I'm Not A Snob!: The Real Reason 'Game of Thrones' Readers Hate Change

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I'm Not A Snob!: The Real Reason 'Game of Thrones' Readers Hate Change

By Jodi Clager | Think Pieces | August 12, 2014 | Comments ()


I know it has been a while since Maisie Williams called Game of Thrones book readers snobs, but I needed time to really collect my thoughts on the matter. It is sometimes difficult, in this time of outrage as bonding, to really discern the true core of one’s annoyance. Stupid jerks that we are, the viewers of Game of Thrones have been broken into two groups: those who have read the books and those who have not. Animosity has grown from, I think, the book readers’ glee at hiding The Red Wedding so well. Ever since then, any changes prompting an outcry from readers has been met with a sense of justice from non-readers and a label of snob for book readers.

I don’t think snobbery is the right word or even the correct interpretation of our intentions when we book readers complain. No, no, not at all.

You see, and you probably know from personal experience, that every book series one immerses oneself in takes time, dedication, and some effort to allow the first two to take place. In fact, some might argue that the Song of Ice and Fire series may take the most of those three things in comparison to other book series. Behold:

“A Game of Thrones” (1996) - 694 pages hardback
“A Clash of Kings” (1998) - 708 pages hardback
“A Storm of Swords” (2000) - 973 pages hardback
“A Feast for Crows” (2005) - 753 pages hardback (but feels like a million pages)
“A Dance with Dragons” (2011) - 1,040 pages hardback

There are two more books to come, most likely numbering into the thousands of pages. This means that readers have already ingested 4,168 pages of George RR Martin’s in-depth descriptions of food, sex, people, battles, clothes, conversations, metaphors, plots, and animals. And trees. And White Walkers. Giants, Thenns…you get it.

Going on personal time spent and the general agreed upon time spent by others, we are looking at roughly a month to read each book; longer if you care to catch and digest every thread Martin dangles before you. Then you’ve got a month per re-read spurred by the series (“Renly is gay in the books?!”) and the involved poring over the detailed House members in the index of each book. Years are spent just reading and then years are spent waiting to see what happens to your favorites in the next promised book.

Decades. We are talking decades spent by some readers.

So when a character we were led to believe was important and/or one who still exists in the books, is killed off, completely dropped, or rolled into a combination of three other characters in the series? Yeah, we tend to react pretty strongly.

When the complex internal struggle of a character is deftly translated to the screen, only to be obliterated by a poorly thought out attempted rape scene? You are goddamn right we are going to gnash our teeth and talk about it until we pass out from rage.

When key scenes of growth are pulled from a female character and handed to the men around her in order to make room for more nudity and sexposition? Yes, we will become very irate and we will complain.

This is not snobbery. This is something much more personal and complex than that. This is a feeling more akin to betrayal or the feeling that a shared experience has been destroyed or corrupted. We spent a lot of time in Westeros with these characters and their stories. Wouldn’t it be odd if we didn’t feel this way?

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • So take The Walking Dead as a comparison... So many story line changes and characters added and killed off... And everyone loves it... I think comic book readers maybe tend to forget that Darryl isn't even in the book series... So why all the GoT drama?

    Us "book readers" have this deeper knowledge of the material... We have depth of character knowledge and foresight... We know how little things will play into the larger picture... And that makes watching the show a little more exciting for us... Well for me anyway.

    What really matters most, to me, is that the characters all stay true... That they do not behave out of character... It's one thing to change a story line, or give us a different version of events, but the people still have to remain who they are at their core... Has GoT doe that?

    Mostly. Given the limited time for story-telling each season I think they have, generally, stayed true to the spirit of the books... The exception is prolly Rob Stark, but since he has no POV in the books I think it's unfair to judge his character since we really only meet him through others eyes...

    I mean really, this is not Shakespeare we are re-telling... It's okay to get from point A to Point B via a different path... It's okay to not tell the story word for word... It is okay to tell a new story set in the world we love... That's what makes life interesting... How dull and boring it would be if we knew everything before it happened.

