Thursday, May 1, 2014

Game of Soap

Dear Game of Thrones Fans:

I’m quite familiar with the pain of realizing that that show you like is in reality merely a polished rendition of that most embarrassing form of narrative entertainment: the daytime soap. It’s happened to me again and again and again. So often, in fact, that I was eventually forced to admit that there’s something pretty entertaining about this whole soap opera thing. Shows don’t run for over 50 years for no reason, after all.

For most of us, if not all of us, trashy, twisty, silly stories will always have a place in our lives. A place where we go to relax and get carried away by the goofy, soapy drama.

Westeros is such a place.

The outrageous plot of Game of Thrones follows one simple rule: create drama. Whether that is done through simple shock tactics and salaciousness or through ignoring logic, consistency of characterization, and narrative cohesion, the end result is the same: a surprised audience collectively gasping “Oh no he didn’t!”

I realize you probably aren’t ready to accept this fact. I can understand that. You probably haven’t read the books, for one thing. It took even me over 1,500 pages to realize that what was I was reading was daytime television trash in faux-literary form. Soaps belong in the TV medium; they excel there. Reading a soap opera is quite a different experience, an altogether unpleasant one.

Since you haven’t read the books, you’re probably telling yourself that all of this is going somewhere. You’re probably rooting for Tyrion or Jon Snow, thinking the writers wouldn’t dare Red Wedding you again. Maybe you think Arya is going somewhere. Maybe you think Dany is actually going to do something soon. I’d be willing to bet you aren’t so much celebrating the horrors of that universe as you are tolerating them, thinking that the darker the road, the greater the ultimate glory. You’re probably expecting some form of justice at some point.


There’s nothing here but arbitrary drama. It’s not building to anything, and it doesn’t mean anything. There is no “Aha!” moment, only an endless, unanswerable question: “So what was the point?”

I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong to get off on this drama. I’m not going to tell you that there’s something perverted in your soul that draws you to the soap opera’s darkest possible form. But you are wrong not to recognize it for what it is: mindless drama for drama’s sake.

I’m sure you’re now kicking and screaming in denial. I understand. The HBO blinders are thick and hard to shake off. Give it a few more books. When you can no longer escape the truth, I’ll be here, and we can all have a good laugh about how we were taken in by production value and cheap thrills. And we’ll take from all of this a very important lesson.

Sometimes the only way to win the game is not to play.

See you on the other side,

S. Misanthrope

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