Sunday, October 4, 2015

Show Verses Book: Game of Thrones

In wake of it's recent awards, HBO's hit drama series Game of Thrones (based off of George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire) has been getting lots of widespread public and critical attention, however despite it's success, Game of Thrones is a mediocre adaptation of it's source material and has been under siege by of the book's fans. This of course comes in reaction to the showrunners David and Dan making some rather questionable changes to Martin's vision going beyond what is necessary to account for a show adaptation. For this post, I will be focusing mainly on the changes in last season and the season previous to that, in order to illustrate my belief that the books far surpass the show in terms of narrative and complexity of character.

SPOILERS AHEAD, DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE NOT CAUGHT UP ON THE SERIES

Character Changes for Stannis:

  • Since being introduced in the second season as the true heir to the throne of Westeros, Stannis (aka The Mannis) Baratheon is shown to be a stern, grumpy, bumbling, lecherous, military failure in the show due to the fact that the show runners "didn't like his character." Which is due to the fact that they do not understand the book Stannis, a man with a deep seated sense of justice and duty, which is only equal to his Machiavellian prowess with intrigue and his status as arguably the most skilled tactican and strategist in the series. Stannis also shows an iron will and an exceptional love for his family. 
  • All of this was cast aside however in the show when HBO decided to make him lecherous rather than asexual, inept rather than the Westerosi equivalent of a Greek strategos, cruel rather than just, and ambitious rather than dutiful. 
  • However these changes pale in comparison to the ultimate injustice perpetrated by those bumbling hacks David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, they made Stannis Baratheon (the man who survived 2 years of brutal siege warfare by eating rats and book leather to survive due to the filial duty he had for his brother) sacrifice his own daughter after his rations were destroyed for one night by the deus ex machina intervention of "20 good men" sent by a man with zero military experience. Burned his daughter alive for some rations, just to further game of throne's reputation as the show where people die (rather than the book where the hero doesn't always get a break).

Character Change for Sansa:

  •  Sansa Stark has had one of the worst lives of any character in the series which is saying a lot. She was married off to an inbred megalomaniacs who beheads her father. She was beaten by him, forced to have her father's severed head presented to her, married to a dwarf, framed for murder, and finally spirited away by the deceitful schemer who has creepy feelings for her. 
  • We think that the schemer Petyr Baelish will be nice to her due to how he feels for her and in the book he does, he gives her everything she asks for and helps train her in the art of westerosi court intrigue so she can get back at those who destroyed her family.
  • However, in the show, Sansa's agency is stripped from her. She is sold like cattle to the literal cruelest person in Westeros as a political bargaining chip who is known to mistreat women. She becomes a stereotypical damsal in distress, every escape attempt she makes is met with failure before she is brutally raped for the sheer shock value of it.
Plot Change for The Night'sf Watch:

  • Let me start with the one change I actually enjoyed, the battle of Hardhome was excellent, one of my favorite episodes of the series. A truly epic fight scene punctuated by the emergence of the Night's King reanimating the corpses of dead wildlings. However even this marvelous episode can't make up for David and Dan's horrendous decisions this season.
  • Lord Commander Jon Snow lacks all of the complexity that he shows in the book, he has one setting: brooding teenager. As well as a bizarre scene where Melisandre the Red Witch attempts to seduce him just so HBO can show just a little bit more nudity. Many of the supporting characters of the Night's Watch die heroically against the wildlings, however these deaths have weight to them and are therefore emotionally justifiable. The show also botched the execution of Janos Slynt as the character growth moment for Jon Snow.
  • The final episode of the season included what I consider the biggest failure in conveying a powerful emotional feeling to the audience, and that is the ambiguous fate of Jon Snow. A group of Night's Watch dissenters attempt to Brutus Jon for being too nice to wildlings in the show. However in the books it is because Jon breaks his vows by participating in the wars of the realm giving the assassins grounds to oust Jon from power as well as create a philosophical dilemma on doing what is best for the Night's Watch, or maintaining your honor.
Plot Changes for the Riverlands

  • David and Dan exchange a wonderfully nuanced plot arc of Jaime Lannister on how he becomes a better man, commander, and diplomat. for a buddy cop story of Jaime and his hilarious sidekick Bronn going on misadventures in Dorne with the foxy femme fatales known as the sand snakes. Bronn and Jaime have a god-awful fight scene with the sand snakes and even worse dialogue. Following this is yet another trite and uninspired death scene for pure shock value by the showrunners.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Response to the Declaration of Independence

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

The Declaration of Independence is a document with the sole intention of separating the British colonies from their former masters. The justification with which our founding fathers brought invoked the above text is found in the despotism brought about by the British crown. Historical context for this sentiment can be found in the list of injustices by the crown towards the colonies as described by Jefferson in the declaration. These include the intolerable acts, the lack of representation involved with legislation and taxation, cutting off trade with other parts of the world, and finally the tipping point of the atrocious Boston Massacre.

Due to these and many more injustices, the colonists gained a view of their government as tyrannical and corrupt, this view can easily resonate with Americans today, especially when regarding the various Orwellian acts perpetrated by the Federal Government in recent years. Many Americans are fed up with the feds, the constant invasions of privacy, interference in personal choices, and ever increasing power being left in the hands of the national government (specifically the executive) many Americans are rightfully indignant. Will this lead to secession and rebellion? I highly doubt that, however a drastic change in those who make up our government as well as the policies of our government is surely necessary and proper.

