A game of thrones

edited April 2011 in Story Games
Well, we had a suckerpunch thread, so...

Thought the Starks and Lanisters were good.

Baratheorn (spell?) didnt seem so much like an aging warrior king to me. Seemed too soft and good-humored. But I guess Brian Blessed has ruined that role for everyone.

The Targaryen we're totally harry potter!! - like Draco Malfoy and Luna Lovegood exactly! My suspension of disbelief went BARP-FAIL! when they were onscreen.

I also thought the Dothraki were too 'pretend barbarian', like dressed in designer rags with faux-dirt smudges on them, as if they were off to a costume party. Or maybe it was that they had the type of unnatural musculature that you can only get from gym work. both. D.d. Laurentus can get away with Arnie in a campy fantasy, but it looked out of place here.

I enjoyed it a lot, but the Targaryen/Dothraki scenes were not up to scratch.
«1

Comments

  • I overall thought it was pretty awesome, but I'm inclined to agree that the scenes in Pentos lacked something.
    In my case, though, I think it was that enough explanation was not given - Viserys asks if Dany wants to "wake the dragon" when it hasn't been made clear just how much the house sigils mean to people.
    For that matter, the dragon eggs seem to kind of come out of nowhere, if you've only watched the show.
    I was told to expect "Unfortunate Fantasy Hair" but I was pleasantly surprised that nothing too bizarre was attempted.
    The sets were excellent, especially the Wall and the sacred grove at Winterfell.

    Why didn't it occur to me earlier that the Starks were basically Scottish lords?
    Was anyone else pleased but mildly surprised by the casting/makeup choice for Jaime Lannister? He seemed a tad too slick and unathletic to quite fit, but the actor did a good *version* of him, to be sure.
  • I was underwhelmed.

    Probably because I'm only about half way through the first book, which means a lot of small differences were immediately obvious to me. And also because I read a review somewhere that said the nudity was not gratuitous. I think they had watched a different show...

    And although everything was well done there's nothing that makes it stand out, it all felt a bit too generic, and a bit too simple to really hook me.
  • I mostly liked it and remain optimistic.

    I'm a little fearful that bad cgi effects might make me sad someday, but we'll see.
  • edited April 2011
    Lucky for me I never read the books, I Liked the beauty and the beast theme...... my other half made me laugh saying " I bet he's got a soft side!!!"
  • edited April 2011
    I liked the matte paintings and thought the first whore Dinklage was with was luscious.

    After that, I couldn't get over how FUCKING BLANDLY it was shot. I don't mean the scenery -- it's Ireland, it's gorgeous.

    I mean, one wide to medium shot after another, often with perfectly symmetrical composition. Like strangely symmetrical shots one after another. Characters dead center in the frame with balance archways or candles or other characters to either side.

    Correct me if I'm wrong (I haven't read the books but I'm familiar with the series from pop culture buzz) but isn't this set in a world that is out of balance? And yet, there were about fifteen to twenty perfectly balanced shots.

    And all of it at a remove from the characters. We never got in close with these people. The shot that killed me and set the tone for the rest of the night was when Eddard was cleaing his sword, under that tree along the brook. Sure, it was nicely composed -- it looked like something right out of a painting from Artist Alley at GenCon. But I don't need that. I wanted to be in close, looking at Eddard's hands over Eddard's shoulders, with him as he worked his sword from his point of view. I mean, they make a big deal about him being a warrior. And he is! Let's see him working that sword. Let's see him working with his hands. Let's get in there.

    And then, when Catelyn showed up, he could have looked up and we would have seen her eyes, from his point view, looking down at the sword, knowing that sword was why the king was coming and what that sword would mean to their future.

    Instead we got a shot about a tree and a brook.

    And then, when Eddard and Catelyn were in bed together, we still got no closer than a two shot? Really? Those two wonderful faces, and we couldn't get a close-up of their faces together before the big moment where Eddard will be torn from Catelyn because of his responsibility to the crown? Please.

    I'll give it another episode or two, but if this We're Making Cool Pictures Removed from the Characters visual template really is the show, I don't think I'll be able to stay in.
  • Christopher raises an interesting argument with the camerawork, and while it didn't bother me half that much, I must agree with him. I'm not as negative towards it however. We'll see where it goes.

