The Last Game of Kingdoms? Debbie Bennett

Covid hair!
I had a really good idea for a blog post the other day. Can I remember what it was? Not a chance. I swear my brain is fried these days – whether with the current situation, age, hormones or quite possibly a combination of all three. So, I’m sitting here with greyer hair than I’ve ever had (do I need to bother dying it? I’m curious to see how grey I actually am as I’ve not gone natural for quite a few years …) and an absolute desperate burning need to visit the dental hygienist before all my expensive bridgework falls apart completely through lack of maintenance. Interesting times, are they not?

Is anybody watching The Last Kingdom on Netflix? We finished season 4 last week and I can’t help drawing parallels to Game of Thrones. I mean our Uhtred was quite clearly Jon Snow in a former life - same dress style, same strategist. He even looks the same! And Sansa has morphed into Aethelflaed, with Cersei becoming Aelswith. I’m loving it, but it makes me wonder whether anything is original any more. They say there are only seven original plots in fiction. There’s an article in The Telegraph too (but you need an account to read it properly – I know newspapers need to get their money from somewhere these days, now we are all reading online – but I really hate having to log in to read an article).

I let Andy cut my fringe ...
The Wikipedia article is interesting. As well as the seven plots, there’s a meta-plot and there’s only one character we are supposed to care about – our protagonist – even though there may be a cast of thousands. And this is where GoT straightaway breaks the mould as not only is there a huge cast, but there are numerous major characters and no one is more important than any other, except in their own heads. Maybe this is why it works well enough on screen, but I found the books long-winded, tedious and rambling. At least LK is firmly focussed on the luscious Uhtred!

In both series (and often in other films, tv and books) I get hugely annoyed by the way the characters can apparently move hundreds of miles, on foot, in less than a day or so. GoT spent half a season with a band of characters on the road north or south (I forget which) – a journey which they accomplished later on in half a day. At least Westeros is a fictional land. I was yelling at the tv last week when the Saxen group managed to get from Aylesbury to Winchester on foot in pretty much the same day. With small children in tow! 

And why does everyone always have perfect teeth and good skin? Apart from the obvious stereotypical village idiot/hovel-dwelling bottom-of-the-heap few characters, our heroes and heroines are all perfectly manicured, buffed and polished with white smiles and clean hair. Really? I guess we don’t want realism, do we – and it’s never mentioned in books unless it’s relevant to the plot that the heroine has acne or the hero has bad breath and greasy hair … I was watching an old re-run of Sharpe the other night and they’re all wearing white uniforms. Why? I asked Andy. They’d get filthy, surely? Yes, he replied – that was the point. It gave the men something to do to keep their uniform clean, kept them occupied and out of mischief. But how? I wanted to know. No hot water, no Persil, no Vanish oxy-white doo-dah and no tumble dryers or irons. How did they manage to be clean and bright the next day? Nobody knows. Even the Vikings – sorry, the Danes – have lovely long silky beards with little beads in (no bits of food or dried beer/spit) and lovely black bits of leather that still look smart even when they get wet and muddy. It’s a mystery to me.

Anyway, I need a new series to watch. Any suggestions?


Jan Needle said…
If you haven't already, Debbie, watch The Amazing Mrs Maisel, on Prime. Swunderful.

As to "why does everyone always have perfect teeth and good skin ... our heroes and heroines are all perfectly manicured, buffed and polished with white smiles and clean hair." Well how do you think they got the parts, you naive person you? Would you employ a hero who looked like me?
Griselda Heppel said…
Never having watched Game of Thrones (am too much of a wuss) or The Last Kingdom, I couldn't quite follow everything here but your point about deliciously attractive ordinary people in historical series rang absolutely true. Alas, being true to life is no match for being easy on the eye - all part of the joyous escapism of films! Twas ever thus and still is. Watching Normal People, I did think it hilarious that all the sixth formers in the heroine's school (sorry, I gave up after 2 episodes so the names haven't stuck with me) are beyond anything beautiful. Where are the slightly tubby ones, those not blessed with classically symmetrical features, the ones who don't know what to do with their hair, or haven't managed make up, or who are just plain awkward?

And the teeth! You're right there. Have you noticed how many people in ordinary life (ie not on screen, which is bad enough) overwhiten their teeth these days? Someone pointed out that if someone's teeth are a shade lighter than the whites of their eyes it looks really weird. I see it everywhere now.
Susan Price said…
Oh Griselda, I agree on the dazzling white teeth! Whiter teeth are supposed to make you look younger, which I suppose is why everyone books a teeth-whitening session -- but these dazzling teeth are the equivalent of the trout-pout and the over-drastic plastic surgery. It fools nobody and looks ridiculous.

And Debbie, if the soldiers' uniforms had to be kept white, you can bet it was the camp followers who were down at the river, bashing the clothes on stones.
I too would like something escapist to watch after Game of Thrones... I've watched one episode a night during lockdown in an attempt to keep myself from screaming at the news on TV, and am now working my way through Season 8 (final season)... after that finishes, what? Will I need to paint my front door half black and half white?
janedwards said…
The well groomed Viking trend began with Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas :-)
Debbie Bennett said…
Normal people, Griselda? I don't get what everybody is raving abut. NOTHING HAPPENS. I got bored after 1 episode, stuck it out for another 2 and then gave up.
Umberto Tosi said…
And heroes and heroines never wear hats, no matter how icy and bitter the weather is supposed to be in GOT and these types of sagas. Anyone who lives in higher latitudes of merciless winters knows you'd soon lose your ears and nose to frostbite without protective headgear and scarves. Yet, their teeth never chatter, and steam never comes from their perfect mouths as they speak so eloquently. And, BTW, as a Yank, I wonder why the main characters in sword-and-shield fantasies, no matter what their supposed ilk, speak in much the same stagey king's English. Yet I do watch them and confess to enjoying the escapism even before the pandemic. Thanks for this amusing post, Dabbie, and your hair is just fine.
Jan Needle said…
Your hair in indeed fine, Debbie. But I wasn't joking about Mrs Maisel. It's set in the Jewish part of New York in the sixties, and it's about a young mother who becomes a stand up comic when her marriage breaks up. It's so staggeringly Jewish that if it hadn't been written, directed, produced and EVERYTHING by Jewish people it would have been called racist! You wanna Jewish Momma? You got em, in spades. It's in three series, which go from terrific to transcendentally wonderful. Reading this back, I wonder if I'm suffering from lockdownitis. Nah - it's marvellous.
Jan Needle said…
It's called the Marvellous Mrs Maisel, not the Amazing. Sorry.

Griselda Heppel said…
At last I've found a kindred spirit re Normal People! Absolutely agree with you Debbie, it moves at the speed of tectonic plates and nothing happens. I've been told I need to stick with it and it is brilliant because it encapsulates that awkwardness of moving from school to university.... um, I guess it might for young people these days. Awkwardness I remember, bags of it, but... just... not like this.

And the Marvellous Mrs Maisel is indeed marvellous. And agonising, at times. But brilliantly comic and clever.

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