Flicking through one of the Sunday broadsheets earlier this year I came across a piece by the paper's TV critic, taking a pop at HBO's fantasy show Game of Thrones. With my own opinion being so far opposed to that of the writer, I was actually rather intrigued by the prospect of reading what I assumed would be a thoughtful and intelligent critique of the hit show. How wrong I was.
Amazingly, my biggest problem with the piece wasn't the writer's admission that they had difficulty figuring out what was going on due to never having watched any of the show's previous three seasons ('because I have a life'). Rather, it was the overall tone of the column, which clearly set out to denigrate and belittle the fantasy genre as something utterly worthless and infantile.
Regardless of the fact that we're talking about a paid writer for a so-called 'highbrow' newspaper, I'm always gobsmacked whenever anybody dismisses an entire genre as worthless. Surely every single creative endeavour should be judged solely on its own individual merits, not by how it fits into a series of pigeon-holes whose main purpose is to aid marketing teams in selling their products.
So let's look at Game of Thrones for a second. The presence of dragons, magic and a fantastical setting clearly marks it out as belonging to the fantasy genre from an aesthetic point of view. But it's hardly the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, is it? Actually watching the series reveals the fantasy to be mere dressing for an epic tale of political intrigue and family feuds. As such, in terms of actual thematic and narrative concerns, Game of Thrones has much more in common with the likes of I, Claudius and House of Cards than The Lord of the Rings.
So, going back to the newspaper writer who prompted this (and any others who instantly dismiss the fantasy genre), are we to believe that the themes that Game of Thrones deals with are rendered completely pointless if they involve people standing around outside castles in a mythical world, but not when the exact same issues are dealt with by people in togas standing around a recreation of Ancient Rome?
Similarly, do those people who dismiss the horror genre out of hand also hate the acclaimed 1991 critical and commercial smash The Silence of the Lambs? That police procedural has all the aesthetic tropes necessary to place it squarely within the boundaries of the horror genre. And don't even get me started on Jaws.
Ultimately it doesn't matter whether a story is told by actors playing real or fictional. It's all about playing make-believe. Sure, some films and TV shows may be based on real events, but even then they've been twisted and reshaped to suit the medium and the whims of the producers.
By dismissing entire genres out of hand the only thing you do is rob yourself of fantastic experiences. Ignore the musical and you'll never have the chance to bathe in the wit and brilliance of Singin' in the Rain. Dismiss the rom-com and you miss out on the wickedly funny Harold and Maude. And turn your nose up at sci-fi and you'll never witness Max Rebo playing keyboard in Jabba The Hut's palace...
So do yourself a favour and ditch the blinkers, before I set my dragon on you.
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