A tale well told
This guest post was written by our very own Kim!
Ethan writes eloquently of why he finds Game of Thrones so nihilistic.
Allow me to enlighten you as to why he’s wrong
Ethan suffers under a misapprehension, common in our current storytelling regime, that Good must Triumph. Oh, we’ve all seen it, the Hero overcoming the Villain, be it Batman or Superman or John Wayne or even Dr. Who or Captain Picard. The Hero wins, sometimes at great cost, sometimes with setbacks, but the hero Always Wins.
There are other styles of storytelling, however. The Vikings told tales where their greatest heroes always Died Fighting Against Impossible Odds. That was how you knew they were heroes. Not that they weren’t capable of performing miracles… But, just as importantly, heroes didn’t die in their beds at the age of eighty. They Died Well, which meant crushed under a pile of their fallen foes.
Martin’s not telling those tales, though — as sure as I am that he’s read them.
No, his style is a bit different. What makes a Hero, in his tale? A man who lives well, regardless of how he dies. Ned Stark has a horrid death, but he lived his code — however foolish and foolhardy it was. And you see Ned’s harsh but fair upbringing reflected in his children.
Martin does this for a reason, of course. There’s nothing to keep you on the edge of your seat like the thrill that “Anyone Can Die.” But dying, in Martin’s tales, is never the Point. The point is how you lived, how you changed the people around you.
Finally, this isn’t a show about justice. Not really. It’s a show about retribution and unseen perspectives. Everyone’s a hero in their own tale, even Joffrey and the Boltons (as much as the reader shies away from actually believing it.) Martin’s books have great lessons to teach us, but they certainly hew more to the “Think then Act” school than the “Right makes Might” school (or, even, the “Might makes Right” school — that also isn’t his tale, his focus dwells, nearly to a fault, on the littlest and the meekest).
Martin writes of a horrible world — yet its no less horrible than the world that surrounds us. It’s a bit refreshing, I must confess, to see a story told with numbers and figures, where Brienne isn’t a frail supermodel, but a stout and strong woman capable of wearing armor. But the price for realism, in so far as a world with dragons may claim the title at all, is the writer’s stout refusal
to warp the rules to save the story.
The story’s pure pulp and that’s why we watch it — to be white-knuckled on the edge of our seat, to find which twists and turns come next.