Quasi-Medieval, Dragon-Ridden Fantasy Crap Art thou ready to watch Game of Thrones? By Troy Patterson
|Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2011, at 9:38 PM ET
(My Comments Following the Text)
What the F? Where the hell is the FedEx? The reviewer charges at the steeply overflowing mail bin, where the screeners and everything make a tall heap. The mail pile is a mystical tower from whence a series of UPS logos glint like the shields of a sun-addled phalanx and DHL bubble-bags cushion deep mysteries—a perilous structure built unthinkingly by the PR girls of the noble publishing houses of Midtownne (creatures more enchanting than the maidens of Ephesus), who despatch little brown envelopes and big random invitations and such. Its packages sigh with Time Sensitive Material. Where the F is the FedEx with the new TV show?
The edges of the envelopes rise helically, like the worn stone of a spiral staircase curving up to a tuffet-strewn turret. But here the steps lead only to the widow's walk of an L.L. Bean catalog, and trembling frustration. O HBO ...
Hey, here we go. Game of Thrones (Sundays at 9 p.m. ET) is snug as a hug in a drawer of the entertainment center. The backs of the discs flash like clean vorpal blades. It appears only that the jewel boxes, each splintered at a corner, have suffered in express transit. This makes sense: Owing to the natural laws of hype, the culture has chucked the show at us with unholy force. Every TV season requires that one show be voted Most Anticipated, and this spring we in the entertainment press, goaded by discerning geeks, are supposed to try to get stoked for this one. It's HBO's first big fantasy series, according to some, though perhaps not Carrie and Aidan.
Thus does the reviewer feel daunted to face an old nemesis at a late hour. You see, Game of Thrones—adapted by David Benioff and Dan Weiss from a series of novels by George R.R. Martin—is quasi-medieval, dragon-ridden fantasy crap. That's not a comment on its quality but a definition of its type. The reviewer happens to have an anti-weakness for that general sensibility and those armor-clad generic trappings. Hey, his loss, he knows, but, for instance, he cannot trust his taste to tell him if the Harry Potter books are written well. An undergraduate attempt to learn to read Middle English led to naps in multiple Chaucer seminars. He recalls the emotional pain he suffered one lunch period back in the Reagan Era—the pain of wasting the time experimenting with icosahedral dice. Once, bowing to peer pressure, he lyingly implied that he thought Peter Jackson's adaptation of Lord of the Rings to be in the same league as Lawrence of Arabia, when the honest answer was, "I don't care." Many, many years ago, before escaping the provinces, he was horribly unchivalrous in canceling a date at the last minute. Word was going around that the lady in question made like a serving wench at many a Renaissance Festival, and he called off the plans for their Olive Garden rendezvous. Sorry.
The quest is to complete a six-hour marathon of Game of Thrones—to stay conscious through a clear majority of the first six parts of a 10-episode season. It does not help matters that the series—where the meaty head of a drunken king lies uneasy, where plotters are overplotting and courtiers go a-courting in mutters—proceeds in a style that bears all the most punishing hallmarks of close fidelity to its literary source. There are unscalable slabs of expositionistic dialogue clogging the forward movement of the story. Sonorous and/or schmaltzy talk substitutes for the revelation of character through action. There is the sense of intricacy having been confused with intrigue and of a story transferred all too faithfully from its source and thus not transformed to meet the demands of the screen. For long stretches of each episode, the reviewer hangs on to consciousness only by trancing out on the strings of digits of the anti-counterfeiting watermark at the top of the screen, hanging on to the serifs by the nails.
The sex and violence also add interest, the former being unhealthily kinky, the latter abusively deft, both conducted with adolescent passion. No matter how dull the body of each installment of Game of Thrones, it pulls itself together for a meticulously choreographed finish that builds its own discrete tension. The episode endings create anticipation like small marvels of cliff-hanging that erase the torpor of foregoing knightly knonsense from memory and get you hankering for the next look at the opening title sequence (which is a little masterpiece of welcoming design). Many of these cliffhangers depend on the infliction of imaginative horrors on women, precocious children, and four-legged animals, often with quite a light touch.
