Needless Breasts and Stupid Deaths: The Problem With Game of Thrones

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Jacob Heard is not a fan of D&D.


Game of Thrones is a smash hit. It’s one of the most popular television shows of the modern era, has amassed a huge following and is currently in it's 6th season. And I don’t like it.

Now that’s not to say I don’t like the ideas Game of Thrones has, and that’s not to say I don’t like the new take on the fantasy genre. What I don’t like about Game of Thrones is the stupid moves David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (D&D) have made in butchering a much loved fantasy book series that completely broke the mould in what constitutes great fantasy literature.

Flashback quickly to 1991, in which George R. R. Martin begins work on his epic book series A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF). First published in 1996, Martin’s epic series is set in the land of Westeros, a fantasy land in which elves, goblins and other such common tropes of the genre are nowhere to be found. In its place however is a land filled with people: people with drives, desires, motivations, goals, aspirations… people who don’t feel like characters in a novel, but people who feel like real people. Over the course of a decade, Martin grafted beings of sheer brilliance, each different from the other. It's the characters that drive the narrative, the world of Westeros being more centered on political drama and family feuds than a bunch of quirky fictional beings trying to defeat the big bad villain.


The series was and is, understandably, a hit among readers worldwide. To date, more than 15 million Ice and Fire books have been sold worldwide and, with Winds of Winter coming out at some point in the future, that number is only looking to increase. But, with success, comes the pressure of bringing the series to wider audiences. Martin himself had stated in numerous interviews that the books were far too large (trust me, I've read them, he's not lying) to be adapted into a film. It made far more sense, from his viewpoint, to give the licence to television studio HBO and, by extension, D&D. He said that within the episodic structure of a television show, the driving force of the novels could be explored. It would be far easier for viewers to keep up with the multitudes of characters, plot twists, development scenes and exposition within a TV show than in a series of films; I mean, just look at the Lord Of The Rings trilogy for evidence of that being the case. HBO, too, provided a great environment for the novels; a home for violence and sex-scenes, Martin selected a studio that would not shy away from the vulgarity of his novels - a smart choice on his part.

However, in choosing HBO, Martin has given control to two idiots who are perfectly willing to forget the reason he selected a television series format in the first place. All of the things that made ASOIAF a great book series was stripped to the bare bone; many characters from the book are simply erased all together, and even the ones that aren't are made one dimensional compared to their book counterparts in an attempt to appeal to wider audiences. The phrase "wider audiences" essentially means the intellectually challenged people D&D assume watch this show; it seems that Benioff and Weiss think that Game of Thrones is watched by people who have an inability to remember characters or understand complex ideas for whatever reason. Stannis Baratheon, one of my favourite characters in the whole book series, is a notable recipient of this cruel treatment by the hands of the showrunners; a character with many inner conflicts and questionable motives that remains, all in all, a decent man in the books is transformed into a malicious zealot who'll do anything to get his grubby mitts on the Iron Throne. Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister, too, are given this treatment. Daenerys is, at the end of the day, a whiny bitch in the books. She's a teenager plunged into a position of power that's far too complicated for her, and she understandably freaks out a little bit. Tyrion Lannister spends the majority of the novels getting over the loss of the only woman who ever loved him, going so far as to kill his own father when he doesn't give him information as to her whereabouts. Underlying subplots like these are simply stripped away from their show counterparts; they become whitewashed good guys simply because they're fan favourites, ruining core features of what made them great to begin with. The whole point of the novels is that heroes and villains don't exist, not really. The lines are so blurred that you're never really sure if the characters you like are heroes or villains... but D&D appear to have forgotten this concept in it's entirety.

It's not just characters that get stripped down to their bare minimum; subplots are taken out because the viewers are "not smart enough to keep up with all the madness". For those of you that don't read the books, there's this really badass subplot in book four in which Theon's uncles (Euron Crowseye and Victarion Greyjoy) show up claiming that they're the rightful ruler of the Iron Islands and thereby King of Westeros. It all gets a bit crazy, and the mad one-eyed pirate uncle wins the day. This sets up a Greyjoy rebellion 2.0 in which they go around raiding and generally being a headache for Cersei back in King's Landing. It's great stuff, giving depth to a house who's development has relied solely on Theon up until this point. But D&D removed it. Why? I honestly have no fucking idea. Catelyn Stark's resurrection after the events of the Red Wedding at the hands of Thoros of Myr and, in fact, the entirety of the Brotherhood Without Banners (perhaps one of the most badass groups in fantasy literature) have both been scrapped altogether. Dorne, too, is on the receiving end of this treatment. In last week's episode, Doran Martell is dead because the Sand Snakes killed him for no reason whatsoever and D&D are no doubt sitting in their big comfy chairs grinning as viewers worldwide are shocked by this turn of events. Which brings me on to the next issue: shock value is the driving force behind the show.


No one was expecting the Red Wedding right? Well... apart from the multitudes of fans that read the books. And they were understandably a bit annoyed after it happened on the show. Because D&D killed off Robb Stark's wife. Which doesn't happen in the books. Because she's likely going to be a major plot point later on in the series. D&D weren't happy with that however; stabbing a pregnant woman multiple times in the stomach is shocking television. Shocking television = people talking about the show = more people watching the show = more money. Because that's what Game of Thrones is all about; it's about making filthy wads of money that D&D can swim in and laugh as they kill off swathes of characters that aren't given any development, or, are given development and are then killed off pointlessly before they can reach their full potential.

Oh, don't think I've forgotten you George RR Martin. Because for a man who says he cares about his book series, that they're the most important thing in his life etc etc, you seem to have no problem watching a pair of idiots ruin everything that made the series great to begin with. And I know why that is: it's because every time a stupid decision is made, you get a shitload of money as people tune in to see what "shocking" moment happens next. It's garbage. I'm sorry, but it is. Game of Thrones is junk TV. It deserves critical acclaim for set and costume design, some of the acting (not all of it, I'm looking at you Emilia Clarke who was selected for the role because the other actress up for it refused to do the naked scenes. I'm not kidding, look it up.) and maybe some of the soundtrack. But not for best story, no way on earth for best story. If you want to see a TV show with good story, go and watch Breaking Bad and then come back and try to tell me that Game of Thrones is a better written show. Because it isn't.

More to the point, if you want something with a good story, go and read the books. Understand the reasons why I get so angry when people rave about a show that's butchering a series that got me back into reading again. Understand the reasons why I get so angry every time a person talks about a show that took a series that was redefining the fantasy genre and made into "that show about tits and dragons." You won't be disappointed if you read the books; you will be disappointed if you keep watching the show. Because, in the words of a good friend of mine "it's completely pointless indulgent crap, but Maisie Williams is good."

Jacob Heard is a long-time Walking Dead enthusiast with a bizarre idea of what constitutes a 'good character'. He tends to spend most of his time crying into his pillow over Beth Greene's death that happened two years ago.

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