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Excellent article on the show's shift from sociological to psychological storytelling

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4 minutes ago, SansaJonRule said:

[W]hat does jump the shark mean? A friend told me just recently, but I don't remember.

The TV Tropes website explains it thusly.

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On 5/21/2019 at 12:49 PM, zed said:

Thanks very much to the OP. This is a first-rate thread, my current favorite. 

On 5/22/2019 at 6:32 AM, darmody said:

B.S. Game of Thrones is based on novels. All novels, if they're any good, are sociological and psychological (to use the article's terms). That may be easier to do in a novel than a t.v. show, but Game of Thrones did it very well for four seasons. 

What happened? They didn't shift from sociology to psychology. They simply dropped sociology. The psychological aspect was always present. Think of Ned observing Arya's water-dancing and having a PTSD flashback episode.

Either through incompetence or disinterest, they suddenly got really bad at SETTING, PLOT, DIALOGUE, etc. They weren't telling the story of wider Westerosi culture, politics, society, religion, courtship, family, and so forth. To the point where a would-be ruler of Seven Kingdoms has no idea who's currently ruling several kingdoms, if anyone. But not because they shifted to psychology. One of our biggest complaints lately is that we have no idea what characters are thinking or why they do what they do. 

What the show has shifted to is less literary and more visual storytelling. Which might seem psychological when they linger on actors' ambiguous expressions. But just as often screentime is filled by extended action sequences or people walking past stuff or dragons soaring. 

...

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to call B.S. I'd say that the article brings up some good points that are either missed entirely or undervalued In the other criticism I've read of GoT. Nevertheless, the article has some weak points. 

The show runners dropped the ball badly. One might say that Daenerys Targaryen destroyed Kings Landing, but D  & D destroyed Westeros. Theirs was the greater sin. Your point about a would-be ruler not even knowing who's running several kingdoms is well taken. I'd go further. I can't disentangle various characters, their desires, their strengths and weaknesses...from all the general nonsense that infected the show in the later seasons. For example, I have some problems accepting mad Dany, because the theory doesn't explain how Dany became such a moron. Perhaps there is some kind of brain disease going around. Her advisers became morons before she did, and they spread the infection to her. Well before she started losing loved-ones, the The Imp Who Used To Be Intelligent and the Jackass Also Known As Spider were exhibiting total incompetence. They told her that the lords of Westeros would favor her over Cersei. Unfortunately, they did not make even a decent attempt to contact most of the lords of Westeros. The Mother of Dragons at least eventually gets around to asking who controls the Stormlands. It appears that the question never even occurred to anyone else. 

A large part of the problem can be traced to Cersei Lannister's ascension to the throne. The whole business is totally bogus. As at least a few posters pointed out a long time ago, in a well-written story, the woman would not have lived for a week after what she did. The idea that she would be able to gain and maintain power is ludicrous. Once the show runners put the baloney of Queen Cersei in place, a lot of other bunk follows. We have, for example, a group of lords who are so ignorant that they haven't even heard of the Field of Fire. They go marching out in the open across an entire continent, confident that Ser Creep of the Torture Chamber has designed a great (though inadequately tested) anti-dragon weapon. They attack this cardboard castle defended by wimps, so the battle can take place off camera. Also, the show runners have transformed what was once the seat of a major house, and thus a fair sized city, into a military garrison manned entirely by bachelors. 

This whole sad business goes on and on. It is easy, of course, to provide lots of example of how the Westerosi just suddenly forgot or chose to ignore the most important elements of their culture, history, and traditions. For the present, however, this post is long enough. 

 

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On 5/21/2019 at 11:19 PM, zed said:

Quite repetitive and not written that perfectly. But, damn! The content and idea the author wanted to convey was spot on.

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On 5/22/2019 at 7:54 AM, darmody said:

You hear stories about how they had different plans but shoved things in at the last second. Like Dorne in season Five, which did immense damage and was clearly rushed. You can physically see how rushed it is in the crappy fight choreography. 

Or the Battle of the Bastards, which we know had a different ending, though we don't know what that ending was. They didn't plan well enough and couldn't shoot the climax, so they improvised in the editing room and finished inside Winterfell. 

