A Dialogue of Ice and Fire. My Experiences watching Game of Thrones. Part 2Posted: October 17, 2013
Okay so this is the continuation of an email based interview my friend is having with me about my experiences and feelings about watching the HBO show “Game of Thrones”
Q: You mentioned that you streamed the show online. Could you tell me about your experience of doing that and why you chose this method?
A: Well firstly I don’t have a TV, this makes watching anything at time of broadcast difficult, I’ve also spent the last few years with shaky job security, so paying the monthly fee to have HBO on demand would be impractical as well as irresponsibly decadent. Weirdly in a lot of cases free streaming is a lot more efficient than the kind of streaming you pay for. Not that is directly related to Game of Thrones, but at the moment I’m Downloading episodes of Star Trek; The Next Generation, because Netflix is actually slower than getting it from an illegal sight. But yeah I think it’s interesting that even though it’s been nearly a decade since corporate entities first started monetizing downloading it’s still less efficient than some teenagers in a basement.
Q: What did you think of the production of the show (things like music, sets, costumes, hair and makeup etc)?
A: As I said before my expectations of the show were relatively low, coloured as they were by the pretty bad stuff I’d enjoyed earlier in the decade. My assumptions therefore were that this was going to be lazily cobbled together medievalish stuff…. Like dudes in “tunics” made of nylon on cardboard sets. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the real life cities they used for settings and the actual chainmail etc etc. I weirdly liked that they chose some of the darkest people to play the three blondest characters in the series, this feels like the producers were almost daring to see how well they could conceal hair and eye colour. A thing I feel pedantic about is the hand of the king’s Broach which isn’t supposed to be a broach; it’s supposed to be a necklace. On the surface there is no difference that matters but there are several points during the books where the fact that it’s a necklace is a really meaningful motif. It’s a thing that annoys me because there isn’t any reason other than cutting out some fun layers to the plot. I do however appreciate that the vibrant colours that all the soldiers are supposed to wear crossed over into the T.V. show. I like the Iron throne even though it is actually a lot smaller than it is in the books. (It’s supposed to about as half as tall as the hall, requiring steps to get to the actual seat) The CGI is pretty spot on which I guess in 2013 says more about the amount of money HBO was prepared to spend on it than anything else but it’s still nice to see some Fantasy having some well-done graphics for a change.
I also enjoy that there seems to have been an effort to make Westeros seem, not just large, but also epic; it’s really just the amount of people they use as extras and the fact that they use places like Moroccan Castles as locations that makes the whole thing seem awesome.
Q: You discussed the actress who plays Shae. I wondered if you had any thoughts about the other actors in the show?
A: Okay off the bat It’s necessary to talk about accents of Westeros; I think it’s interesting that despite being feudal aristocracy the Starks use a northern accent even though It’s unlikely that the lords of the manor would talk anything like the working classes they ruled over. I get that it can be argued that it’s a motif separating the Starks out from the rest of the national elite, but that only really makes sense if it’s consistent; Why do only the two eldest children share Ned’s accent, whilst the four youngest talk like southeren lordlings? Surely it would make more sense to have all the Starks using an aristocratic accent – we know Sean can pull one off – as one of the themes I feel are really prevalent in A song of ice and fire is the pointlessness of poor men dying for the ambitions of the rich. This is something which is insanely undermined by making the new king in the north use a working class accent which isn’t even what Richard Madden actually sounds like.
Whilst I’m on the mismatching of Accents it makes literally no sense that Robert and Stannis Baratheon have Northern Accents firstly they come from the Stormlands which are well to the south of Kings landing so having the same accent as Northmen seems kind of silly. It also doesn’t make sense because their youngest brother, Renly, has a southern accent. I’m not sure what this is supposed to convey, the only explanation i can come up with is that a northern accent would be too manly for the gay character; something which is alluded too in the books in a really satisfyingly squeamish way on the part of the characters (you know like medieval Europeans would be about queer people) and ruined in the Show by first just showing you that Renly is sleeping with Ser Loras and then presenting us with a lot of heavy handed discusstions about the ways in which Renly was a “Degenerate“.
More specifically; Peter Dinklage is far too good looking to play Tyrion. The point of Tyrion is that he’s supposed to be super ugly, by being just a normal looking person who happens to have Achondroplasia, makes all the comments about him being grotesque and malformed just seem like people have a problem with short people. As an extra weird thing Tyrion’s “Scar” is supposed to tear half his nose off making him even uglier and an even more terrible prospect for Sansa; The fact that they don’t do this to Tryion’s face just makes the whole thing confusing which is irritating because other than how he looks Dinklage is really good at playing Tryion. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is really good at playing Jamie Lannister as he’s really got the whole teasing out of the inherent sincerity and goodness of Jamie slowly over three series. He’s also exactly the kind of far too good looking Nordic type who should play Jamie; I actually think he’s tied with Gwendoline Christie for the most appropriately cast actor in the series.
The Show has a weird relationship with people of colour with very few – If any – positive aspects. Firstly all the black people in the books are either taken out completely or replaced by a white character; probably the most glaring example of this is Jalabhar Xho, who is part of the court at King’s Landing and plays various minor rolls throughout the story. It’s glaring because it would be incredibly be easy to have him in the Show and would require maybe two minutes of dialogue explaining his status as an exile prince. The worst example of this is the fact that the character of Alayaya is replaced by that of Ros; a character I – as previously mentioned – genuinely hate; she only really serves to show some pubes, have some girl-on-girl action so we don’t get bored when Petyr Baelish is explaining his motivations and replace one of the few black characters in this series by being mistaken for Shae and held hostage. I think the whitewashing of Alayaya is particularly terrible because she’s one of the early vehicles for us learning about the Summer Islands and it’s culture – Which is a society made up of black people to the south of Westeros. In a genre so devoid of characters who aren’t northern European looking men, it’s a pretty unpleasant thing to effectively cut out almost all mention to the one group of non-white people in this world who aren’t slavers or primitive. Also the two black actors in the T.V. show (Lucian Msamati and Nonso Anozie) portray men who are actually supposed to have an eastern Mediterranean look, not that that annoys me a lot, it’s just that it contributes to the irritating trend in fantasy that all non-white skin is more or less interchangeable.
Casting is messed up is all I’m sayin’
Q: What impact do you think Game of Thrones being made by HBO had on the show?
A: I’m in two minds. There is the obvious fact that the earthy language, sex and violence wouldn’t fly on channels that aren’t pay per view, lending the producers a level of creative freedom that doesn’t exist on network channels. However HBO is an irritatingly hard thing to legally access which has contributed to Game of Thrones being the most pirated show in 2013. I also think the format of HBO is somewhat constricting as each book in A Song of Ice and Fire is around a thousand pages long whereas HBO generally produces thirteen episodes a season at one hour each, this means that not only is the plot simplified it’s also badly organised as sometimes it’s necessary to focus on a small cluster of characters verses some others; something that doesn’t lend itself to one hour units. Since watching the fourth series of “Arrested Development” I think the show would have been significantly improved if it had been made for Netflix or something similar, as the format allows for things like episodes that wouldn’t be enslaved to schedules and could be as long or short as they need, diving into a lot more back stories etc etc, something I sort of hope is the future for TV.