The above video sent to pastabagel as a joke, he got in his car and drove directly to Bananastown.
Okay, so did no one actually go to the site watermarked at the bottom of the video? Because it is an outrage. I want a full report on how you came across this site. Don’t bullshit me and say someone sent it to you. We’re you searching out her kind of music? This is an intervention now. Is that how you found it? Were you looking for a soundtrack to the shire? This is too much of a nexus of fantasy and Enya to be an accident.
“I’m passionate about music and love to explore new ways of telling stories through sounds. All my life I’ve found myself gazing off into other realms where knights charge into battles with dragons and maidens sing from arched windows. I’m a hopeless romantic and a true geek through and through which will probably be evident in my song choices. ”
What Karliene does on her site is sing pseudo Celtic songs called “Over the Misty Mountains” and “The Dornishman’s Wife”. I didn’t make that up. I don’t even know what a Dornish is. Is it like a Danish? I know that Cornish game hens are what white people in America eat when they are too racist to admit they like fried chicken. But Dornish? Should I just assume it’s from Game of Thrones and move on? Okay.
This is no longer a criticism. This is no longer an intervention. This is an indictment.
You can’t accuse me of hating Game of Thrones because I don’t like the Middle Ages, because Game of Thrones has nothing to do with the Middle Ages. It’s made up, right? Right? That’s the line that everyone is feeding to people like me? There was no Baratheon in the Middle Ages. No magic. No dragons. There were whores, but like the speed of light, some things are a universal constant. The party line is that the Game of Thrones is a made-up story in a fictional universe that has nothing to do with the Middle Ages. So how could my hating it stem from some imagined hatred of the Middle Ages?
Because secretly you all think the show *is* about the middle ages. But no one will dare admit it.
The fact that I’m accused of hating this show because I don’t like the Middle Ages is an admission that the show IS about the middle ages, or what peopel want the Middle Ages to be about.
In fact, the only reason people like Game of Thrones and other fantasy stories is because they are part of a new shadow genre that I’m going to call ethnocentric fiction. This story constructs itself as an authentic medieval fantasy in order to fill in the backstory of an ethnic identity where history provides none. In much the same way that there was a period during the civil rights era when some black leaders tried to espouse a fiction that the ancestors of the slaves in Africa were all warrior kings and queens because there really isn’t any clear history of the millenia of human civilization in subsaharan Africa prior to slavery, this fantasy fiction is doing the same for northern European whites. GoT, and all the other stories of “realms where knights charge into battles with dragons and maidens sing from arched windows” (from the woman’s about page), are simply a fabricated alternate history to subsitute for the missing history of the Middle Ages.
This is how history works: Mesopotamia. Egypt. Greece. Rome. Christianity. The Fall of the Roman Empire. A thousand years of moss and runny noses. The Renaissance.
All of these stories, of Westeros, of Middle Earth, of Dungeon’s and Dragons, of the Knights Templar, of Merlin and King Arthur and all the other magical masturbation–all of it is an attempt to fill in that thousand years of pointlessness where the Kings and Knights of Feudalism held sway but achieved nothing. If aliens visited Europe in the Middle Ages, they would have concluded there was no intelligent life on earth.
But so many people, mostly white people, want that period to have mattered because that was the time when their ancestors held sway. They look at Ned Stark and Aragorn and at some level they believe that their ancestors were like them. Fair of skin and hair, broad of chest and square of jaw. Sword at the ready, helm and cowl in place. Right? This is the symptom. This is how we know that there is a disease in the culture.
Racial pride is a degenerate idea to begin with, because it basically amounts to taking credit for the greatness of people long dead in order to make up for a lack of greatness today. This is done all the time by everyone. But in this case, it’s worse, because this whole genre of fiction is about constructing a racial history where none exists. It’s this desire to construct the illusion of an authentic feudal epic that is so egregious. That’s the problem. You have Americans self-identifying as Irish or Scottish or whatever. You’re American. But being American is such a goddamn burden these days, what with having to follow the moon-landing and all, that everyone wants to be something a little less imperial. So they pick an obvious distinguishing characteristic not based on merit, which is race. Game of Thrones is like Roots, but for whites.
