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Unoriginal Programming: In which I manage to compare HBO to Disney. And porn.

November 30, 2011


I have a bone to pick with HBO.

Ok. Back up.

I’ve been reading the A Song of Fire and Ice saga by R. R. Martin (hey, those squat word-filled lil paperbacks are perfect for an eleven hour plane ride).


I also had a chance to see a couple of the episodes from the HBO series based on the books.

PS Should probably warn you there are some spoilers for that first book in this post…

*AHEM*

Let me draw your attention specifically to the story of Daenerys. Her brother sells her into marriage with this dude:

” The slave girl had not been far wrong…Khal Drogo was a head taller than the tallest man in the room… His skin was the color of polished copper, his thick mustachios bound with gold and bronze rings…

His face was hard and cruel, his eyes as cold and dark as onyx. Her brother hurt her sometimes, but he did not frighten her the way this man frightened her.”


And Daenerys? She’s blond (“silver-pale hair” to be more specific), fair-skinned. Just by the way.


You are set up to believe her new husband is going to be horrible to her. Cruel. Because, of course, we’ve all heard this story before, haven’t we? The whole pretty lil blond thing and big hulking barbarian? Like a thousand times? I think there’s even porn on this one. Maybe even a lot of porn on this one. Way to be original.

And then… He’s not.


At least not in the book.

In the book, their wedding night finds Daenerys terrified and crying. Yet even though her new husband knows but one word she can understand, he wipes her tears, undresses her slowly. Takes “hours” massaging her back and shoulders and touching her godamn hair before he even touches her breasts. He is slow, careful… and in the end? He asks permission before putting even a finger inside her, and she replies “Yes.


Their subsequent marriage is actually quite romantic, if you ask me. More than that, Daenerys becomes a strong woman in her own right. Despite their vows being based on Daenerys as a “gift” from her brother (and the whole dark-skinned heathen thing, so yeah, some issues), the author paints them as a good pair, and they fall in love. They respect and care about each other, they work to make one another happy.

When he dies, she is beside herself in her grief and her madness at losing him (and some other stuff that happens too).

In the HBO miniseries? Oh, well. Different story.

That first night? Daenerys weeps as Khal Drogo pulls her clothes off, and her arms away from covering her nakedness. He then forces her head down, and quite literally takes her as she sobs in the firelight. There is no emotion on his face. He rapes her without care.


From there? Sorry, bit short on the romance, kids. Their mutual scenes are of him fucking her in his tent, their marriage nothing more than a nightly assault. See below for example.


Oh, things do change – when Daenerys learns one of her servant girls is from a “pleasure house.” She is almost pitiful when she asks this woman to teach her “how to make [Khal Drogo] happy”. And then, of course, the girl-on-girl grinding scene that wasn’t in the book, either.

It is only through her sexuality that she begins to win over her husband. She gains respect and admiration via her sex. They only connect because she finally learns how to put out between the sheets.

Hmmm… what does that remind me of? OH yeah. This:


In the book? Yes, Daenerys has a servant girl who teaches her how to please her husband, but that was actually the explicit point of this particular servant – not something she [practically] begs to be taught. Furthermore, that education isn’t described in the book as it is in the series (which is telling inofitself). And, yes, she aspires to use sex to persuade her new husband on certain things – but she pretty much abandons that and it’s never what their marriage is about. There is much more there.

Oh, HBO. Really? Not only with the blatantly racist plotline, the all-to-familiar narrative of the sweet, blonde, doe-eyed girl “taken” by a heathen, but also all this? This sexist bullshit?

Man as emotionless penis, who cares nothing for his wife until she becomes a freak in the sheets. Has no problem raping her every night, even as she weeps. Woman as weak, meaningless, pathetic, until she becomes some kind of sex goddess, taught the ways by a porn star.

Clearly, I have no problem with a woman learning to be a sex goddess. I believe our sexuality is an asset – but it is for all of us, no matter your gender. And it is never your only asset. It is not the only form of strength a woman possesses, nor is it the only thing that makes a man interested in a woman (well that, and her beauty of course – which would be why Khal Drogo married her in the first place, duh.)

Funny thing is, in the book, Daenerys absolutely learns to command her sexuality. She learns to enjoy it, what her husband likes, and how he can please her. Eventually, she’s even fine fucking in front of the her husband’s hoards (its the Dothraki way, after all – they don’t mind).


