Editor's note: Think that Clive Martin is being a stupid garbage person who doesn't know when to keep his dumb mouth shut about shit he doesn't understand? You're not alone. Read a rebuttal to this piece here.
Earlier this week, Game of Thrones-the thing that people on the internet now love more than anything else in the whole world-returned for another season. For some reason, it's a show that people have only ever felt comfortable describing to me IRL in alliterative HBO comparisons: "The Wire with wizards," "The Sopranos with swords," and so on. I haven't watched it yet, and to be honest, I probably never will.
And it's not because I don't have HBO Go, or because every time I've tried to torrent something I've just ended up with a frozen download bar and tons of pop-up ads for dick pills. It's because I have an innate aversion to anything that can be described as "fantasy."
We all know the clichés of the fantasy fan: the Games Workshop employee who sighs when children don't know how to play the game properly. The people who found their cultural Garden of Eden in the graphic-novels section of Borders some time in the late 90s. Their cultural trajectory took them from Redwall to Red Dwarf to Reddit, and now they argue loudly in small-town bars about how Bruce Lee died. They hate fashion in all its forms, yet they yearn to look different. To get around this, all of their clothing must refer to something else. Be it an oversize Alan Moore-style amulet or one of those "Afraid of the dark, Lagerboy?" T-shirts.
The mission statement of Game of Thrones, though, is that it isn't just meant for those people. It's for people who like True Detective, Donna Tartt, and the National. It's sexier, it's full of great actors, it's about politics, and people die all the time. You can talk about it at parties, and people won't laugh at you! But as much as its audience protests that GoT isn't just for people who love arguing about dragons, my aversion to anything that could be described as "fantasy" runs far deeper.
In truth, I really don't care whether Game of Thrones is more like "Mad Men with magicians" than Dungeons & Dragons or whatever. It's a lifelong problem; the same one that made me fall asleep in the first Lord of the Rings film, walk out of the second, and completely ignore the third (not to mention The Hobbit, which was even disliked by many people who loved LOTR).
Photo via Flickr
Maybe I'd be a better person if I could put aside my prejudices and learn to appreciate the scope, escapism, narrative skill, and subtle humor that fantasy fans eulogize. But I don't think that's the problem here, because I've never had a particularly limited cultural imagination; as a kid, I loved Ghostbusters and was probably one of the few people I knew at the time to actually enjoy The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. I didn't spend my adolescence asking how much "killing" films had in them before deciding whether to watch them. I never rewound the lesbian kiss moment in American Pie 2, and my reading level did eventually mature to the obligatory "cool books" stage of Kerouac, Salinger, Ballard, Philip K. Dick, and the rest.
Even as I grew up and discovered booze, girls, and nu-metal, I found myself getting into all sorts of things that people who tend to like the fantasy genre also tend to like, whether I was trying to decipher the Architect's speech in The Matrix: Revolutions or anything in Twin Peaks. I'm absolutely fine with any kind of paranormal activity, occultism, devilry-whatever, as long as the word "orc" is never used in any capacity.
The fantasy of lineage in the UK is one I've just never been able to buy into. It's a lineage that encapsulates everything from the music of Pink Floyd and those books that you need dice to read. I've always seen it as a culture that tends to be adored by people who can't quite deal with the chaos of the real world: its genocides, its heartbreak, its dogging, its endlessly evolving fashions, and its religious zealots.
There are people who will call me a Luddite for not being able to stomach fantasy. But is it really me who's the Luddite here, or is it the people who went to bed every night for a year counting the days till they could go see a film called The Desolation of Smaug? I guess my real problem is that most things fantasy-related seem to come from a very conservative, dated worldview. They remind me of car trips, bars where the bartender wears corduroy, school trips to theme parks, and people who wear "SMEG OFF" T-shirts.
Perhaps if Game of Thrones were set in truly mythical or futuristic lands, I could buy the escapism part a bit more. I didn't have a problem believing in Blade Runner, but GoT and most fantasy seems to be merely a bastardization of 1930s pastoral England.
Photo via Flickr
Then there's the problem of sex. Lord of the Rings-despite featuring Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and Liv Tyler-managed to totally eschew anything remotely sexual, save for a bit of cleavage and some brief kissing towards the end. As far as I can tell, Pink Floyd has carved out a career by pretending that sex doesn't exist, and I'm pretty sure there are no blowjobs in Discworld, either. Game of Thrones apparently has loads, as everyone tells you literally every time you bring it up. Good job-identify the problem and put tits and balls on it.
To me, it seems that these books, films, songs, and TV shows about people with weird ears running around mountains smashing each other over the head with swords are created for people who have trouble understanding other human beings. While the Music Room Crew back at my middle school were wigging out to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, I just couldn't get past the Tolkienisms and mythological allusions. Granted, I couldn't relate to Chronic 2001 that much, either, but that seemed like a document of a world that actually existed somewhere, rather than some ridiculous boarding-school fantasy.
Also, where are all the ethnic minorities in Lord of the Rings? It's a fairly common, trolly thing to say, an accusation leveled at a lot of fantasy stuff and probably a point made by a thousand bad stand-ups. But that doesn't mean we should discount it. After a bit of googling, the common justification seems to be that these tales are written as part of English lore. But hold on guys? I thought it was supposed to be fantasy? It's cool to have an orc, some dragons, and tons of midgets, but no black people? It just seems a bit problematic to me.
Like I said, I haven't actually seen Game of Thrones. And who knows-maybe it is great. Maybe one day I'll be able to get past all of my prejudices during a re-run on Syfy years down the line. But for now, I just can't get past those fucking orcs.
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Photo via Flickr user Kyle Nishioka