Yesterday, my substantive Bookworm Room work was limited to a single post in which I linked to David Swindle’s article about Game of Thrones. Having read David’s writing, one of my friends sent me his take on Game of Thrones. I’d like to share parts of it with you, as well as my response.
My friend watched the first two seasons because there was a story there about good versus evil. I agree. That I didn’t like the ugly violence of the show (and I found the underlying books dull) doesn’t change the fact that it was simply an R-rated version of an age-old fable of good versus evil. It was in the third season that the show changed and that my friend, whose life is built around a solid core of Jude0-Christian morality, had enough:
What concerns me is the way the show is written the scum bags are more intriguing characters than the honorable ones. Even scarier is seeing comments of fans on line who brush off the “good guys” in the show as naive idiots (mostly because they get killed off) and the slime balls as compelling heroes of the show. What? Recently there was someone on FB who after one episode wrote: “Jamie Lannister is a class act.” Jaime leaped into a pit with a bear to save another character and now all the fans love him. I reminded my FB friend Jamie was a class act except for the fact he pushed a kid out of a window to kill him, commits incest with his sister, rapes women, murders innocents, and is generally a selfish dirt bag. How everyone sees this one act as some kind of redemption is beyond me. The characters who do the right thing, keep their word, etc, are all murdered and betrayed by the “smarter” cool characters.
I’ve enjoyed GoT for 2 seasons but this season seemed to drag. Then the Stark family (honorable, noble, keep their word types) were betrayed and nearly assassinated to a man. At this point I can count the characters with any nobility left to them on one hand. Plus I’ve always hated shows portraying where the noble characters are somehow the most flawed and the slime balls are the ones we are to sympathize with. GoT does this very well.
I couldn’t agree more. What I wrote back to my friend is that I’ve always felt that, if I’m going to give time in my life to a show, I want to spend it with people with whom I’d want to spend time in real life. I don’t like spending time with sociopaths or psychopaths, so why would I want to spend umpteen hours getting close to Jamie Lannister or Tony Soprano?
I understand the need for dramatic tension. A show that’s just about good guys being good tends to lack plot movement. For centuries, we resolved this by having good guys defeat bad guys — and we identified with the good guys. Kids were Superman, Batman, Dick Tracy, etc. Somewhere along the line, that changed, and we started being expected to identify with the bad guys. (Was it The Godfather that did this or the 1950s James Dean antiheroes?)
We’ve now moved beyond having sympathetic bad guys face off against one-dimensional good guys, and, for the most part, done away with good guys altogether. They’re just so dull. But keep in mind that their dullness is not their fault: The good guys in modern drama became dull because no one knows how to write interesting or charming characters anymore. A witty, brilliant Lord Peter Wimsey, or a sparkling Elizabeth Bennett, or a bewildered, striving Pip, or whatever other good character you admire, both because the character is good and because the character is interesting — those people (and they are real to me) seem to be impossible for modern writers to create.
I was actually thinking this same thought last night when I finally got around to watching Skyfall this weekend. I was bored out of my mind, and for a very specific reason. James Bond used to be charming. Now he’s thuggish. That’s actually a bit truer to the books, which were noir-style, but it’s not true to the spirit that’s animated the Bond movies since 1963. In the old days, women wanted to meet the raffish Bond and men wanted to be him. Nowadays, with the psychopathic, possibly bisexual Bond, you want to run screaming from the room. So again, why would I want to spend two hours of my life sitting in the dark watching this so-called “hero”?
Some people I know raved about Big Bang Theory, shown on FX. It was about a school teacher turned insane drug dealer. They marveled that I didn’t want to watch it. And I couldn’t understand why they wanted me to abandon Pride & Prejudice (always an uplifting, amusing book about charming, personable characters learning how to behave correctly, not badly) to spend hours and hours watching this guy sink constantly lower.
If you want an insight into our lost culture, just watch what serves for comedy, drama, or documentary on HBO or FX or any of the other cable challenges that stream into our homes and our children’s brains. Seeing these shows is like an intellectual gathering place for all that’s bad about Leftist thought.
And here’s another thought while I’m (finally) on a roll. Last night, our TiVo captured a dreary (but award-winning) Spanish-language movie called Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s about an imaginative little girl in Spain in 1944, whose widowed mother has married a psychopathic fascist captain during the Spanish Civil War. Naturally, the Communists are portrayed sympathetically.
In fact, if one reads about the Spanish Civil War, it was a war much like that taking place in Syria: moral, decent people would want both sides to lose. If I remember correctly, it emerged in the 1990s or so that the Communist leaders systematically slaughtered those starry-eyed idealists who had come from America and England to help the Communists fight the Fascists. The fundamental truth was that both sides were socialist totalitarian bodies that simply wanted dibs on creating dictatorships in Spain.
What I thought as I watched the movie is that, even though the Fascists won, the Communists wrote the history. And indeed, the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century is characterized by that phenomenon: no matter who wins or loses on the ground, the Communists write the history. It used to be that the victor got to own the past, which enabled the victor to keep a tight grip on the present. Can you think of another place or time in which one side to the ideological battle, whether it wins or loses, always retains control over the narrative?
Here at home, we fought a fifty-year Cold War and, technically, we won. Except our students all read Howard Zinn’s ultra Leftist People’s History of the United States. Which means we lost, because even though the Soviet Union is gone, its ideology lives on in the hearts and minds of our children, as well as in the halls of our White House.
I’ve been depressed for the last few days, making it hard to write. Having read what I’ve just written, I’m still depressed.