Martin–as in George R.R.

M is for Martin

M is for Martin

Before I even begin, I just want to say that I have not finished reading the books (I am in the middle of A Storm of Swords), nor have I seen any of the new episodes of Season 4 on HBO. So no spoilers, please.

Okay! Ready? Game of Thrones.

It’s no lie that I’m pretty much in love with this series. So as soon as I saw that I had the letter ‘M’ for our A-Z Challenge, I immediately knew I was going to do a post about the creator, George R.R. Martin. It was like, destiny.

As much some people complain about the many, many characters in the series, I actually quite like it. The world is large and lush with details as it is, and the story that Martin is telling can’t be summed up with just a few characters. If he had left out even half of the voices that he has in his novels, there’s a good possibility that we wouldn’t even be able to follow the politics of the story. Political war like the one in A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t created in a vacuum–there are many, many people that contributed to its creation.

Having said that, there are a lot of people. It can get a bit confusing sometimes on who’s who–especially when characters are only mentioned, and not actually speaking or present themselves. In that way, I’m glad that I watched the HBO series first, as it helped me put faces to names before I even started reading.

There are a couple of downsides to Game of Thrones, though. First, the books are loooong. I feel like I’m reading about three or four books for every one that I manage to close. And not only are they long, the series isn’t even complete yet–with no firm date on the horizon. I suppose Mr. Martin is having too much fun filming the show than writing. (Although that is complete speculation, and I have no way of knowing if that is true or not. Either way, I can’t really blame him. I know would be having a blast filming my story for HBO, and we’re probably lucky that Winds of Winter is coming out at all.)

The other thing that is problematic in the series is the grotesque overabundance of rape. It seems like every single page has a reference to it. And if it isn’t wartime plunder and rape, than its their barbaric marriage practice of the “bedding.” I was completely appalled in the “Red Wedding” chapter from Catelyn’s point of view–and not for the death that happens at the end, but at the beginning with Edmure’s wedding to Walder Frey’s daughter (or was that granddaughter?) The fact that the girl was terrified, that they carried her out of the feast hall, stripping her clothes as they went–even the raunchy jokes they were making about her were nearly too much for me to handle.

And that argument that “it’s just historical accuracy” is starting to wear thin. It’s a story that features what basically amounts to zombies and dragons–how historically accurate is that? Also, do we know, for a fact, that this is how they treated every marriage in “ye olden times”? And what country and era are you even trying to emulate?

Basically, I find it all unnecessary.

Having said that, though, there are a few things that give me hope. It’s subtle, but it’s there. There’s a real connection to men being monsters and doing monstrous things–we see it most clearly in the contrast between Joffrey and Tyrion. And we see it with the hideous, horrible things that men inflict upon each other–not just in wartime but just in general.

And then we have Daenerys Targaryen, and her epically delivered line (both in the show and in the book) “Valar morghulis.  All men must die–but we are not men.” She says it to the slave girl she had just freed. She says it, basically, to all the slaves she had just freed–but a part of it, I think, is addressed to all the women. The women in A Song of Ice and Fire are essentially all slaves themselves. And Daenerys seems determined to free them all.

It makes me wonder if all this pain and degradation is just set up so the Mother of Dragons can sweep in cleanse the world of Westerosof its monsters.

I have to admit, that’d be a pretty cool story.

– Eris


13 thoughts on “Martin–as in George R.R.

  1. Stephanie Scott says:

    I share your same love/hate for GoT (TV show, have not read the books). The historical accuracy argument is moot–these books are fantasy. It’s rather sad that anyone makes a historical argument for that; Westeros is not real, none of these characters are real or based on real. The author borrows elements from both fantasy and history, but this is not a historical series. There is a huge difference.

    Meaning the author can choose to have a society that does not use rape as a weapon against women. He has chosen to do this, and while it can provide context for a demoralized society, you are right that it is problematic. The show also devalues women unnecessarily by stripping down women in scenes where men talk at length, so viewers have “eye candy.” Never mind many of us viewers are women, and never mind the story and characters hold up without treating women like sex objects outside of the story.

