I should start this post about by saying we are big “Game of Thrones” fans in our house. My son and husband have read the books, and w we all watch the show together. This morning, on Facebook, a friend posted:
I found this intriguing. First of all, as someone who has written a book, I know while I consider my audience, I am writing the book as much as a way to get my ideas and views out there, as I am catering to a market of some sort. As a result, my “art” is created for me, and then for my potential audience. I have also learned, over time, that the audience is often amorphous and shifting- I may be shooting to appeal to one person, but another person I never expected might find the book helpful or intriguing. As a result, the idea that a series as long as Game Of Thrones, in book or TV form, would be constructed to please an audience seems absurd.
That being said, I also know there is a distinct difference between the type of fiction I grew up with, and the type my kids read. I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s, so I read the trite teen novels of Judy Blume, everything written by Kurt Vonnegut, and then a variety of science fiction including Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Heinlein books like Stranger in a Strange Land. Then there were the sundry mystery series, but overall, things were largely upbeat, and not nearly as dark as the books my kids read.
My kids, by contrast, have grown up with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and the Divergent series, just to name a few. All of these books are far more dystopian than even Lord of the Flies. While I have a theory that the post-9-11 world is somewhat to blame for this bleak outlook, these books have also, in the world of Fan Fiction and the Internet, spawned a universe beyond the original medium. A universe of adjunct writing, things to buy, purchase, and market, on levels ranging from small to theme park in size, have grown up to make these works of fiction real for people. We are more intertwined with the work than ever before- somehow, visiting the Jane Austen museum is not quite the same thing as having Game of Thrones Monopoly or Dragon eggs on your shelf at home.
Like Game of Thrones, many of these books have killed beloved main characters. It’s part of the plot, and usually is a foil to make the other characters mature, develop, or otherwise move on. Certainly, when Dumbledore dies in Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, we were all shocked. People couldn’t believe it. But it marked a way for Harry to separate and mature into his own man. There was fan outrage, but we all still went on to read the remaining books and saw the movies, because we loved being immersed in JK Rowling’s vision of the wizarding world, good and bad alike.
Similarly, in Game of Thrones, I am always aghast when characters die, and often in the unpleasant way it happens as well. But without this plot device, certain characters would get stuck and could not move on; certain story lines might stagnate. Only George RR Martin and the writers on the TV show know where the characters are going. We have willingly opted into their world and allow them to take us on a journey, for good and for bad. It’s part of the thrill ride, and why we watch.
I would be severely disappointed if artists, novelists and musicians decided only to give us what we want as an audience. If they aren’t creating something new, and taking us along with them on a creative journey, what’s the point? In fact, I often worry that when a series becomes popular, the financial incentives to market the thing to death or simply just give people what they want- undermining the whole reason the series was interesting and intriguing in the first place. So while I understand the comment of “contempt for fans”- I believe that the author, or writers, need to stay true to their vision of the world, and not to what the people want.
Steve Jobs used to say that Apple was creating what they wanted, and they hoped everyone else liked it. Frequently, the new phone, or tablet was dismissed as silly and pointless, but eventually, enough people agreed with the vision of this new thing they had never seen before, to adopt it and make it part of their lives. If the devices had been a product of what people wanted, of focus groups and endless market research, we would have ended up with something much different.
Because the truth in all of this is that we don’t really know what we want. We do, however, want to be taken on a journey, to be told stories, and to find our way into a new world, with all the good and the bad that is there.
As much as we love making things interactive, I’m still willing to let artists of all stripes drive, and I hope they do so, and strive to find their audience, without bending to the will of the audience. While there may be room to make money in the short run, if you sell out to the will of the fans, you will surely lose what made the work unique and intriguing in the first place. That’s something we all have to remember in everything we do- are we doing it to express ourselves, or merely please others? If we do bend to the pressure to please and perhaps benefit financially, do we lose ourselves in the process
That’s something we all have to remember in everything we do- are we doing it to express ourselves, or merely please others? If we do bend to the pressure to please and perhaps benefit financially, do we lose ourselves in the process?
Let the artists, writers, song makers and creators drive. They know where they are going, and we can enjoy being along for the ride. If I want to drive, I can go create my own art. I don’t need them to perform on command.