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Game of Thrones TV Show Vs. Books

in Editor Pick/Film & TV Psychology by

There is an endless struggle and debate that rages about what’s better: the book or the movie. Readers claim films and TV shows are never as good as the source material. They are also angered when a TV show or film detours too much from this material.

The creators of these shows and films have a delicate balancing act. They need to somehow capture what made the book so interesting and engaging in the first place but are also hampered by time constraints, and budget.

Why do TV and film have to deviate from books?

Creators are also influenced by what they perceive to be different consumer needs. Research suggests that the medium we choose (i.e. film, TV, book) may be influenced by these needs.For example, research suggests that fantasy stories meet our desire for thrills. Fantasy portrayed on TV and books appear to meet this need. However, literature generally meets another need as well, called ‘aesthetics’, which is an interest in complexity and nuances.Perhaps this may explain why book readers can be so easily frustrated when the complexity and nuances from the books is watered down for TV and film.

Game of Thrones balancing act

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Take the popular series Game of Thrones. The series on which it is based ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ has sold a reported 24 million copies worldwide. That’s 24 million people who are primed to watch the show.The audience for the show is even larger. For just season 4 of Game of Thrones, there were over 18 million viewers, which doesn’t factor in the millions who illegally download individual shows or those who purchase the DVD.It’s safe to assume that many of these millions of viewers are a mix of book readers as well as those who would never take on the epic read.

At some point, there’ll be a crossover of needs.

Book lovers will be aghast at their beloved story being chopped or streamlined. Television lovers may get frustrated by the drawn out plots that are better suited to novels.

I remember reading articles that predicted doom for the series after staying true to the books and  killing off the main character, Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), in season 1. They claimed that the removal of such a high profile actor would not resonate with fans of the TV show, suggesting that television requires a different mentality to the books.

They should somehow find a spot for Eddard. An idea that’s absurd in hindsight.

As both show and book fans know, this death is a catalyst for many of the most exciting plots. The show quickly differentiated itself from other television shows by having a reputation of killing off popular and—seemingly—untouchable characters to shock viewers and send the plot down interesting and unpredictable paths.

More recently, the writers have deviated from the books significantly. The last two books were renowned for being slower in pace, and for introducing a number of new characters and sub-plots. The writers addressed these concerns by streamlining the stories and cutting many of the new characters. Has deviating from the books paid off? Let’s look at some of the most significant changes from the show.

Change #1. Jamie and Tyrion Depart on Good/Bad terms

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When dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, is sentenced to death in Season 4 of Game of Thrones, his brother, Jamie, comes to the rescues. They embrace and part ways. In the novel, things don’t end well.In a backstory revealed in the earlier novels and first season of the show, Tyrion talks about a woman he loved who turned out to be a prostitute paid by Jamie to show his brother a good time. The woman was then raped by a gang of Tywin Lannister’s—Tyrion’s father—army and sent on her way. Jamie reveals she was never a prostitute. Their love was real.In anger, Tyrion dishonestly claims to have killed Tyrion’s son, Joffrey, and informs Jamie that Cercei—Jamie’s lover and sister—has been sleeping with a gamut of other men.

Why the series is better: The writers planned for Jamie to go on a quest to help Cercei, in Season 5 which would have been hard if he resented her. Even though Tyrion’s backstory was revealed in Season 1, many of the viewers would have forgotten and found it hard to reconnect with this particular story.

Why the book is better: This scene sets up Tyrion’s quest to find his one true love. The books imply he will find her, perhaps promising a happy ending for Tyrion. Meanwhile, Jamie is disgruntled and abandons Cercei, leaving her to self-destruct with no hope Jamie will return to save her.

Which is better: The book

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Change #2  Jamie visits Dorne

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In the show, Jamie travels with fan favourite, Bronn, to Dorne to rescue his daughter, Marcella. He fights, gets captured and finally makes peace with the Prince of Dorne.In the book, Jamie is nowhere near Dorne. He takes off to the Riverlands to negotiate peace terms after the war. Meanwhile, in Dorne we are introduced to several new characters and a slow, emerging plot that reveals the Doran has sent his son to Mereen to marry the dragon queen, Daenarys Targarayen. Why the show is better: The show gives us some adventures with Jamie and Bronn and keeps the plot lean. The various sub-plots and characters from the books may have been confusing and are edited to present a simpler, cleaner story.

