An Open Letter To George R. R. Martin and the Producers of Game Of Thrones

An Open Letter To George R. R. Martin and the Producers of Game Of Thrones

game-of-thrones-daenerys-stormbornDear George & Co.,

I was wrong.

Back in 2011, when the first season of Game Of Thrones aired, I watched up until the episode where Ned Stark gets speared in the leg during a street fight. (His opponent? That bastion of modesty and ethics, Jaime Lannister). And then I gave up. I stopped watching despite the fact that the storytelling was excellent, the acting superb, the locations first-rate, the camera and tech work all but faultless. I gave up because I was tired of seeing the female characters on the show abused, one after the next. I began to suspect the worst of both you and the show runners.

Call me a pig-headed liberal progressive if you must, but I’d like to see the arts, both commercial and fine, be aspirational, which I realize is a very millennial sort of term, but I like it. I’m with Gene Roddenberry: I want at least some of our creative output to showcase what we could be as a society, not merely depict what we are (i.e., barbarous and brutal). Of course the particular world of A Song Of Ice and Fire and Game Of Thrones demands its share of brutality, but it became my position, following those early episodes, that the show was reveling in the violence rather than merely depicting what was necessary to develop the story. It was my considered opinion that I was once more in the throes of a TV show where female agency was, at best, a limp afterthought.

Flash forward. Four years later, I went back to Game Of Thrones on the advice of a small army of trusted friends, each of which assured me that I am an idiot, and that you (and your story cycle) deserved a second chance.

As a result of listening to these supposed pals, I have suffered unimaginably. I’ve survived the red wedding,latest watched innumerable throats slit, and been blown sky-high with a sparrow. I’ve endured Hardhome –– and worse by far, the pulse-pounding return to Winterfell. I’ve seen a bright, loving little girl burnt at the stake, and I’ve watched the man who is surely the most admirable in the entire story cycle stabbed to death by a boy he mentored.

As if all that isn’t bad enough, my moral compass has been so profoundly damaged by my viewing that I can no longer determine who is worse, Joffrey, Cersei, or Ramsay Bolton. Part of me even thinks Jaqen H’ghar is worth cheering for –– and let’s face it, by any civilized standard, that man’s a freaking maniac.

But.

a_song_of_ice_and_fire_book_collection_box_set_coverDespite all of this –– and despite, too, the awful sacrifice of Hodor, the needless loss of Marcella, and the inexorable transformation of Arya Stark into a heartless, psychotic avenger –– I am grateful for having sat a second time at this sumptuous, rich-to-the-last-drop banquet table.

Indeed, Game Of Thrones has treated me to one of the finest moments ever committed to film, this being Arya Stark’s bursting into laughter when she and the Hound are informed of Lysa Arryn’s death. Surprising, unfettered, honest. What storytelling at its best always strives to be.

I’m sure other fans have their own favorite sequences –– maybe one of Daenerys Stormborn’s many moments of reversal and triumph, or perhaps “a bit with a dog” (read: wolf) –– but in fact, favorite scenes are somewhat beside the point.

The real reason for my apology letter is that I was wrong. And pleased to be so. I thought, based on those opening salvos in Season One, that you, Sir George, together with your esteemed production team, had managed to raise screen misogyny to a whole new level.

But I judged too harshly, and too quickly. The real genius behind your story cycle and the Game Of Thrones TV series is its sure-footed ability to bring the mighty low while elevating the powerless to citadels, honor, and eight hundred foot pyramids. Indeed, this is a tale where so many of the female characters seize control of their lives that I am hard pressed to identify another saga that holds so many excellent, nuanced, and meaty roles for such a plethora of remarkable female actors.

(Nor can I resist this aside: Game Of Thrones proves, week in and week out, just what a number of fine actorsim-sorry-apologies-picture are out there, waiting in the wings for good material. For its casting alone, the show is a marvel to witness.)

So again, I stand corrected. The abuse you heaped on GOT’s women in the early going was all a set-up, the underpinnings of a dramatic structure that I expect will bear study and repeat viewings for the rest of my days.

Thank you for proving me wrong, and I hope I may be forgiven.

I await the fabled seventh season with bated breath and Dickensian expectations.

Sincerely,

Mark Rigney, Appreciative Fan

P.S. – Thanks for giving John O’Neill an Alfie. Well deserved, that. Onward.


Mark Rigney has published In the Wake Of Sister Blue along with three stories in the Black Gate Online Fiction library: ”The Trade,” “The Find,” and “The Keystone.” Tangent called the tales “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics… once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I highly recommend the complete trilogy.”