The sex, less subtle, includes brother-sister incest, omnipresent masochism, and sundry other curiosities, with Peter Dinklage starring as a dwarf whoremonger and the many fetishistic displays of fur harkening back to the dark ages of pay cable, the late nights of Howling II and Clan of the Cave Bear. One scene, luxuriantly offensive, involves what is either a gladiatorial rape tournament or a Jersey Shore homage. At points, the soundtrack departs from its strongest mode—cool semi-serialism, a hybrid of Milton Babbitt and Hey, is that my phone?—and the presence of dusky tribal drums signal that people are doing it doggie style. I was just making a note that a nubile royal—whose goofy name I will not risk misspelling and whose nipples are destined for immortality—is shot to appear to be really a bit young when the girl got to talking with a handmaiden who mentions that she, the handmaiden, began training for her erotic career at the age of 9, but took three years to learn the art. Will it take what's-her-name three years to gain the same knowledge? "No," is the lusty promise, and soon we see it kept. Good for her. Too bad for HBO. "Three years"? Could have been a spinoff.
I don't think this journalist actually said much in the text of this article except that he doesn't like fantasy, and that he is close-mindedly afraid of what other people might think of his sexual partners. Most of the sentences in the article are vague attempts at humor, I suppose. He might be saying at the end of the article that he does not like non-American, non-20th century sexual practices being mentioned in books or movies, but he may just be mentioning the inclusion of said practices because he didn't know how to finish up- the world will never know. The confusion probably stems from the fact that he's not a very good writer, and that his thoughts don't seem to be very comprehensive. He admits that he slept through Chaucer, so I think it's not too unlikely that he slept through English 101 as well...the class where they show college students how an essay or article should be written in order to connect with the reader and put forth a comprehensive idea or argument. You will find neither connection nor comprehension here. There is no idea or argument in the entry; just a below average writer shooting out some random thoughts in order to get a very small pay check. Clearly this writer's editor was overworked or extremely slack in order to have assigned this article to someone so inadequate for the task.
Troy does actually provide a little bit of content in the article, between admitting his inadequacies as a writer (as well as with the understanding of the opposite sex and sexuality in general) and providing poorly written humor. This last is in the form of quasi-fantasy writing about UPS and the CDs he received; these were presumably vomitted onto the page in order to reach word-count requirements. Unfortunately, that content consists mostly of lies based on assumptions about ALL viewers/reviewers and readers on the planet- assumptions which most likely stem from his own individual tastes. Most of us don't think any episode of Game of Thrones is dull. It's the only series on any channel that is interesting enough to me that I actually watch it, for instance. Neither do most people agree that the mere act of being a fantasy story, having dragons in in the story, or being "armor-clad" makes a story generic. Fantasy stories have become incredibly diverse, dragons are a universal archetype in the consciousness of mankind, and people wore armor in the history of our past- I can't see why literature would censor that setting just because one metrosexual doesn't think it's cool. One could likewise say that stories set in modern times are generic because they all have modern clothes and technology or because they all involve other modern universal archetypes. He also seems to believe that the wearing of fur is fetishistic, prompting speculation that he slept through history 101 as well, or is Freudishly preoccupied with sex. When he states that "One scene, luxuriantly offensive, involves what is either a gladiatorial rape tournament or a Jersey Shore homage" I am not sure what point he is trying to make; a gladiatorial rape tournament would be a pretty shocking thing to watch a dramatization of, and I don't think it's ever been dramatized before....so maybe he's saying the scene is highly original? Jersey Shore is a reality show, so maybe he's saying that the scene is realistic?
Dunno. But Slate will need to higher some journalists one day if they want to survive as a periodical.
What a shock it will be to people with a hatred of fantasy to have to review, in the future, stories which READ like fantasy but are actually better fitted in the "Historic Fiction" or "Prehistoric Fiction" genres! I wonder if he will then designate those two genres into the "kiddie stuff" compartment along with the science fiction and fantasy genres that he's already placed there?