The graphic arts of “Game of Thrones.”
by Emily Nussbaum
For critics, sorting through television pilots is an act of triage. Last year, when “Game of Thrones” landed on my desk, I skimmed two episodes and made a quick call: we’d have to let this one go. The HBO series, based on the best-selling fantasy books by George R. R. Martin, looked as if it were another guts-and-corsets melodrama, like “The Borgias,” or that other one. In the première, a ten-year-old boy was shoved out of a tower window. The episode climaxed with what might be described as an Orientalist gang rape / wedding dance. I figured I might catch up later, if the buzz was good.
It was the right decision, even if I made it for the wrong reason. “Game of Thrones” is an ideal show to binge-watch on DVD: with its cliffhangers and Grand Guignol dazzle, it rewards a bloody, committed immersion in its foreign world—and by this I mean not only the medieval-ish landscape of Westeros (the show’s mythical realm) but the genre from which it derives. Fantasy—like television itself, really—has long been burdened with audience condescension: the assumption that it’s trash, or juvenile, something intrinsically icky and low. Several reviews of “Game of Thrones” have taken this stance, including two notable writeups in the Times: Ginia Bellafante sniffed that the show was “boy fiction” and Neil Genzlinger called it “vileness for voyeurism’s sake,” directed at “Dungeons & Dragons types.”
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