Away from Black Gate, he is the author of the supernatural quartet, The Skates, Sleeping Bear, Check-Out Time, and Bonesy, all published by Samhain and featuring his semi-dynamic duo of Renner & Quist. His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Lightspeed, Unlikely Story, Betwixt, Black Static, The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, Realms of Fantasy, Witness, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Talebones, Not One Of Us, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and many more. His author’s page at Goodreads can be found here, and his website is markrigney.net.

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Amy Bisson

As for any misogyny in GoT or ASoIaF, the society as a whole is misogynistic, but the main female characters are mostly the ones who refuse to give in to their society’s attempts to undermine them (Arya, Cersei, Brienne, Yara/Asha) or who work within the expectations of their society to find their own power (Catelyn and Sansa).
Also, you really, really should read the books. They are better than the tv show, by far.

NOLAbert

Not upset by the thousands of men who are slaughtered in the ongoing wars over the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms, many of whom are peasants far removed from the elite noble bloodlines of the contenders for the crown including Daenerys Targaryen? Not upset by the systematic torture of Theon Greyjoy? Oh, but the inhumanity of the treatment of women! Yes, it sounds like you’re a liberal progressive.

GreenGestalt

Well, I am surprised by this article in a good way – I’d ordinarily thought it’d be part of the SJW Whine brigade shrieking at the “Misogyny” of the sereies because in a “Midevalist” show – gasp – sometime somewhere in it there’s a woman being used/poorly treated as if they didn’t otherwise do the brutality of such a setting quite well across the board.

For SJW trolls “Midevalist” means it is a modern, idealized version of the middle ages mixed with renissance and the beginnings of steampunk as plot allows. It is a subset of “Fantasy”. The Politically Correct things you are looking for or think should be the only choice -where they jump through a pastel colored fairy world and prance on rainbows and are showered by rainbow unicorn spew and it’s all a positive mass appealing experience – that’s “Saturday Morning Cartoon”. When it’s set in a wild foreign land but not necessarily an actual depiction of said culture it’s an “Arabesque” since in western culture its mostly been used for Arabic style stories such as inspired by the “Arabian Nights” themselves often “Arabesques” of their own, it’s not “Hatred and cultural appropriation”.

Saying the obvious here but SJW’s who’ll troll it from Google searches know nothing but one-sided “Gender Studies” classes their parents chucked their good credit name on thinking their kids had decided to become a psychiatrist versus an artist. They likely have an encyclopediac knowledge of how much “Hate scenes” in most modern and all classic literature from lists compiled by other shriekers, but nothing else about the books.

I haven’t followed GoT that much. Been too busy in RL with work and personal duties and writing my own stuff. What I’ve seen I doubt it’s Misogynistic – just “Non-PC” to the highest level they dare in the mud-stream-media. But like this article mentions, the low going high, how about the Dragon lady – goes from a barbarian king’s toy to a powerful queen commanding dragons. I almost wanted to get back into it after the Whine-brigade started braying, but they are only good at finding mountains of hype in a mole-hill – not worth watching hours and hours of show to find a bodice ripping scene or whatever. Too bad coz I like George Martin and have read lots of his stories over the years, “Sandkings” -original story/graphic novel adaptation – the best – and knew and loved “Hedge Knight” way before GoT.

NOLAbert

Hi Mark,

I understand how it can be hard to care for Theon but at the same time, Arya and Tyrion have done some pretty deplorable things and most people give them a pass. Also, my understanding of the Old Testament is that an “eye for an eye” was actually a limit on punishment. Theon’s actions probably warrant execution, but torture? Is that ever defensible?

I think Martin has ingeniously created many ethically gray areas in a context in which such behavior is more likely to transpire: war.

I also think A Song of Ice and Fire does a great job of embedding class issues in an interesting story. Usually, I find political subtext in fiction (especially fantasy) a bore, but it’s not heavy-handed here. One of my favorite scenes in the books is early on when Daenerys is talking with Ser Jorah Mormont about whether the people will welcome here return to Westeros and he tells her (I’m paraphrasing) that they don’t really care who is king as long as they can feed and shelter themselves and their family.

Phubarrh

I just want to know how Catelyn Stark went from pushing her reluctant husband to take the post of the Hand in the novels, to fearfully begging him to stay home in the TV series.

CMR

I like heroism. Reading or watching a showcase of how awful people can be to one another, for whatever reason, bores me.

Tiberius

I love the reference to the Robert Jordan clause and am one of those adherents. More so because once I am into a series I want to read if end to end, not wait for next book publication. That’s why I patiently bide my time for JV Jones to finish her “Ice” series, even though I have books 1 through 4 lined up on the proverbial starting grid.

@ GreenGestalt – always like to read your take on matters.

Back on topic – um well I only have unread Fire & Ice vol 1 (see above clause) and have literally watched episode 1 of season 1. My wife announced it was smut and refused to continue we’ll I need to find some time when She who Commands the TV is away so I can try get to grips with series. It does look and sound promising.

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