Posts Tagged ‘Game of Thrones’

Interesting YouTube Channel: Lindsay Ellis

August 15, 2019 2 comments

A few years ago, I came across a YouTube channel about critical analysis of films and TV show. It is likely that some of you might have also heard about Lindsay Ellis or watched a clip or two on her channel. While I don’t agree with a significant minority of her views, she does a pretty good and through analysis of whatever she is talking about. One does not have to agree with every view of another person to appreciate their competence. In any case, she does a much better job than almost every film and TV show review site on YouTube.

Clip #1: The Last of the Game of Thrones Hot Takes is the second in a series of reviews she made about GOT. In my opinion, this one and its previous part are two of the best analysis about GOT and other similar large-budget HBO shows on YouTube. They go into a lot of detail why show like GOT and Westworld start so promisingly only to become sad clusterfucks.

Clip #2: The Hobbit: Battle of Five Studios (Part 2/2) is the second in a three part series about why the Hobbit “trilogy” was such an epic clusterfuck.. and ya, it was due to insatiable greed of, and short-sighted decisions made by beancounters at, big movie studios. I would also highly recommend watching Part I and Part III of this series.

What do you think? Comments?

David Benioff and Daniel Weiss Screwed HBO and Their Own Careers

May 19, 2019 8 comments

By now most of you might have heard that the long-running HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’ (GOT) ended in a manner that was highly unsatisfactory for most viewers and very predictable due to online spoilers posted over the last few weeks. While I have never been a fan of fictional worlds, from LOTR and Star Wars to Star Trek, I find them to be an interesting way of gauging the prevailing Zeitgeist. For example, most movies made and released during the 1980s were often unusually optimistic. Similarly, 1990s movies tried to become increasingly realistic- especially towards the end of that decade. Superhero movie and other escapist crap started becoming dominant after 9/11, and the past decade has seen an endless number of mindless reboots and poorly executed CGI-heavy crap. Art tends to mirror the era in which it is made.

So where does the 7th and 8th season of GOT fit into all of this? Well.. for starters, I never found that show to be particularly engaging. While its overall quality of cinematography, production values and CGI was very good- the story was rather insipid. See.. good production values and CGI do not make a good, memorable or influential movie- as we all know by watching the Hobbit Trilogy, every Star Wars movie released after 1980s, every Jurassic park movie other than the original etc. A movie with a good story and mediocre cinematography will always be far longer lived and influential than one which looks good but lacks a good story. Don’t believe me.. what are your memories about Avatar, the Hobbit Trilogy, the more recent reboots of Spiderman, Superman , Star Trek, Blade Runner etc.

Getting back to GOT, let me first tell you why I think it became successful in the first place. Here is a clue.. even though it was set in a fantasy medieval-style world, the characters thought and behaved in a manner identical to their 21st century viewers. In other words, GOT was just a slickly filmed version of a decent MMORPG. But what made the story of GOT fundamentally weak and insipid- even before the 7th and 8th seasons? To understand that, one has to go into what separates a good story from an insipid or bad one. The simple, if somewhat tasteless, answer is that all good stories are about fulfilling the wishes and desires of its audience while exhibiting reasonable internal consistency. That is why so many stories end with “they lived happily ever after”, “the good guys or girls won”, “good triumphs over evil” etc. Do you have any?

Stories based in nihilism, amorality, hopelessness etc are fundamentally weak even if the character development and writing quality is superb. While they may eventually end up being considered as “great” works by an effete elite, but such stories will never be truly popular. The book series that the show was based on was.. for the lack of better words.. meandering, unfocused and nihilistic. So why did it succeed, at least initially? The simple answer is that its screenplay was written to be even more relatable for a 21st century audience and the story was given a definite and pronounced arc. But the second, and more important, reason was its timing.

GOT came out in 2011, which happened to the perfect time for a show based in cosplay and neoliberal nihilism. As some of you remember cosplay became big in North American only after 2005, and the global financial crisis occurred in late 2008. But how can certain forms of escapism and a still ongoing socio-economic crisis make a TV show, containing allusions to both, so successful? Well.. tell me something, what did viewers discuss about after each episode was aired and what did they anticipate in the next one? In case you forgot, it was always about who was murdered, betrayed, tortured, mutilated in each episode and how sudden or unexpected it was. Isn’t this eerily like the lonely and precarious lives and careers of most people in North American and increasingly the “West”? You know.. the prevailing Zeitgeist.

Now that we have talked about why that show became popular in the first place, let us now focus on how and why David Benioff and Daniel Weiss (henceforth referred to as Dumb and Dumber) killed the proverbial goose which laid golden eggs.

