Tolkien with Tits

I know I’m late for the party, but I’ve got an excuse.

I’ve been aware of the phenomenal success of George R.R. Martin’s books, but haven’t got round to reading any of them. So many books, so little time! Neither had we watched the TV adaptations, largely due to not having a Sky subscription. (Other pay-to-view networks are available.) But I was tempted by a super-cheap offer on a boxset of Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD, so we settled down to watch it.

We were both impressed by the variety and depth of characters, the broad sweep of the intertwining plot threads and the sheer imagination that went into its creation. This is fantasy on a grand scale. But it’s still fantasy – and we all know that doesn’t sell unless it’s a well-established brand like Tolkien or Dr Who. Fantasy is for kids – so how has Game of Thrones become so popular with grown-ups?

In a word – sex. I don’t know how much is in the books, but the programmes are liberally strewn with naked boobs, buttocks and, um, bits. Then there’s the incest and other unsavoury practices. Is this what it takes to sell fantasy to a 21st Century audience? Do adults only tolerate fantasy if it has adult content?

Hubby and I discussed the nudity factor of the programmes. He suggested a lot of it wasn’t gratuitous because the sex was relevant to the plot – which I agree, it is. But if that’s the case, why so much more female nudity than male? I reckon there must be a dozen naked boobs for every shirtless chest seen onscreen. I have no doubt the skin on show is meant to appeal to the male audience. I don’t have a problem with this, I just like to be clear about it.

Having said all that, I enjoyed these series more than most drama broadcast on telly this year. It’s grown-up fantasy with all the ingredients of good TV storytelling. The top-flight cast sparkles, from known actors like Sean Bean, Aiden Gillen and Charles Dance to relative newcomers like Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke. It’s clear where the huge budget has been spent – on costumes, special effects and locations, as well as the cast; but there’s also some wonderfully written script and very black humour. If you’re not put off by the flesh and the strong language, then it’s entertaining, multi-layered entertainment. Characters to love and hate, scenery that makes me want to move to Northern Ireland and genuinely unexpected twists.

I might even get around to buying the books.