  • _Alexander_

    "This means that readers have already ingested 4,168 pages of George RR"

    "Aww 4200 pages. How adorable"- every hardcore Wheel of Time fan

  • manting

    Having read both I would say that half of Wheel of Time is Nyneave tugging her braid, descriptions of the color of hems of dresses, and Mat saying bloody sheep swallop. The other half is pretty damn good though.

  • alwaysanswerb

    I'm not a book reader from way, way back, but I caught up after a time. My feeling is generally that, having enjoyed the show so much that it prompted me to go in reverse and read the books, I do trust D&D for the most part and haven't gotten too worked up over most of the changes. This is how I am usually for adaptations; I had similar reactions to most of the changes in the Harry Potter films, etc.

    Where I start to get frustrated is if a change flies in the face of prior criticism and if, in that particular instance, staying truer to the source would have addressed the critique. I personally liked the LOTR movies a lot, bloated as they were, but the bloat was a well-known criticism by the time the Hobbit movies started production, and what did Peter Jackson do? He made the bloat even worse. Likewise, as this article mentions, GoT the show has continued to treat women questionably despite ongoing criticism in this area. Though it's apparent to book readers that Westeros is a shitty place for women, there is a clear delineation between Westeros' treatment of women and GRRM's treatment of women (he's not perfect, by any means, but he sure as hell tries.) The show is less clear, with all of its added sexposition, reduction of relative screentime and agency of book-POV female characters (Catelyn), and now, the apparent complete exclusion of major female characters moving forward (Arianne Martell; there is an argument to be made for Lady Stoneheart here as well, though I don't personally hold them on the same level.) The show still has its share of good female characters thanks to GRRM's source material, but it becomes more and more offensive every time a scene is added, sexualizing/objectifying women ("It's to show how badly women are treated!") while removing canon characters and scenes that demonstrate female strength. It's painting a one-sided picture that isn't there in the books.

  • manting

    for me its the pointless nudity. So much pointless nudity. Thats why I find this hilarious - its completely explains it.

  • badkittyuno

    This is how I feel about the Outlander adaptation. I didn't read the Game of Thrones books until after I started watching the series, so while I notice the changes, I'm not too upset unless it's something I liked in the books that I missed in the series (Lady Stoneheart!). But Outlander....something like 8,000 pages that I have read multiple times. Never has the term "rabid fan" applied so well to me.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Granted, I haven't read them multiple times, but arent't there things in Outlander that you hope they leave out or change? I have a mental list and they already included something I thought they'd remove.

    I'm willing to see it as two separate entities. I have wondered how Starz will work in a lesbian love scene because you know they are dying to.

  • Professor Sara

    Yassss. I'm looking at the show as a chance to course correct some of the problems I had with the books.

  • solafidex

    What she said...

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Nail on head.

    And this is the best way I've seen internet outrage described: outrage as bonding

  • cinekat

    Thank you for expressing my muddled outrage so succinctly!

  • Maddy

    Thank you. There are some things, like the absence of Renly's peach that I can get over. But there are some things that I find harder. I just don't feel like the broader thematic aims of the books are the same in the TV show. They have every right to put their own spin on it and the books still exist. But when they do things that make that story less interesting it's going to bother me. Like turning Loras into a gay stereotype and brushing over his grief at Renly's death. Or having Catelyn sit on the sides and look mopey in the background of scenes while we tell the most cliched love story ever. Yes of course the books still exist but so many of their storytelling decisions seem like a missed opportunity and the fact that this is what is going to be in the pop culture imagination about this story rather than the books does bother me sometimes.

  • Ozioma

    "When key scenes of growth are pulled from a
    female character and handed to the men around her in order to make room
    for more nudity and sexposition? Yes, we will become very irate and we
    will complain."

