could become a little stagnant and difficult to translate if it were to remain 100% truthful to the books. Overall, it’s important to keep the themes consistent, but the details don’t necessarily have to be exact, just as long as the outcome is the same. Certain story threads need to be fleshed out in order to translate them to the screen since reading something is a different experience than seeing something (mostly because when you’re reading, you’re heavily relying on your imagination). The books can be ambiguous about a certain event that takes place because the readers can visualise it for themselves, but in the show, that event might have to be shown on screen in order to engage the viewers and get them interested in what comes later. The books also rely on certain details so that the readers can world build, but with visual representation, you don’t need as much extraneous material for the reader to imagine these worlds, so that time can be filled with something else.
Tumblefell: Yeah, I think so. With as much praise as Benioff and Weiss received for their original scenes -the conversation between Cersei and Robert in “The Wolf and The Lion,” for instance- I have no doubts we’ll see more of these kinds of additions. We’ll also continue to experience minor shifts in character(s) and further timeline tweaks but I don’t foresee the production team straying so far from what’s on the page that the overall integrity of the story and the integrity of the characters is compromised. Admittedly, I am a bit ambivalent about some of the rumored changes that we’re supposedly going to see in Season 2 but I’m maintaining cautious optimism. They made some great TV last year, so…
Ask me again, when and if the Tullys, Martells and Reeds are knocked out completely…
Serena: Oh, I think it should be doable. However, if they start making core changes that contradict the text just because they believe in their own genius and it is not even good TV, well, no I’m not going to be happy about that. And while the later books might present a challenge, I think they could still remain faithful so long as they desire to be. – I don’t necessarily mind changes in an adaption, I mind bad storytelling.
Miss: A certain amount of faithfulness is realistic to expect, but not total absolute faithfulness. Ten episodes was never going to be enough to cover each book (maybe Feast, but perhaps they’ll recombine elements of the middle books to flow chronologically, as the books actually don’t; and of course they plan to split Storm). So minor characters will be combined, some plot points will be shortcut, scenes will be consolidated. That’s fine, as long as they remain true to the spirit of the themes and characterizations. I think the plot should serve to reveal the characters and themes, and not the other way around. For me that’s actually an area that could use some improvement, and I’m not sure it will improve quite yet. What makes good TV, that’s subjective! Are “Mad Men” and “The Wire” good TV? Or “Spartacus” and “The Tudors?” Changes must happen in the translation to a visual medium, but what kind and how many depend on the market you’re going for. They’ll probably bow to profit-related pressures, for better or worse.
Bex: I don’t think so. I mean, look at AFFC and ADWD– HBO is going to have to cut and paste to make coherent seasons with those two books alone. And GRRM’s world expands drastically as the series progresses, both with locations and characters, so D&D will have to make a lot of alterations for 10-13 episode seasons of the series, especially for people new to the show. A perfectly faithful TV series would be extremely confusing with GRRM’s POV structures alone. I’ve read all the books; please just give me good TV.
XenkanMonk: I’m most excited for Brienne. GC [Gwendoline Christie] looks amazing as her. She towers over Loras and everyone else. So many times female warriors are portrayed as being tiny waif-fuers, but Brienne actually looks like she can handle a sword and hold her own in a fight against anyone. I’m glad her armour is functional too.
Elle: I’m going to cheat a little on this question and say that I’m excited to see what the show does with characters who are more in the background in the books. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re going to do with Jeyne and the dynamic between Catelyn, her and Robb. I’m curious about they’ve expanded on Dany’s storyline, specifically how they’re handling Xaro Xhoan Daxos‘ role. I’m also really looking forward to seeing the relationship between Stannis, Davos and Melisandre play out!
Tumblefell: Brienne, Stannis, Margaery, Davos, Ygritte, Dolorous Edd…but mostly Melisandre. Melisandre plays with fire. Roll on, R’hllor!
Serena: To quote Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brienne.
Miss: Brienne of Tarth, absolutely. She’s such a unique character, she turns the warrior babe trope on its head and occupies such a fascinating place in the gender commentary that Martin provides. She’s also a great look at themes of chivalry and honor, and she’s one of the few women we’ll get to see participating in the heavy action scenes. If you look at her closely you’ll see how she is similar to both Arya and Sansa Stark, and that’s brilliant. I don’t think TV has seen anything like her before.
Bex: STANNIS. STANNIS.STANNIS. I already have my hipster glasses laid out because everyone is going to see how incredibly awesome he is. Stephen Dillane is going to kill it. Stannis is one of the most underrated characters in the series.