    Otherwise all the flaws I perceived were the expected fallout of this being the first/semi-pilot episode of a book adaptation series set in an incredibly rich and nuanced world with a bazillion characters. There's no way at all they could have gotten all of it on film in one hour. I mean, Rickon was onscreen for like half a second, it was almost impossible to distinguish between Rob, Theon, Jon and whoever else was there with Eddard, I forgot. Maybe a bit of it could have been saved with a slightly better script and more thematic/symbolic/immersive camerawork but I doubt it.

    Still, I'm certain I'll watch all of it.
  • Here's a review from the Guardian that suggests the show gets stronger as the episodes go on.

    And while I agree with Gregor that there's a challenge to doing a show with "an incredibly rich and nuanced world with a bazillion characters" it's important to remember that HBO's THE WIRE did exactly that, and knocked it out of the park. THE WIRE found a style that worked for the show and juggled all those elements. In fact, HBO has sort built the template like this for shows like this with DEADWOOD, ROME, BOARDWALK EMPIRE. I'm sure they greenlit GoT in part because they felt it would be a comfortable fit for with the kinds of shows they'd already done.
  • Christopher: You managed to put into words the feeling I had about the show. Without knowing anything about shot composition or how to create a scene, I could tell that it lacked punched.

    If one is going to make a series out of an excellent book you have to give people an excuse to watch it. As it is, there is nothing there that I haven't got out of the books so far.

    I hope it picks up, the cool intro promised a lot (though confused my girlfriend into thinking it was going to be all steam punk for a bit), and once it finds it's feet I'm hoping it can deliver.
  • Totally agree on the camerawork.

    The script seems a little flat as well. I haven't read the books for a few years but I recall a really rich conversation between Tyrion and Jon and their rendition of it here was just weak, conveying only one or two pieces of information about the characters. We had a really great sense of Tyrion by this time in the first book and they could have done more with the few minutes Dinklage has been onscreen but the script didn't give him the opportunity.

    I'm still hopeful. Most of the actors seem solid. I'm looking forward to more Arya and Tyrion especially.

    I'll be watching the whole thing regardless.
  • I quite enjoyed it, though Chris is onto something with the camera work, which might have edged the episode worryingly towards George Lucas Star Wars blandness. Some of the hairdos were slightly SW as well, especially the Queen.

    I guess the bang that unbalances the seven kingdoms' stability, however fragile, is the death of the king's hand - so we're in for full tilt from now on and hopefully more daring camera work.

    I hoping for the best - HBO just announced it's going to continue for a second season, so it must have been generally well received.

    Per
  • I just checked on IMDB. Episode 3 has a new cinematographer and director, so I'll be looking out to see if it gets a bit more adventurous.
  • I wonder if the camera choices were less daring because they were really worried about overwhelming the non-geeky viewers and wanted the camera work to at least be easy to digest.
  • edited April 2011
    Well... maybe. I mean, I think you're right. I was in the office of HBO for a meeting about something else just before the pilot went into production and I begged them NOT to make Game of Thrones all show-off-the-production-values and stand-offish, and so on. To make it mundane and tight and intimate. And they said they had hired Tom McCarthy to direct it. And I was like, "That's fucking genius!"

    And then they fired McCarthy after he finished his pilot, hired a new director, and re-shot the pilot.

    And my guess is, that Judd you are correct about why that happened.

    But I think that's a fear based decision. And a bad one.

    Here's my take.

    The telling of a story is about viscerally and emotionally grabbing the audience by telling the tale by what's happening between the characters. (Which is how we tell stories with dramatic narrative -- TV, Film, Plays).

    There's a certain kind of viewer (let's call him geeky) that's all obsessed about the details and the setting, but really, that stuff is background to the tale being created between the characters as they interact.

    Test cases: Looking only at the movies of Star Wars: A New Hope or Aliens, can anyone really tell me how these fantastical or SF setting really work? What the laws, cultures, economies, politics and so on really are? Of course you can't. Because they don't matter to the telling of the story to an audience. Because what matters to an audience is what happens between the characters as they make decisions, choose how to live, and speak and take action to those ends.

