A Red Wedding Reality Check
I am a big Game of Thrones fan. I've been watching GoT since the very beginning, and one thing I've come to expect is lots of violence. I mean, does anyone remember how the whole series began with the Night's Watch guard coming upon a grizzly scene in the woods? That opening scene alone sets the tenor for the rest of the series...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I watched with more than a bit of interest as people reacted (and that is totally the right word) to last week's episode entitled "The Rains of Castamere" where three of the lead characters are among the massacred at a wedding ceremony. Bloody? Oh yes. Violent? You bet. A huge surprise for viewers that hadn't read the the books? In a big way.
But was it the most violent moment in TV or film history, as some newspapers and bloggers were espousing last week? It certainly seemed to feel that way to a lot of people last week. There were cries of people swearing to never watch it again, or ever read the books. People were aghast at the events of the Red Wedding, and it made ripples worldwide.
And I kept wondering, "Why?"
Violence and suffering are a part of the human experience and have been from our very beginnings. The reaction I witnessed last week was due in part, I believe, to the utter surprise of it befalling three main "good" characters. If that kind of slaughter had happened to "the bad guys", while it may have been graphically violent it probably would have resonated very differently; emotionally speaking.
When bad things happen to good people, we react with horror; often like people reacted last week to the Red Wedding episode. It seems so unfair, so "not right", so utterly and cosmically wrong.
Yet the brilliance of a GoT episode like "The Rains of Castamere" is that it reminds us, however uncomfortable and unsettled it makes us, that tragedy befalls anyone and everyone and has no prejudice about it. We like to think, in fantasy fiction anyway, that the bad guys get it and the good guys win. Last week viscerally reminded folks that reality isn't like that, and it hurts to be reminded of that fact.
Jesus wisely said that God causes the sun to rise on the good and the evil alike, and that rains fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:44-45). Jesus being the pragmatic realist that he was knew all too well that Life happens to everyone, and that joy and tragedy visit all of us - good and bad alike - and that is simply how life is. That's a stinker of a message to hear sometimes when we want things like justice, vengeance, and to hold onto the idea that good things will always happen to good people and bad things to bad people.
That isn't always the case, and sometimes we get reminded of that in ways that jar us. That was the brilliance of "The Rains of Castamere" episode; sorry as I am to see the characters go (well, maybe not Catelyn Stark, but that's way later in the story if they stick to the books...).
In closing, I just need to get this off my chest: to all of those reporters and bloggers that were ruminating about the episode being the most graphically violent and horrific moment in TV history....
Sorry, but you've obviously forgotten a Tuesday morning in September 13 years ago that we all watched unfold before our eyes on television. That was the most graphically violent and horrific moment in TV history. "Game of Thrones" is a show.
Get a grip.