I was introduced to the TV series Game of Thrones by a friend this weekend and I think it may be the perfect escapism from my hectic student life right now! I am aware that I missed it the first time around (the first season aired in April last year, the second is due this April) and this was intentional, because although I love Medieval fantasy, I am quite ready to admit it’s representation in the media and through what I’ve heard told, as well as it’s American origin sent my eyebrows rocketing through the roof in scepticism.
Let me explain! Since studying Medieval literature, and consequently the period’s history and culture in first year (late 2009) I have found myself avoiding the modern representation and instead priding myself on reading from the original source, the ballads and stories and lyrics available from the period, in both the translation and where available the original. I think I have almost become quite ‘snobbish’ about anything but the ‘real thing’, making me very picky and consequently very sceptical. I feel the same about representations of all periods. I lost patience with The Tudors, the TV series from a few years back and most recently The Hour for their inaccuracies which infuriated me! I am able to appreciate that I, along with the writers, directors, actors, costume designers, set dressers etc. was not there to see it first hand but still, modern language in ‘period’ pieces is one of those things I find very hard to forgive!
On gathering more information however, I found my grievances were not even relevant to Game of Thrones which is not trying to be historical, but is set in a ‘fantasy world’. Still need to find out more about just what this entails, but it meant I was able to sit down to watch episode 1 with a more open mind. Finding that the show was based upon a series of books (A Song of Fire and Ice, a series of five by George R. R. Martin, first published in 1996) also reassured me somewhat for some illogical reason. I have always been more trusting of anything sourced from books.
Moving on to the show itself, as I said before, what amazing escapism! For a start, It looks fantastic; filmed, I discovered in Ireland and other European locations, all of which are stunning. Just in the first episode you are transported from eerie snow covered forests to sun-drenched beaches and back again! The feel is distinctly medieval, which I love. All castles and courtly romances, armour and archery, horses and “I shall my Lord”’s, all over the place! Also especially enjoying the folklore and magic side of affairs, the ‘fantasy’ elements that lift it above and beyond just a medieval historical piece. There are some modern liberties in addition to the traditional however, some of which work and some of which grate, and will take some getting used to. The frequent intermingling of modern and traditional language is a part I am trying very hard not to become over-concerned with, particularly the frequent use of the ‘f-word’. A few instances have found me cringing painfully, but then I have also found myself laughing, so for now I will just try to ignore it. I also tried very hard not to worry excessively about some of the materials and fabrics in use, which if it were a true medieval piece, wouldn’t be around for many decades. The amount of make-up some of the woman were wearing, too and the general cleanliness of many of the characters who seemed a little too… shiny? As for the plots, there is a remarkable amount of sex and debauchery… but what can I say? I am not one to know how things were done ‘back then’, there probably was just as high a ‘scandal’ rate as there is today! I in truth deplore period pieces that are too far the other way and serve only as romantic depictions of ‘goodies’ and ‘badies’.
I can see how the modern elements have given them more freedom in the show, so am willing to embrace them in the pursuit of exciting and gripping TV. More humour, more daring story-lines, more diversity and a wider accessibility to bridge the gap between those who don’t ‘get’ period pieces and those who are devout and critical watchers. By doing this they have of course been rewarded with good ratings and international success . As for the ‘Americanisation’, I really would never have guessed it’s origin. I could not discern one dodgy accent or set piece and the script was remarkable free from the clichés I had wrongly foreseen.
I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to watch another episode, it has me well and truly sucked in! And if you, like me, have missed it up to now I would seriously recommend letting it captivate you too.