Sometimes just basic discipline and professionalism is all it takes. We don't need George Martin-tier plotting. Just plotting that you didn't make up at 2a.m. Monday morning because you put your book report off all weekend. 

This.

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Posted (edited)

So I finally read that whole article and yea, meh - kind of right and kind of wrong, I think.

It references The Wire as a comparison and, though I have not seen all of that show, I very much get the comparison. But GoTs is fantasy, whilst The Wire had the real contemporary world to rely on for the sociological pressures effecting its characters. In the fantasy genre, I would argue the sociological is world-building - which GRRM definitely did better than D&D but still did not do perfectly. If GRRM had designed a fool proof fantastical 'sociological system' (using the articles terminology) why did he not hand D&D a kind of rule book for how the magic and so on works, so that they could stick to external forces shaping the character actions?

I think we all know the answer - GRRM is a self confessed gardener, which allows for some excellent, natural feeling character development - but when certain characters are beginning to shape their world like Jon, Dany, Bran and the Night King how does the narrative remain sociological without a consistent rule set for the fantastic elements? Does anyone really believe anymore that there is a definable connective system between Asshai, dragons coming into the world, the moon splitting, the seasons, the Others, the Children of the Forrest, blood magic, the Faceless Men and so on? Without that consistent connection in place, the sociological pressures effecting The Long Night, Targyrean genetics, the extent of a wargs power and dragon intelligence levels can never be defined in a way that consistently effects the characters. There are fan theories out there on how GRRMs world works that I think have put far much more thinking into the cohesion of the fantastic threads than the author himself.

TLDR: You cannot have sociologically driven drama in a fantasy world if the fantastic is not consistently defined.

Edited by ummester

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, ummester said:

So I finally read that whole article and yea, meh - kind of right and kind of wrong, I think.

It references The Wire as a comparison and, though I have not seen all of that show, I very much get the comparison. But GoTs is fantasy, whilst The Wire had the real contemporary world to rely on for the sociological pressures effecting its characters. In the fantasy genre, I would argue the sociological is world-building - which GRRM definitely did better than D&D but still did not do perfectly. If GRRM had designed a fool proof fantastical 'sociological system' (using the articles terminology) why did he not hand D&D a kind of rule book for how the magic and so on works, so that they could stick to external forces shaping the character actions?

I think we all know the answer - GRRM is a self confessed gardener, which allows for some excellent, natural feeling character development - but when certain characters are beginning to shape their world like Jon, Dany, Bran and the Night King how does the narrative remain sociological without a consistent rule set for the fantastic elements? Does anyone really believe anymore that there is a definable connective system between Asshai, dragons coming into the world, the moon splitting, the seasons, the Others, the Children of the Forrest, blood magic, the Faceless Men and so on? Without that consistent connection in place, the sociological pressures effecting The Long Night, Targyrean genetics, the extent of a wargs power and dragon intelligence levels can never be defined in a way that consistently effects the characters. There are fan theories out there on how GRRMs world works that I think have put far much more thinking into the cohesion of the fantastic threads than the author himself.

TLDR: You cannot have sociologically driven drama in a fantasy world if the fantastic is not consistently defined.

It appears to me that posters on this thread are talking about a few different things. If I understand you correctly, you don't disagree with people like darmody concerning some big problems with the writing in GoT:

On 5/22/2019 at 6:32 AM, darmody said:

...

What happened? They didn't shift from sociology to psychology. They simply dropped sociology. The psychological aspect was always present...

Either through incompetence or disinterest, they suddenly got really bad at SETTING, PLOT, DIALOGUE, etc. They weren't telling the story of wider Westerosi culture, politics, society, religion, courtship, family, and so forth. To the point where a would-be ruler of Seven Kingdoms has no idea who's currently ruling several kingdoms, if anyone...

I maintain that this is important and fundamentally sound criticism. Some people, in this thread and elsewhere, are severely critical of D&D's efforts, finding their writing to be often poor and sometimes shoddy. Others are critical, but less severe. I belong to the former group. I believe, for example, that the ascension of Cersei Lannister to the throne and her continued hold on power is flat out ridiculous. It would almost certainly not happen in a quasi medieval world like Westeros, and certainly not in the way D&D portray it. One does not need to explain how magic works to validate this position. 

