Saturday 29 November 2014

The reason why Game of Thrones will never be as popular as Star Wars

Published 09/05/2014 | 18:02

Game of Thrones featured a rape scene between incestuous lovers Cersei and Jaime Lannister
Game of Thrones featured a rape scene between incestuous lovers Cersei and Jaime Lannister
Game Of Thrones star Liam Cunningham
Author George RR Martin has defended the inclusion of sexual violence in the HBO series Game of Thrones, claiming it would be “fundamentally false and dishonest” to omit the scenes.
Game of Thrones: Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones
Main, Emilia Clarke in ‘Game of Thrones’; Bottom inset; David O’Brien making one of the swords; and above, with the finished product

The casting of Domhnall Gleeson in a yet-to-be announced role in ‘Star Wars’ will give Irish audiences even more interest in the next trilogy in the series.

His casting alone gives some hope that this trilogy will be better than the last one.

Gleeson is a sort of male Saoirse Ronan, in that he has the ability to lift even a bad film a bit above the ordinary, although even he couldn't have rescued the ‘Phantom Menace’ if Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor couldn't do it.

Mind you, for me the ‘Star Wars’ movies lost all steam after the second one in the first series, namely ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. With number three they had already become repetitive.

The same thing cannot be said for ‘Game of Thrones’ now in its fourth series and embroiled in controversy over a rape scene in a recent episode.

‘Game of Thrones’, based on the ‘Song of Ice and Fire' novels of George RR Martin, is supposed to be fantasy fiction for grown-ups. No simplistic, ‘Star Wars’-style black- and-white morality here. In this world morality comes strictly in shades of grey, in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ you might say.

This is because Martin has based his story, in part, on real episodes from history and including the incredibly brutal War of the Roses in England which saw the ruling Plantagenet family divide against itself and knock lumps out of each other for years, before the

Tudors finally put a stop to Plantagenet rule once and for all.

But as Martin would be quick to point out, that wasn't a case of the good guys winning because who could really claim that the Tudors were good guys?

In the real world, Martin would say, it's usually a case of one set of bad guys beating another slightly worse or slightly better set of bad guys, until it's their turn to get beaten. In other words, the Game of Thrones never really ends. Just ask the current cabinet that.

So in Game of Thrones it gets very hard to root for anyone, or to root for anyone for long because Martin loves to kill off his characters.

Ned Stark, played by Sean Bean in the first series, looked like the character who was going to put all the baddies in their place, and suddenly he was killed off.

Then his son looked like he was about to avenge his father's death, and he was killed off too, along with most of the rest of the Stark family.

Martin also likes to keep us off guard by having his characters change from good to bad and then back again.

One of them, Jaime Lannister starts off as the biggest knave of all, then seems to be on the road to redemption and then rapes his sister (with whom he was in an incestuous relationship to begin with).

This scene happened only a couple of episodes ago and caused huge controversy. But why it should have caused more controversy than say the prolonged torture and castration of one of the characters last season is a bit beyond me.

The fact is that ‘Game of Thrones’ is incredibly brutal. There are lots of sex scenes and to put it mildly, they're rarely tender or loving. The bad language makes ‘The Sopranos’ look like the Boy Scouts, and we've been treated to one horribly violent death after another.

You need a strong stomach to watch it and probably the only thing that has me coming back for more are the storylines and the quality of acting.

What is a bit rich though is the claim made by its fans that Martin's story is in some way morally and philosophically superior to ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ precisely because it is more morally ambiguous and, therefore, allowing for its semi-fantasy setting, more ‘true to life'.

In both ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ there are unambiguously good and unambiguously evil characters and they rarely change. We also know that the good characters will rarely be killed off.

In ‘Lord of the Rings’, Aragorn is the figure of the perfect knight, like you find in the Arthurian legends. We want him to prevail and we know he will prevail in the end.

Likewise in ‘Star Wars’, we know Luke Skywalker will prevail in the end with the help of the more worldly Hans Solo.

But both ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Star Wars’ are mythological stories and don't pretend to be anything else. They are deliberately full of archetypes, both good and evil and this is why they resonate very deeply with us and it's why stories like this have been told in every major culture right through known history.

We like stories with hero/saviour characters and we wouldn't keep telling ourselves these stories unless they connected with us in a very basic way and arose from human nature itself.

We also like stories such as ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Star Wars’ because we like morally satisfying stories and morally ambiguous stories simply chime with us as much. This is why ‘Game of Thrones’ will never be as well loved.

So if the next ‘Star Wars’ trilogy does its job right and if it's well made, it will be an antidote to ‘Game of Thrones’. The story will be morally satisfying and the character played by Domnhall Gleeson will hopefully be unambiguously good and have us rooting for him right to the end.

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