    And when a female character - a POV one, a WoC, an heiress in her own right and one of the few women with agency in the whole series whose own storyline intersects with a key element of the series as large - is not announced as a cast member (yet) and has her birthright given to her nonentity younger brother (who's been played by a White dude)? We get angry.

  • Maddy

    It's not necessarily changes I don't like but what I don't like is cliched boring storytelling that the books mainly managed to avoid or the age old excuse 'that wouldn't work for television' like sure I get that for some things but not for lots of others.

  • Maddy

    Yep exactly. There are things in the books I don't like too but I am definitely still pissed about Arianne and what they did with Catelyn despite Michelle Fairley's brilliance.

  • manting

    The books are substantially better than the show. Books are 99% of the time better than the tv show or movie that is based on them. Jaws is an obvious exception. The Godfather is different because it was optioned before it was even half way completed.

  • Bananaranma

    Respectfully but this is a huge pet peeve of mine. There are sooooo many movies that are better than the book. In fact, Stanley Kubrick's career should just be renamed, "Better Than The Book".

    The Killing...Better than the book
    Paths of Glory...Better than the book
    Spartacus...Better than the book
    Lolita...Better than the book
    Dr. Strangelove...Comically, laughably, cosmically better than the book
    2001: A Space Odyssey...Better than the book
    A Clockwork Orange...Better than the book
    Barry Lyndon...Better than the book
    The Shining...Scariest thing King ever wrote, still better than the book
    Full Metal Jacket...Better than the book
    Eyes Wide Shut...Better than the book by three molecules

  • manting

    out of the thousands of books that have become movies and tv shows that list is pretty small. Also nearly every film on your list was created by arguably the greatest director in the history of film. Lastly while Kubrick is definitely a genius director he didnt come up the ideas, the authors did. They created the characters and the worlds they inhabit, the actual story. I believe this is much more difficult than adapting an existing great idea.

  • Bananaranma

    Some moments in the books live very large in reader's heads. Take the moment when Petyr Baelish shoved Aunt Arryn out the Moon Door.

    It's the final scene in A Storm of Swords and Petyr says he has only ever loved 'Cat'. In the show they changed the line to 'Your sister', rightfully thinking (in my mind) that the casual show viewer might not get it.

    Well. The book readers lost their motherfucking minds over that line change (OK, mostly just Maddy). To the casual observer, it was a wtf moment. I mean, it's just a line.

    But it was the final line that readers had to chew on for 5 years. It's a funny thing when you dwell over a book for years. Some parts are forgotten while others loom larger. I was super frustrated when they juggled my favorite Arya/Harrenhal bit and threw Tywin into the mix. But if I'm honest, those Arya/Tywin scenes weren't just among the best of Season 2, they were a high point of the series.

    In the end, maybe the book readers need to relax a bit. Weiss and Benioff are not killing your baby. So, casual viewer, if you see someone blowing their top because such and such a character was in Braavos, not Mereen in Book 5, just shake your head and say, "Ohhh, Skycake."

  • Maddy

    Lol didn't actually care about that line that much to be honest, although I do think that scene could have been handled much better. That is one of my absolute favourite chapters that I have reread lots of times and closes out my favourite book in the series (well before the epilogue) so I know I had high expectations that were probably unreasonable. Like I was crying reading about Sansa remembering Winterfell and building the snow castle in the book and I was absolutely terrified she was going to die whereas I don't think that tension ever really happened in the show version (although non book readers can maybe correct me on that one)

    I am kind of laughing that I am the touch point around here about a crazy book purist fan though like I am not even close to people who actually are crazy about these books and have been reading them for much longer than I have and are much more knowledgeable. Not offended or anything but hey I appreciate my small amount of fame :)

  • Bananaranma

    Don't think you're the craziest book fan just that the torrent of comments on the book reader threads stood out.

  • Maddy

    Fair enough it should be noted that I usually calm down and get some perspective on most things after my initial rage. And I am very mild compared to some of the very rabid fans out there. No really.