Another, more general, issue, is your assertion that "You cannot have sociologically driven drama in a fantasy world if the fantastic is not consistently defined." I'm not convinced of this. There are different approaches to magic in fantasy literature. Briefly, we can look at two basic ones (noting that there may be other approaches and various combinations of approaches). Magic could be a sort of alternate science, something that is part of the structure of a created world. This is true in the work of one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. Le Guin. It's true in those worlds where you have colleges and academies of magic (e.g. Harry Potter). 

Another approach is for magic to be a wild element, something hard to explain, perhaps inexplicable. In this case, it might be something on the fringes, something out there in the mysterious east and/or the frozen north. This, I believe, is the way it's presented in GoT. Magic comes and goes in the world, or at least the world of the Seven Kingdoms. It intrudes and disrupts. This can mean different things, and matters can be handled in different ways, both by authors and by the characters they create.

I'd say that your assertion is true in the former case but false in the latter.  

Edited by Parwan Nays
grammar

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Posted (edited)

Read the article. As a professor of sociology myself, I was pleased to see sociology's value to literature. Western lit tends to focus on psychology while Chinese fictions tend to focus on sociology. GRRM does a mix of both, I feel, which is why his story stands out.

Dany she sees herself as a god-dictator so some psychology is in order here. However, I feel like show in later seasons switched to her POV, her perspective. Even if they spent a lot of time showing her spriralling, it would mean her POV continues to dominate. The way the sociological storytelling would work when it comes to Dany is if they depicted how the rest of the realm collaborated to overcome her. I would have preferred to watch this.

By the way, my favorite definition of sociology comes from W.E.B. DuBois: "sociology is the science of free will." I absolutely love how sociology examines how much control we have over our life-fate. Fiction writers could benefit from that perspective.

Edited by Rose of Red Lake

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On 5/25/2019 at 7:18 AM, Gendelsdottir said:

The TV Tropes website explains it thusly.

And here's the scene that birthed the expression:

 

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8 hours ago, Parwan Nays said:

It appears to me that posters on this thread are talking about a few different things. If I understand you correctly, you don't disagree with people like darmody concerning some big problems with the writing in GoT:

No, I do not disagree with darmody's assertion - there was always a psychological layer to GoTs/ASoIaF, it was never entirely sociological. And yes, D&D got lazy and just jumped form plot point to plot point without worrying about the logic of the world or the connective emotional tissue at all. So I guess I thing they dropped the ball both on the sociological and, to lesser degree, the psychological.

 

8 hours ago, Parwan Nays said:

Another approach is for magic to be a wild element, something hard to explain, perhaps inexplicable. In this case, it might be something on the fringes, something out there in the mysterious east and/or the frozen north. This, I believe, is the way it's presented in GoT. Magic comes and goes in the world, or at least the world of the Seven Kingdoms. It intrudes and disrupts. This can mean different things, and matters can be handled in different ways, both by authors and by the characters they create

Even in the case of the 'wild magic' - which I prefer, as it feels more natural, there still needs to be a consistency of the rules surrounding it. The characters may not understand how it works and it may never be explained to the audience - but the author should know the rules. I do not believe GRRM knows the rules of the magic in his universe and I think D&D definitely do not.

 

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

Read the article. As a professor of sociology myself, I was pleased to see sociology's value to literature. Western lit tends to focus on psychology while Chinese fictions tend to focus on sociology. GRRM does a mix of both, I feel, which is why his story stands out.

Dany she sees herself as a god-dictator so some psychology is in order here. However, I feel like show in later seasons switched to her POV, her perspective. Even if they spent a lot of time showing her spriralling, it would mean her POV continues to dominate. The way the sociological storytelling would work when it comes to Dany is if they depicted how the rest of the realm collaborated to overcome her. I would have preferred to watch this.

By the way, my favorite definition of sociology comes from W.E.B. DuBois: "sociology is the science of free will." I absolutely love how sociology examines how much control we have over our life-fate. Fiction writers could benefit from that perspective.

Does the rest of the realm collaborate at all? Hardly. That's one of the many objections I have to this season, indeed to most of the later seasons. Until that corny Kumbaya conference in the last episode, most of the kingdoms are just ignored. Even the Vale is ignored. The falcon banner lords and knights should still be in the North, shouldn't they? I don't remember any scene where they departed. But are they even on screen? Does it ever occur to Daenerys or any of her incredibly (and quite recently) incompetent  advisers to even talk to them?