    I'll point out again that Game of Throne as a television series is no more complicated than The Wire, and pretty much on part with a clutch of other long-form cable shows that have already aired on HBO, AMC or SyFy.

    My point is that if the pilot for Game of Thrones had been shot more intimately and viscerally, I would have been more engaged as a viewer even if I might even have gotten less information (perhaps). I'm pretty sure I would have absorbed what information that I needed to keep going. That's what audience generally do.

    Clearly I'm touching on gaming stuff here. (I'll be writing about this in in Play Sorcerer in... oh.. about two hours by my count...!)

    A lot of gamers want all the world stuff clear, all the details, all the cultural splat books and so on. But you don't need that stuff to dramatic narrative work. And I see the storytelling of RPGs as closer kin to dramatic narrative than anything else.
  • good stuff!
  • The challenge with fantasy on the screen, for me, is to make the characters feel like real people.

    You have weird clothes, weird situations, and weird settings, and so it's really easy for the characters to seem like they're not real people.

    Game of Thrones I thought did well in avoiding "Heroese" - that weird English dialect they speak in some fantasy films, where it's like everyone's trying to sound as pompous and portentous as possible.

    Christopher is right though that the cinematography didn't do them any favours. It's like they were trying to constantly remind us that we were watching a fanstasy show, rather than let that sit in the background.

    I really wish that producers would credit audiences with some degree of maturity and not splash gratuitous nudity and violence all over the show. Hopefully they calm this down in coming episodes.

    It's depressing to me that the show didn't take any steps towards diversity in casting. It's 2011, you'd think we could avoid yet another show with an all-white cast. It's fantasy, so there's no reason they couldn't make one of the families black. I know that fans of the books would whine about it, but whatever.
  • They are in 'fantasy england' so a black familly would be weird. Over in fantasy 'asia' Im sure we will see other colors.
  • This is a story about an England the size of Europe, and specifically that. So the all-whiteness works in the books because there are complicated people from other cultures who aren't white, and the intimations of a wider world where non-white people are good people.

    This doesn't come across in the pilot. The only non-white people I recognized were in the Dothraki marriage ceremony, and thus doubly unflattering. I'm hoping we can see some of what's in the books in terms of cool non-white people. I can't wait to see some Dornish people.
  • At Winterfell, white bread makes sense.
    In King's Landing (or, you know, anywhere south of the Neck), there had better be folks of color around, or it really is doing the book a disservice.

    Master Illyrio looked a little too white to me. Did anyone else feel that way?
    And at the wedding, why are there black folks (or "Summer Isles" folk, technically) who are not at all freaked out by a murder on the dance floor? It's not like Northern Asian nomads and African city-state folk are all the same.
  • Posted By: stefoidThey are in 'fantasy england' so a black familly would be weird. Over in fantasy 'asia' Im sure we will see other colors.
    See, I don't agree with this argument. Who says it's "Fantasy England"? Why? Their culture (especially the King's Landing bits) isn't recognisably European. We can imagine a world with 10 year long winters, but we can't imagine a world where black people have a "civilised" culture?

    In fantasy, as in real life, dark skin is used as a signifier for the exotic, for the primitive, and for the uncivilised. That presumes the centrality of white experience. I think the world is ready for something different.
  • edited April 2011
    Its got nothing to do with culture. The less sun there is, the whiter people are (unless your diet is rich in vitamin D in which case being darker is still an advantage against UV). Its fantasy england in the sense that there are people running around in fur cloaks and full plate mail and dont eat diets rich in vitamin D -- its a temperate climate.

    (reason for edit including stupid amounts of information: pedantic drama queens)
  • edited April 2011
    Cold People, Not White, Must Be A Miracle!

    Seriously Steve, think before you type, man.

    *Also the lighting filters or whatever that they used for the Pentos scenes made them seem off...
  • South Africa has a temperate climate too. Besides, Westeros is the size of South America. That's easily big enough for variation in skin tones. That's all ignoring the fact that this world has seasons dramatically different from Earth, so no one really knows how skin colour would have evolved.