XenkanMonk: My pet ship is Brienne + Sansa. People do like to ship the beauty and the beast thing with Sansa and either Tyrion and Sandor. While I agree with the desire to see Sansa have a happy ending in a skewed fairy-tale sort of way, Brienne is the truest knight in Westeros, the most like a traditional knight who still believes in honour and being a good warrior, and yet she is also the most unlike a traditional knight because she is a woman. She is the knight Sansa has always dreamed of. I hope that they meet, fall in love, and will save each other many times, Brienne when brawn is needed, and Sansa when brains are needed.
Elle: Here’s a really random pairing: Theon Greyjoy and Daenerys Targaryen. One thing that really makes me feel for these two characters is their sense of not belonging and their loneliness. They both long for home and pine for childhoods that were essentially stolen from them. I also think they’re both a little misunderstood, they’re both dealing with massive amounts of guilt and regret in ADWD, and sometime in the near future, they could bond over all their emotional damage and find a home together. In addition to all that, at this point in his journey, Theon’s incredibly weak from everything that he’s been through and Daenerys happens to be a very strong and steadfast character–I think he could find strength in her.
Tumblefell: “The Season of the Love Story” …in a word, blerg. This series is not kind to lovers. Hot Pie, who looked like Hot Pie, loved hot pie. Sadly, Hot Pie’s hot pie was eaten and not eaten by Hot Pie. Hot Pie wept bitter Hot Pie tears over hot pie crumbs. And no one was ever happy again. The end.
Serena: Clearly they are referring to Cersei and Lancel, and they better be or we’ll be having words. -Forbidden love, a large gap in age as well as unequal social status, and also personality-wise Cersei is a monster compared to Lancel’s relative innocence,- so many factors working to keep them apart I don’t know how anyone can root against their relationship. Best of all, it’s canon! But then Lancel is a very divisive character in this fandom, probably due to the fact he doesn’t have dragons and in a series such as the ASOIAF which is full of ironically dubbed “strong men,” he seems weak and passive. I just hope Benioff and Weiss have the same priorities in regards to Lancel and his relationship with Cersei that I do. My heart just bleeds for Lancel. … and his wigs.
Miss: The torrid, quietly desperate story of Maester Luwin and Old Nan: It was love at first cataract-ridden sight, but his vows to a cold and restrictive celibate order meant that they could never be!
Bex: Usually Cersei/White Walker is my go-to pairing, but that may be too sinister. I’m all for a Stannis/Davos bromance. And it’s easy to pitch Robb and Theon as gay lovers.
But the true romance of the series, the “OTP” if you will, is Jon Snow and his luscious mane of raven curls. In season 2, Jon and his hair depart fearlessly from the Wall, committed to deduce the Wildling’s strange behavior and remain frizz-free and weightless in the harsh frozen climes. Jon’s hair’s glossy radiance defies gravity and wind conditions as Jon pouts, swings his sword about and looks generally gormless. Despite the trials and tribulations of their grand adventure (and a certain ginger…) the relationship of Jon and his glorious locks is a steadfast tale of true love.
XenkanMonk: I don’t have much against nudity. I like watching nudity. What I took issue with was the nudity ratio. There is much more gratuitous female nudity than male. With the recent Sins trailer, which has several disrobing females and not one male, it looks like the second season may repeat this, which disappoints me. I thought perhaps they makers would pay attention to the sheer number of female fans at Comic Con, and on the internet, and realize that there is a wider audience out there than people only attracted to women. Another contentious issue was Dany and Drogo’s wedding night. Many people voiced concerns that D&D (the producers that is) made it into rape. I disagree. In the books too, I thought it was also rape. Though Dany does say “yes”, she still does not have a choice because if she were to say “no” he would have still had sex with her. Consent only has meaning if not having sex is a valid option. D&D removed the problematic rose-coloured glasses of rape that were in the books, though they kept the later randomization of Dany and Drogo’s relationship. I also do like the continued fleshing out of Cersei, who is rightly a controversial character. Unlike in the books, in the show we get close to her while she is at her best. In the books we only get inside Cersei’s head when she is at her darkest hour and I felt this was always a disservice to her. I look forward to fully armoured Cersei, and I love the touch of the armoured belts that she wears over her dresses.
Elle: For the most part, I think the nudity was essential to the storyline since we’re dealing with a world where realistically, sex and nudity happen (just as in real life). This isn’t a sanitised fantasy world; it’s violent, gritty, and deals with very human themes. I do think that the show catered more to the male gaze because it featured so much female nudity (all of it very attractive) as opposed to male nudity. I’m pretty blasé and open about nudity being depicted on screen and there was at least one sexposition scene that I thought was gratuitous, unnecessary, and just took me completely out of the ASOIAF world–and it didn’t seem true to the character (you can probably take a guess at which one that was). I do find it a little disconcerting that people seemed to complain more about the nudity than all the violence though.
