Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When Timelines Catch-Up

            In the article, “Lost in Time: Lost Fan Engagement with Temporal Play,” by Lucy Bennet, she discusses the impact of disrupting narrative progression.  Specifically, she studies how fans of the show Lost cope with the temporal play imbedded in the story.  She concludes that viewers of the show break up into three different coping groups.  There are viewers who engage in forensic fandom, viewers who put trust in the writers of the show, and those who evaluate and question the narrative structure.   The age of Lost has unfortunately ended, and one of the new reigning champions of television, Game of Thrones, is at the forefront of a new dilemma, a dilemma that serious fans of the series are certainly feeling going into the next season.  The show has finally surpassed the timeline of the novels and fans everywhere are going to have to decide how connected the two stories really are.
            Like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones is a narrative that is rich with lore.  Lore that is only ever hinted at in the books but fully fleshed out in online sources.  As Jason Mittell and Will Brooker argue, “this mode of storytelling promotes a “forensic fandom” from viewers of the show that involves research, collaboration, analysis and interpretation” (qtd. in Bennet 299).  The website A Wiki of Ice and Fire is a fan-created website that holds over 7,000 articles on the book and includes more lore than the novels themselves.  The website provides a platform for many users to postulate possible endings for the novel and also to answer some of the bigger questions of the show.  Like the fans of Lost, who “used their forensic detection skills” to answer questions of the show, Game of Thrones fans have been analyzing scenes to postulate on answers that are never explicitly answered within the show.  One example is of who poisoned Joffrey Baratheon at the Purple Wedding.  By analyzing scenes frame by frame, fans have speculated that the killer is Olenna Tyrell.  Fans have gone so far as to highlight the areas in which Olenna Tyrell’s hands move at the wedding.  This forensic fandom exists in a different state to readers of the series who do not have the luxury of frame by frame analysis.
            Readers of the novel have also proved their forensic abilities by carefully studying the text itself.  An ongoing theory out there is that the Hound is still alive.  The last time we see him in the show he is left to die by Arya stark.  Since then, he hasn’t been seen of or heard of.  But readers of the novel point to a scene at an Abby that occurs in the fourth book when Brienne of Tarth is on the search for Sansa Stark.  A looming character in the background coupled with the Hounds horse appearing at the abby have led some readers to assume the Hound is still alive.  The wiki page for the Hound now has a small section devoted to this theory. 
            A question that should come up in analyzing Game of Thrones is whether or not the television series exists in the same reality as the novel.  Fans have been trying to tackle that question for a long time now.  The common consensus is that the two are different.  Both the show and the novel have different wiki sites with a different range of information.  The events of the show have diverged significantly from the novel, in some cases surpassing the timeline of the novel.  The writers of the show have purposefully changed their story from the novel in order to keep readers of the novel entertained.  Another show that does this is The Walking Dead, originally a comic book, the show and the comic appear to be pretty different and both have separate wikis.  In a way, this allows readers to be just as excited while watching the television show.  But formatting a series in this way is a quick way to make fans angry.  Myself included.
            I stopped watching The Walking Dead after watching the flat first season and abysmal second season.  It’s not a popular opinion to hate on the Walking Dead.  I’ve been shamed in practically every one of my work environments.  The issue I had with the show was that it changed too much from the comic book.  I was an avid reader of the comic book when it first came out up until a couple years ago. The writers successfully made the show new, but in a way I was not expecting and in a way that changed the essence of the comic book for me in a bad way.  Eventually, The Walking Dead television show may surpass the timeline of the comic books.  I’m guessing they’re going to take notes from whatever it is the Game of Thrones writers do in season 6.
            Season 6 has been a looming presence in the minds of readers all year.  We’ve all wanted George RR. Martin to finish the next book The Winds of Winter before the series, and now that he hasn’t we will have to make a difficult decision when the time finally comes.  Will we watch the show and possibly have the books spoiled?  Or will we patiently wait until the book finally comes out and then watch the show, praying no one ruins the surprise for us in the interim.  What will the writers do? Will they stick to the story outlined by George RR. Martin or change it completely so the book seems new when it comes out.  What about Martin himself?  Will he now have to change the structure of his story away from the television series?  The role between the producers of the television show and Martin have completely shifted and now everyone is waiting to see what they do about it. 



  1. Loved this assessment because it's one of the things I've really been wanting to study: adaptations. I've found myself on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to story vs media. It feels as though viewers have somewhat of a say in what happens on screen due to these wikis and blogs. I know that everytime an adaptation is made of something I've thoroughly enjoyed reading, I head to the theater or television and watch with anticipation. I believe that what needs to happen is that these companies that are making adaptations need to be willing to come out and say that not everything will be completely accurate to the sources they're pulling from. One of the surprises I had found was the move that DC made with their television and movies. Unlike marvel, whose shows intertwine with the events in the movies, DC decided to keep the two universes separated. The same can even be said for stories. They've let fans know that the stories that they tell are going to be different than what was seen in comic books, that these characters are alive in a new way through a new media. I believe with GoT and Walking Dead that the same principle needed to be established. By letting your viewer know that the same characters will be in play with a new story, it may make it easier for readers of these stories to enjoy it.

  2. Trevor, I like that you bring up adaptations as Game of Thrones was one of the first things I thought of as well when reading Bennett's essay. Because the show has not only caught up to the book series but is now surpassing them, the point of adaptation has "ceased" so to speak. I put ceased in quotations because Martin has provided the head writers of the show with his plans to end the novel (in case he should die, or something else should happen rendering the book series to halt). I also quote it in that it is past the point of "adaptation" persay, and fans are now to the point of forensic fandom and speculation. They are now scouring the texts that are already written for some clue as to what has happened to certain characters or story arcs (such as the Hound, as you mentioned).

    Others, such as The Walking Dead, are just as important. Because many comic book enthusiasts enjoyed the original events in the graphic narrative, they are sometimes left dissatisfied with the direction of the show. Certain characters have changed entirely from the series of graphic narratives, ranging from their age, looks, and personality to even their outcome in the show (whether they have lived or died, how they died, etc) in comparison to the graphic narratives. Some characters don't even appear at all in the show, or some characters are introduced in the show that conflict with what happens in the graphic narrative (such as altering certain events or timelines). In doing so, they have seemingly split the fandom between "original" and "adaptation," with many preferring one over the other (or not liking the other at all).

  3. I focused on forensic fandom as well, only focusing on Harry Potter and S instead of Game of Thrones. I think forensic fandom has become an incredibly popular pasttime or many shows and books today. The expansion of the Internet has allowed for much more collaborating, and fans feel more connected when they try to dig deeper into their favorite texts with each other. I think the nature of fandom is changing to one where fans are much more active in their enjoyment of fiction today, no matter the story.