    All this is kind of beside the point though. Do you really think that George R. R. Martin and the producers of this show were like "Damn, we'd really like to have some more black people in this, but, gosh darn it, there's just no way you'd find black people in this temperate climate! Oh well. Looks like we're forced to have yet another show about white people." Really?
  • edited April 2011
    Posted By: Simon CAll this is kind of beside the point though. Do you really think that George R. R. Martin and the producers of this show were like "Damn, we'd really like to have some more black people in this, but, gosh darn it, there's just no way you'd find black people in this temperate climate! Oh well. Looks like we're forced to have yet another show about white people." Really?
    Simon, the series is very, very, very much about a huge fantasy version of England. Its Englandanlity is essential to what Martin is going for.

    (Skin tone has little to do with sun exposure.)

    EDIT: I don't know what the demographics were like in Medieval England were like with respect to non-white* people, but that's not really what matters anyway. He's writing about the figures that history has left us, and as far as I know, they're almost entirely white.

    And, crucially, the books indicate a wide world that is just off the where the narrative is looking, where there are lots of perfectly healthy and normal (for this universe) people who aren't white. So far, the show is failing to show us these people.

    * Calling people in Medieval England white seems weird, since whiteness doesn't mean now what it meant then.
  • edited April 2011
    Posted By: Robert BohlSimon, the series is very, very, very much about a huge fantasy version of England. Its Englandanlity is essential to what Martin is going for.
    Rob, I've read the books (and FWIW, thought they kind of sucked, in an "I can't stop reading this, even though I hate it" kind of way).

    I don't know if I agree. I mean, I can understand your point of view, and maybe you're right, but I'm not sure. Can you explain more?
  • edited April 2011
    I love the first three books (read them four times each), and thought the fourth one was kind of meh.

    The first episode went well, I thought. I'm just happy to see the story in action; I'm easily pleased. I do see the point about all the safe camera work, but I also wonder how people can possibly keep up with the plethora of characters and relationships without the viewer's guide and other help.

    Also: DINKLAGE! Reason enough for the show to exist.

    ETA: Also, I thought the first episode of The Wire was very weak. Different strokes, I guess. (Since we're on the track of "where are all the non-whites in GOT," my wife asked "where are all the women in The Wire?" when we watched that. Different thread, I guess.)
  • Posted By: Simon CI don't know if I agree. I mean, I can understand your point of view, and maybe you're right, but I'm not sure. Can you explain more?
    Instead of going "what did Joseph Campbell say about what myths meant?" or even really seeming to focus that much on what he thought myths meant, he went instead for his inspirations in the series to the history of England. He did a fuckton of research about England (or already knew a bunch; he's a history buff), picked the parts of history that interested him, then used them as creative seeds to build fiction around. Finally, the characters in the series are often inspired by specific English historical figures.
  • Posted By: C. EdwardsCold People, Not White, Must Be A Miracle!

    Seriously Steve, think before you type, man.

    *Also the lighting filters or whatever that they used for the Pentos scenes made them seem off...
    This is just getting silly.
  • Posted By: stefoidThis is just getting silly.
    Why? Because you said something ridiculous and people responded unfavorably to it? We can only read what you post, not what you meant to post.
  • edited April 2011
    Make what you want to see.
  • Rob,

    Fair enough. I'm not sure why that requires the characters to be white though. I mean, I don't see how that makes the series more specifically relevant to England than any other fantasy series. The show (and the series) is not about England, right? It's about violence and warfare and passion and trust and honour and betrayal. If the books have an overarching theme, I'd say that it's something about how war turns people into monsters, and that good intentions don't guarantee good results.

    I get that the fantasy genre, as a whole, centralises white people, I'm just not sure that it needs to.

    What I'm interested in is what blackness "means" on the screen. What does being black signify about a character that makes them ineligable for casting in this show?
  • Simon, why don't you want to see any Asian families on the show? Are you racist?
  • edited April 2011
    Simon, the series is based on an idealized version of medieval Europe, moreso than just English history. He's mentioned the histories of other parts of Europe as an influence, but he's still reading history written in English, which means there's more English history available to him. It's the War of the Roses that gets mentioned most often as a main influence, though GRRM says there's no 1:1 correspondences.