1] While I would prefer to not say it, there is a strong connection between the ethno-religious identity of David Benioff and Daniel Weiss and how they screwed up this project. And no.. I am not accusing them of being unusually greedy or covetous. It comes down to the hubris of semi-competent people. Confused? See.. you might have noticed that a particular ethno-religious group is rather well represented in the entertainment industry. But why? Is it because they are competent or is it because of social connections. Well.. look at the consistently high rate of failures in that sector. Do you think that competent people who know what they doing could fail so often? Does your doctor or surgeon fail at those rates? Does the engineer who designs your car or helps build a bridge fail as often as those who make movies or TV shows?

The reality is that making movies, TV shows, music etc which are financially successful has little to do with technical competence and much more to do with accidentally stumbling on the Zeitgeist and also knowing the right people to fund your idea. In other words, dumb luck and social connections. But what happens once you succeed? This is where Hubris starts becoming an issue and liability. See.. most people, especially marginally clever ones, start deluding themselves into believing that they have some sort of Midas touch- because the alternative is too painful for them to accept. They start acting as if every stupid idea they ever had will lead to their next hit. More problematically, they start believing themselves to be far more competent than they are.

Dumb and Dumber are probably good showrunners with a decent ability to write screenplays based on existing material. Perhaps they also have a good team who does a pretty good job casting actors, hiring good technical help etc. But they are not good at writing original material. That is why the quality of that show started going doing after the 6th season. But why not after the 5th season- which is as far as the original book series went. Well.. it comes down to the lack of major plot development in the 6th season. Dumb and Dumber went on autopilot and it appeared to work, for a time. Things started to fall apart in 7th season because that is when they went past the point where the need for plot development started eclipsing their abilities. That is when the plot and story arc first started meandering and the tropes started to increasingly resemble those in mainstream movies and TV shows.

2] This is where HBO should have started putting its foot down, but they didn’t for two reasons. Firstly, the ratings were still reasonably good and product deterioration was not yet a PR disaster. The second reason, in my opinion, is that people from any given racial or ethno-religious group, will usually give a much wider berth to those they identify with than those they don’t. There is a reason why white cops will shoot and kill black men holding cell phones but will patiently and carefully arrest white men who have murdered more than a dozen people. In the entertainment industry, belonging to a certain ethno-religious group translates into being allowed to make far bigger mistakes than those who do not belong to said group. That is why Dumb and Dumber were never seriously challenged by HBO about the rapidly declining quality of their product.

Which led to ‘normalization of deviance’ aka progressive institutional failure. See.. under normal circumstances a series of tense discussions with HBO after the 7th season should have reined in their incompetence. But nothing like that ever happened and that is how they made the abortion known as Season 8. But why was it so much worse that the previous season? Once again, for two reasons. First, they went all Michael Bay to cover up the lack of even a mediocre underlying story. Have a look at the amount of CGI used in Season 8 versus any previous one. Excessive use of CGI = lack of compelling story or narrative. But it gets worse. They made the mistake, born of their incompetence as writers of original material, of using mainstream movie and TV tropes in a show which was based on not using them. To make matters even worse, they did not even bother to reconcile their new story arcs and character motivations with their previous seasons.

3] However, the single biggest mistake they made in season 8 was due to factors beyond their control. They missed the change in Zeitgeist since Nov 8, 2016. Prior to that date, letting an incompetent or barely competent white guy “win” in that show or even live at the end was not suicidal. However, doing so after that date has become highly problematic, for rather obvious reasons. As much as it pains me to say this, the only popular ending to that show would have required a woman (the most ruthless one) to “win” that throne. But Dumb and Dumber thought that they could get way with an ending in which the two most powerful and ruthless women characters were killed. Maybe Dumb and Dumber believed in their own bullshit to such a degree that they completely overlooked this major shift in the Zeitgeist.

In my opinion, this mistake (which few want to openly acknowledge) more than any other is going to be remembered as the most problematic. While I am not an SJW, I am also not stupid enough to ignore the change in tastes and expectations of other people. The fallout of Season 8 is going to be especially bad for HBO, given that it was recently acquired by the parasitic bean-counters at AT&T. Between being associated with such public failures, acquisition by AT&T and competition from Netflix- things don’t look bright for HBO. George R. R. Martin’s writing career is the second casualty of this fuck up. Regardless of what he has written before, he will be forever tainted by the failure of Season 8, unless he decides to publicly dissociate himself from the TV show.

The careers of Dumb and Dumber will also take a hit, though it may be a bit delayed. People who invests tons of money into making movies or TV shows usually don’t want to employ people who are seen as the principal reason for the humiliating demise of a profitable flagship franchise. Then again.. Dumb and Dumber might know the right people.

What do you think? Comments?