Why would they have to overcome her? She is, after all, a monarch, and the story takes place in a monarchy. Shouldn't the leaders and the people be able to deal with a big ego by now? What the hell (or seven hells), instead of just blathering on about "for the realm," actually make some halfway clever moves for the realm. If, say, the queen needs a victory parade, then provide a victory parade. If some people don't feel love toward her, then tell them to fake it. One might start with the post battle celebration. Why was it that only the ""cool guys" (pun definitely intended) were invited? The wildlings and the northerners made up virtually the entire crowd. There were no Unsullied and no Dothraki. Those men bled and died for Westeros. Why can't they now be counted as Westerosi? They love the Mother of Dragons. If they are included in things, then one should be able to see a solution to the untreated problems. Maybe with just a bit of competent action on the part of formerly intelligent men (first three or four seasons, I'd say), things would not have had to end in disaster.  

Edited by Parwan Nays
grammar

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12 hours ago, ummester said:

1. No, I do not disagree with darmody's assertion - there was always a psychological layer to GoTs/ASoIaF, it was never entirely sociological. And yes, D&D got lazy and just jumped form plot point to plot point without worrying about the logic of the world or the connective emotional tissue at all. So I guess I thing they dropped the ball both on the sociological and, to lesser degree, the psychological.

 

2. Even in the case of the 'wild magic' - which I prefer, as it feels more natural, there still needs to be a consistency of the rules surrounding it. The characters may not understand how it works and it may never be explained to the audience - but the author should know the rules. I do not believe GRRM knows the rules of the magic in his universe and I think D&D definitely do not.

 

1. Good. I thought we pretty much agreed on these matters. 

2. You're probably right about GRRM, and almost certainly right about D&D.

The author certainly needs to know basic rules, but this does not mean he has to know everything. It seems to me that one could write a good story without really mapping things out, even in one's own head. If, for example, Asshai is simply out there and probably somehow connected to the origin of dragons, and if the main threat to the kingdom is the White Walkers, why would it be necessary to have a complete and detailed understanding of the relationship between Asshai and the WW? Why couldn't it be unclear whether or not there even is any relationship?

 

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Every time I think, "Time to move along; everything's been said that needs saying," a discussion like this one occurs. Excellent points here by all concerned. :goldstar:

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5 hours ago, Gendelsdottir said:

Every time I think, "Time to move along; everything's been said that needs saying," a discussion like this one occurs. Excellent points here by all concerned. :goldstar:

Thank you very much. And I repeat my thanks to the OP. This is a good thread. 

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Posted (edited)

On the point of Cersei and the probability of her rule lasting more than the time needed for the ashes to fall.

Imo, It lends support to the article's logic and also detracts from it.

But in the end it comes down to this, I think: If you're telling a story completely through the characters, it gets easier to explain away things that would need more fleshing out.

Who are the remaining players in KL?

What are the social repercussions of upending religious support to such a large population, especially after they've been incited to fanaticism?

Even on the Lannister side, are there no other relatives? 

Does she really have that good a propaganda machine?

Many of these questions could have answers in the narrative, developing something that looks roughshod into a true conspiracy.

Instead of simply telling us her desperate tactics to rid herself of enemies have successfully gained her a throne?

Build a conspiracy. Expound on background movements as she works to gain support in certain areas of the court, tradicionalists of the Faith of the Seven and others targeted by the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. Have us believe she could truly engender a terror attack and spin the story as to come out not only innocent, but a savior with the favor of enough players to keep her in power.

Creating those factors would be a deterrant to the fast pacing and take away screen time from other characters' journey.

At best we get her meeting of Lords, inflating her own position as Protector against a foreign invader. 

And that's where the article has to fall back on the failsafe: bad writting.

Even a story where you're only exposed to events as a personal experience for the character and your attachment is to the characters and not the story itself?

It could have been done much better than another ofense on decent story telling: give me 20 good men.

It just happens. And it's done. Nothing on the aftermath, the resolution, the transference of power.

Is the Faith of the Seven restored? Through whom? I guess they'll need another High Septon? 