    More important than that, GRRM is pretty obsessed with painting medieval knight miniatures, and creating medieval dioramas. I believe he's in his 60s now, so he's old enough that the medieval revival was pretty strong when he was growing up (think Ivanhoe and old Robin Hood movies), so it's not that surprising that his fantasy would be as deliberately white-people fantasy as Tolkien's was. The argument that "it's fantasy, you can do whatever you want" doesn't hold water here, because yeah, he can write whatever, but the visual language he's working with is not as flexible in that respect. Medieval knights, heraldry, pennants, castles, white people. Fixed visual tropes that no argument over literature can change.

    That's the book. As for the show? The wallets of people who want to see a show that is faithful to the books outnumber the wallets of people like you. Pretty simple.
  • Posted By: theg33kSimon, why don't you want to see any Asian families on the show? Are you racist?
    I probably could have substituted "People of Colour" for "black" in some of my posts, and been clearer about what I meant. Does it come across as racist to you? I hope not. That's not my intent, in any case.

    I'm really interested in why you chose to make this point. How do you feel about the whites-only casting on the show? Does it bother you?
  • edited April 2011
    Johnstone,

    You make some good points, but I disagree.

    I agree that "the visual language is not as flexible", but I wonder why that is the case. Why is it that we see whiteness as so important to the visual identity of the characters, but other aspects (10 year winters, fantasy religions, ice monsters, people with all their teeth) are flexible? Why does changing the style of characters' clothing not signify anything, but changing the colour of their skin does? I think that it's because white skin signifies "normality" in our culture, while dark skin signifies "otherness".

    I agree that money was probably a factor in why the producers of the show chose not to change this aspect of the books. I'm not saying I don't understand their motives for doing so, I'm saying I'm disappointed that they made that choice.

    EDIT:

    I want to be clear that I'm not saying "OMG THIS IS A RACIST SHOW FOR RACISTS". I'm saying that the show, in the context of every other fantasy show, which are also pretty much whites-only, is a missed opportunity. You don't have to feel guilty about liking it! It's ok!
  • edited April 2011
    jeepers
  • edited April 2011
    Simon, you're talking past me now. I get that you disagree that the show has to be like that, but more people are complaining right now about deviations from the book than how it's so white. Given that people want the book, it is what it is, and whether or not you disagree with the visual culture GRRM's drawing from is irrelevant. It's historical, it exists, and it still has power over people (though not as much on generations younger than GRRM).

    In this case, your complaints kinda feel like you just want the show to assuage your white guilt. If we were talking about Earthsea, on the other hand, you'd have a good point, and when they get around to making the Malazan Book of the Fallen flicks with an all-white cast you'll really have a legitimate soapbox to agitate from. But I don't think this is the hill to fight that battle on.
  • Posted By: JohnstoneIn this case, your complaints kinda feel like you just want the show to assuage your white guilt.
    That seems like a pretty uncharitable reading to me. Let's agree that neither of us has anything to feel guilty for, and move on, eh?

    Why do you think there are so many all-white fantasy series? What's that about, in your mind?

    I think it's because we centralise the experience of white people and let "white" signify "normal". Do you disagree?
  • edited April 2011
    I wouldn't say it's that uncharitable, but I mean it less insultingly than you probably think (and less insultingly than other people reading this thread who are just thinking it, or being sarcastic about it). You're asking a show with legitimate reasons to be "all-white" to not be "all-white" because of a complaint about the genre in general. There are other properties that support your position a lot better than this one.

    No, I don't disagree, of course not. Why would white people in a white society do anything else? "Fantasy" is a white-people genre, created by white people who associated mostly with other white people. If fantasy includes non-whites it gets charged with Orientalism. Perhaps with good reason, as it's built out of European history which also has a long history of Orientalist tropes, and those become part of white-people fantasy as well. But fantasy also doesn't tend to draw from American cultural imagery. American fantasy authors, and a lot of D&D, still draw from European history for images, no matter how American the underlying story and behaviour is. And the conception of European history that is drawn from is mostly white people and a few Orientalized Others here and there.