Why the book is better: The book introduces us to a completely new culture through the eyes of new characters. It takes time to get to point, but presents Doran as a patient player and wild card in the Game of Thrones.

Which is better: The book.

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Change #3. Tyrion meets Daenerys

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In the latter books, Tyrion spends much of his time travelling, meeting a variety of new characters. When he finally makes it to Mereen, we can only hope that he’ll meet Daenerys and we’ll finally see these two important characters align. However, they never meet.In the show, Tyrion’s travels are condensed and cut right back. He even meets Daenerys and commences advising her in some of the better scenes of Season 5. Why the book is better: George RR Martin knows we want Tyrion to make his way to Meeren, befriend Danerys and return to the seven kingdoms to help right all the wrongs. The fact that Martin didn’t give the readers what they want will just keep us more interested for the next chapters.

Why the show is better: The Tyrion chapters in A Dance with Dragons were notoriously disliked by a vocal fanbase because they dragged on so long and started to make Tyrion unlikeable. The show has short circuited this and has managed to keep most of the highlights from the book.

Which is better: The show

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Change #4 Sansa meets Ramsay Bolton

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In the books, we don’t know what happens to Sansa yet but the show has pushed forward with re-engineering the Theon Greyjoy storyline. The book has cruel Ramsay Bolton rape and torture another character, Jeyne Poole, who is posing as Arya Stark (it’s a long story). In the show, Sansa replaces Jeyne much to the horror of book readers.Why the books are better: It’s hard to know what will happen to Sansa but being raped and tortured by the Boltons seems a bit much after she’s endured so much already.Why the show is better: The Jeyne Poole chapters were more about Theon Greyjoy overcoming his post-traumatic stress to redeem himself. The show provides an opportunity for this redemption to come in the form of saving Sansa, which may be more powerful to the audience.

Which is better: Unknown until we see the new Sansa chapters.

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Change #5 Stannis burns Shireen

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Stannis Baratheon has a bit of a cult following. In the books, he’s one of those underdogs whose motivations are grey. He does horrible things, like burning people, but also remains fiercely committed to his own code of honour.In the latter books, George RR Martin lets us warm to the character by uniting him with hero, Jon Snow, rescuing the Night’s Watch and then taking off to take down the evil Boltons, the primary antagonists.Stannis even appears to be shifting away from all the burnings and returning to his roots when he leaves Melisandre—the red witch—back at the Wall with Jon Snow.

In the show, Melisandre accompanies Stannis with his daughter and wife. Stannis is still committed to his religion and sacrifices Shireen to the fire prior to his battle with the Boltons.

This deviation from the books removes the grey from Stannis’ character and makes his actions irrefutably evil.

Why the books are better: We are slowly warming to Stannis when it is revealed that he has been defeated in battle. It’s not known whether this is a deception, but it creates a drama that may now be missing from the show.

Why the show is better: The show gives us the inevitable pay-off of Stannis sacrificing his soul for his ego. He will win at any cost and the burning of Shireen is one of the more shocking moments.

Which is better: The books.

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Change #6 Mance Rayder is executed

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In the books, the wildling king beyond the wall is sentenced to burn by Stannis Baratheon. However, the red witch— Melisandre —uses her magic to change Mance’s appearance with another character, Rattleshirt, who burns in his place.Mance ultimately leads a rescue mission to save a woman Jon believes to be his sister, Sansa. Mance is then presumably captured by the Boltons, energising the wildlings to assist Jon to rescue their leader.In the show, Mance burns and his story ends.

Why the books are better: Mance has a better rapport with Jon in the books and becomes a sort of mentor/ally. The sub-plot throws yet another motivation for Jon to abandon his vows to save his friend.

Why the show is better. The books are a bit convoluted here. Melisandre sudden ability to change people’s appearances seems a bit convenient and ultimately pointless, and the Stannis plot may not really go anywhere other than finding him captured and finally killed.

Which is better: A draw.

Overall Winner: The Books

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What’s going to happen to our Game of Thrones characters?

in Editor Pick/Film & TV Psychology by

The Game of Thrones characters have been through many ups and downs (mostly downs). Many of these stories fit a particular narrative identity.Narrative identities involve stories that we tell ourselves that explain our life stories. In particular, we often tell ourselves stories that explain how we overcome adversity.

