Sean Beckwith: Spare us the book’s-better-than-the-movie sentiment
August 8, 2017
Editors note: Article involves spoilers from "Game of Thrones."
"You know nothing, Jon Snow." — Ygritte
I wish that was my case for most of "Game of Thrones" — the HBO show that's so popular I kind of want to distance myself from it. It's like kale or when your uncle dabs (the dance move, not smoking wax). I'm too invested, though. My sister got me hooked on the books during season one, and I read all of them prior to the second season.
I hadn't been able to fully enjoy the series until they surpassed the book's timeline. Everybody hates the it's-not-as-good-as-the-book guy because he wears that knowledge like a merit badge from the Book Scouts of Condescending America.
Fortunately, I didn't read the books thoroughly enough to be tested on the information, even if I occasionally felt like I was reading from a textbook. Certain plot points and character alterations didn't really bother me because books are the only medium that can properly examine and express George R. R. Martin's expansive world.
I knew the big moments — the Red Wedding, Dany's raids of the slaver's towns, Tyrion killing his dad — were coming, but I had a hard time overlooking HBO's need to amp up the sex and violence.
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Joffrey was a terrifying, bloodthirsty sociopath, but I don't remember Martin going into graphic detail of him killing prostitutes with a crossbow. How many "Ramsey Bolton tortures and dismembers Theon Greyjoy" scenes were necessary to the plot? Oberyn Martell did lose his fight against the Mountain, but he didn't get his head crushed like a rotting pumpkin.
My sister introduced me to the series, so naturally we watched the show together, as well, which often is uncomfortable due to brief intervals of "Game of Thrusts" and brother-sister sex scenes. It would be like attending a play of Oedipus with your mom. Please, no more meetings in brothels or explicit incest.
Sansa Stark's rape scene made me boycott the show for a couple of episodes. I still haven't watched them, and it's controversial scenes like those that have brought justifiable criticism to the shows co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
However, when you've invested the amount of time I have to the subject matter, it's impossible to stay angry after some of the moments this season has provided.
The Stark children reuniting, Dany finally reaching Westeros, the revelation of who killed Joffrey, and a dragon unleashing napalm on an unprepared Lannister army were incredibly fulfilling.
What's more fun than the much-anticipated payoffs, though, is not knowing what's going to happen. I can watch in the warm comfort of ignorance. I found myself watching other viewers' reactions to the Red Wedding because I had already experienced that trauma.
Now I'm the unknowing rube, sitting in front of the TV, waiting to be surprised or horrified or elated by the next explosive battle scene, backdoor deal or long-awaited reunion.
From fire-induced cheers to Sam Tarly jeers, inappropriate incest insults and who-the-hell-is-he's, the wonderment, a.k.a. the reason I became a fan, is back.
I no longer watch like the Comic Book Guy at a superhero movie. "Well, actually" are two words no one wants to hear after a supposedly well-done translation from book to screen.
Well, actually Peter Parker created his own webbing. Well, actually the "Suicide Squad" comics were good. Well, actually I liked the movie because I'm not handcuffed to the book.
"The Big Bounce" is one of my favorite works by Elmore Leonard, but I'll ride for the movie over the book every day of the week, and it's nothing like the book. (I haven't read "Get Shorty" because I don't want it to ruin the movie.)
Why anyone would ever subject themselves to such a fruitless venture is beyond me. Either you want to be able to pick every mundane nit to the point of driving everyone around you mad, or you honestly thought sensationalizing movie and TV execs would cede to your desires.
How many times has the book-to-screen reading-then-viewing experience worked out? Apparently "Harry Potter" was successful at it, but I'd rather Ali Ca-decapitate myself.
Save yourself the hassle and pick one or the other, because I'd rather know nothing than expect everything.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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