    But look at it from a different perspective: Why do you say fantasy is so white? Why don't you include Chinese martial arts movies in the fantasy genre?
  • Actually, why don't I just ask this question straight up:

    Why should the fantasy genre be racially/ethnically diverse? Why should Game of Thrones (show or book) be racially/ethnically diverse?
    Is your answer the same for both or different, and why?
  • Posted By: JohnstoneActually, why don't I just ask this question straight up:

    Why should the fantasy genre be racially/ethnically diverse? Why should Game of Thrones (show or book) be racially/ethnically diverse?
    Is your answer the same for both or different, and why?
    Good question!

    I think the fantasy genre should be racially/ethnically diverse because the world is racially and ethnically diverse. When you describe us as "white people in a white society" you're making the same error that fantasy (as a genre) does. I'm white, but I live in a country whose original inhabitants are not. People from the US do too. People from all over the world have been a part of my culture for hundreds of years. My society isn't white. To imagine it as such makes people of colour invisible.

    Furthermore, when we imagine a fantasy world in which white people are the sole protagonists, it's inherantly political. In a different context, it would mean something different, but in the context of a wider media that is overwhelmingly white, that marginalises the experiences of non-white people, and that co-opts and erases people of colour from their own media, it means the exclusion of people of colour from yet more of our shared culture.

    I think that's a bad thing because I think everyone benefits from a culture that is more inclusive, and more equal.

    So, should "Game of Thrones" have black people in it?

    It depends on the context. In isolation, it's easy to say "why not have an all-white cast, if that expresses the author's vision?" But consider it in the context of a wider media that is overwhelmingly white-centric. You have to ask why it is that this author's vision is the one being realised, whether that vision really requires an all-white caste, and if there's not something unsettling about the fact that we so consistently fantasise about worlds in which black people are margninalised.
  • edited April 2011
    Posted By: Johnstone"Fantasy" is a white-people genre
    image

    Now THAT'S uncharitable!
  • I think the simple answer to all these questions is: "George R R Martin is not your bitch."
  • Wouldn't adding people of color to a tv show that comes from a series of books that doesn't feature them prominently be just as condescending and politically-correct-in-a-bad-way as having the "token black guy" or the "sassy black girl friend" in an otherwise white-centric tv show? I think it would.

    Let us have *original* works written with mixed ethnicities characters without making a big deal of it, and let's see/read them. Let us have young authors that consider different ethnicities living together the *norm* and cast their characters accordingly (yes, even in sword&horses fantasy: I found the black generals in "In the name of the king" to be really badass). Heck, let us have the friggin' Earthsea with people that actually look like the island-people described in the books.

    The western continent in GRRM's books has mostly white people (and I'd guess more mediterranean looking people in the south[*]). The people of Khal Drogo are pretty "gengis khan horde/horse people" in feeling. Other places I'm sure have black people. So?

    [*] Do we mediterranean people cound as white, again, in the US? I can never get this straight.

    Ok, rant over.
  • edited April 2011
    Posted By: Christopher KubasikAnd while I agree with Gregor that there's a challenge to doing a show with "an incredibly rich and nuanced world with a bazillion characters" it's important to remember that HBO's THE WIRE did exactly that, and knocked it out of the park.
    Absolutelly true but after all these years I've simply given up on anything being as good as the Wire again. Still, compared to a lot of "fantasy" that we got served on TV in recent years, this is pretty outstanding (as expected from HBO). Could they aspire to do it better? Probably.
    Posted By: netwombleI just checked on IMDB. Episode 3 has a new cinematographer and director, so I'll be looking out to see if it gets a bit more adventurous.
    Yep, I'm looking forward to ep 3 for the same reason, I want to see if having a different director will change anything. Although they probably have an established style for the show anyway, so I'm not expecting much experimentation.
    Posted By: Simon CSouth Africa has a temperate climate too. Besides, Westeros is the size of South America. That's easily big enough for variation in skin tones.
    To be fair, the inhabitants of the south are definitely described as bronze-skinned and dark haired in the books as far as I remember. House Martell, Sunspear and all that. King's Landing is still pretty far north.
    Posted By: Johnstone1. Whyshouldthe fantasy genre be racially/ethnically diverse?
    2. WhyshouldGame of Thrones (show or book) be racially/ethnically diverse?
    1. There's no reason why it should, but there's no reason why it shouldn't either. It's one thing to point out assumptions that can be harmful. It's another to hunt for witches.
    2. It should be because it depicts a world, and having a whole world populated with biologically identical monoculture isn't just weird it's probably stupid, too. That said, we've seen only a tiny bit of the ASoI&F world in this first episode.