Redemption Stories

Narrative identities around redemption involve stories where people overcome obstacles to help them reassess their life. Characters like Daenerys Targaryen experience hardships, such as her life being sold into slavery, and learn to appreciate freedom.

Contamination Stories

Contamination stories involve a person experiencing an endless spiraling down. So many characters fit this story but it’s the Starks who are endlessly discovering misfortune and corruption.

Connection Stories

Where characters form bonds after some trauma, they are participating in a ‘connection’ narrative. Arya, for example, forms a connection with the Hound after her frequent series of misfortunes.

Fighter Story

Many of the characters in Game of Thrones push through obstacles and difficulties with blunt force or their wits, taking control of their destiny. Tyrion spends much of the first two seasons fighting through his obstacles, which is perhaps why he’s so popular.

Where to next?

Perhaps narrative stories can tell us where our characters will end up, at least in the short term.Daenerys continues to be manipulated and is starting to demonstrate the mad rage of her father. Jon Snow has prioritised the needs of the realm over the needs of his comrades at the wall.  These characters are likely on a downward ‘contamination spiral’.Meanwhile, Sansa is showing signs of fighting back with the help of Theon, who is crying out for someone to reconnect with his humanity (a connection arc).

These narrative stories and predictions are presented in the graphic above.

Homer Simpson in a coma for 20 years and other weird theories

in Editor Pick/Film & TV Psychology by

In a recent paper, a researcher criticised psychological studies for investigating unusual and counterintuitive findings just for the sake of it. The assumption is that rather than discussing the rational and empirically derived, people are more interested in theories that spark controversy and interest.

This tendency isn’t limited to researchers. I’ve noticed many unusual theories about well-known films and TV shows. Some of them are interesting. Others are bizarre. Here are some of those weird fan theories.

Warning, some SPOILERS ahead.

Ferris Bueller is in Cameron’s Mind

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is about a charming, rebellious teenager who fakes sick to take the day off from school. Right? Maybe…

According to this fan theory, Cameron, Ferris Bueller’s melancholic friend, is actually dreaming up Ferris Bueller. Ferris is Cameron’s alter ego.

This theory can’t really explain why Ferris’ teacher refers to him during a classroom roll call: Bueller, Bueller, Cameron?

Credibility: 0/10

Homer Simpson’s in a coma

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According to a fan theory, Homer Simpson entered a coma during an April Fool’s prank in one of the early seasons of the Simpsons but never woke up. Shortly after this episode, the Simpsons started becoming more surreal and unusual suggesting we are now experiencing Homer’s unrestrained mind during his coma.

The fact that Homer ended up in a coma from an exploding beer can in the first place suggests we don’t need the coma theory to rationalise why the series became less and less grounded in reality.

Credibility: 1/10

The Lost survivors were always in purgatory

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There were lots of unusual theories to explain the popular series, Lost. One of them proposed that all the survivors of the doomed air flight actually died. Each episode featured a flash back to a character who seemed to confront and overcome an inner demon. It seemed logical that perhaps they were in some kind of purgatory/limbo where they had to deal with these demons before they could move on.

In the last season, the characters were shown in new flashbacks, which ultimately turned out to be a form of limbo that they would enter when they eventually died (for some many years later).

Were they dead the whole time? Unlikely. But clearly there’s some truth to it at some point.

Here’s a good explanation of the ending.

Credibility: 4/10

Batman’s Dead

PictureIn the Dark Knight Rises, Batman (Christian Bale) presumably sacrifices his life by flying a hydrogen bomb away from Gotham city. The ending shows Batman’s butler, Alfred, ultimately tracking him down at a cafe. Both men can both move on to a happier life.

One of the fan theories suggests that maybe Alfred is just seeing what he wants to see and that Batman really did die. This would, of course, make all the hints at his escape (e.g. a miraculously fixed auto-pilot) redundant. And even Christian Bale has denied this theory.

Credibility: 2/10

Soprano’s fade to black means…

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There’s at least two popular interpretations on the famous Sopranos ending. Tony Soprano is waiting with his family at a diner, looking over his shoulder and checking the door. The series just cuts to black.