The quote itself has changed meaning slightly since the time from whence it came. However it is still relevant today despite these changes. Though America may impede on the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of it’s citizens on certain occasions, it is in no way an absolute despotism like what was dealt with by the founders. Also the meaning today is much less literal, and more metaphorical and rhetorical. To literally secede and rebel would be inadvisable and a tragic mistake, but to have a change in management, to “throw off such government, and to provide new Guards” is not only necessary, but happens every election season. So it still has relevance, hyperbolic, metaphoric, and rhetorical relevance specifically.

Though the founders were wise men and all patriots as well as scholars, as Americans, it is our right, it is our duty, to change the government as needed by the changing times. This fact is illustrated by none other than the founders themselves amending their own constitution after realizing what needed to be added by the bill of rights. This was evident also after the civil war necessitated the drafting and implementation of a new set of amendments to protect the rights of American citizens better. Does this mean to tear up the constitution, bill of rights, and other pieces of early American governmental works? No, the constitution and bill of rights are documents of paramount importance to how we govern ourselves. They articulate the values that America was founded on: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens regardless of their origins; the unique freedom to be represented in the decision making of our nation to help control our future. As well as government limited by the philosophy of pluralism and the power dispersion of federalism. America offers protection under the law for all citizens via due process, habeas corpus, and the bill of rights. Most importantly, the founding fathers knew that their works would need to be revised as time progressed, and as a result of this foresight, they put in place ways for the American citizens to change their government and they did this because they had lived under the oppressive boot of a nation that did not allow for citizen participation in government.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

"A Song of Ice and Fire" and my Grandfather's Impact on My Personal Literary Journey

On April 26th 2013, the man who was the biggest influence on my interest in literature left this world. My grandfather William Adcock had encouraged me from a young age to read; he would buy me the Harry Potter novels to read and after finishing them I would discuss the book and what I thought of it to him, at least as well as my developing mind could at the time.

 Despite my immaturity and lack of experience in literature however, my grandfather was always delighted to speak with me on the novels he or I would be reading, particularly fantasy and mystery novels. He introduced me to The Ranger's Apprentice, Lord of the Rings (his personal favorite), Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Star Wars: Expanded Universe Novels, and many more great narratives. There was only one story however that I recall never being able to read due to my age however, this series was the epic fantasy titan: A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin.

My grandfather would devour the books on long car rides or on beach trips with our family, I recall asking him about them and he replied that they were too grown up for me. A year or so after that trip however, my grandfather was afflicted with pancreatic cancer, the cancer took up most of the time that he would spend reading all of his novels, and eventually to help pay for treatment, he and his wife Marilu had to sell their house and books to come live with my family before moving into an assisted living home.

 The cancer took a toll on his body and mind; it broke my heart to see the financial, mathematical, and literary genius I had idolized forget what day it is. What depressed me equally however was the fact that the biggest bookworm I'd ever met didn't have the chance to finish the most epic saga since Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. His cancer had shrunk and things were looking well, until my grandfather's cancer began to grow even worse and he started to wither away.

In April of 2013, William Adcock slipped into a coma; he laid there in a deep sleep for a few days before passing away. It was a very rough time for me and my family, especially for my grandmother, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer herself. She couldn't go on much longer without the love of her life and in the fall of that year, she too passed away.

 A year passed and things seemed to be a bit better, but as the anniversary of Marilu's passing grew close, I began missing them more than usual. I saw an advertisement for HBO's Game of Thrones and recalled my grandfather reading the 4th book "A Feast for Crows" and was determined to finish the series that my granddad couldn't in his memory, little did I know the profound affect it would have on the way I read and write.

The series is epic fantasy but is at the same time everything most fantasy is not. Where most fantasy novels have one definite main character, ASOIAF has 31 point of view characters by the 5th book. This interesting way of storytelling gives the reader a unique view on Martin's world because of all the different lenses with which the reader sees it.

Where most fantasy is optimistic ASOIAF is realistic (aside from the supernatural elements). Martin lives by the William Faulkner quote "The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself" and this certainly shows with the emotional realism demonstrated by many characters in the series such as Robb Stark's dilemma on whether to choose the honorable thing to do or the strategically practical choice, and the repercussions of which are portrayed in a way that is grounded in historical precedents found within our own world. Or also shown in Jaime Lannister's disillusionment with the ideals of knighthood and his transformation into a nihilistic character when he experiences a formative moment in his teenage years when the societal constraints of his status as a Kingsguard result in a conflict of what is right and what is honorable.

Where most fantasy is stereotypical in its setting and atmosphere, Martin employs a variety of strategies to create a unique atmosphere and setting. He incorporates uses of horror borrowed from H.P. Lovecraft to add terror to the atrocities perpetrated in the books as well as unique settings rather than the traditional medieval Europe composites found in many fantasy novels.

Aside from the aforementioned characteristics of literature that Martin has shown me via his writing, his books have also helped me learn that more than anything: don't fall into the stereotypes of genres and expectations placed on you as a writer. Just because a novel is fantasy doesn't mean it has to be a classic good-verses-evil prince-defeats-dragon style story and just because I am a young writer doesn't mean I should limit myself to 5 paragraph essays and write only when and what is necessary for my classes. I would never have learned this without the groundwork set for me by my grandfather and for that I thank him immensely.