Game of Thrones, episode 1×07

10 Jun

Yet again, we’ll have a post made up of two parts. Part 1 – things that need to go away. Part 2 – things I think are worth mentioning in a constructive manner.

“It’s Because It’s on HBO!”

Man, I am so tired of hearing people ascribe the problematic aspects of the show to HBO. Specifically all the icky sexy-lesbian-slavegirls scenes/nudity. Like, I grew up watching HBO, and it was always the only corner of US television I could actually stomach. To this day, I don’t really watch anything but HBO or HBO-like shows, and if I do it’s usually for the fandom/porn/whatever, not because I actually enjoy the canon for itself.

I keep having this feeling that people who talk about how the show has endless exploitative nudity because it’s HBO (and it’s really not any one particular person, I keep seeing it pop up again and again in different places) have not actually seen much HBO programming. I mean, how can you watch Deadwood, Rome, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Treme or Generation Kill and talk about how “it’s HBO, so of course they had to have some naked hot ladies.” Like, I’m just totally “…” at that assertion because that describes like, NO HBO PROGRAMMING I’M FAMILIAR WITH.

Is it just that all these assertions are referring to is True Blood? Which has on occasion been exploitative but even then has qualified those scenes by making them intentionally scary, messed up or horror-like (tying into the fact that many of the characters are vampires). And I mean, I’ve gone on at length about how True Blood was ultimately a disappointment to me because it DOESN’T meet the HBO standards that I’m used to, but even True Blood wasn’t ANYWHERE NEAR as bad as Game of Thrones is.

And I mean, HBO doesn’t usually make TV shows like that to begin with. They hire creators who they think will make good TV and let them make TV. Of course they’re involved in the production, but overall HBO allows creators way more freedom, from what’s currently on the record, than any other network. They questioned David Milch’s decision to have every third word in Deadwood be a derivative of “cock”, “cunt” or “fuck” and he wrote them a long essay on the use of profanity in the time and period the show was set in and how Westerns habitually glossed over it and what his decision to update the slang was motivated by. HBO backed off and let him do his thing.

Do I even need to go into how much freedom David Simon was given making ALL of his shows, basically, but mainly The Wire? A show that BY EVERY METRIC AVAILABLE was doomed to fail (majority black cast, no action, no standalone episodes, slow paced like TV’s never seen before), and that got no significant awards in all its 5 seasons? But HBO let him do it, and let him keep doing it and then commissioned him to make other shows for them as well.

Do I need to go into Oz, which had LOTS of (male) nudity and which is to this day one of the most subversive shows I’ve seen on TV regarding race, gender and sexuality? Like, it’s a fucking tragedy, but 15 years later there’s STILL nothing I know of on US TV to even come close to the kind of shit Oz was pulling.

In conclusion, if there’s ONE PLACE on US TV where you’re likely to see deconstruction of race and gender issues and/or nudity that isn’t exploitative, it’s HBO. And it’s not like the network, or any of the shows it’s produced, is above reproach, by any means, and it’s not like it doesn’t make its decisions based on financial concerns (it strives to have the liberal, educated, middle class market cornered, which is what its decisions are usually motivated by), but. Seriously, please. People need to stop saying it’s “because it’s on HBO” that the show is full of fail or nudity or whatever. Personally, I actually think the show is the way it is because its two creators decided to adapt the books as they did. Judging from past shows, I don’t think anyone at HBO ever asked them to put in any scene that wasn’t already in the script, much less to change a scene of consensual sex to graphic rape, for example. But, even if I’m wrong and HBO’s suddenly decided to fuck up their own products by meddling, this show will still be a first for that behavior, CERTAINLY not part of a pattern.

*

Episode 1×07

I find that with that scene on the Wall where Pip tells Jon to shut it because what does he know of the world being fair the show has reached its ALL TIME HIGH for irony. I don’t think they’ll ever be able to top themselves, honestly.

So, we have Pip, a poor boy who was propositioned by his Lord, who refused and for that was sent to the Wall, to serve out the rest of his days in this makeshift army. That is a terrible fate, truly it is. I wonder though, what would have happened to Pip if he’d been a girl rather than a boy? I wonder how likely that would have made his refusal, I wonder whether the proposition would been as “mild” as “show me your genitals”, I wonder how the rest of his family and environment would have looked on his refusal (would he have had to lie about it because it was embarrassing to be propositioned in the first place, or because it was embarrassing to have been so stupid as to say no?), I’m curious whether his refusal would even have been possible. How likely would it have been that Pip would be able to walk away without being assaulted or raped, no matter what he said or did?

And most of all, I wonder what would have happened to him later. Because one thing I know for sure – he certainly wouldn’t have been sent to the Wall, certainly wouldn’t have worn armor or taught how to fight or made new comrades in arms and been given the chance to fight for what little glory he could. In fact, he probably would have ended up like Roz or Dany’s slavegirl or one of the namesless prostitutes in Littlefinger’s brothel. If he was lucky, that is. If he was VERY, VERY lucky, he’d end up like one of them. Those would be his BEST POSSIBLE options.

But of course, Roz and Dany’s slave and all the rest of them are A-OK in this series. They have no traumas, they’re not unhappy, they’re not raped or molested, to the contrary. They’re sexy when they do as they’re told. They’re wise in the ways of sex and always happy to perform for whoever.

So why is it that Pip’s story is the only one we get framed as a tragedy? Why is he the only one allowed to be messed-up-by-the-system before he adjusts to his new role and starts to make a new life for himself? I mean it’s LAUGHABLE, that of all the stories of abuse they have going, they decided to throw that random line to Pip. Yes, truly, the horrors of the patriarchy and the class system combined are best exemplified through his storyline. All those women in the background, they’re happy, sexy whores!

I mean, seriously, that moment where we’re supposed to sit there and go “oh wow! What a horrible life this boy has had!” is like, A PEAK OF IRONY I don’t think we’ll quickly surpass.

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