“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

22 May 2015

Game of Thrones: The Break Up

Hi ladies and gentlemen.

Look, I get it. I really do. You're going through a tough time right now, and sometimes tough times call for tough love. Tough love is one of the things my nearest and dearest rely on me to deliver, and that is probably why so many of you have asked me to respond to this heartbreak.

You're sad, and you're mad, and you don't really know how to move forward. Or whether you ought to run backwards. We've all been there. Sometimes, relationships end in terrible, heart-wrenching ways. It's so hard to be disappointed in the people that we love.

I am only going to express my honest opinion here because I have been repeatedly asked to do so. If you aren't ready to hear the truth yet, then come back later--when you can handle it. I'll be here.

Because, friends, I have to tell you: Game of Thrones was always totally shitty.

I'm sorry, but it's true. It's not what you want to hear right now, but it is true.

I'm speaking for the television show, here, not the novels by George R.R. Martin which I have not read: Game of Thrones has never been anything but a dark, dank sinkhole of despair and bodily fluids. From episode one--when Viserys Targaryen decides to trade his sister to a violent warlord in exchange for an army and, also, don't forget the incest--until this most recent of three (THREE) gratuitous rape scenes, Game of Thrones has been nothing but cruel to you. It has used the bodies of the most beautiful white women in the world as either a) collateral in a war that seems to be mostly pointless or b) set-dressing for throne rooms, brothels, and the occasional battlefield.

I'm not saying the women aren't smart, and cunning, and manipulative, and fascinating. They are. That's just not, within the realm of the show, their point. The point of women in Game of Thrones is to motivate men's greed, jealousy, and revenge. This has been their function from word-one. It is, after all, a game of thrones. Thrones that women can't sit on, except as accessories.

Ok, yes, Daenerys. She earned her throne through the death of both her husband and son, and, while she is a badass, she is also gradually losing what power she's earned, and, oh yeah, remarrying again because politics. Some of the women, like Daenerys, have made bold choices, self-motivated choices, but ultimately they always ended up as the basis of some man's triumph or defeat. Daenerys has been the catalyst for many a man's downfall, and looks to be headed that way again. Plus, she's probably going to go crazy, and insanity is outside of anyone's control. I'd lay down cash that they strip her of her own mind before the show ends... just sayin'.

Hell, Penny on The Big Bang Theory has more to say about her own life than these (royal) ladies.  Women on this show can't control where they live, whom they marry, or whom they have sex with. To be honest, it's just boring. This is piss-poor writing of women characters, folks. This isn't good TV.

So yeah. Rape.

Here's where I have to throw some credit to George R.R. Martin. Apparently, the first two rapes on the show (the rape of 15-year-old Daenerys by her new husband Khal Drogo, and the rape of Cersei Lannister by Jaime Lannister) were actually consensual, if rather icky, sex in A Song of Ice and Fire. The writers on Game of Thrones turned consensual sex into rape not once but TWICE, and you were still watching it. You are undervaluing your own time. Read the books instead.

Before I get lambasted by all the TV-rape enthusiasts--trust me, they exist--let me state that it doesn't matter who the audience was looking at while the rape occurred. It really doesn't. Only two things matter:

1) This rape happened to Sansa Stark, but in the books it happens to Jeyne Poole. They eliminated a character but decided to hang on to her rape scene. Awesome, guys. Jeyne's story was merged with Sansa's because individually they were considered, by the showrunners, to be too insignificant for it to matter. I seriously wonder how many male characters have been cut and/or combined because they are too insignificant to matter.

2) This treatment of women may be commonplace in the world created for Game of Thrones (again, the show, not the books), but it is NOT realistic. Nothing about Westeros is realistic. They have dragons. It doesn't matter what happened in the real human past because this is just a TV show, and that show could have chosen not to feature three women getting brutally raped. More to the point, people in the middle and dark ages didn't understand too much about the human body. They believed that very rough sex with a woman could damage her baby-making parts (they weren't totally wrong about that) and, since making babies was pretty much the point for aristocratic families, violent rapes were not a very good idea. They tried to save the rape for women whose babymaking abilities weren't important--slaves, servants, and the like. Which isn't to say there weren't sadistic bastards in the middle ages. Sure there were. But acting like rape was somehow normal among people of the same class is just idiotic.

Actually, yeah, Game of Thrones is just idiotic. You can do better.

You deserve entertainment that makes you laugh, and cry, and zone out, and think big thoughts. You deserve to be shocked and challenged, and to come away with questions that only you can answer. You deserve to watch television that questions the status quo rather than reenforcing it. You deserve entertainment that respects you. Game of Thrones has never, ever done that.

I know. The actors are brilliant. The production values are lush. The relationships, the intrigue, even the horror are compelling. And the costumes? EPIC. But what you get, underneath all that window-dressing, is a show that tells us what we already know: that life is really, really shitty, that power over others is the most important thing in the universe, and that pretty white people are always in charge, even in fictional worlds where there is no reason everyone ought to be white.

Have you ever finished up an episode of Game of Thrones thinking, "I feel so good right now" or even "I need to reevaluate how I feel about _______?" Does it give you nightmares?

Why are you doing that to yourself? Why?

This relationship should have run its course after the first season, but any one of us can get caught up in an abusive cycle like this one. We stay because we're attracted to the beauty, the danger, the sexily damaged characters. We watch it because not watching it feels like you're missing something, like you might not get to have what everyone else has (in this case, a common revulsion). Maybe Game of Thrones will do better next time if you give it a chance, right? Maybe, if we love it enough, we might be able to fix it.

Don't go back to that train wreck. I'm begging you, as a friend.

There are going to be those who try to tell you "it wasn't that bad." They'll try to convince you that you're overreacting. They're doing this because they, themselves, can't walk away from the show. They don't want to--not yet. They're excusing their own actions by minimizing your concerns. Just tune them out. They'll get to where you are, too, and then they'll be pretty damn sorry that they gave even more seasons of their life to this cesspool.

Breaking up with a TV show this compelling is really hard, but it's also really necessary. We can't keep telling the entertainment industry that sex sells, even when that sex isn't consensual. We can't maintain this steady diet of violence and degradation without hurting our souls. We can't keep telling ourselves that the things we consume don't alter how we see ourselves and others. Game of Thrones was always, always shitty. You've just finally opened your eyes enough to see it.

It was time. You've done the right thing. I'm here for you. Stay strong.