The first theory is simple. The story just ends. Tony is always going to be looking over his shoulder because he’s made a lot of enemies.

The second theory is that Tony has been shot. The abrupt cut to black is the perspective of the dead man. This theory is more likely as in an earlier episode, one of the characters talks about how getting killed would most likely be life cutting to black. You wouldn’t see it coming. The same scene was also repeated in a flashback.

There is also an excellent video that outlines the argument suggesting the writers wanted to remind us prior to Tony’s eventual death.

Credibility (First Theory): 3/10
Credibility (Second Theory): 9/10

The St Elsewhere characters are a figment of a boy’s imagination

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This series, set in a fictional hospital in the 1980s, had one of the more bizarre endings. A young boy with autism, Tommy Westphall, stares into a snow globe, featuring the hospital from the series. Because the show ends with Tommy staring at the snow globe, it theorised that the whole series is a figment of Tommy’s imagination.

Credibility: 8/10

Fans deal with their grief as David Lynch pulls out of Twin Peaks

in Film & TV Psychology by

David Lynch’s announcement that he would not direct Twin Peaks Season 3 due to unsuccessful negotiations with Showtime has sent shock waves across fans who are dealing with this loss in different but expected ways.

After 1 year and 4 months of negotiations, I left because not enough money was offered to do the script the way I felt it needed to be done.

— David Lynch (@DAVID_LYNCH) April 5, 2015

Using the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief model, and assuming you are a fan of its return, how are you managing your grief?

Shelly Johnson ‘Denial’?

Like Shelly Johnson, you’d rather not face the truth of a difficult situation. For her, it was facing the abuse of her psychopathic husband, Leo Johnson. For Twin Peaks fans, it’s people stating that maybe this whole thing will blow over. Maybe Showtime will make Lynch an offer he can’t refuse. Perhaps Lynch is just playing hard ball with the negotiations…

Still hope http://t.co/0SmLwXy0oz via @Variety

— Nicholas Duck (@drduckforcover) April 6, 2015

Benjamin Horne ‘Bargaining’?

When coming to face with the prospect of grief, you may have entered into bargaining for a better outcome. Like Benjamin Horne, you may think you can somehow use your words and influence to change an unchangeable outcome.

For example, one fan has started an online petition to get Showtime to reconsider their negotiations with Lynch.

Now the original cast have jumped onto the bargaining bandwagon with a Facebook page directed at Showtime to save the return of Twin Peaks.

BREAKING! #twinpeaks cast members start a #savetwinpeaks FB page – https://t.co/QxMiU4xS2b / Exclusive cast video – https://t.co/VFlNC1wnC3

— Twin Peaks (@TwinPeaksArchve) April 7, 2015

Killer BOB ‘Anger’

Perhaps you are experiencing the rage of Killer BOB, furious at Showtime for their inability to convert Lynch.

Take these fans who have bombarded the Facebook page of Showtime to vent their frustrations.

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Leland Palmer ‘Depression’

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When finally faced with the inevitable, you may experience the very grief you have been avoiding. Twin Peaks isn’t coming back. Lynch is moving on.

You were simply fed false hope. Does this mean you should experience intense despair, like Leland Palmer? Or Donna Haywood?

 

New trending GIF tagged sad, crying, twin peaks, twin peaks, david lynch, donna hayward, lara flynn boyle via Giphy http://t.co/dm2kq0jVaJ

— Kinson Chow (@kcswag77) April 8, 2015

Agent Cooper ‘Acceptance’

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Or you could just suck it up and focus on the positive, like Agent Cooper, and accept your situation. Don’t look at me, I’m still in denial and this blog is my very own coping mechanism.

 

Left Vs. Right Brain Characters

in Film & TV Psychology by

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Although only loosely based on science, there is some truth in the idea that the left side of the brain functions differently from the right side.

The left hemisphere is traditionally associated with rational thought, logic, linear thinking and appears to be better at processing threats, and details. The right hemisphere is associated with intuition, creativity, emotion, and insight. Read more about this here.

Although there’s actually not much support for the idea that we are left or right brained, the term ‘left brained’ and ‘right brained’ in a convenient way to distinguish between logical and rational people versus creative and intuitive types.

Many of our favourite TV shows have established ‘left brained’ and ‘right brained’ characters who spend much of the time fighting.

