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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Game of Thrones as the Best Kind of Storytelling-- Spoilers Ahead

Okay, so there was A LOT of reaction to the Game of Thrones finale on Sunday, heck to the entire season, but I have something to say about the reaction more than what happened in the plot. I waited a few days to give people time to watch.

First, let me be clear that there was a lot of issues with violence against women this season. I will not deny that, nor be an apologist for it. On the other hand, this series (both in print and on TV) is one of the only places today where you can find women in such strong, interesting, and nuanced roles. There is also the point that the historical context of this fantasy series is set during an era that Martin has likened to Europe in the mid 1400s when violence against women was par for the course. If anything, this is less awful than the real time it is based on.

But the point of this post is not to talk about that.  I want to talk about how upset people got when Jon Snow was murdered at the end of the episode/season.  Let’s not quibble about whether or not he is dead.  I want to talk about how physically and actually upset people got because a fictional character died.

I love it!

That is some amazing storytelling if Martin and the show writers can get millions of people to be upset in real life over fiction.  The power of producing real emotions from a made up situation is awesome to behold.

I have seen this happen in book club a few times. Like the time someone got so mad at Briony from Atonement that she stood up, started pointing in the air at the cover with the picture of Briony, and proceeded to scream at Briony (a fictional character).

I have had smaller versions of this happen when someone is very angry at the choices a character makes too.

In all of these circumstances, Jon Snow included, I calm the reader in question down by reminding them that they are this upset about something that is made up. I remind them of this not to make them look stupid, rather I follow up this statement by telling them what a testament to the author’s skills it is that they could elicit this physical response from us.

The very best fiction can feel real. This is a truth that sadly, many people poo-poo.  I still encounter people who do not think fiction is worth their time because it is “fake.” Or, it is okay for children but not grownups.

Well, to these people I say you are stupid and wrong.  I witnessed thousands of people having a very real experience on Sunday night. I saw true anger and sadness. I saw pure and unfiltered emotion. And I was so proud of the example it set of the power of a great story.

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