Archive for April 21st, 2011

There have been so many really bad adaptations of really good books that one’s expectations are calibrated to expect a train wreck.  This is especially true of sf/f/h; the most common mistake seems to be that projects get spun up, funded, and launched into the world without guidance from anyone who understands the conventions and tropes of the genre. Peter Jackson’s  LOTR was a really nice counterexample.  I’m happy to report that the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s  Game of Thrones is another.

 I’m not going to spend any time talking about  the plot, the world, the characters.  I’ll just say that the series, at least the first installment, does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the world and characters Martin has created.  My only gripe, as someone very familiar with the source material,  is the feeling that for the first installment the writers felt obligated to set up as many threads as possible and there was a bit if a sense of items being crossed off a checklist:  Jaime and Cersei Lannister  transgressive sex — check;  Bran Stark pushed off Winterfell’s ramparts after observing same — check; Tyrion and Jon Snow establishing  tenuous bond as fellow outcasts — check;  Arya/Sansa conflict — check;  Daenerys  in exile gazing wistfully across the water — check.

 I expect this “by the numbers” feeling  to diminish as the story unfolds and in any case it takes little away from a very fine job by HBO and team that respects the source material, and transforms and builds upon it in the mapping to a new medium.  Score a victory for novelists and a huge win for audiences who will experience this world and even, hopefully, be inspired to dive into the books

The NY Times utterly trashed the series premiere.  The review was written by  Gina Bellafante,  who seems to have gotten herself lost on her way to a screening of Gossip Girl.  Negative reviews are one thing, but this reviewer displays her cluelessness like a badge of honor. 

Some of her implicit (and some not so implicit) assumptions:

  1. Women hate fantasy.
  2. A boy-centric swords-and-sorcery tale can be enhanced for crossover appeal to women by adding rape and incest.
  3. The setting of GoT is some sort of global warming allegory. 

Okay, this last one requires a little discussion.  One of the parlor tricks of sf/f is to use fantastic elements to frame and drive character and thematic arcs.  The long seasons in the world of GoT are a case in point (e.g., the oft repeated meme “winter is coming”).  So to write this off as some sort of ham-handed climate change cautionary tale misses the mark “the way Michael Bay missed the mark when he made Pearl  Harbor,” as South Park creators Stone and Parker said in their deeply twisted and fun Team America World Police

It’s fine for the NYT to choose a reviewer unfamiliar with genre tropes to review a genre work, especially one that has anticipated crossover appeal.  But this reviewer is aggressively clueless, so far out of her element  that I almost feel sorry for her.  Almost, but not quite.  She is as dogmatic and adamant in her remarks as a fundamentalist wackjob claiming that the fossil record is a Communist conspiracy and the Earth is five thousand years old.  io9 spun up a righteous response to Bellafante’s lame and lazy effort.

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