George R.R. Martin, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and director Alex Graves respond to that scene from Game Of Thrones · Newswire · The A.V. Club.
I don’t judge Game of Thrones fans — like what you like, I hope you have a good time — but I won’t claim that I understand them. Nor am I in the business of telling people what they should and shouldn’t be offended by — my thinking is limited by my own experiences, and so I have no right to make that sort of judgement on other people’s behalf. If you’re genuinely offended by something, you’re not wrong. So I say the following in the spirit of intellectual inquiry and curiosity, with malice towards none:
Basically, I’m confused by this whole deal. I’m sure the offending scene is horrifying beyond all justification. But I can’t figure out why a self-selected group of people who loved all the previous unjustifiable horrors are now drawing some sort of line. I’m a little surprised to learn that these folks even have a line.
I may not understand GoT fans, but watching the reactions play out has been somewhat educational. I think I might be learning a thing or two about the relationship between the fans and the creators. My prior theory behind how that worked was this:
This is a fandom that is well aware that Martin (and by extension, the producers of the show based on his work) are deliberately aiming to tear the fans’ guts out at every turn. After all, this is a deliberately constructed world where there are no heroes in the traditional sense, where innocence only exists to be savaged, where virtue only exists to be punished, and where the bulk of the cast are utter villains, and the key to success and survival is to out-wicked your rivals. Surely the fans can’t really be surprised when the worst thing that could happen in any given situation invariably, actually happens? Especially when their prior response to these events is to beg for more and more of them? Obviously, no matter how odious the subject matter, they get some sort of kick out of this stuff, and they are willing to endure anything to get that fix.
On the other side of the equation, Martin, et al, seem only too happy to push the fans’ buttons for them. They seem to enjoy watching them squirm and squirm without actually balking or walking away. Martin especially seems delighted over the fact that he has found an audience with an insatiable appetite for the wickedest, most debased fantasies that he is able to conjure. It’s a mutually sustaining relationship, and is actually quite lovely if you think about it.
Of course one grows inured to transgressive thrills eventually, so Martin, et al, and their audience must continue to push their boundaries to maintain that zing they’ve grown addicted to. Hand in hand, they climb the hill of outre sex and violence, world without end.
But this view is blown apart by the wholly unexpected occurrence of a subset of GoT fans actually getting upset over matters of content. This wasn’t supposed to be possible. What’s going on here?
This is a situation where Game of Thrones fans — a group that ordinarily revels in all the guts, gore, sadism and depravity that George R. R. Martin & company can dish out — are upset over what (to me, as a non-fan) appears to be pretty much the same stuff they’ve been enjoying for years and years now. (It’s rather like watching Jimmy Carr lambaste another comedian for making jokes in poor taste.)
Perhaps, up to now, nothing that GoT has done has actually disturbed them. Maybe, prior to this point, they did not experience a transgressive shiver of pleasure at any of the goings-on playing out before them (perhaps merely nodding their heads, saying “we like this”); only now, due to the unique details of this particular event, do they find themselves disturbed — and they don’t like it.
On the other hand, perhaps not. Perhaps this is a group which does indeed require an escalation of atrocities lest boredom set in. Yet, when that escalation occurred this time (this one time), they were bothered by it because it was just too much. If that’s the case, then it’s possible that this one scene was merely a bit ahead of its time. Maybe they should have saved it for a later date, after the audience’s endurance had been allowed to build up even further.
In the end, I have to admit that I don’t know what’s going on here. I expect I never will, though I’d be interested in any thoughtful response as to why This was not okay, while all the rest of That definitely was.