What happens to the Highgarden troops and household still in KL?

What happens to the Lannisters? Or any of the other Houses who had their heads effectively cut off in the explosion?

Does no one send any ravens about the destruction of the verse equivalent of St. Peter's and the Holy See all at once? I don't remember if we even see other characters get the news.

But it's fait accomplit, no follow up.

She bombs the Sept, kills her opposition with only her 'Igor' type sidekick like a cartoon villain and she's queen.

Edited by It_spelt_Magalhaes

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9 hours ago, It_spelt_Magalhaes said:

On the point of Cersei and the probability of her rule lasting more than the time needed for the ashes to fall.

Imo, It lends support to the article's logic and also detracts from it.

But in the end it comes down to this, I think: If you're telling a story completely through the characters, it gets easier to explain away things that would need more fleshing out.

Who are the remaining players in KL?

What are the social repercussions of upending religious support to such a large population, especially after they've been incited to fanaticism?

Even on the Lannister side, are there no other relatives? 

Does she really have that good a propaganda machine?

Many of these questions could have answers in the narrative, developing something that looks roughshod into a true conspiracy.

Instead of simply telling us her desperate tactics to rid herself of enemies have successfully gained her a throne?

Build a conspiracy. Expound on background movements as she works to gain support in certain areas of the court, tradicionalists of the Faith of the Seven and others targeted by the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. Have us believe she could truly engender a terror attack and spin the story as to come out not only innocent, but a savior with the favor of enough players to keep her in power.

Creating those factors would be a deterrant to the fast pacing and take away screen time from other characters' journey.

At best we get her meeting of Lords, inflating her own position as Protector against a foreign invader. 

And that's where the article has to fall back on the failsafe: bad writting.

Even a story where you're only exposed to events as a personal experience for the character and your attachment is to the characters and not the story itself?

It could have been done much better than another ofense on decent story telling: give me 20 good men.

It just happens. And it's done. Nothing on the aftermath, the resolution, the transference of power.

Is the Faith of the Seven restored? Through whom? I guess they'll need another High Septon? 

What happens to the Highgarden troops and household still in KL?

What happens to the Lannisters? Or any of the other Houses who had their heads effectively cut off in the explosion?

Does no one send any ravens about the destruction of the verse equivalent of St. Peter's and the Holy See all at once? I don't remember if we even see other characters get the news.

But it's fait accomplit, no follow up.

She bombs the Sept, kills her opposition with only her 'Igor' type sidekick like a cartoon villain and she's queen.

Good points here. I believe I'm in basic agreement with this post, though I'm not clear on what you mean by falling back on the failsafe of bad writing. 

Yes, the 20 good men business was bad stuff. There's lots of bad stuff in the later seasons. 

I've taken part in some discussions on how one could improve the story telling related to Cersei's rise and her conflict with Daenerys. I believe the best way to make things better would involve going back a good ways. Don't have Cersei destroy the sept. Find a way for her to get out from under the charges against her and also come to some kind of a working agreement with the Tyrells. You should avoid the weird situation where this creep of the torture chamber somehow convinces a bunch of high lords that he has taken time out to get a master's degree in engineering from the Westerosi equivalent of West Post, and so they can trust his never-actually-used anti-dragon weapon.

A possibility: 

The High Sparrow falls ill with a strange disease and dies quickly. A number of Sparrows start getting sick. We have a street scene where a Sparrow encounters a cute little girl with a toy. The toy unfolds to uncover a manticore which attacks and kills the holy man. Now things have taken an interesting turn. Instead of some unbelievable super weapon, we have a more interesting Qyburn, a man of powerful magic, and a man with important connections in the east. Working with his allies, he can develop measures and methods which will threaten the Mother of Dragons. Some elements of the faith, ones who never cared for the fanaticism of the High Sparrow, fall in line. Margaery and Tommen remain alive. Qyburn's rise to power and prominence, however, is a public middle finger to the Citadel, which comes out in favor of a Targaryen restoration. Cersei does not actually become queen, but she becomes a real power behind the throne. No one wants to cross her. 

I don't say that the above solution is the only, or even the best possible one. I believe, however, that it could have been developed in an interesting way that would involve worthwhile psychology and sociology, while not slowing the pace of things or occupying too much screen time.  

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