Spock and Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy

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Much of the series Star Trek pitted the deeply logical and rational ‘left brained’ Spock against the passionate and very human ‘right brained’ Dr McCoy. These two characters were forever debating the merits of logic versus compassion.

Dr Jack Shepherd and John Locke

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Lost had a rich array of characters to call on but the show ultimately centred on two main characters. Jack Shepherd was the logical, ‘left brained’ leader who followed science. Locke trusted his faith and intuition and had genuine insight and awareness into the unseen weirdness of the island where they crash landed.

By the end of the series, Locke had perished and Jack carries on his legacy, perhaps showing that Jack had an awakening of insight or his right brain was finally let loose.

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully

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Agent Scully was the skeptic forced to go undercover to expose Agent Fox Mulder. Together they eventually formed a formidable partnership. Mulder believed in the unusual and weird and was willing to trust his instinct about the true nature of an alien conspiracy.

Scully would forever look for simple, linear, and rational explanations for all strange events, which became more difficult over the course of 9 seasons of freaks, aliens, and monsters.

Sheldon and Penny

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Pair physicist Sheldon Cooper (and his friends to a lesser extent) with actor neighbour, Penny, and the outcomes are inevitable. This duality plays out constantly on the Big Bang Theory.

‘Left brained’ Cooper is logical and rational to the extreme, almost operating and perceiving a different reality. ‘Right brained’ Penny flies by the seat of her pants, trusting her gut, following an unpredictable yet creative career path.

Walter White and Jesse Pinkman

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Some would argue Breaking Bad’s Walter was also a master ‘right brained’ thinker, trusting his insight and intuition. Others would argue that he was so strongly rational and left-brained that his cold, hard logic led to poor decisions, which alienated everyone around him.

Jesse didn’t seem to follow either hemisphere in the early seasons of Breaking Bad. However, the cold logic of Walter White, ultimately didn’t ‘feel right’ for Jesse who slowly became deflated and traumatised. Surely his ‘right brain’ was telling him something was off?

Return of the Sequel II: The Revenge Rises Part 3

in Film & TV Psychology by

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After two decades of prequels, spin-off and reboots, the sequel has returned, risen, and, er, rebooted?

Sequels play off the good memories we have of their predecessors. When we watch a sequel, we’re basically expecting to relive a cherished experience.

Like sequels, prequels try to construct a world only inferred by their predecessor films. However, often the plot isn’t all that interesting because we already know how the story ends. This is partly why the prequels of late have failed to hit the mark.

Reboots or remakes try to start a series again but always face backlash from the original fans and a continued disinterest from the people who weren’t fans the first time around.

Here is the round up of film and TV franchises that are looking to continue the original stories that were left off years ago in an effort to play off our cherished memories.

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens

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The Star Wars prequels were a mixed bag. Whilst they all pulled in huge numbers at the box office, they were mostly savaged by critics. The plot, story, characters, and acting were all questionable but it was hard to find drama knowing how the whole saga was ultimately going to play out.

Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens is not only a sequel to the beloved Star Wars Trilogy from the 70s and 80s. It also includes the original cast. And, unlike the prequels, we won’t know how it’s all going to end.

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Twin Peaks Season 3

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It was the TV series that started off strong, lost its way half way through Season 2, and ended on an epic cliffhanger, written and directed by creator David Lynch. Dale Cooper, the upbeat protagonist detective, was seemingly possessed by the evil spirit BOB, leaving everything open for a Season 3 that never came.

The series was shortly followed by a prequel, Fire Walk with Me, that was universally panned by critics and loathed by fans of the series.

The enthusiastic fanbase created an internet meltdown late last year when Lynch announced he’d be making Season 3–an extraordinary 20 years later. Forget remaking the series. There’s finally an opportunity to right the wrongs made by leaving the fans in limbo for all these years.

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Alien…3?

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Why don’t we just forget the last 20 years and make a sequel to the classic James Cameron Aliens? Nobody was too impressed by David Fincher’s Alien 3, which self-imploded during several re-writes and production problems back in the 90s.

The film was followed up by an odd but somewhat entertaining sequel, Alien Resurrection.
Then we had some appalling Alien Vs Predator sequels that almost sealed the fate of this series for good.

