As an article criticises the “manipulative” Game of Thrones, one writer provides a riposte.
This article was written in response to a recent Indiewire article.
I’m probably not an ideal Game of Thrones fan. I watch it every week, yes, but I do complain about the violence, the nudity, the racism, the fact that bits of the books are missed out or completely changed, and I also have a tendency to let out spoilers, which are only sometimes intentional. And yet, four seasons in, I’m still more emotionally attached than ever.
I can say with complete confidence that I have not come across a character whom I either fully supported or fully despised
One of the things that drew me to the show and the books was not only their subject matter, but the cast of characters, and how multi-faceted they were and are. I can say with complete confidence that I have not come across a character whom I either fully supported or fully despised. The development of the vast cast seemed awe-inspiring to me, how George R R Martin was able to keep track of everyone was impressive enough. So, naturally, one of the things that pisses me off is the argument that too many of the characters are one-dimensional.
Let’s start with Joffrey. Initially, Joffrey was an annoying little shit, but it seemed to be the meanness you’d expect from an incredibly wealthy teenage upstart. You also realise (quite quickly) when he fights with Arya that he is all talk and no action. He cannot defend himself, and the shock on his face is obvious – that someone is able to physically put him down is clearly something he has never experienced before. At a crucial developmental age, he is put on a pedestal and then thrust onto the Iron Throne following the death of his ‘father’, Robert Baratheon. Any opportunity to have kept Joffrey in check is gone, because now he’s king and surrounded by sycophants.
Joffrey is what happens when you tell your children they can do what they like and get away with it (take heed for future reference). He’s not just born evil, because no one is. As for Daenerys, I completely agree that her wandering around ‘liberating’ people from the far east is uncomfortable to watch and has gone a bit colonial. But I don’t think she’s intended to be the only ‘obviously good’ character. If anything, it’s starting to appear that her ideals and regimes aren’t as foolproof as she thought, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.
Cersei’s loyalty to her family and children makes her human, but it’s also the trait which drives her to operate in abhorrent ways
Cersei Lannister is one of the most interesting characters in Game of Thrones, because her nature swings like a pendulum between doting mother and the most evil bitch on the entire planet. Her loyalty to her family and her children makes her human, but it’s also the trait which drives her to operate in the most abhorrent ways. All she wants is to please her father and further the family, but as she’s a woman, she’s unable to do this. She wants to make sure her children are safe and in the best possible place, but one’s now dead, one’s off in Dorne, and the other one is being kept as far from her counsel as possible, as she’s being blamed by her father for the way Joffrey turned out. Cersei is so conflicting because it’s so difficult to feel sympathy towards her situation.
And the list goes on. Arya is becoming an effective killer, and so what will happen to the little girl we all loved at the beginning of the series? Sansa, who was once so trusting of everyone, is learning the techniques of manipulation from the master, Petyr Baelish. Jaime Lannister seems to be an endearing soul one minute, and next there’s a scene (which bears little resemblance to the books) which causes outrage and uproar. And then there’s my personal favourite, Varys – but I could write about him forever, so I’ll just name drop him. And the list goes on.
More on GoT: Women can play too – why the show isn’t sexist
The other argument, that Game of Thrones is too “persuasive” and that it “manipulates” its fans, seems confusing. It’s an insult to assume that the watchers and readers of the series and the books cannot understand context. The world of Westeros and Essos is quasi-medieval and comes with all the usual tropes which one expects from fantasy. For reasons unknown, it seems that fantasy is always destined to reside in the Middle Ages, and consequently adopts the same (mostly abhorrent) views on class, gender, race, ability and sexuality.
It’s an insult to assume that watchers and readers of Game of Thrones can’t understand context
This is a problem for another time, which affects all fantasy, and not just this particular franchise. But to claim that Game of Thrones manipulates its fanbase to such an extent that it does not allow independent thought is ridiculous. Not every fantasy reader, writer or watcher is a misogynist, racist, homophobic ableist that spits on the working classes (at least, I know I’m not, so there’s one). There are also dragons. I think that alone is enough to make you suspend your disbelief.
To criticise a TV show because it portrays some characters with stronger traits than others seems a little silly, and attacking fans for feeling strongly about the characters they love and discussing the main events of the series with passion seems even sillier. I, for one, think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with grieving for a fictional character. And if you’re not going to name Daenerys Targaryen, and call her “the Khaleesi character” instead, then, well, don’t expect us to take your article too seriously.
More on Game of Thrones: Read our weekly recaps here
All images: HBO