But it’s not the only thing she learns commands. It is not the only way she starts to connect with her husband. It is not the only  time in which he starts to see her as a freakin’ person.

Shocking, how blatantly we play out our sexist, racist narratives, no matter how tired. How crystal clear they can be. If you pay attention, they are everywhere. I am not sure how any one can argue that the way we see race, and the way we see men and women are due to something natural – when we are surrounded, inundated, engulfed, overwhelmed by these narratives, every day of our lives. When our society is quite literally steeped in them.

I still can’t help but wonder: Why would HBO make such glaring changes from book to script? I found the original story so much more moving, much more beautiful. More believable, even if it is just what I want to believe. Such a better way to portray both men and women.

Why scrap that for the tired, the well-worn, the racist and sexist? For a healthy serving of tried race and gender performance?

Of the obvious answers, I am not sure which is worse:


Because they didn’t feel the book believable?

Or because they thought we, the audience tuning in, would prefer what they served up instead?

20 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2011 2:09 pm

    Damn, NICE POST. Intertwining HBO Disney and porn? GENIUS! The point though — don’t get me started. Totally agree.

    • December 1, 2011 1:06 pm

      I know… once I get riled up on this shiz I can’t stop. I had a completely different post in mind for today until I saw that HBO episode. WTF!

  2. November 30, 2011 4:04 pm

    Ugh… ugh…. WTF?? How can they make such changes and why? The “why” is what I really wonder about – who decided that this was a better story?

    Great post and I can totally understand your frustration and anger at this. I mean, there is enough crap like that out there, we do not need additional twisted shit.

    (hmm sorry for the less than eloquent comment, am too tired to think of nice words…)

    • December 1, 2011 1:08 pm

      Yes – the “why” is really what gets at me – mainly because it is SO blatantly different from the book. And the changes continue – as far as I can tell. Why feel like making such clear changes would be a good idea?

      (No worries on eloquence – I rarely have it, and I have no excuse! :D)

  3. December 1, 2011 11:13 am

    HBO is obsessed with sex. HBO is the 14 year old boy of the cable networks.

    Still, you’re so right on with this that you should probably just mail this to their studios.

    • December 1, 2011 1:09 pm

      I know – drawing comparisons between HBO and porn is less than difficult. Of course, I do have to commend them for things like actually showing a penis and the whole “Real Sex” thing. I actually think I had higher standards for them regarding things like this – if for no other reason that to be shocking. Guess I was wrong.

  4. December 2, 2011 12:05 am

    Sigh. This is so typical Hollywood. Sadly, Hollywood is still largely run by white men, so most of the shit we see are stories based on their worldview. I’m fairly certain they are trying to satisfy their own personal agendas (consciously or not) by putting forth their own little fantasies just to perpetuate stereotypes that support the male perspective. I looked this one up on IMDB and sure enough, all of the writers and directors are men (with one token woman – out of 22).

    I don’t know what it’s going to take to get a representative number of women up in the upper echelons of the studios, but I hope it happens soon.

    LOVE the image and commentary on the Disney heroines. Spot on, girlfriend!

    • December 5, 2011 8:52 am

      Agreed with all points – our media is overwhelmingly determined by white, wealthy, men. They determined what it is we see and hear – and that has an effect on us, whether we want to admit that or not.

      Yet, again – the alterations between show and book are so striking… it’s really unsettling that they felt it was ok. That they could either get away without us noticing… or that is what we’d rather see, anyway…

  5. December 2, 2011 12:28 am

    Thank you for a post that inspires me to pick up a book that I otherwise would not have known about. As for the Why… Because we are sheep. Baaa. Or as a former co-worker used to say, “I’m a happy lemming.”

    • December 5, 2011 8:55 am

      Are we sheep? Or do we just determine that someone we agree with/like/whatevs is a good place to go for recommendations and advice? Do we use what we know about others, and use it to determined who we listen to – as in “take their word for it” – versus figuring it out ourselves?

      Sometimes it’s more legit to take someone’s word for it than others. I am enjoying the books, they’re entertaining and not as predictable as I would’ve thought.

  6. December 2, 2011 11:52 pm

    Unfortunately, I think your final point is exactly what HBO thought. Sex sells. You have however peaked my interest and I’ve been looking for a really good book to get into, one which doesn’t glorify dying and becoming a vampire in order to be with what appears to be the only man on earth worth having.