  • Bananaranma

    And to address the non-reader thing... My wife has never read the books and to a moment has strong reactions to scenes which the book reading commentariat has a collective *Meh*.

    Your example of Sansa and the Moon Door...my wife was in a fetal position, rocking back and forth saying, "Don'tKillSansaDon'tKillSansaDon'tKillSansaDon'tKillSansa". Eventually turned to me and said, "Tell me if she lives or so help me I'm never watching this show again."

    So, yeah... I think the non-book readers react differently.

  • Maddy

    Wow that's awesome. It's hard to know how non book readers react to things because I can never go back to a place where I haven't read them if that makes sense. I think I just want them to get to experience this journey of this story in a similar way (although obviously it's never going to be quite the same)

    I know there are certain sequences that it's impossible for the show to meet my standards or capture my imagination in the same way the books did. Michelle Fairley was what made the Red Wedding for me but otherwise I had issues with how they did it, but then again it had such a huge reaction in pop culture that it feels pedantic to go on about my book reader quibbles with it.

  • Zeus McGuinnes

    Whilst I agree completely with this article, I find some changes make the show more interesting, like the brienne Sandor fight scene. When you know exactly what is going to happen some small changes are welcome. However casting a baby faced 20-something for Gregor really annoyed me.

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    First, I know not all book readers are snobs blah blah blah. That said, I think some of the problems with book readers vs non (or in any adaptation, source material consumers and adaptation only ones) are best illustrated in the last comic-con, during the GOT panel.

    A dude asked Martin what he thinks book readers should do if the show overtakes the books, if they should quit the show or whatever since the real version is the books.

    Martin didn't answer his question, but disputed the last sentiment, that one version is .ore "true" than the other. While it's understandable that book readers will feel a sense of ownership over something they've been attached to for so long, the books are the books, and the show is the show, and it's unfair to the show writers to not think of their work as a "true" version. If you feel that way about either ve4sion, stick with the version you like.

    I agree with Martin, and that goes for any kind of adaptation. Like Andrew Jara, maybe I'm just used to the idea of reinterpretation because I'm a fan of comic books, where writers change frequently, and sometimes characters are revised/changed within their own continuing series. And that's even without film adaptations. The best part about Watchmen was the changed ending, the rest of it being an example of an adaptation being TOO faithful.

    So yeah, I mean, I have friends who have read the books but don't lord it over me as I watch the show. But I think the stereotype aboit snobbery is more about the comic-con example provided earlier, about there being only one REAL version of the story, rather than just that book readers get nit picky about changes.

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    As for the contentious Jamie/Cersei scene or the Tyrion/Jamie scene (or lack of scenes depending on who you ask) at the end of the last season, whether or not they are shocking swerves or out of character should be judged on the information given in the show, NOT on information given in the books, since that is just flat out unfair. The show after all only has so much money, episodes, and minutes in those episodes to flesh out a ludicrous amount of plot lines for a TV show.

    Im not stating a defense for either, but almost every complaint about how they were portrayed has "in the books, this character did...", almost never "in earlier episodes, thus character..."

  • Maddy

    Sure but there are things in the show that don't work on their own merit regardless of the book context and I'm getting a bit annoyed at this 'book purism' label on all criticism, especially when a lot of it is legitimate.

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    i hear you, and to be fair and for context (as a non-book reader), my own opinion on the jamie/cersei scene (for example) is that it was inconsistent with how they showed his character evolving, not because they showed another side of him with "he's at least becoming relatable via Brienne", but because out of nowhere, they were "oh shit, lets remind the viewers he's still terrible" via his thing with Cersei (being vague for spoilers sake, but you know what i mean).

    i can imagine a bunch of reasons why it might make sense, but as far as the show is concerned, it was lazy writing. they earned the sympathy, but they didn't earn the return to form, in my opinion. it was like he all of a sudden remembered the other half of his character at random (pushed a child out of a window, killed his cousin) that had nothing to do with his experience with Brienne we saw over an entire season.

    but the issue I was pointing out, and I imagine you can still find with alot of the articles about that scene in particular on this site and on other sites, is that they always use the justification "in the books...".

    that's when i would lay the purist label, and frankly just tune out "well, go read the books then". dismissive, fair enough, but still.