    Anyway, I find this discussion rather silly. What about Battlestar Galactica or Lord of the Rings (or Crouching Tiger, hidden Dragon, to continue riffing on Johnstone)?
  • edited April 2011
    Where are you from, Simon? And what do you consider "your society?" (I mean, like, your country? the English-speaking world? the "West"? etc)
    (if you don't mind me asking)
    Posted By: Simon CWhen you describe us as "white people in a white society" you're making the same error that fantasy (as a genre) does.
    I live in Vancouver, Canada, where white people are in the minority. However, the continuity of my society (Western society and the English-speaking world) is white. The history and historiography that results in this society is European in general, British in specific, and non-white people enter that society through colonization or immigration for economic reasons. If we look back into the history of this society, we start to lose all the non-white people, and any sort of ethnic fault lines get filled in by different types of white people.

    Further, the fantasy genre comes out of two places: white people in a white society and white people in a society where racial strife is something they turn to fantasy to escape. Tolkien and Lewis were white dudes living in a white society, drawing on the myths of white people. All the classic American fantasists grew up before the 1960s. You think they hung out with black people much? Shit no. They were, essentially, also white people in a white society.

    I'm not trying to defend the genre, just explain that there are reasons other than white hegemonic/colonial domination that make this show predominantly white. I'm not trying to say it should be a white genre, I'm saying it is, and has been such since the start. And what I suspect you're reacting negatively to is the specifically "European-ness" or "European-history-ness" that the show has inherited from the classics of the fantasy genre. Would that be a fair assumption?

    I don't watch much television (so I can't comment on say Xena or Hercules), but I'd say non-white minorities in the US are fairly well represented (as minorities) in American fantasy movies. James Earl Jones, Tia Carrere, The Rock, and whichever Wayans brother was in the D&D movie come immediately to mind. As people from more diverse backgrounds get into the fantasy genre, we'll see more diverse fantasy on-screen, but right now, where are the super-popular fantasy books written by non-white people about non-white people? Where's the great fantasy epics that draw from American or South African or South Indian post-colonial history instead of European history? And why aren't they making enough money to support film franchises?

    So, here's another few questions for you Simon (and anybody else disappointed by mostly-white fantasy):

    When (if?) you watch Chinese fantastic martial arts movies, are you also disappointed that these movies are not ethnically diverse?

    If an American film company made a martial arts movie in English with an all-Asian cast, would you also be disappointed by that lack of diversity?

    if an American film company made an ethnically-diverse fantasy film that was predominantly about racial strife -- say, black actors on one side, Asian actors on the other, with few or no white actors -- and that racial strife was not resolved in the film/show/etc, would that be a step in the right direction, or also disappointing?
  • Posted By: Johnstone
    So, here's another few questions for you Simon (and anybody else disappointed by mostly-white fantasy):

    When (if?) you watch Chinese fantastic martial arts movies, are you also disappointed that these movies are not ethnically diverse?

    If an American film company made a martial arts movie in English with an all-Asian cast, would you also be disappointed by that lack of diversity?
    These questions assume an equality in movies and in television that just isn't there. This isn't about diversity but about portraying race at all. Most shows portray worlds without anyone of color or at best whitewash the main character because they can't ask audiences to respect a non-white protagonist (Earthsea and Last Airbender, I'm looking at you).

    It hasn't bothered me in Game of Thrones just yet.

    The fact is most television and movies are either entirely white (Buffy, Angel, Supernatural...I'm looking at you) or have that white character so we all know who the good guy is (The Last of the Dances with Samurai syndrome).

    Asking questions about reverse racism is hogwash.
  • Posted By: JohnstoneWhen (if?) you watch Chinese fantastic martial arts movies, are you also disappointed that these movies are not ethnically diverse?
    Asian martial fantasy is actually much more ethnically diverse than the Anglo-American variety. Remember Dark Cloud (Luo Xiaohu), the Central Asian horselord in Crouching Tiger? The Mongols, Turks, and Koreans in Musa: The Warriors? The ridiculous Muslim villain in Warriors of Heaven and Earth? The super-exoticized and hyper-sexualized Koreans in Seven Swords? They don't necessarily deal with race in a super mature fashion, often delving into stereotypes, but they do depict different ethnicities regularly and the genre is pretty fascinated with it.