We returned with Prometheus, a prequel of sort to Alien, which had generally positive reviews but still couldn’t reignite the franchise. This prequel suffered the same fate as so many others, tying itself loosely to the original film enough to attract fans but failing to recreate what made the original film so good.

Now, almost 15 years since Alien Resurrection, Neill Blomkamp will write and direct what appears to be a sequel to Aliens with Sigourney Weaver, and possibly Michael Biehn, reprising their roles. It isn’t clear how this will work given both died in Alien 3.

Nevertheless, Weaver was resurrected in Alien Resurrection–as a clone–showing us that anything is possible in Hollywood.

There are rumours they’ll simply pretend Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection never happened.

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Creed & Rambo V

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Sylvester Stallone spent a period in the late 90s and early millennium trying to make more serious action/dramas. Perhaps he was trying to shrug off the image of being the guy who only made Rocky sequels (we were up to Rocky V).

After a series of flops, Stallone returned to making sequels again, with Rocky VI and Rambo IV. Recently, he’s announced a return to make Rambo V. This year, a sequel to his Rocky series, Creed, will also be released.

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Terminator Genisys

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After various attempts to reinvigorate the Terminator series, including recruiting Batman, Christian Bale, to take over as lead in Terminator Salvation, the magic formula has returned. Arnold Schwarzenegger will return to play the Terminator after playing the role as the Governator for almost a decade. Wait, that wasn’t a role?

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The X Files Season 10

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It was a series that sustained itself for nine years but lost its way when the two leads, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, stepped away from the roles. Perhaps the endless loose ends and convoluted story lines also played a part?

Both actors returned briefly to make a second X-Files movie but it was recently announced they were in discussion to return for a new season of the X-Files. I wonder if skeptic, Dana Scully, will finally admit there are aliens.

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To be continued in Part 2: Films that Break the Prequel/Reboot curse: A New Beginning. In the meantime, here’s the Muppets’ take on sequels…

Five things that always go wrong on cooking shows

in Film & TV Psychology by

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#1 Overcooked meat

Overcooking food tells us you failed in your restraint, monitoring and control. Worse still, you did not respect the food you are cooking.

#2 Undercooked meat

You are far too risk averse. Fearing overcooking the meat, you were too conservative and decided to pull the food off before it was ready. If you are making chicken, you’ve also made the dish inedible. 

#3 Wrong flavour combination

This is a failure due to ignorance. You’ve paired up combinations that don’t work on the plate. This represents a cook with ambition, creativity and flair without the disipline.

#4 You took too long to serve

Here’s a violation of the social contract between you and the guests. The guests are hungry at the end of the day and if you don’t meet their basic physiological needs, you can’t expect them to entertain anything more.

#5 Keep it simple

Trying to wow your guests with your skills, you’ve spread yourself too thin across multiple dishes. The greatest sin of all is prioritising your ego above the food itself.

Do masks make villains scarier?

in Film & TV Psychology by

If you want a villain with impact, try concealing their face. The face is the most personal thing about us. It portrays who we are, reveals our emotions, and helps others anticipate our behaviour.

Filmmakers often use masks to conceal the faces of villains. Perhaps this unsettles us because we struggle to connect with them and find it difficult to identify signs of empathy or humanity.

Often the mask is a subtle depiction of a human skull. Such imagery associated with death and has been shown to unsettle us at an unconscious level.

Do masks make villains scarier? 

The Winter Soldier (Captain America 2)

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In Captain America: The Winter Solidier, the primary antagonist, The Winter Soldier, is first shown with his entire face covered, resembling a human skull.

As the story unfolds, we learn that the Winter Soldier is Cap’s best friend, Bucky, who is shown with his eye mask removed, then without a face mask, and finally without dark eye make-up–representing his return to humanity.

We can connect with him more and he is no longer perceived as a villain.

Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

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In The Dark Knight Rises, villain, Bane, wears a gas mask that also closely resembles a human skull. We only get a glimpse of this villain without a mask, when the audience learns of a heroic deed in his past, again showing us the humanity of the villain by allowing us to connect with a normal human face.

Michael Myers (Halloween)

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One of the more iconic masks is that of killer, Michael Myers, in the original Halloween. The white face and black eyes are reminiscent of a skull. The only time we see his true face is as a boy and we left imagining what horror might be underneath.