The knights and maidens of the real Middle Ages had their time to show the world what they could do, and they spread the Plague. Literally. They forgot everything the Romans had done with indoor plumbing and sanitation, and decided it would be a great idea to cook their food over the same fire in which they burned their feces. And now George RR Martin and HBO want me to believe that fair lads and lasses “kissed by fire” come from a race of magic and dragons and castles? Just how stupid do you think we are? Sure there were a lot of Kings and courts and strutting around in chainmail, but none of it amounted to anything. There was no magic. No sorcerers, no dragons. The middle ages left us with nothing but records and ruins. Not history. Leonardo da Vinci did more in one lifetime than the entire continent did in the previous thousand years. Thousand years.
Do you know why TV shows about the Roman Empire or the Renaissance (see the Borgias) never quite reach the same level of popularity as these Olde Englishe fantasies? Because you don’t need to invent or even exaggerate the greatness of those periods. If history simply kept pace with the Roman Empire, we would be living in colonies on the moons of Jupiter that Galileo discovered. Instead, we are playing catch up after a thousand years of witch burnings, fairy chasing and indulgences. Thanks. And now you want to whitewash all that gruesome truth by trying to tell me that there were mighty heroes fighting for the honor of maidens and dragons? Bite me. You took away my utopian space age and swapped it for a saving throw against dragon’s breath.
For writers, the Dark Ages are like a thousand-year-old blank canvas. They can dump into the Middle Ages whatever they want, and the audience will go along for the ride just as long as they keep hidden the fact that the very blankness of that period represents one of the greatest cultural catastrophes in the history of human civilization. That’s why Tolkien’s world is called Middle Earth. Because Middle Earth substitutes nicely for those Middle “Ages” that everyone has heard about, but during which nothing even remotely as interesting as the Hobbit happened. Hobbits and Elves evolved and went extinct? Why not, a thousand years is a long time.
And now we have Westeros. All of it is made up Celtic and English pseudo-history filling in the gap of the Middle ages. That’s why stories like this must take place in the Middle Ages, because that time period is history’s missing link. Consider that Dragons and magic during the age of Rome would seem nonsensical. Silly. Stupid even. But dragons and magic 500 years after that? Consider how history slid backwards from Ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, and consider why so many people what to immerse themselves in the more backwards part.
But because that period has left us with nothing of substance, everything in these fictions–everyone’s name, the places, the gods, all of it–is cribbed from some other history or culture and compacted together in a way that makes the people who watch subconsciously believe they come from great history. This isn’t like Americans inflating the very real stories of Davy Crockett and Paul Bunyan to mythological levels to construct for their new country a national identity. This is slapping together a collage and forcing yourself to believe it’s a photograph.
Look at the woman Karliene in the video. She’s not so much faking her emotion as forcing it. She’s wants to be swept up in the story, to be overcome with emotion. She wants the story of Game of Thrones to somehow reflect her Irish or Scottish heritage. She wants this story to be more “authentic” as a fiction than, say, Star Trek. In her mind, Game of Thrones is less fictional than Star Trek because of its assorted feints to authenticity. She believes that Game of Thrones is true but for the minor exceptions of magic and dragons. But the armor and the haughty talk are all real, she thinks. Real compared to what? If any of that intrigue were remotely real, we would have those stories. And we don’t. After all, if we did, we wouldn’t have to make them up.
But she really really wants GoT to be real. More real of a substitute history than the Lord of the Rings, or the Hobbit. Or Enya. And it was constructed to resonate with people like her in precisely this way, like a new street drug that gives a higher high. But at some level she knows its a farce, like the addict learns that with every high comes the inevitable crash. So she’ll go from this to the next thing, chasing the dragon, in both figurative senses. She wants to buy in to the magic and heroes but her brain won’t accept it as the truth. Ultimately, she’ll be disappointed, but there’ll be a new story waiting to pick up where this one left off. And that’s what fuels this genre, and what turns it into a ghetto. People searching for their identity down blind alleys set-dressed as authentic histories. You can wander around these alleys forever and never get out, because none of them lead out on purpose. No one wants to get out.
I just went to the Renaissance Faire this weekend. First of all, nothing about the Faire is remotely Renaissance. It’s all middle ages. All knights and castles and theater majors welcoming kids to “the shire.” “Shire”, of course, being the word that people used in the Middle Ages to refer to counties, but which no one in modern times ever used at all until they saw Lord of the Rings, after which it became synonymous in their pea-brains with “village” during clumsy historical recreations. And you can tell that people are drawn to these simulations of history by some tribal instinct. You need look no further than the collage of tribal symbols tattooed on their bodies to conclude this. A celtic knot here, a Fraktur font there, a chinese symbol on the back. You don’t know who you are, so invent a tribe with people who look like you, and steal symbols from cultures hither and yon as your brand to attempt to co-opt their power. It’s all walking in circles.
