On Fictional Violence and Naming Children

Note: Contains Game of Thrones Season 8 spoilers

(Note 2: I never thought I would be doing a post on Game of Thrones, but here I am.  Never say never.)

When I first heard about this book/TV franchise, it was years ago, still in the early days of the TV series.  At first I was interested, because a lot of people were comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, and aesthetically there is some similarity.  I read some Amazon reviews of the books (as I usually do) and was a bit disturbed to hear the series is full of heinous, macabre scenes, including frequent sexual violence.  I always pass on that kind of content and decided not to read it.  Frankly, I also expected the hype would fizzle out sooner rather than later.

Well, hindsight being 20/20, I was completely wrong, and enthusiasm for the series catapulted into eight TV seasons.  I’ve been observing the franchise’s progress from afar and, thanks to the media, wasn’t allowed to not know the fact that it finally reached its last season this year.

I wouldn’t have given it much further thought, if I hadn’t stumbled across this story: Latest Game of Thrones episode sends curveball to children named Khaleesi

“Khaleesi” basically means “queen” in this story, and by association refers to Daenerys, one of the female characters and arguably the poster child for the series.  Many viewers had perceived her as a strong heroine, and sure enough, her name and title made it on to baby names lists.

In season 8, the show writers threw in a plot twist in which Daenerys decides to bomb a conquered city with dragon fire, mass murdering innocent civilians.  This may not be shocking material for the series as such, but it poses a real problem for parents who had envisioned the character as a role model, or at least a namesake, for their daughter.

I’m no fan of Bustle, but they followed up on the topic with a fascinating article which suggests Daenerys was always a villain, just not as blatantly.  If that’s so, it could be argued the writers were taking this aspect of the character to the next level, rather than reinventing her.

Not being a fan of the show, the whole outrage doesn’t affect me, but I do find it interesting that:

  1. there is such a high tolerance of evil (yes, let’s call it that) depicted in fictional form, justified in the name of fiction.  And that’s not one or two isolated episodes; it’s a steady diet throughout eight seasons.
  2. anyone would name their child after a fictional character which is still a work in progress
  3. anyone would associate their child with a TV show famous for its violence

It’s hard enough finding a common name without connotations (Twilight managed to taint “Edward”), but naming your child after a fictional character is quite risk.  If the character is new, their legacy is still to be established.  If the character is old, even a classic, they may have a fairly solid legacy, but perceptions can still change rapidly.  Take Atticus Finch, for example (not that anyone’s naming their boy Atticus… or are they?).

As for the violence, I wonder how many people are actually desensitized to it now.  It also begs the question, how much violence is excessive, in fiction?

I’m completely against sugarcoating non-fiction.  Some terrible, despicable things have occurred in history and in recent events – things as bad or worse than are shown in Game of Thrones.  We shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

When it comes to fiction, however, I’m always more skeptical.  As a writer, I can’t help but feel that much fictional violence is really gratuitous.  How do you justify graphically depicting something awful, except to illustrate a historical fact?  And if you’re illustrating those particular segments of history, why are you using fiction as the outlet?  (It’s a question for myself as much as anyone else.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these topics…

Ten Classics That Should Be Movies

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a page-to-screen freebie.  I’ve talked before about my favorite costume dramas, so I thought I’d go with Jana’s take on this topic and share some books that really need to be adapted!

Also, some of these have been made into films already, so if it’s on the list, it means I haven’t yet seen the “perfect” one (subject to my picky opinion, of course).

10.  The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge

Yonge’s novel may have faded out of popularity (or even recognition), but there are plenty of cinematic moments in this one: feuding family members, a shipwreck, and a haunting graveyard scene. Actually, forget the movie – I have plans to turn this into the next blockbuster musical.  Only half-joking…

9.  The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I can hear critics’ howls of protest…”not ANOTHER Sherlock Holmes movie!”  But hear me out: Jeremy Brett (sadly enough) was not able to play Holmes in all 4 novels and 56 short story adaptations.  No one will ever be Jeremy Brett, but I’m ready for a TV producer to undertake this project, starting over with a new actor.  I present Richard Armitage as my casting choice.  🙂

8. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

The best thing we have at this point is the 2013 Met Opera production (pictured).  I really didn’t care for the 1999 film version with Liv Tyler; she was fine, but the script was plodding and too… British.  I would love to see a Russian production, or maybe a BBC drama with Russian actors.

7. Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Villette has somehow missed out on the recent BBC adaptations list (by “recent”, I mean more recently than 1970).  It’s a shame, because Lucy Snowe is every bit as compelling as Jane Eyre, and the plot is nearly as brooding, with some scenes that would be quite dramatic on screen.  I would prefer an unknown actress, but if not, then Laura Carmichael would do a great job.

6. The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne

AngelsBridgeAndBasilicaDiSanPietroAtNight

By Andreas Tille (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been years since I read it, but The Marble Faun stands out in my memory as being really suited for an adaptation.  It’s an allegory about the Fall of Man, following three young artists who are visiting 19th-century Rome.  The cinematography alone would be stunning!

5. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

I was very disappointed by the 1965 adaptation, which, while more or less following the book and featuring Peter O’Toole, was extremely cringy, not one I’d watch again.  In spite of that, I do think this tale of moral dilemma and consequences would make a good movie, given another chance!

4. Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

As much as I love Lawrence of Arabia, I would love to see a factual adaptation of Seven Pillars, without too many artistic liberties or embellishment.  As for casting, I once read online someone suggesting Matt Smith as T. E. Lawrence.  I’m not sure the resemblance is 100% there, but I can absolutely see him playing all sides of Lawrence’s complicated character.

3. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain

To be fair, I haven’t really watched any Joan of Arc movies yet, in part because none of the existing adaptations look very promising to me.  I would love to see a movie of Twain’s novel, which I read years ago and really liked. 

2. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped is one of my favorite novels of all time, and while I enjoy the 2005 TV movie, it’s not very accurate, more like fan fiction. I hope someday it gets the adaptation it deserves!

1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

As with Sherlock Holmes, I’m still waiting (impatiently) for a complete and accurate rendition of the Alice books.  This brief flashback sequence in the Tim Burton film is the best we’ve got for now.

What about you – what’s on your book adaptation wishlist?