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Why “A Song of Ice and Fire” Is Better Than HBO’s “Game of Thrones”

Many fans of George R.R. Martin’s hit fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire are very disappointed with the way Game of Thrones executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss have handled the source material. If you’re sick of seeing the violence against women being used as a shock tactic in Game of Thrones or felt the writing was lagging in the fifth season, then read on to learn why you’re better off sticking with Martin’s original novels.

1. The Rampant Misogyny

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 While Martin’s series is not always a shining example of feminism, he is careful to craft well-rounded women who are not “damsels in distress,” “power hungry schemers,” or “tomboy warriors.” For example, take Cersei Lanniser. In Game of Thrones she is presented as a villain, but the books hint at her complexity. In the first novel, fans discover that she was raped by Robert and was often beaten by him. As the series progresses, we see through her eyes and learn she wanted to be a warrior like her twin Jaime, but her father, Tywin, would never let her due to her gender.

There’s also the prophecy given by Maggy the Frog, which states that Cersei would marry the king but would be killed the valonqar and be cast down by a younger, more beautiful queen. Therefore, by the time we get to Cersei’s “walk of shame,” many readers are able to feel sympathy for the Queen regent and respect her for the strength she shows in being able to walk utterly naked in front of a mob of people who hate her.

In HBO’s Game of Thrones, although actor Lena Headey tries her best, the writers always seem to try and shoehorn her into the “evil stepmother” stereotype. In the show, she is unnecessarily catty towards her daughter-in-law, and there’s a sense that Cersei deserves being humiliated during her walk of shame because she killed Ned Stark and is a horrible human being in general.

Aside from the blatant character assassination of complex female characters, every single time the writers want to have a “shocking scene” it always involves violence against women. For example, in the TV show, Daenerys is raped on her wedding night whereas, in the book, she consents to Drogo. They also divulge from the source material and, when that happens, it always involves sexual violence. Just look at Sansa’s marriage to Ramsey or Ros’s brutal death at Joffrey’s hands.

Although Martin can be problematic at times, he does take the time to craft well-rounded and compelling female characters. He’s also not as quick to use sexual violence against women to shock his readers and seems to respect women in general more than the showrunners do.

II. The Show Has Diverged From the Source Material

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Another huge problem with Game of Thrones is that the executive producers have cut so many important characters and drastically changed the storyline. For example, two major characters the show has cut are Lady Stoneheart and Arianne Martell. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Game of Thrones director Alex Graves heavily implies the showrunners made the decision to cut Lady Stoneheart because she was simply a mindless zombie running around killing Lannisters and Freys (Editor’s Note: That sounds AWESOME).

In the book, Beric Dondarrion resurrects Catelyn Tully after she’s killed at the Red Wedding and she becomes the new leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Catelyn Tully’s transformation into Lady Stoneheart shows how the gruesome death she suffered changed the gentle mother into the personification of vengeance. Even Martin himself wished that the character was kept in the show and told Zap2It that she had an important arc in the novels.

However, the callous treatment of Lady Stoneheart is nothing compared to what they did with Arianne Martell. Arianne is a strong female character who is comfortable in her own skin and with her own sexuality, but she has all the makings to be a strong Queen of Dorne. Although her mission to crown Myrcella Baratheon fails, Arianne’s father, Prince Doran, forgives her and trusts in his daughter’s wisdom as he plots to bring Daenerys Targaryen home. Dorne is also matriarchal, which is why Arianne fights hard for her rights when she thinks her father has plans to crown her brother Quentyn.

In the show, there is no mention of Arianne Martell, and the land of Dorne is patriarchal, with Arianne’s little brother, Trystane, being the heir to Doran’s throne. It is a huge slap in the face to book fans everywhere to cut a strong female character who isn’t lily-white and who is not ashamed of her sexuality. Thankfully, Martin is clearly setting up Arianne to be a major power player in the books and it is highly likely that fans will learn more about the fiery Dornish princess in The Winds of Winter. 

III. They Have Utterly Destroyed Main Characters

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Part of the show’s deviation from Martin’s well-crafted source material means that plenty of main characters have suffered from character assassination. Let’s start with Jaime Lannister. In the novels, he begins his journey towards redemption and the character even acknowledges that he has not lived up to the ideals of knighthood. However, by naming the Valyrian sword Oathkeeper and making Brienne of Tarth swear to bring Sansa Stark to safety, Jaime is taking the necessary steps to becoming a better person.

There is no sense of that in the show, and you can argue that he has become an even worse person because he raped his sister Cersei in front of the corpse of their son Joffrey. Although the lines of consent were dubious in the beginning, Martin clearly shows that Cersei consents, which the showrunners ignored during the fourth season. In the novels, Jaime begins turning into an intriguing character that you could root for, but in the show, he’s absolutely despicable.

Stannis suffers the same fate. Martin created him to be this stern would-be king, but he makes sure to point out that he loves his daughter Shireen and is fighting for her right to be Queen since she is the only legitimate Baratheon heir. That’s why Stannis fans were furious when he cruelly tricked his daughter and burned her alive at the stake at the end of the fifth season. It makes no sense that a man fighting for the kingship of Westeros would brutally murder his heir, especially since it is implied that his wife is barren. Shireen’s terrible death is just another prime example of the violence against women on Game of Thrones.

Martin created A Song of Ice and Fire to deconstruct the usual fantasy tropes with compelling characters that show readers that life isn’t black and white, it’s shades of grey. Unfortunately, Benioff and Weiss have not respected the source material and therefore, the storylines and characters have greatly suffered.

Take my advice. If you want a thrilling fantasy series, stick with Martin’s novels and ditch the TV show.

1 Comment

  1. crowTrobot

    You ASoIaF book readers are the most pretentious, self righteous, and annoying fanbase in all of fandom with the constant moaning and nitpicking. While far from perfect, D&D have created some of the most iconic television in the medium’s history whether you like it or not. Without the show ASoIaf would have never had the cultural impact it currently has and a lot less readers. Reading articles like yours almost makes me wish the books remain incomplete and HBO finished the story (given the narrative mess of the last two books that may be preferable.)

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