    I haven't seen Game of Thrones or read the books so I can't say anything intelligent about that. Tolkien actually deals with ethnic issues a lot, right? Because he was a historical linguist who loved the hodge-podge that the history of languages and peoples of Great Britain. Depicting ethnicity is about more than skin tone.
  • Judd, the one that's really dumb is the lack of Asian cast members in Firefly/Serenity, when everybody's supposed to speak Chinese slang. I can't think of any significant Asian characters in that entire series.
  • It might be worth reading what George R.R. Martin's stated goals are for his books before you go defending all-white casting as being part of his vision that HBO is just trying to do justice through its casting.

    From the mouth of George R.R. Martin: "I think every group has good and bad people in it, whether we’re talking an ethnic group or a religious group. So I try to portray a variety, especially when I have hundreds of characters....I try to reflect a whole spectrum of humanity as best I can.” (from here: http://www.afterelton.com/tv/2011/01/gays-game-of-thrones-series-george-martin; emphasis mine)

    Now, yes, he was talking about gay people, but he explicitly mentioned that he also wanted to include ethnic and religious groups in that diversity of portrayal. While inspired by the War of Roses, he clearly doesn't intend the books to be an extravaganza in whiteness and probably would have been amenable to to seeing certain kinds of diversity worked into the casting.

    Anyway, carry on. I'm going back to happily lurking.
  • I can't get the benefit of the doubt here, Judd? Everything I've written above is in reference to GRRM specifically, not the entertainment industry as a whole, although I'll do that below.

    Jonathan, good point, although I've also seen plenty of martial arts movies entirely or mostly dominated by Han Chinese. How would you compare the films you mentioned to the Conan movies? (including Kull) Are they really less dominated by Han Chinese than Conan is dominated by white actors? Also, how visible do you think the ethnic differences in Chinese movies are to non-Chinese audiences? If Slavic actors get roles in Hollywood movies, does that mean there's ethnic diversity, even though they are white? Simon's complaining about visible diversity, after all.

    That's not really my point, though.

    Going back to what Renato said, (and to address Judd's remarks) Earthsea is an American fantasy about non-white people. In both the American tv version and the Japanese animated version, most characters are or look white. That's fucked up.

    European historical movies have mostly white people in them, to reflect the history they portray. That's not fucked up.

    If a Chinese fantasy martial arts movie that is based specifically on a fantastical version of Han Chinese history stars only Han Chinese actors, even though it is fantastical, is that fucked up? I say no.

    If a fantasy series that is predicated on white European history and imagery inspired by white European history is filmed with predominantly white actors, is that fucked up? No, it's not. Is it fucked up to criticize Game of Thrones for Earthsea's failings? A little bit, yeah.

    Is it fucked up that American entertainment is more concerned with pushing predominantly-white entertainment? Hell yeah, for sure. I'm not on this thread to argue against anybody's criticisms of American entertainment as a whole, although I get the feeling I'm being read that way. I would genuinely like to know the roots of Simon's complaints, above and beyond a simple "too many whiteys."

    Anyway, is it fucked up for entertainment studios to go to white European fantasy over Chinese fantasy or American-inspired fantasy? Absolutely. Is Game of Thrones benefitting from that? No doubt. But then again, it just had waaaaay better ratings than The Wire ever did.

    And that's the reason why complaining about it on the internet is never going to get you anything. I asked what good fantasy is out there for a reason -- if you want fantasy media that represents the transnational realities of ethnicity in the present day, if you want fantasy media that represents something other than white European history or English national mythologies, then FIND IT AND SUPPORT IT. Go buy more of Steven Erikson's books, and demand they get a tv show (to name one example). If you want fantasy that represents what you see every day in life, then write it or find it, buy it, promote it, support it, publish it, or whatever. But if there's no alternative you can point to and support, your opinion versus the statistic of 4 million viewers don't mean shit, son.
Sign In or Register to comment.