And now Westeros. Great Westeros, with its talk of “lands” and things being “by right” and other things ending in the suffix “-born.” People love the language, the clothes, the safe space of misogyny and spousal abuse. It feels nice and right to them. It feels and looks to them like what they imagine their history to be. They say it’s a mature and complex story because of gay sex, bathing whores and wide shots of penises. These same fans will say Batman is more complex in some new iteration of the story because he’s dark and the film is more dark and sometimes he second-guesses himself. If you don’t know what really good stories and histories are, this passes for good.
But Game of Thrones is also very ambitious. Not because the story it tells is rich and interesting. It’s not. Sure, important characters get killed, as fans are quick to tell you. But so many get killed for so little reason that the story is basically a stream of consciousness tale from a child’s mind. But who cares, we’re inside it, and for now we can live inside it.
If the characters are actually that important to the story, then the story would fall apart without them, right? Unless there never really was a story to begin with. Nothing is planned out ahead of time, and for that reason it cannot have any narrative or thematic complexity. Much like the map in the title sequence, Game of Thrones is a machine with far too many parts than are needed to accomplish what it does. But that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to build one of those blind alleys. To line it with pubs, stables, and inns and place period characters on the streets. The purpose is to create a fantasy world to inhabit, and for that to work, we need lots of banquets and closeups of celtic knot patterns in the fabrics.
We also need winter. All of these fantasy stories take place in or reference winter. Always winter. You know why the fans love stories of knights and maidens in winter? Because when the setting is cold it justifies the characters wearing the full costumes. All the of the breast pieces, vests, capes, cloaks. All that stuff that you get to see or read about in these stories wouldn’t make any sense if the temperature in these worlds was higher than 65 F. At that point, people stop wearing all the extra layers of fancy dress, and it just doesn’t serve the illusion if no one’s wearing the costumes. The fans want costumes, so the stories get set in winter.
All of that stuff fans of the show love, the hairstyles, the costumes, the millwork on the chairs, the jewelry, all that stuff serves exactly the same purpose as the blinking lights on the control panels of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek. You say “children of the forest” and I hear “reverse the polarity of the warp coil.” You say “dragon-born” and I hear “dilithium crystal.” You say “Dothraki” and I hear “Klingon.” They are both escapes. The dialogue, where it isn’t intentionally pretentious to be the motto on a LARPers foam shield, is irrelevant.
But where the escape in Star Trek is usually more personal, about an escape from one’s immediate existence and a rationalization for one’s choices and attitudes going forwards (usually for introverted and technically minded people), Game of Thrones and other sword and sorcery romances (which is what this is, sorry fans) is a back story for identity construction. And this is where it’s ambitious.
Game of Thrones is ambitious because as a vessel for racial identity reconstruction, it doesn’t just stop at replacing the Middle Ages. It is also serving as a sort of alternate past history of the founding of England in the first instance. Look, if people don’t know what the hell happened in the British Isles in the Middle Ages, I can assure you they haven’t the slightest inkling of an idea what was happening there before Beowulf.
Look at all this greatness that we are convincing ourselves we come from! Portentous polysyllabic names! Lands! Prepositional Phrases! Whores! How sophisticated and refined our sensibilities, even then. Your family’s been in America since the Mayflower, but why not imagine you came from Kings born of dragons. Women love the hell out of this show because it provides a graceful side exit out of the burdens of feminism. “Women weren’t equal then,” they will think under their hennaed hair. But then with a knowing come-hither gaze they will say, “But they had their ways…” Back on earth, the dishes pile up.
Feminism’s not so great when you realize that “having it all” means doing it all. Feminism means you have to be the kitchen wench, the handmaiden, the whore, the queen, and now you also have to be the knight and the trader and the blacksmith and the bootblack. Those jobs didn’t just vanish. But that’s a good thing, right, if it means you can have a shot at being the knight or the king? Equality means you can be conquered just like the men.
Sorry, folks there’s no going back now. You are the life you live, and there’s no borrowing from history or pop culture to make yourself into something you’re not. History only moves forwards.
Fortunately, imagination and self-delusion work in both directions, so by all means, go ahead and fantasize about being a knight or maiden for an hour a week, if it helps you forget that back in the 21st century, you’re a peasant.
No related posts.