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Old December 20th, 2016, 6:15 pm
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Re: A Game of Thrones

Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
I think we're using different definitions of canon. By "canon" I simply mean the work itself, the novel or TV show or whatever it might be (the religious definition is just one of the definitions of this concept). The canon as a concept helps to separate the story from other material which is not a part of the work.
But even worrying about this can cause one to lose the Story Forest for the Details Tree. This sort of thing is important when we debate the general "mysteries." (And, let's face it: fans of SoI&F or Harry Potter spend a lot more time debating the mysteries rather than discussing the actual story!) However, they are not terribly important in and of themselves for the story: any number of examples can work. Which of Robert's illegitimate sons Davos saves from Stannis is not important (i.e., a canon argument); that Davos does yet something else in order to save Stannis from himself is important to the story. Davos' fierce devotion to Stannis coupled with Stannis' almost sociopathic lack of normal feelings himself winds up creating all sorts of Faulkneresque dilemmas for Davos: he loves the Man, but hates what the Man does. <I>That</i>, repeated over and over again, is the core of these stories.

Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
Otherwise it would be an "everything goes" sort of situation.
Plagiarism suits would beg to differ!

Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
For example, in the case of HP the movies changed the point of many scenes and in some cases even the personalities of characters. When those situations arise, it's natural that fans would want the book version to trump the movies if they think the movies missed the point of the story/character arcs.
It is more accurate to state that many fans disagreed with the interpretations of the characters: but to be cruelly blunt, those fans tended to be the ones who were really bad at understanding JKR's characters. We saw this in droves 12 years ago: supposedly, everyone was "out of character." The characters were not: one, they were evolving, and two, the people claiming these things were wrong about the characters in the first place.

Moreover, this would have affected the stories if and only if they had greatly altered Harry. Remember, Harry Potter is a single protagonist story: everything comes from how Harry evolves over the course of one story, and then over the course of seven stories. Even characters as prominent as Hermione and Ron were at most secondary characters: their importance is like the importance of Stannis to Davos, i.e., to help put Harry in positions where yet another parallel occurred that created the arc that created the story.

SoI&F is a little more complicated in that it has multiple protagonists. There are five or six primary protagonists (Daeny, Jon, Tyrion, Bran & Arya, and perhaps now Sansa); then there are several secondary protagonists (Jaime, Davos, Sam, Cersei and Brienne); and there even are one or two faux protagonists (Ned and Catelyn). So, that means that the show has to get these characters "right" in order to communicate the story. However, it does not mean that they have to do the exact same things as in the books.

Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
I would say ambiguous meanings rather than unclear. Think about Shakespeare's plays. They were written about 400 years ago and to this day people are still writing their PhD theses on them and finding new meanings or intepretations of them. Same with James Joyce, Virgina Woolf, the Brontes, etc.
Ah, but we are now rowing in different waters. My contention was that it's the story that draws people: GoT viewers tend to like particular kinds of stories given their overall viewing habits. Nobody is writing PhDs about what Shakespeare's stories were: we are expected to be able to answer that in high school/secondary school literature exams!

Instead, what these studies examine is what led to the stories and what led to yet a fourth aspect of a tale separate from story, plot or narrative: theme. Of course, my favorite study of Shakespeare is one that looked at the distribution of words in Shakespeare's works vs. those found in some of his contemporaries, and then which author's word-choice-distribution was the best fit given the distribution of words in a possible Shakespeare work! (But I would like that, as a couple of my own most influential papers have used similar techniques! ) That is of relevance here, because this is how someone figured out that one of JKR's anonymous works likely was by her: the distribution of words in that work fit the distribution of words used in Harry Potter!

At any rate, if anyone was to do future literary study of Game of Thrones, then they would not be trying to assess what the story is. Instead, they would be looking at things like theme. Most probably it would come up in comparative work because GRRM has been very forthcoming about his influences. For example, organized religion comes off looking very bad in his series. That's quite common from people (like GRRM) who were raised in religious families but subsequently realized that it was all nonsense. Moreover, what "reality" there is to any of the religions is not pleasant: R'hllor, for example, obviously is real, but it's a nasty piece of work; the White Walkers are "real" but closer to Cylons than gods; and the Tree Gods are just a huge data archive with no real power save information (which, of course, can be tremendously powerful in the right hands, but less dramatic than, say, reviving the dead!).

Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
I think you're giving people too much credit. If you told most of them that GoT has Faulkneresque themes, the reaction you would probably get would be "huh?". I think it's as MrSleepyHead said: people watch it for the fights, the dragons, the intrigues and the ... well... nudity.
This is easily falsified. None of the other shows that GoT viewers typically watch have dragons, and none of the other "magic" shows are commonly watched by GoT viewers. Many of them do not have fights. Not all of the other shows have nudity, although many do (as this is rare for cable TV series to lack nudity, and many of the other shows watched by GoT viewers are also cable TV series). Almost all have intrigue: but what they have in common is intrigue about where particular characters are going with their lives.

Moreover, we can stand this on it's head. If these were true, then why didn't Thrones fans flock to watch the Shanara series? Why don't these millions watch other cable TV shows that put even more emphasis on nudity and/or violence? Why don't they watch more mystery series?

As for the viewers not knowing who Faulkner is, you would find a larger proportion of them that do given that GoT viewers are disproportionately drawn from people with post-graduate education; and many of the ones who do not remember Faulkner immediately would figure out who you mean with just a little reminding. Remember, general GoT viewers are NOT fantasy fans.

Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
I'm not saying no one watches GoT for its themes, but I don't think those people are in a majority. It's like you said yourself, if people were watching it for the themes, then why would they pester Martin about changes from books to TV show? Surely they would realize nothing major changed.
I never wrote that they watch it for theme: I wrote that they watch it for story. Story and theme are as different as melody and arrangement.

Originally Posted by Sereena View Post
GoT is still unfolding but the fans who will stay fans even ten years from now and still want to discuss it, would they still be fans because of the themes?
Probably. Of course, who will stay a fan is hard to predict: I was a hardcore fan 10+ years ago, but because the long-overdue fourth book was so bad, I almost forgot about the series. Indeed, when I saw that the show was premiering, I thought to order the books that had been published since, assuming that the series had been completed: only to find that nothing more had been published! But the ultimate moment came in the 2nd or 3rd episode when Ned told Jon that when they next met, they would have a long talk about Jon's mother. Palm met forehead as it all came back: Ned was Jon's uncle, not his father! That was despite dozens of hours wasted arguing with Dayneites (who were sort of like the "Hermione loves Harry" crowd here) that they were smoking bad crack. (I even looked up on line later to see if that idea ever had been confirmed; nope! but surely it would be in the soon-to-be-released Dances with Dragons..... )

But the reason why I write "probably" is pretty straightforward. After we unravel the mysteries and plots, the only two things left are story and theme. Moreover, these stories can have appeal even to people who know the outcome. My 8 year old son is currently reading the HP series with me. He knows what Harry's scar is: that is sort of like "I AM your father" without the catchy phrase. And when we got to the part where Dumbledore tacitly tells Harry the why of Snape, I had him walk through it and deduce what Dumbledore really told Harry. So, the two biggest mysteries revealed: but he still was eager as hell to read Deathly Hallows! Why? He wants to see how Harry is going to get to be the guy who can beat Voldemort.

(It doubles for The Hobbit, too!)
If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there. - A. P. Chekhov, Gurlyand's Reminiscences, and who knew why the Dog was long before the Shack!
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