Dr. Mark Ryan, “the pop culture expert”, on Game Thrones in the article “Fanning the Ice and Fire” by Natalie Bochenski for the Brisbane Times.
“Fanning the Ice and Fire”
Game of Thrones delivered a sucker punch of colossal proportions to its millions of fans worldwide this week.
The death of a number of key characters saw thousands hit social media to vent their despair and outrage at writer George R. R. Martin and series producer HBO.
When people die in Martin’s book, they’re dead, they’re not coming back and TV viewers are not used to that level of brutality and honesty.
Reaction videos were uploaded to YouTube, the Twitter account @RedWeddingTears was created solely to retweet anguished outbursts, a Downfall parody was created and even 2009’s meme of the year Keyboard Cat made a return.
Martin himself has said the scene was the most difficult he had to write, skipping over it until he’d finished the rest of A Storm of Swords, the third book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series.
The pop culture expert
Queensland University of Technology Film and TV lecturer Mark Ryan said long-form television allowed viewers to form deep attachments to characters.
“Particularly in Game of Thrones where there are so many plotlines, so many houses … audiences get invested,” he said.
Dr Ryan said the HBO series was part of a trend in contemporary TV to subvert expectations, citing Breaking Bad, True Blood and The Walking Dead as other current examples.
“TV shows are trying to steer away from being predictable, and as a result killing off main characters and plot twists that are not favourable keeps viewers on the edge of their seat, keeps them guessing.”
Thousands of reactions captured on social media included fans’ pledge to “give up” on the show.
But Dr Ryan doubted Game of Thrones was in any danger of burning out its audience with emotional upheaval.
“Because of the power of the brand, because people are so invested in the characters, the following keeps growing and growing.”
As of press time, Dr Ryan had not seen the now-infamous “The Rains of Castamere” episode.
“My guess is someone like Jon Snow, or Robb, might be in danger,” he said.
“Am I warm?”
The geek whisperer
Paul Russell is a manager at Brisbane’s Ace Comics & Games store, and has been dealing with fanatics of all kinds for over ten years.
“One thing I’ve noticed is that fans feel really entitled, and they get really angry when things aren’t the way they think they should be,” he said.
“The problem is that gets really dull if you get everything handed to you the way you want it.”
He said Martin’s strength is a willingness to torture his fans.
“You need failure and despair to make a story work … he’s not there to pat you on the head and whisper comforting things in your ear.”
Russell admitted he found that out first hand.
“When I first read the Red Wedding scene, I threw the book across the room and didn’t touch it for two weeks,” he said.
So he was ready for this week’s outrage.
“I was waiting for the shitstorm afterwards – it’s fun to watch fans lose it.”
John Birmingham often kills beloved characters in his techo-thrillers, such as the Axis of Time and Wave trilogies.
“If you’re writing a story where you’re putting your characters in danger, if you’re being true to that, some of them are going to be hurt,” he said.
“As soon as you accept some of them have to die, you get past that emotional blockage … it’s a very, very powerful thing, having the ruthlessness to do that.”
Birmingham said even now fans will occasionally tweet him to voice their displeasure at a character’s grisly end.
“But I’ve never gotten that weird, stalk-y Misery reaction where they tie you up in the basement, break your legs and demand you re-write it,” he said.
“I’m aiming for it, one day I’ll get there.”
The author said TV viewers were used to seeing characters meet their maker – but only temporarily.
“How many times did Buffy die … in Stargate, Daniel Jackson probably died half a dozen times but always came back one way or another.”
“When people die in Martin’s book, they’re dead, they’re not coming back and TV viewers are not used to that level of brutality and honesty.”
Birmingham also said book readers had more control over how they consumed the horror, whereas TV watchers were the prisoners of HBO producers DB White and David Benioff.
“Those of us who put in the hard yards knew exactly what was coming and were prepared.”
Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/entertainment/box-seat/fanning-the-ice-and-fire-20130604-2no8k.html#ixzz2VJReB1zq