Scarecrow (Batman Begins)

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Scarecrows are inherently creepy. They look like rotting corpses on sticks (ok, maybe not the Wizard of Oz one). In Batman Begins, the villain, Jonathan Crane, conceals his face with a mask that exacerbates the hallucinatory drug he gives his victims. This makes the corpse face come to life with horrors, like live maggots.  

Ghostface (Scream)

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It is without a doubt that the scream mask in Scream is what makes that film so memorable. Unlike the expressionless mask of Michael Myers, this one portrays a constant state of terror, despair, and anger (it’s weird). Again, a bit like a warped skull.

The unmasking of the villains in this film only reduces the impact of the scares by revealing a couple a teenagers responsible for the crimes.

Two Face (The Dark Knight)

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Character, Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight), is portrayed as a clean cut and un-corruptible district attorney. When he first displays his angry streak, his face is partially concealed by shadows, foreshadowing for what he soon becomes.

In his finally transformation, his normal face is juxtaposed against the scarred, skull-like, face. He is literally two-faced.

Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)

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As a reverse villain reveal, Silence of the Lambs shows us the evil Hannibal Lecter already unmasked and in prison. As the film progresses, the villain is masked and removed from high security, slowly showing him re-emerging from his temporary hibernation.

Lecter then escapes by concealing himself by literally wearing another man’s face! 

Darth Vader

PicturePerhaps the most iconic villain of all, Darth Vader is a combination of body builder, David Prowse, the baritone vocals of James Earl Jones, and the diabolically evil mask that looks like a black skull.

When his mask is removed, we see a pretty sad looking actor (Sebastian Shaw) who shows us the old, frail, man beneath the machine.

Why Game of Thrones surprises us – Part 2

in Film & TV Psychology by

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Previously on Game of Thrones…
I discussed the common archetype of the hero and how George RR Martin uses our familiarity with this archetype as a form of misdirection.

Part 2 looks at the archetype of the ‘Lover’ and the ‘Innocent’ and how Martin dangles hope for one character to tease the audience.

The Lover is motivated by finding true love (see pretty much every Disney princess). They are also easily influenced by the approvals of others and fear being abandoned or alone.

The Innocent is ignorant of the evil in the world. They always want to do the right thing and fear being punished for misdeeds (see a summary here but beware the fine line between psychology and the mystical).

Anyway, which character fits the archetype of the Lover and Innocent best? Is it Sir Gregor Glegane or Tywin Lannister? Spoilers ahead.

The Lover/Innocent – Sansa Stark

At the start of the series, Sansa is innocent. She’s easily shocked by the true horrors of Westeros and is fixated with marrying Prince Joffrey. She’s both the Innocent and the Lover.

How does Martin manipulate these archetypes? Time and time again, he dangles true love in front of Sansa and yanks it away to shock us.

Twist #1. Sansa’s sweet prince is a psychopath

The story is in place for the Lover. She’s met her sweet prince, Joffrey. He will one day be king and admires Sansa from afar. Everything is set for Sansa to fall in love and be his queen.

But then, Martin reveals Joffrey to be the psychopath he really is. He removes poor Ned’s head and then Martin consistently places Sansa into awkward encounters. You know, being humiliated and tortured in front of crowds. That sort of thing.

Twist #2. Sansa’s handsome rescuer is a drunk, scarred dwarf

But maybe it’ll all work out? After all, perhaps the Lover/Innocent overcomes her obstacles to find her one true prince charming? That’s the angle Martin is going for in this new twist (note. slightly different in the book).

Sansa will be wed to the knight she fell in love with, Loras Tyrell, and live far away from Joffrey. It’s all a happy ending, right?

Unfortunately for Sansa, the Lannisters interfere again and she ends up marrying Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf known as the Imp. Martin doesn’t allow the Lover to marry the man of her dreams at all. He dangles hope and then pulls it away.

Twist #3. Sansa is finally rescued by a real knight

But maybe it’ll all work out for her…again? A knight she once saved from execution has returned to save her but once again, her saviour is not the man of her dreams. Continuing with the ironic twists of past, Martin has Sansa rescued by a drunk fool. But, hey, at least he’s sincere and turns out to be a real hero…sort of.

