Game of Games, Part One

Beware! Guest Postapalooza days are switching up over the next couple weeks!

We’re back with Satsuma, who’s got some interesting comparisons between The Hunger Games and another popular series, Game of Thrones.

SPOILER WARNING: Do not read this post unless you don’t mind getting spoiled for the Game of Thrones series up through Season 3 (or A Storm of Swords, if you’re the reading type!)
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So anyone who follows this blog, might have noticed there’s a lot of crossover between The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire fandoms. Not at all surprising, because the two stories have MANY similarities, though I think there are some differences, too. Part One will discuss general parallels, and will be relatively spoiler-free. Part Two will discuss how both franchises face similar issues when it comes to adapting books to screen. This has much more spoiler potential, please be careful!

Part One: Parallels, so many parallels.

Sansa gets tough

Awwwww shoot!

1. Both stories have “Game” in the title. DUH, right? But really, both stories have as a major theme the idea of Playing the Game for survival, conquest, or power. In THG, you win merely by being the last one standing. GOT, people are playing to win the Iron Throne, or at least the political power behind it, BUT it’s also about survival, because “When you play the game of thrones, you either win or die.” (Thanks Queen Cersei !)

2. Both stories are fairly “realistic” for genre fiction. THG has elements of science fiction, but the story does not focus on, or depend on those elements. Same for the fantasy/magic elements of GOT; there are dragons and zombies, but both feature in subplots that have, at least so far, not been as important as the political ones.

3. In both stories, “no one is 100% good or 100% bad”.
(Quote from George R.R. Martin himself!) Although some characters are ALMOST 100% one way or the other, the vast majority are shown to be imperfect, but with SOME redeeming features. GOT has more “political parties” than THG does, but in both stories, there is no one side that is totally justified in every action. The Starks seem to be the closest there is in the GOT world to heroes, but not everyone allied with their cause is heroic, and many of the Starks make questionable decisions that lead to death and destruction.

4. Both stories contain a LOT of violence, much of it grotesque and horrifying.
(I even think both stories have elements of the Horror genre). Now, one difference is that GOT contains a lot of sex, as well, and THG certainly isn’t filled with sex scenes like GOT. But THG still mentions prostitution, which is also a big part of GOT, and many fans have speculated that Gloss and Cashmere’s relationship was a lot like Jaime and Cersei’s.

Just call him Peddard

Just call him Peddard

5. Both stories feature some good ol’ fashioned in-cave loving.

6. Both stories show people fighting, with primitive weapons, for the entertainment of others. One of the books the GOT series is based on, actually does include scenes with “pit fighters”, who are gladiators. And in both show and books, knights are shown competing in tourneys, and dying in them as well. I think Sandor Clegane would find the Careers in THG to be quite similar to the knights of his world.

7. Both stories were written by authors who are definitely NOT afraid to kill off major characters, including the “heroic” and “innocent” ones. GRRM has promised readers “a bittersweet ending”, and I think most THG fans would find “Mockingjay has a bittersweet ending” to be the MOST positive spin on what happens. Oh, and both authors have been accused of writing “food porn”.

8. Here’s one difference. In general, the GOT series focuses mostly on the political power brokers, the Snows, Coins, and occasionally the Plutarchs and Boggs of the world. The “smallfolk”, or commoners, are essentially helpless pawns in the schemes of the highborn. THG focuses much more on the plight of the average District citizen, and doesn’t shy away from exploring the moral agency of those who are NOT conventional power players, such as Gale, or even Katniss herself.

(BTW, I think Plutarch would do very well for himself if magically transported into Westeros, and would give guys like Varys and Littlefinger a run for their money.)

9. Both fandoms have very dark corners. Some THG fans think Coin’s idea to throw Capitol kids into the Games was justifiable revenge. There are fanfics set in AUS in which the rebellion failed and the Games went on, that seem very close to glorifying the Games. However, it seems to me that such disturbing fans are only a small subset of the general THG fandom. Not so sure about GOT/ASOIAF.

