Monday, April 14, 2014

Game of Thrones -- Different (if not "Better") on Paper.

Pop literature makes for great film and TV fodder. Producers love that there is already a built-in following for whatever book series, and much of the conceptual “heavy lifting” (with respect to the writing) has already been done. The die-hard fans, whether they love or hate the adaptation of their favorite book, are sure to talk, blog, and Tweet about their feelings, thereby doing their part, conscientiously or inadvertently, to boost hype around the show.

Game of Thrones is an interesting case-study. It began as a book series from author George R.R. Martin, and has gone on to become an immensely popular television program on HBO. Rabid fans of the show eagerly awaited the premiere of the  fourth season on April 6th, and newbies can get acquainted with the show by watching their own private marathon, if they’d like, thanks to online video streaming (click here to find previous episodes).While there is considerable hype surrounding the series, many fans of the original novels have taken issue with the show deviating from the books in certain ways.

Certain narrative subtleties from the books have been more overt in the series, presumably for the sake of clarity and accessibility. For instance, while the books hint at a romantic relationship between the characters Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell (played by Gethin Anthony and Finn Jones in the show, respectively), the HBO series made no effort to conceal this fact - if anything, the show was intentionally blatant about there being a love interest between the two characters.

Another key difference between the books and the show is the age range of central characters. For instance, the characters Jon and Rob are said to be 14 in the books, but they are 17 on the show. Rickon is three in the books, but double that in the show. It does stand to reason, given all of the sexuality latent within the books, that older actors would be recruited. Underage actors and simulated sex on TV are a major league “no no” even for controversy-courting networks like HBO.

One of the more curious gaps, though, between the books and the show, is the character of Lady Tasila, who exists in the show as a substitute for the character Lady Jeyne Westerling, who, in the book, is a nurse who first meets Robb on the battlefields. George R.R. Martin helped to provide justification for this in an interview panel, saying that the very nature of the character changed organically as they began to flesh her out for the sake of the TV show - bear in mind, that Jeyne Westerling was out of the picture for most of the books. It was decided that they character needed more screen time, and she “evolved” into Tasila, a character who is better suited the TV adaptation.

But, this is all to be expected! Different devices serve different art forms. Literature allows for a level of introspection and contemplation that TV simply can’t. For all their similarities, the two forms are markedly different. TV is all about ephemeral exposures, and stories which keep a pace that’s rapid enough to sustain the interest of a modern viewer. TV, traditionally, is not a medium which lends itself to subtlety. It lends itself to content that is overt, instantly gratifying, and over-stimulating. And now that more and more viewers are watching TV content on the internet, the producers have to be even more cautious, as the internet is infinitely more ephemeral and distracting than television.

However, the fans should try to remember that the true magic of the written word is its power to evoke imagery.  There's always a high degree of mediation that takes place between reading and constructing a teleplay, and the purest relationship you'll ever be able to have with of text is what you have when you sit down to read it.  And remember also, if you were to set about adapting a book for a TV show, it's likely that you yourself would interpret things in a way that would irritate other fans of the books.  

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, culture, and lifestyle blogger. He lives and works in Chicago. When not working he can be found camped out in his apartment watching the latest films and newest television shows.


fakesteph said...

Very interesting guest post. I'm behind the times on both the show and the books, but I should catch up. The books are pretty BA.

Jenny said...

Wait. Jon and Rob are supposed to be 17 on the show? *snort* I had no idea, I assumed they were mid-twenties if not older. I can definitely see how, given the show doesn't shy away from sex, the ages of the characters were altered a bit from the books. I just adore the show, so I can only imagine how good the books are. I hope to get a chance to read them at some point!

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