Destroying King’s Landing using Drogon was the Most Rational Decision

May 13, 2019 9 comments

I wasn’t planning to write this post, but decided to do so after realizing that my central idea was pretty good and apparently uncommon. Most of you have heard about how Daenerys destroyed the entire city of King’s Landing with her Dragon in the penultimate episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. While we could go into all the callbacks which foreshadowed this event, doing so would be a waste of time. Also, I am simply not that into D&D type fantasy stories. My knowledge about GOT comes mainly from watching short clips and summaries on YouTube and certain porn sites. Furthermore, it has always been my opinion that the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin is a sad attempt to copy the much better researched fictional universe of J. R. R. Tolkien, whose knowledge about the early medieval world was based in his lifelong scholarship.

Anyway.. without going further into why I believe Tolkien or Lovecraft to be far better writers than Martin, let us tackle the issue at hand- one which has taken up more space on the internet than whether Trump is stupid enough to start a war with Iran and Venezuela while involved in trade war with China and new cold-war with Russia. By now, most people on the internet seem to have made up their mind that Daenerys’s decision to nuke king’s Landing and kill tens or maybe hundreds of thousands using the Dragon and her armies was further evidence of her being a “mad queen” or something along those lines. I disagree! Given the fictional universe she inhabits, burning that city to the ground and killing most (if not all) of its inhabitants was probably one of the most pragmatic and rational decisions she ever made.

Here is why..

1] The GOT universe, unlike the LOTR universe, is not based on how real medieval European societies functioned, thought or saw the world around themselves. Scholars of actual medieval history have pointed out that RR Martin’s universe is too secular and what one might call “early modern” but without the technology associated with that period. Most people alive today cannot comprehend how important religious beliefs and faith were for people living during that era. Let me rephrase it, RR Martin’s version of the medieval world is highly secular, individualistic and.. for the lack of a better world.. neoliberal. Then again, RR Martin also thinks that a neoliberal such as Joe Biden would make a great president. RR Martin’s worship of secular neoliberalism plays a huge role in how his fictional universe “works” or doesn’t.

2] Now that we understand that the GOT universe is based in modern secular liberalism rather than traditional community-based ideologies, it is easy to see why there is basically no family loyalty or kinship in that series. This is also why everybody seems to be raping, torturing and killing anybody they can get their hands on- regardless of how such actions might affect their community reputation. So how does one behave in such an individualistic and modern society? For starters.. Daenerys would be incredibly stupid if she trusted any promises made by anybody in a position to potentially overthrow or murder her. To out it another way, if she wanted to rule Westeros from King’s landing, she pretty much has to exterminate every high-level official of the previous regime in that city and surrounding area. And this includes their family and children.

3] Her other competitors, the Stark family, is largely made up of ugly weirdos with serious blind-spots for treachery, a misplaced belief in their own moral superiority and exhibit a general lack of competence. Let us face it, even that crippled mystic guy hasn’t been able to do much other than make funny faces and mumble half-baked “prophecies”. Also, the general zeitgeist of that fictional universe is such that not getting rid of them after using them will almost certainly lead to some future betrayal or fatal misunderstanding. In fact, the death of all remaining members of that family in battle or soon afterwards would be the most desirable outcome. And ya.. I am talking about John Snow, Arya, Bran etc. Face it.. they are just future potential competitors and unlikely to change the system.

4] Most people in that city have known no ruling family other than the previous one. Under such conditions, retaining even the lower administration from the prior regime is risky- especially if you want to do some reforming. Although her ancestors built that city, Daenerys will always seen as a foreign ruler by the people of King’s Landing. But dead people cannot hate or plot against you. There is no real downside to wiping out every last inhabitant of the city, since they can be easily replaced by migration from neighbouring kingdoms. Furthermore, people from other kingdoms who will move in to rebuild the city and live there will have known no ruler of that city than Daenerys. This makes it far easier to start your new era on a positive note.

5] Nuking that city and reducing it to rubble allows Daenerys to rebuild the city from a clean slate. She can rebuild it to erase all signs of previous rulers and potential rivals. Most people who move in and rebuild the city will also be permanently indebted for providing them with a fresh start and will be far less likely to support rebellions than their predecessors. She can also pick and choose the ethnic balance of future city such that there will be enough minorities who dislike each other more than hate her. I know, this sounds cynical- but what were you expecting! She could also use the destruction of that city to extend the boundaries of its successor and modify it to increased trade and commerce, thus reducing the risk or rebellion even further.

6] In an individualistic, capitalist and neoliberal society (such as the one in RR Martin’s books), nobody will remember all those who were killed to create the new city- unless one can make a quick buck out of doing so. Don’t believe me.. look at how countries in North and South America treat their defeated and almost extinct indigenous people. Or take Australia, which used to classify its indigenous people as Fauna until the early 1970s. So ya.. nobody is going to miss all those dead people in King’s Landing. In fact, future generations of the new city might remember Daenerys as the founder of a glorious new empire or order and minimize all the morally dubious stuff she did to achieve that end. Don’t believe me? Read about the ‘Founding Fathers’ of USA.

In summary, nuking King’s landing using that dragon was probably the smartest and most rational thing Daenerys has ever done.

What do you think? Comments?