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Monday, April 9, 2012

Game of Thrones - Episode 2.02 - In Defence of Ros: The Whore (and Her Continued Existence)

You know what? I don't think that I acually hate Ros: The Whore. In fact, I may be starting to like her a little. This episode proved to me that Esme Bianco is more than capable of acting and thus is not personally at fault for my initial disdain for her character. As such, in an attempt to sort out my feelings while also trying to write an actual review of Game of Thrones Episode 2.02 ("The Night Lands"), I found myself instead writing a semi-lengthy argument in defence of her character. So, without further ado, I present to you the article you definitely didn't ask for, but also didn't even know you wanted :D!!!!

I think that our slightly misdirected rage comes from two different places:

1. Game of Thrones has a nakedness problem. It often contains an over-abundance of "Sexposition" (a term coined by Myles McNutt) or else some straight up "Hey! Boobs!" (an idea put forward by Mo Ryan). Ros has been involved in some of Game of Thrones' least necessary nudity. She was at the heart of the show's most controversial example of sexposition, namely the whole 'Littlefinger Presents:  King's Landing Idol - Brothel Edition!!!' ordeal. It seems like she exists for the express purpose of filling HBO's episodic boob quota. Why even bother having her around? Boobs are fun and all, but honestly, I'm trying to enjoy me some Game of Thrones. If I wanted to watch softcore porn, I would find some softcore porn to watch. Not to mention the awkwardness of watching this show with your friends and their parents. That's always a good time.

Regardless, there's certainly a larger discussion about the necessity of nudity in television to be had; however, due to a lack of space and time constraints, in short, I stand firmly on the side that favours nudity for the sake of realism. If main characters are having sex, then nudity should be fine. Tyrion and Shae come to mind, as does this episode's Melisandre/Stannis scene. Also, if you enter a brothel, nudity should probably be happening. Should we enjoy 30 seconds of sexy times before making our way over to the plot? Probably not (although I'd have to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis; setting the mood is sometimes both interesting and informative).

The rather long-winded point I'm trying to make is that we don't actually hate Ros personally. We hate unnecessary nudity. Up until now, she has largely been involved in the worst of it; however, her two scenes so far this season have turned that idea completely on its head. She hasn't yet appeared naked, nor has she had sex on screen. She was present during a Hey! Boobs! moment last episode, but I would argue that it was a somewhat hyperbolic use of nudity to set the mood for imminent baby brothel murderings. It also served to show us that she had become the teacher (in direct contrast to the aforementioned Littlefinger training scene).

Littlefinger unloading his back-story while auditioning whores was probably unnecessary. Littlefinger existing in his brothel, only to have a fully clothed scene with a PTSD-suffering Ros is fine by me. Especially since Ros has been portrayed as such a strong individual. Aiden Gillen made Littlefinger come across as more than just a fake-smile-bearing mastermind and Esme Bianco added some depth to an otherwise one-dimensional character. Littlefinger is legitimately the world's biggest creep and, one would imagine, more than a tad emotional baggagey too. He honestly doesn't care about any of these women, nor does he see them as people. He isn't a papa-bear-style whorehouse owner leaping on the men that mistreat his women. If those men can pay for the mistreatment, it's all fine by him. He wants her to stop crying so that she can make him more money. If not, he'll find a way to make more money at her expense.

While some more Littlefinger/Varys confrontations would have been exciting, I would argue that this scene revealed a lot more about Littlefinger's character than another of those encounters would have offered at present. He tends to be coy and playful while confronting the other series regulars. It was only through a tertiary character like Ros that we could truly see the depths of his callousness. The scene could definitely have used some shortening here and there, but all in all, I was quite pleased with how it turned out. Any complaints about nudity lie with Littlefinger, since this was HIS scene, and not with Ros.

Conclusion: Don't shoot the messenger!


2. If you've read the books, there's certainly some merit in being concerned about any character NOT from the novels appearing on your screen. Especially when, like mentioned before, said character seems to exist for the sole purpose of meeting HBO's boob quota. It also detracts from the amount of screen time given to better characters, such as Tyrion. And believe me, I am more than acutely aware of the irony inherent in me writing an entire article about Ros to the detriment of an actual review of the episode.

Regardless, I believe that these fears are completely unfounded (at least as of the the start of the second season). The most important point that I think I can make is that Ros seems to be taking on the role of Chataya. As such, we can't actually argue that she isn't someone from the books. We knew that, with a cast of several hundred characters, we were going to have to make some compromises for the sake of television storytelling. We knew that certain minor players would be combined into a single character and that others would be dropped entirely. The only real complaint that I would levy in the direction of the casting directors is that Ros becoming Chataya effectively white washes the character (Chataya was black in the novels). I won't get into that now, but issues surrounding diversity casting are absolutely worth discussing and are of concern.

Why then not simply cast a new character in the role of Chataya, since Ros seems to have stirred up some visceral hatred? I would argue that, having followed Ros all the way from Winterfell to King's Landing, we now have a much stronger connection to the character than we ever did with Chataya in the novels. Ros slept with Tyrion, Theon, Grand Maester Pycelle, and is now working for Littlefinger. She witnessed the murder of one of Robert's Bastards first-hand. Even moreso than the comet, she serves as a strong connection between several  key men of power. Instead of having random whores present during each sex scene, I think it's better stroytelling to include a single character to be developed in her own right. If we hate Ros as she is now, imagine how we would feel about a huge number of different prostitutes.

You might argue that we don't actually need any sex-with-prostitutes scenes at all, but I think that placing characters in vulnerable positions is a great way to find out more about them. Grand Maester Pycelle was revealed to be much less of a senile old man than we had been led to believe, Theon has control issues, Littlefinger has too many issues to name, etc.

Conclusion: Ros is a useful storytelling tool.


A final point I'd like to make is that we should really calm down about the existence of new characters. If they have nothing to offer us, then absolutely, hate away... but the initial gut reaction causing us to scream 'SHE ISN'T PART OF THE CANON SO GET HER OFF MY SCREEN' is something that we all ought to fight. This isn't the novel, nor could it ever be a direct adaptation of the novel.

Conclusion: Let's see what television has to offer!

You can follow me on Twitter @LostCadence and listen to me rant about television shows and culture or else check out my Blog: cadencegtv. As always, a big thanks to Darque for checking out the content prior to posting/for some fantastic screen caps!

Season 01:
Episode 3: 8.75/10.0
Episode 7: 9.00/10.0

Season 02:

- John

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