  • Maddy

    Oh look I hear you on that. There are some things in the show that have been excellent and even better than the books and by no means do I think they're perfect (although I know there are some people who do legitimately think that which is silly).

    I've actually changed my opinion regarding the problematic elements of the equivalent scene in the books to THAT scene. But I don't actually subscribe to the idea that something being problematic in the source material gives the show a free pass either. There is absolutely no reason for that scene and the fact that it was never addressed and they tried to do a 'call back' to it in the final episode just shows that it was a mess and screw up of filmmaking. It was offensive and unnecessary on it's own terms not just because dumb fan girls are obsessed with Jaime (which was legit an argument I heard that makes me want to throw things)

  • Andrew J

    I don't know, maybe because I read a lot of comic books, but I don't care about changes.

    I read the books and enjoyed them but now I'm watching the show and enjoying it. It's keeping the same spirit so it's still good. Changes just don't bother me because they are two different machines featuring characters I love.

    If I wanted a carbon copy of the books, I would get Robert rodriguez to sin city it up and it would eliminate the need for one or another. The best adaptations work as companion pieces, think american psycho, were consuming one strengthens the other. And if we are looking at it past all the much it's two works of art. It would be a little shitty and cold to ask for the exact same thing from two different artists. Imagine if we asked frank miller to do that with dark knight returns or Hendrix with all along the watcher?

    Sure a carbon copy gives you exactly what you want but it takes away so much more

  • Dominic

    hmm technically your analogy doesn't work . as Hendrix is well known for recording 5-20 versions of the same song , just trying to get the next one better than the last . For Ex , the last CD had version #10 of "Hear My Train A-Comin " , which is MUCH better than Version #4 of the song from the previous CD ... And frank miller's work IS all the same dark tones and violent morals - it just works for characters like Batman , DD , XMen ...no they aren't EXACT , but they are similar . tho i don't think any musician can play the same song twice the same way if they wanted to - something about the solo is always different , for one ...
    Now since you read CBs , then you know quite well , that this same debate has gone on since Hollywood started TRYING to make good CB movies . They always change the wrong things , and people bitch cause it screws with the ethos and pathos of the characters . which I think they have improved on tho , by the recent blockbusters out .
    Maybe the most analogous comparison to this is True Blood . Who's fandom is TEN times greater than GoT . People have been cryin' and whinin' since Season 3 that the HBO writers don't follow Charlaine enough . Why should HBO treat George Martin any different ?
    So it's not snobbery per se ; more like being a spoiled kid tho , and then not understanding a term called Legal Rights to Intellectual Property . . Which HBO pays well , to have control of

  • Andrew J

    I was comparing Hendrix's to Dylan's and Miller's to the canon Batman mythos at the time not to themselves. Also are you saying they should be able to change it? Cause that's what I'm saying. Why are you arguing the same point?

  • Dominic

    Once the Intellectual Rights are purchased ,they(HBOin this case ) have the legal right to change what they want . So no point in crying about it , as some people do . Just decide if it's too much of an affront , or not ...I was speaking to the main point as well as your post - people can be snobs about this issue ...
    I wasn't arguing . But people often DO compare one artist's version of the same song to another's and rag on one or the other . TV/books are no different . for ex. , I def would like Jimi's version of AATW better than Dylan's , now that you clarified what u were comparing .... My point is that artists copy THEMSELVES as well , just changing small things here and there ( different solo , new lyrics , etc for musicians - new characters with same morals for writers )

  • Berry

    Do not question the ways of the Dominics, for they are weird and quick to give you headache.

