WHAT KIND OF AN ADAPTATION IS GAME OF THRONES?

Anna-Leena Harinen

University of Eastern Finland.

Jens Eder states that “[i]f scholars want to expand the scope of adaptation studies beyond the evaluative comparison of literary originals and film adaptations1, they will have to take into account research from transmedia studies” (Eder 2015: 71). This argument is the starting point of this paper, which is based on aresearch article I am currently working on. Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011–), probably the fantasy phenomenon of the 2010s and a television series adapted from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels(1996–), may have started as a novel-to-television adaptation; the first season especially followed the first novel quite strictly. But while progressing from one season to another,Game of Thrones has proved it is an independent television series, and it has garnered both critical praise and a strong popular following on its own terms even though it has had a recognized connection with A Song of Ice and Fire since its premiere.

Arguably, the most striking phase in the differentiation of these two texts was when the fifth and sixth seasons largely exhausted the published novels. Therefore, Game of Thrones cannot be referred to as an adaptation in a traditional sense anymore because the television narrative has its own coursenot based on any previously existing “source text”. The few previous studies regarding Game of Thrones have considered it as an adaptation with little further problematization.

This paper, however, problematizes the concept of adaptation and aims to redefine the relationship between an adaptation and its “source text”.When I argue that Game of Thrones is a transmedial phenomenon I mean that it is a multitext which is being distributed across different media (Eder 70). Therefore, instead of defining Game of Thrones as a televisual adaptation of Martin’s novels and nothing more, I argue the television series, the novels and all the other cultural products belonging to the phenomenon from merchandise to the interactive Game of Thrones exhibition form a transmedialmultitext. When comprehending adaptation as a transmedial practice (Eder 70), I believe we can finally rid ourselves of the evaluative fidelity approach that has pestered adaptation studies for decades. In this paper I will explain the current situation with Game of Thrones, and examine how adaptation and transmedia studies could benefit from each other in order to avoid what Robert Stam calls “the aporias of fidelity” (4).

 Note:

  1. Even though Eder specifically mentions film adaptations, the same conception can be applied to television adaptations as well.

 References:

Eder, Jens 2015: “Transmediality and the Politics of Adaptation: Concepts, Forms, and Strategies.” The Politics of Adaptation: Media Convergence and Ideology. Ed. Dan Hassler-Forest & Pascal Nicklas. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 66–81.

Stam, Robert 2005: Literature Through Film: Realism, Magic, and the Art of Adaptation. Malden: Blackwell.