Twist #4. Sansa is finally rescued by the most evil man in Westeros

And it even turns out this fool isn’t really all that heroic. He’s working for the most evil dude in Westeros, Littlefinger. After the murder of Joffrey, Martin has Sansa rescued from the (Lannister) lion den and straight into Littlefinger’s fingers..

Twist #5. Sansa finally plays the Game of Thrones

After her crazy aunt tries to kill her, Sansa covers for Littlefinger, demonstrating that she is now a player. After endlessly being abused and used as a pawn, the real twist is that Sansa is no longer the Innocent or the Lover. 

Why Game of Thrones surprises us – Part 1

in Film & TV Psychology by

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What’s in a plot twist? Part of it’s surprise. In the case of Game of Thrones, it’s usually in the form of a sudden and brutal shock. Just when you thought you knew what was going to happen, writer George RR Martin throws a curve ball.

To surprise a modern, savvy audience, you essentially need to be a master at misdirection. That is, get them to anticipate the direction of a story, set up all the pieces and clues, and then catapult the plot into a completely different direction.

One way to play with an audience is to present them with familiar story archetypes.

Game of Thrones and Story Archetypes

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The Lover

 

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The Caregiver

 

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The Everyman

 

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The Explorer

 

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The Father The Hero

 

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The Ruler

 

According to Carl Yung, archetypes are universal ‘thought-forms’ that are innate to all people. Put simply, there are familiar characters and stories throughout history and across cultures that continually re-emerge in the form of archetypes.

The ‘hero’ archetype is depicted in countless popular films. This archetype involves the hero going on a journey where they fall, confront their inner demons, and then rise again to fight another day. These themes underpin films like Star Wars, Rocky, and pretty much every superhero movie.

Martin uses these common archetypes to prime the audience and then often does the complete opposite. That is, the hero may fall but then doesn’t rise again. Or maybe he becomes the villain?

What are some examples? Spoilers ahead!

The Hero

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Ned Stark

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Robb Stark

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The Red Viper

Hero Twist #1. Ned is beaten and cornered but there’s an escape plan

Ned Stark is the main protagonist in the first series and played by A-List actor, Sean Bean. He’s honourable, loyal, and strong. And, like all heroes, he takes on the primary villains: The Lannisters.

Ned ends up beaten and delirious in a black cell. This isn’t an odd situation for a hero. Surely he will escape? We are given plenty of evidence to support the notion that Ned is simply on a hero’s journey and will eventually rise again.

First, he’s played by Sean Bean, the main star and protagonist of the series! Second, he’s given a terrible choice: die or beg for mercy. Mercy will lead him to his son, Jon Snow, at a cold and merciless purgatory with the ‘Night’s Watch’.

It just so happens the Night’s Watch look like they are about to face a larger, supernatural evil too. So, we are led to think Ned will escape death and make his way to his son to help him fight this evil. All he has to do is sacrifice his honour.

Which he does.

Hero Twist #2. The son avenges the father

Now we want revenge! Robb, Ned’s son, is mounting an attack. He’s unstoppable. He has his father’s characteristics of loyalty and bravery. But even though the ‘young wolf’ never lost a battle, he’s losing the war.

Again, we are led to believe Robb is beaten but not defeated. His hero’s journey is to rise up and win the war and avenge his father.

He’s even got a back-up plan. An ally in the war is ready to lend his support. Robb’s just got one obstacle in his way. Robb promised to marry the daughter of this ally, Walder Frey, but instead chooses to marry another. He ultimately needs to rely on Walder who arranges another wedding…

 

Hero Twist #3. Red Viper to the rescue

The Red Viper (Oberyn Martell) is introduced well into the series with his own hero arc. We learn that one of the chief villains of the series, Gregor Clegane (aka the Mountain), murdered the Red Viper’s sister and her children.

Glegane is begging for a comeuppance. He tortures, rapes and murders with fury. He’s also partial to animal cruelty.

When the Red Viper agrees to fight Glegane to the death to save Tyrion Lannister’s life, George RR Martin has us in his crosshairs again. Everything makes sense. Oberyn will rescue Tyrion, who will otherwise face the executioner. The Red Viper gets his revenge and the Mountain is toppled by the much smaller Viper in a classic David and Goliath battle.

Of course, this happens…(check out the reactions from the audience)

In part 2, I’ll look at how Martin uses the Lover archetype as misdirection.

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