"Worst creepshow EVER!"
It hit me recently that George R. R. Martin, the super dweeby old man behind the Game of Thrones franchise is basically Comic Book Guy (Jeff Albertson) from The Simpsons. And before any fanboys or girls out there get all outraged on me, I've read the series, I'm not taking this position as some kind of an outsider. I've been to Westeros, I know a smidgen of Dothraki, I'm HIP, people. And I've come to realize that GRR Martin is a skeevy old perv with a penchant for uber-gruesome violence. Basically your awkward loner on a fast track to Saw-ville. It's really only a quirk of luck that his books have been turned into a glossy, high-production cable series with feature film production values and tons and tons of HBO money being thrown at it to keep it that way. Because I gotta say, from what I've read in those books, it could just as easily have become The Medieval Times meets Freddy Kruger. Come to think of it GRR Martin himself was probably kind of Freddy Kruger-y growing up. He was the guy with the bad skin, overweight, didn't bathe all that frequently and tried to talk to girls by staring at them in homeroom. He was also brilliant, and spent his free time weaving fantastical worlds from his overstimulated imagination. Worlds where young women were either evil queens or ripe, innocent girl/women needing to be rescued. Or lush whores who lived only to service the brilliant but misshapen and misunderstood dwarf. In pictures of a young GRR Martin we see the guy who spent all the money he earned to attend fantasy and sci-fi conventions where he could finally, FINALLY confab with the other awkward folks with big imaginations who also wove stories and worlds alone in their bedrooms. Hell, at least they found each other; good on them!
I watched Game of Thrones on HBO for the first season and then I gave up. The stories rely far too much on gory, punishing violence that was bad enough on the written page but, knowing myself, would have been intolerable to view. Because I am someone who can't shake violent imagery; it keeps swimming back up in my mind like poor Big Pussy in The Sopranos. All those axes and arrows and arrows tipped with the Westeros version of napalm, and the hacking and hanging and swords chopping off heads. Feh! So I quit watching after Season One. But now, I read that they've aired the episode that everyone is calling The Red Wedding and reviewers and recappers alike are dubbing it likely to be the most violent, gruesome action to ever be shown on TV. I remember reading that passage in the book and thinking that I would NEVER want to see that brought to dramatic life. And boy, for the folks who had not read the novel before last Sunday's episode, I'm guessing there isn't enough Xanax on the planet to scour that shit out of your head. Which brings me back to GRR Martin as The Comic Book Guy; WHO THINKS UP SHIT LIKE THAT? Lonely weirdos, that's who. Weirdos who have had years of weirdoness to hone their spite for those they perceive to be their tormentors into a razor sharpness that spills out onto the page as something like the scene of The Red Wedding. And for those of you still reading (and watching) who haven't read the novels, I gotta tell you..it gets worse, folks. Way worse.
So where am I going with this? Well, I guess my point in putting these thoughts down is that sometimes we crave escaping into an imaginary world where the words, the deeds, the very physical reality bears no resemblance to our known life. I can dig that, I really can. But the problem I have is that shows like Game of Thrones, I think, kind of desensitize us to violence exactly BECAUSE it is happening in a world of conjured, hyperactive imagination. I'm not such a curmudgeon that I can't accept some garden variety violence on screen in service to a story or the progression of a character. I think The Sopranos is the best television show that's ever aired. But the whole torture porn vibe of Game of Thrones is actually masquerading as high-brow, literary episodic television and I just can't buy it. The Wire had violence, but the show was a brilliant, varied landscape, each season focused on a different element of a single American city (Baltimore), that when viewed as whole cloth at the end of the series, had given us the story of an American urban world. Each facet of that world was examined and then fitted in, like a puzzle piece, to it's rightful place in the picture. And it was done with such brilliance and pathos and guts and overarching sense of integrity, that I often found myself wholly lost in the narrative of the episode, or the season. And there was violence; it was a story taking place in a ghettoized American urban landscape, so, yeah, there was plenty of violence. But it didn't have that gratuitous focus on "how gory can we make these before the network says 'too much'" It wasn't violence for the sake of violence, but rather as an organic element supporting the wider narrative construct.
I'm sure that Game of Thrones will go on to win more Emmys and/or Golden Globes and I believe that parts of it do deserve the accolades that are coming it's way. Certainly from what I saw in Season One, Peter Dinklage absolutely earned his Best Actor Emmy. But as stories go, Game of Thrones is kind of a Big Mac. There's lots of stuff going on to distract us from the core truth that it's just alot of gloppy mess about a whole lot of nothing.
Hey, I know that this post was outside of the norm for The ABIB but sometimes I gotta get all serious on you just to see if anyone's actually paying attention. Oh, and one more thing:
Worst TV show review, EVER!