Saturday, June 18, 2016

Deep Thoughts About "Game Of Thrones"

So I've been watching "Game of Thrones" for a couple of years now. I'm well aware that many people who've seen the entire series and were reading the novels it's based on before the series started have been intensively discussing it for a long time. HBO even hosts one of these discussions online. I don't think I'm going to make a big splash with the hardcore fans with this little post. (Although it would be nice, of course, if it turned out to be this post which finally made me rich and famous. It'd be nice if any of the posts on the blog turned out to be the one that did that.)

Before becoming a fan of "Game of Thrones," I hadn't been a big fan of anything in the fantasy genre. It took me a little while to get into the spirit of the show. I resisted it at first for being ahistorical. I felt like telling the whole world that "Game of Thrones" was WRONG because it was obviously set mostly in Western or Central or Eastern Europe apart from Greece and Rome and its culture was non-Christian and literate, and none of those parts of Europe became literate until they became Christian and, and... and then I told myself: none of those areas actually had dragons either, for example, or armies of skeleton zombies. It's not supposed to be historically accurate, it's an alternate world. It's fantasy. Took me a while to get that.

In the last couple of episodes, a couple of remarks about Cersei and Jaime Lannister, America's sweethearts, caught me off-guard: Olenna says to Cersei that she wonders whether Cersei is the most vile person she's ever met; and Brienne tells Jaime that she knows that there is some honor in him, as if it were plain that most of what there was to see of him were evil; and Edmure asks Jaime how he manages to tell himself that he's a decent person, saying that we all need to tell ourselves that we're decent.

Those remarks took me off guard because I hadn't been thinking of Cersei and Jaime as loathesome people. Not at all. Then I thought back a while and remembered that I had loathed Cersei back when she blamed Tyrion for Joffrey's death, and that since then Tyrian had left King's Landing, leaving Cersei less opportunity to behave loathesomely to him, and that Cersei had been through a lot of suffering at the hands of the Sparrows, who just by contrast made her look much more sympathetic (to me at least).

But in the case of Jaime it was harder to explain away my surprise at and resistance to the charge that he was a loathesome person. Jaime had helped Tyrion escape Cersei's plot to have him legally murdered; when Brienne brings up unpleasant things he's done, he responds by saying that he'd rather not talk politics with her, and it clear that there is some common ground and respect between them, and that he'd prefer to emphasize the positive side of things; when Edmure reminds him of some awful things he's done, Jaime replies: We're at war. I'm sorry if it's inconvenienced you. He recalls that Edmure had had him imprisoned, and Edmure's sister had hit him in the head with a rock, but that he didn't hate her at all. On the contrary, he admired her very much. Her fierce loyalty to her children reminded him of that of his sister. Which means: loyalty to his children, because he and his sister Cersei are secretly a couple. How much of a secret it is, is not clear at this moment with Edmure, just as it is unclear at other times with other people.

Anyway: Jaime does not seem devastated when someone implies that he's a dreadful person, even someone like Brienne, whom he likes very much. Instead, he seems to believe that life is simply too complex and full of plots within plots and causes entangled with other causes, for him to neatly divide people up between the good and the evil, the noble and the loathesome. A woman hit him in the head with a rock while he was in prison, and he greatly admires her. He didn't stop looking at her and considering her side of things when he got hit with that rock. On the other hand, a moment after he expresses that admiration, he cold-bloodedly threatens to do truly terrible things. On the third hand, those cold-blooded threats end up preventing a lot of bloodshed.

Jaime is a moral relativist. If he thinks about good and evil at all, he sees that they are a matter of perspective.

And, perhaps, so do the people who make the show. And maybe that has to do with why I like it so much: a character can do something horrible, and it's not sugarcoated, not justified away in an unrealistic manner; but still, that character can have a good side. The characters are complex, like real people. And not just one or two of the characters, but dozens if not hundreds. You can like a character generally but still be appalled by some of the things he or she does, and you can dislike a character generally and still be moved when bad things happen to him or her.

Except of course for the thoroughly evil and monstrous Ramsay Bolton, who must be destroyed in order to save the world, literally. And the zombies may be in a separate category.

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