    It’s a conflict for me because the show is well cast, wonderfully written, and features complex female characters. And yet there are threads that constantly remind us women that we are either weak or can be made weak through sexual exploitation or violence. I try to talk about this as much as I can because the answer isn’t “shun Game of Thrones” it’s more to help people see what and why these are issues and how they affect real women and girls.

    • Exactly. And to bastardize a quote from Anita Sarkeesian, “We can enjoy a piece of media while still discussing its problematic areas.” Liking something doesn’t make it perfect, doesn’t make its issues LESS of an issue. And I am the first to say that I adore Game of Thrones. I think it’s great. It just has this really, insidious undertone that I have a major problem with.

      And the TV show is very bad with the “eye candy” moments. They added in female characters that aren’t present at all in the books–which is amazing. That bad thing is that nearly all of them are prostitutes, and pretty much amount only to an animate prop for the male characters to move and talk around. It’s sad.

  2. Mian says:

    Ukraine, actually — that’s where he’s pulling the “stripped naked by partygoers.” But mostly by peasants (meaning this would be done with your Dad, Mom, and cousins watching and helping).

    I am willing to suffer through a bit of fictional degradation, in order to see my favorite shows get finished. (unlike poor, mourned Carnivale, which apparently didn’t have enough boobs).

    Agree with other poster. These are real issues for real life girls and boys. Bringing them to light in a fantasy is both good writing, and a way for us to approach and scream against the real world without having to discuss clitoridectomies.

    • I did not know that about Ukraine–thanks! Still, Martin chose to take this particular tradition and give it to his characters’ culture. He didn’t have to. And the fact that he intentionally chose to do so is an issue in and of itself.

      And I think we should be talking about the real world issues more. Because the more that media accuses this behavior, the more this behavior is reinforced IN the real world. It’s just making the problem worse.

      That being said, I still love Game of Thrones. I still like the characters and like the world. I just don’t like it’s misogynistic and rape culture attitudes about everything. I find them unnecessary and worse, truly harmful.

  3. that is the problem I think with it being filmed – I am half way through the series now – and just finished series one of the TV show – prefer the books for the action and politics, but there’s no doubt the scenery is great in visual – can do without all the graphic sex – but then I’m an old lady and we didn’t do it in public!!!:)

    I was loath to read Martin as I have been reading Tolkein since it was published back in 60s – but so glad I succumbed it is a brilliantly evolved fantasy world

    • I’m glad you gave Martin a chance! He really is a great writer. 🙂 And seeing the translation (as in from one form of media to another, not from language to language) from book to film is always interesting to me, as books are cerebral while film is visual. Some of the subtleties of the book have to now be blown up, almost to melodramatic proportions. Occasionally it is to a detriment–like all the brothel scenes. But mostly I think the show does a decent job of capturing the spirit and essence of the story.

  4. I have not seen the series, but after reading you posting I feel like I have plenty of information t make a decision on reading the books and/or watching the series. Thank you for a thorough review.

    • You’re welcome! 😀 I hope I didn’t sway you away from the show and/or books, as I do think they both are excellent and well worth the time it takes to enjoy them. If you do decide to read the books or watch the show, I hope you like them.

  5. I feel like I have been completely educated in the pros and cons of this book series. Now I must decide whether to read it or not?? Thanks for a great post.

    • Like I said to the previous commenter, I hope I didn’t sway you too far away from them. I really do think they’re good–they just have some problematic issues that I think we, as a community and as fans, should discuss.

      And if you’re on the fence about reading the series or watching the show first, I have some advice. If you’re already a fan of high fantasy, I would say read the books. If you’re not usually a reader of high fantasy, then start with the show, as it will help put faces to the plethora of characters present. I found that very helpful.

      If you do decide to read/watch them, I hope you like it! 😀

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