  • Dominic

    maybe that's the juice from "the Berrys " causing that headache , because it's too acidic ...

  • manting

    The fandom of True Blood is 10 x greater than GoT? True Blood books (there are like 13 main ones and several spinoff books) all told sold around 32 million copies. Pretty good right. GRRM has sold 28 million copies of his books which number 5 compared to Harris's 15 or more. Her books are also usually one third to one fifth as long as GRRM GoT books. I dont see a 10 to one ratio here and GRRM's GoT will pass Harris's series in sales by then end of this year.

  • Dominic

    Yeah I don't defend her lack of pages , no comparison to Martin... HOWEVER I was talking the TV show only . and there is an easy way for u to check : just go to HBO's Talk Section look at the Forum Topic #s( Granted TB has 2, 3 more seasons ) about 17,500 topics have been discussed about the GOT - 170,000+ ! topics have been started about TB i.e. much more discussion , because more fans posting more . Also TB IS HBO's highest rated show EVER . GoT isn't that close ..
    Martin beats Harris definitely ( as I mentioned to a Charlaine fan in TB's Talk section recently ), but on HBO , TB beats GoT handily ....

  • manting

    Not even close. GoT is the highest rated HBO show ever in the history of the channel surpassing TheSopranos this year. It is also the most pirated show on television. GoT has an average audience of 18.4 million viewers http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/06...
    True Blood has never had more than 4 million. http://www.philly.com/philly/b...
    as for the number of topics - check out Westeros.org thats where the GoT fans are, not on some HBO talkback.

  • Dominic

    not an AVERAGE audience of 18.4 million ; that's its high for the Finale ACROSS ALL Platforms . it peaked up to that , thus taking the title . Tb's 5th season premiere actually got 5.8 mil AAP ( 4 mil just at 9pm ), and then 9 pm ratings start declining by episode .. This link is old stats , but the way HBO figures ratings Across All Platforms is explained better ..http://www.vulture.com/2013/06/game-o...
    the gap was closer here which is more like the wiki entry I saw - it was old . I went to Variety tho , not some philly blog .. GoT took the commanding lead this season . just the 9 pm Sunday viewing of the finale got 7.1 million ...
    Westeros is George Martin fans 1st right ?

  • Sean Van Damme

    The snobbery comes from thinking they are better than people who just watch the show and then feel that they have the right to spoil things for the show only people because, well the books have been out for a while. Bitching about changes and calling D&D morons is kind of par for the course of the GOT fandom.

  • Kristen Mc

    So much yes.

  • John G.

    Amen, Sister

  • $116023062

    I think when you're talking about a series with 4168 pages so far, not all of it's going to make it into the show. Most great translations take out or change things to suit the medium. Look at The Godfather or LA Confidential both are arguably more effective without everything from the books.

  • emmalita

    I get a bit shirty about things I thought were important being dropped from the Harry Potter books in the movies. I know not everything could be fit into the movie adaptation of each book, but it still annoys me that stuff I invested in is gone.

  • $116023062

    Little Column A, Little Column B, but totally understandable. I haven't really had a problem with anything they've done so far. Next season might be a totally different story though.

  • Sean Van Damme

    But it isn't gone, the movie didn't rip those pages from the books. You just have to view adaptations as the same but different.

  • Nicole

    I see what you're saying but it's very disappointing when you feel that the adaptation has changed or cut what you felt to be crucial to the story. Using Harry Potter again, I was bitterly disappointed in how the filmmakers cut small moments of emotional poignancy in order to make more time for elaborate special effects scenes. In Game of Thrones, I felt that the alteration of Robb's marriage changed the character in a way that felt false and it undermined the connection between Robb, Ned, and the Stark sense of honor.

  • Mythra Sun

    Since they aged the TV characters up, I think Robb would have looked like even more of an idiot if they stuck to a direct translation of the book and the reasoning behind that decision for that specific storyline

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