As for the abuse, I dislike the fact that in order to show the strength of women, they have to be put through as much strife as possible–and not just typical conflict that makes for good storytelling, but gendered sexual and emotional abuse. I don’t love that even in fantasy, the world these women live in has to be so sexist–we already deal with so much of it in real life so seeing very familiar marginalisation present in an escapist fantasy world is tiring. However, as much as I dislike the fact that capable, well-constructed female characters can’t seem to exist without being downtrodden, since the world GRRM created is misogynistic and patriarchal, it’s important to show just how much pain these characters overcome. It’s essential that the audience see their struggles in order to understand what they’re up against, and to appreciate them for surviving and thriving despite their terrible odds.
Tumblefell: To me, the sex and nudity was talked about by the media -and on the internet- more than it actually appeared on screen. Having discussed the subject with friends who have also read the series, we all agreed it was certainly more prevalent in the books. Yeah, you’ve got Dany rising naked out of the ashes, nursing a dragon and it’s badass and empowering; you’ve got Lysa Arryn nursing her 10 year old son and it’s badass in its absolute absurdity; but Cersei and Jaime are fully clothed when caught by Bran and that doesn’t lessen the shock; and Ned and Cat are clothed when Luwin delivers the letter and there’s no loss in intimacy in the preceding scene. But I can’t dismiss the criticism entirely because much of it stems from the male gaze-ness of the “sexposition” and the majority of the nudity. And when a show inspires a term like “sexposition”…
People love to talk about sex so, of course, there’s going to be even more of it next season! Whether or not production is courting controversy through it, we’ll just have to see.
Serena: It’s HBO, they are going to try to push buttons re: sex and nude scenes. Shrug. Of course S1 leaned more towards female exposure, but frankly, I try to objectify the men on this channel as much as possible. So more male nudity please! As for a lot of those particular scenes in question, I found their flaws were rooted in editing and pacing, the content didn’t exactly throw me off… With the exception of Drogo and Dany’s humping session in the second episode, that bothered me in regards to her character evolution. As for this upcoming season, I’m not so sure it will be as controversial as S1, unless someone goes down under but HBO has a hard time getting camera angles right for that of thing. Oh snap!
Miss: The complaints about sex and nudity were justified. There was a lot more gaze on the female form than the male form. Male nudity was a lot more casual (the man who had to run naked behind the khalasar, Hodor in “The Pointy End”) than female nudity, which was more sexualized. While I have nothing against Esme Bianco, they pretty much created her character so she could be seen naked often. Yes she is doing other things, but those other things could be done in other ways that don’t involve naked women who fit the standard beauty ideal. Enough has been said on sexposition already so I won’t rehash it all. We won’t know about the second season until we’ve seen it. We’ve seen glimpses of Loras and Renly becoming intimate, but what if they remain mostly clothed, while we’ve also already seen Margaery stripping? What if that’s the one instance we have to compare against many more instances of titillating female nudity? That would make it seem a little bit like appeasement instead of a real commitment to a naturalistic, inclusive and paradigm-shifting approach to sex and sexuality. We’ll have to wait and see.
Regarding abuse, there’s a case to be made that it’s necessary to understand what women (like Dany) need to overcome, but it can possibly go too far. How they handle Sansa in season two will be telling; already they fixated on her beating stripped and beaten in the promo material, which is a bit disappointing.
Bex: I think some of the Daenerys scenes were needlessly graphic, and that scene in the brothel with Littlefinger and Ros was laughable (and perhaps her character in general), so I wouldn’t disagree with people who were unhappy. I think the amount of controversy will remain the same; Ros, Shae, Melisandre and Margaery will probably be getting nude this season, and Sansa will be at the mercy of Joff. It’s just going to be different from season 1, but I don’t predict that the show will be getting tamer.
Elle: I have a completely trollish desire to see fandom riot over a certain pair (who have yet to meet), ruling Westeros. However, if I’m to answer truthfully, I don’t think there will be an Iron Throne in the end—in fact, I don’t think there should be. I think the kingdom should have a ruling force in the north and a ruling force in the south or a council of rulers so that way, there’s a balance of power that doesn’t rely on a monarchical government.
Tumblefell: Melt the Iron Throne – wildfire, dragon fire, whatever it takes! But if I MUST make a choice and toss all logic and anything I know about anything aside, the Imp seems like a safe choice.
Serena: Sansa, so she can say “Let them eat lemoncakes.” Yes brilliant.
Miss: I think a possibly “lowborn” Targaryen pretender reigning over Westeros for years to come would be just hilarious.
Bex: My theory is that Rickon’s probably going to be the only character to survive anyway, so long live King Rickon and his court of unicorns and turtles.