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The Most Dangerous Game (Of Thrones)


 

Some interesting stuff here in this Myles McNutt post about Game of Thrones and the way pre-air reactions from fans – both to the material and to female critics writing negative reviews of the material – may reinforce “gendered” ideas about the fantasy genre and who it appeals to.

As noted in comments, Game of Thrones may become the TV equivalent of Christopher Nolan’s films in terms of the very passionate reaction toward negative reviews. (I liked Inception, but didn’t cotton to The Dark Knight and was really disappointed not to get any angry reactions to my review back in 2008.) Because these are very serious, very ambitious takes on genres that are frequently dismissed as juvenile boy fantasies, fans become very sensitive to the impression that the reviewer is dismissing the genre out of hand or, worse, dismissing them for taking it seriously. A lot of the angry reactions to negative Dark Knight reviews were like this. Fans pushed back against any reviewer who seemed to be unwilling to take it seriously or dismissed it as just a silly comic-book movie.

So Nancy Dewolf Smith of the Wall Street Journal was inevitably, and I suspect, intentionally, going to enrage fans because she phrased her negative review in such a way as to show that she didn’t think this show was worth serious attention: She wrote that it was full of “the familiar favorites of the infantile:, e.g., spurting blood and gore, bastard sons, evil vixens, blond nymphets, quasilesbian action, crude talk among men about their private parts, incest, rough couplings and more random bare breasts than any other contender in the adolescent-boy-action-show contest this month.” All of that is more a description than a dismissal, and some of the things fans write about the show seem to imply the same thing, that the show is going to be cool because it has so much violence and nudity. (Side note: does it seem like with Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, and this show the amount of gratuitous female nudity on HBO has increased? It’s one thing they can do that AMC and other rivals can’t, so I guess it makes sense to play that up.) But fans can say that; when a non-fan describes these things and calls them “infantile,” she’s saying that fans consider the show art but actually it’s just plain trash. Of course fans get enraged; that kind of review is designed to enrage them.

Not that this excuses fans making asses of themselves, but I’m not sure how widespread it really is. There are always some fans who fall into that strangest of categories, the populist snob – people who consider themselves “some terribly marginalized and oppressed minority” for what are essentially popular tastes. But how many of them are there, really? 7 million people have bought books in the Song of Ice and Fire series. All seven million of those people are definitely not storming internet message boards and comments sections. The Dark Knight was a huge worldwide hit, and most of the people who saw it weren’t on the internet berating those who didn’t accept its importance. I don’t know how Game of Thrones will do, but I’m sure there will be a distinction to be made between the people who watch it, as a group, and Some Guy On The Internet Somewhere.


 
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The Most Dangerous Game (Of Thrones)

  1. REad the four existing books and liked them. But I'm constantly befuddled who fans who describle it as "brilliantly written" and "character driven".

  2. REad the four existing books and liked them. But I'm constantly befuddled who fans who describle it as "brilliantly written" and "character driven".

    • The writing isn't great, but the characters are what hold it a step above other genre novels.

  3. The problem is that most people who read fantasy read fantasy almost exclusively.
    So given the options in the genre….

  4. On the question of gratuitous nudity on HBO, maybe the network is going back to where they were in the early to mid 90s when pretty much all of their shows had a heavy amount of nudity. It was only when they started putting out "respectable" fare like the Sopranos and Six Feet Under that it declined (though certainly never disappeared). I suspect the decline in nudity had to do with them trying to appear to be something more than a place to see T&A, whereas now that they have a name as a place for great TV, they can go back to showing some T&A, knowing it's not going to harm the network's image.

    If we're going to talk about nudity, though, we should really mention Tell Me You Love Me, which had more consistent nudity/sexual content than, say, The Tudors. It's also a great example of a show from HBO's post-Sopranos, pre-True Blood period, where they were trying all sorts of innovative stuff and then cancelled everything because it wasn't doing as well as the Sopranos. (If I remember correctly, HBO had renewed TMYLM for a second season, but then changed their minds before production actually started, but I might be mixing it up with another series).

  5. On the question of gratuitous nudity on HBO, maybe the network is going back to where they were in the early to mid 90s when pretty much all of their shows had a heavy amount of nudity. It was only when they started putting out "respectable" fare like the Sopranos and Six Feet Under that it declined (though certainly never disappeared). I suspect the decline in nudity had to do with them trying to appear to be something more than a place to see T&A, whereas now that they have a name as a place for great TV, they can go back to showing some T&A, knowing it's not going to harm the network's image.

    If we're going to talk about nudity, though, we should really mention Tell Me You Love Me, which had more consistent nudity/sexual content than, say, The Tudors. It's also a great example of a show from HBO's post-Sopranos, pre-True Blood period, where they were trying all sorts of innovative stuff and then cancelled everything because it wasn't doing as well as the Sopranos. (If I remember correctly, HBO had renewed TMYLM for a second season, but then changed their minds before production actually started, but I might be mixing it up with another series).

  6. The writing isn't great, but the characters are what hold it a step above other genre novels.

  7. “some of the things fans write about the show seem to imply the same thing, that the show is going to be cool because it has so much violence and nudity”

    Probably, but it is something of a minority view in the fan circles. Certainly, one can distinguish between the emphasis on storyline in Game of Thrones versus what you might see in some of Starz’s more recent offerings. And it is qualitatively different—a fan who likes Martin’s books because he just LOVES sex and violence isn’t really touching upon the more literary qualities of the narrative. Smith’s asinine commentary, on the other hand, attempts to reduce it to those elements.

  8. The point in this matter is that any distinction between "art" and "trash" (or 'entertainment') is arbitrary and superfluous, without any philosophically valid argument to justify it.
    Mrs Dewolf Smith (who, by the way, wrote funny stuff about the Taliban in 1995…) dismisses 'Game of Thrones' because it is genre. She apparently doesn't like genre – at least not this particular one – and has nothing but contempt for those who do.
    The problem is, that Mrs Dewolf Smith has no argument whatsoever at hand as to why a particular genre can be dismissed as trash (as you wrote), while another can not. And this is the case simply because there are no such arguments. Now, everybody is entiteled to their opinion about anything, but when people imply that they somehow know their normative judgements (ie judgements of value) about a novel, play, film or television series to be true, they should be called out – for there are no truths regarding judgements of value, only subjective preferences. And, for example, in my opinion, Mrs Dewolf Smith's preferences suck. Duh.

  9. The point in this matter is that any distinction between "art" and "trash" (or 'entertainment') is arbitrary and superfluous, without any philosophically valid argument to justify it.
    Mrs Dewolf Smith (who, by the way, wrote funny stuff about the Taliban in 1995…) dismisses 'Game of Thrones' because it is genre. She apparently doesn't like genre – at least not this particular one – and has nothing but contempt for those who do.
    The problem is, that Mrs Dewolf Smith has no argument whatsoever at hand as to why a particular genre can be dismissed as trash (as you wrote), while another can not. And this is the case simply because there are no such arguments. Now, everybody is entiteled to their opinion about anything, but when people imply that they somehow know their normative judgements (ie judgements of value) about a novel, play, film or television series to be true, they should be called out – for there are no truths regarding judgements of value, only subjective preferences. And, for example, in my opinion, Mrs Dewolf Smith's preferences suck. Duh.

  10. Excuse me, but why is it when a show has a few scenes with nudity, the nudity is considered "gratuitous"? One might just as well say shows like Game of Thrones feature less gratuitous clothing than other shows. I mean, what is the bloody hang-up people have with seeing nakedness?

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