Especially these days, as a recent shocking event in the GOT series, has gotten many fans, even the usually reasonable ones, clamoring for a total slaughter of anyone involved with what happened, even the innocent children of the perpetrators. This, to me, is genocide. (It’s also what Coin implied would happen to the Capitol citizens if the Victors voted down the “Capitol Hunger Games”.)

Now, I’m sure most GOT/ASOAIF fans clamoring for the annihilation of a particular House, would claim, “Of course I wouldn’t support genocide in REAL LIFE!” But the truth is that one of the major justifications used for genocide, or other atrocities, is by framing these actions as revenge for previous atrocities.

10. Both fandoms are beset with arguments between “book purists”, and fans who are more lenient when it comes to changes from the books in the screen adaptations.
But that is material for my next post.

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4 comments

  1. Satsuma, let me just hug you. I am somewhat fangirling over this post because I am huge fan of both THG and GOT (just realizing now that they are only one letter off in their title abbreviation). Anyway, I really just want to say thank you for taking the time to compare and analyze them in this way. I haven’t really done that before. However, now I am sitting here wondering if that might be the reason I enjoy both so much. (Although, I haven’t read the ASoIaF books. Yet.)
    Wonderful guest post and I can’t wait for part 2.

  2. I have to admit, GOT had too much sex and violence for my taste. I put it down after one night of reading. But I can appreciate the comparison and parallels.

    1. I’ve recently started to read SoIaF. I’ve finished the first book and have started the second, and after reading the first book, I’ve also finally started watching the show (I have two more episodes to go before I finish season 1). I absolutely love the books, and have only very minor quibbles (such as the very dubious genetics that are used as a plot point), but on the other hand, I have some issues with the show so far.

      I have no problem with sex or violence – I’ve watched shows and movies with far more graphic sex or graphic violence.

      But I do have a problem with gratuitous, fanservicey sex or nudity (it’s more rare with violence), which is something that’s bugging me in the show, as opposed to the books. A few scenes that were created for the show don’t seem to exist for any other reason but fanservice for the coveted 18-to-30 male demographic – namely, scenes in which we see random prostitutes flashing their breasts or having sex with each other while the male characters are having important dialogue or monologue. Conveniently, all the prostitutes we’ve seen so far (disclaimer: I’m only up to episode 8 in season 1) have been hot young women with Hollywood-perfect bodies. Where are the older, the less attractive ones? Where are the underage girls and boys? (Obviously, I don’t want to see them naked or in sex scenes, but I think they should be seen and acknowledged – it is mentioned that a certain lord likes young boys, but talking about it and actually seeing young girls and boys in the brothel are different things.) I find this portrayal of prostitution glamorized and untrue.

      And although some other sex scenes created for the show (such as – SPOILER

      those between Theon Greyjoy and his favorite prostitute Ros)

      may not be gratuitous, it’s also convenient that they feature hot young women and young men with chiseled muscular bodies. On the other hand, the first sex scene in the book is between Ned and Catelyn, and they both walk around the room naked, Catelyn even walks nude in front of Master Luwin because she has more important matters on her mind in that moment and doesn’t care for false modesty, since Luwin has delivered all her babies anyway. But the show de-sexualized Catelyn and Ned and the show version of the scenes has them cuddle innocently, fully dressed. But, of course, those two actors are 50 and late 40s, respectively. It made me cynically conclude that someone at HBO must have sent a note: “No nudity from anyone over 40! We don’t want to freak out our young male demographics, they don’t want to see their parents nude and having sex!”

      (Although I must say that episode 8, the only one in season 1 that was written by George R. R. Martin himself, was an exception to that – not only it featured no nude hot young women making out as a distraction in scenes, but it featured a non-sexual nude scene – which is also in the books – from a less than attractive male character.)

      There are other quibbles I have about minor changes. Specifically, I was annoyed when Catelyn Stark was made into a classic damsel in one fight scene, just lying helpless, while in the book, while she does get saved by a male character, she proceeds to slash the throat of one of the attackers. There have also been a couple of other scenes where the role of women in the action was smaller than that in the books.

      Yes, very minor things, but they end up being not so minor when they contribute to the overall impression.

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