    • December 5, 2011 8:57 am

      The final point is, in my view, the most worrisome. Because it means we the audience want gender roles and performance and racist/sexist stereotypes – that THAT is what sells, actually. Not just sex.

      There are no vampires in the books, but there are some zombies. That’s right. Zombies.

  7. December 4, 2011 10:40 pm

    Sorry it took me so long to get back here. I actually am a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and never having read the books I actually thought that they did a good job.

    Lets face it, stuff gets chopped in any adaptation. Did they actually have the time to develop those characters? Maybe maybe not, in the end they did show love, but I agree the initial meeting was pretty brutal.

    Sex or Expediency? In any case it’s still better than network crap!

    • December 5, 2011 9:01 am

      Ew yeah they found love, but only because she started learning how to put out, instead of rolling over and taking it. And the dude as good as raped her every night til she got that figured out. The blatant sexist stereotypes (of both men and women) and the racism in there is pretty gross.

      I don’t think it was a problem to keep the original storyline in the show. Wouldn’t have taken any longer, and would’ve deleted two additional scenes (where she asks her slave girl to teach her and where she’s in bed with said slave – neither of which happen in the book). IMHO, had nothing to do with time at all.

      There are additional scenes that concern me – e.g. when Joffrey makes Sansa look at the head of her dead father. In the book, she does look, thinking to herself that “he can make me look, but he can’t make me see” – and it’s a great moment of personal growth for her, of strength and her changing from a weak girl into an independent woman. They don’t do that in the HBO show, either.

  8. December 6, 2011 8:58 pm

    I wasn’t sure it was possible, but you did it: Porn and Disney in the same post…without a reference to the word “penis” in the seeds in Lion King.

    Why? Why do writers take a perfectly good story and mess it up?

    • December 7, 2011 8:16 am

      Ha! Hey, if there were no more racist and sexist plotlines, I wouldn’t need to!

      And, yeah – all the naughtiness at Disney – remember everything you heard about in high school? I thought it was “sex” in the dust in “Lion King”, plus the dildos on the cover of “Little Mermaid”, naked Jessica Rabbit, and Aladdin telling Jasmine to “takeoffyourclothes”… what’s all that about?

  9. Movedup permalink
    December 13, 2011 7:27 pm

    Hey Disney pulled the original Little Mermaid VHS cases off the shelf because low and behold the glorious castle had a – that’s right – golden penis drawn into it by a disgruntled employee!! Hilarious! Then of course shipped them all back out with a “new castle” I just happen to be the owner of one such VHS with the golden penis! Collectors item! Classic Nikki – how can rape ever be considered entertainment?????? Bend them over the bar and lets have a gang bang and maybe they will see RAPE IS NOT ABOUT SEX ITS ABOUT POWER AND CONTROL. They can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. The sadder part is that less and less these days it seems that PEOPLE ACTUALLY READ BOOKS! Geisha is another great example of YOU GOT IT ALL WRONG! I had to explain the parts the movie left out to my friend so he could understand the story…. ARGGG! Now you got me fired up!

    • January 3, 2012 2:55 pm

      “RAPE IS NOT ABOUT SEX ITS ABOUT POWER AND CONTROL.” <— Yep. This right here. And it has been used for EONS as an act of violence and control. One of the overwhelming issues in today's culture is that we've somehow blurred that line. Part of the issue today is that we're far more clear on this, so Rape Culture tries to be more subtle, and convince people it's not an ish. When it still is – and you can see it in this kind of crap.

      I'm sorry to have fired you up – just kidding, I'm actually not! We need to be fired up sometimes!

  10. December 29, 2011 10:59 pm

    wow. i’ve only barely heard about this book/show in passing. . . I had thought about checking out one or the other…. but after reading this, I will say yes to the book, and no thanks to the show. . . because that would irritate the fuck out of me. That storyline in general pisses me off. . . but if it’s a big departure from the way it’s done in the book, that will piss me off even more.

    • January 3, 2012 2:57 pm

      I’ve heard people really like the show, but I can’t get past how they’ve changed some fundamental things – and in this way, not just in a Hollywood-esque way.

      BTW, the books… oh my. I think I need a break. They’re entertaining, but jeez do they go on… and you can’t just have shit happen to the people your readers care about over and over again…

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