If you were unaware, the soon to be cult classic and heart-wrenchingly-real bestseller (like it weirdly broke me) of the year, Normal People is being turned into a twelve-part series. Sally Rooney became the youngest author to win the Costa Novel Award in 2018 (beating us all to it) before her book was named 2019’s Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. The word-weaving powerhouse that is Ms. Rooney has helped pen the pending adaptation alongside Alice Birch and Mark O’Rowe.
Image Via Virginmediatelevision.ie
The novel follows the ever-changing, often infuriating relationship between Connell and Marianne post-Irish economic downturn. The two occupy very different social circles at school; Connell is popular and well-liked (but just a dick), while Marianne (super clever) is ostracized and ridiculed. The two form a connection in secret which begins since Connell’s mother is Marianne’s family’s cleaner. After they escape the irrelevancy of secondary school, Marianne blossoms and Connell does not. Both go to university and have very different experiences, all the while remaining in each other’s lives (to a certain extent). The novel examines all the idiosyncrasies that make us “normal,” bringing to light various traumas and insecurities that are often ignored by an indifferent society.
According to Virgin Media Television, the adaptation being produced by Element Pictures (The Favourite, The Lobster)—expect some nuanced and potentially fucked up feels. It will star Daisy Edgar Jones (Cold Feet) as Marianne and Paul Mescal debuting as Connell. Room (oh this is going to be heavy) filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald will serve as duel directors.
Rooney, also serving as an executive producer, said: “As a long-time admirer of Lenny Abrahamson’s work, it’s a special privilege for me to be working alongside him on the adaptation of Normal People. I couldn’t be happier with the cast and team we’ve put together, and I’m very excited to watch them bringing new life to the story on screen.”
Abrahamson added: “It’s incredibly exciting to be bringing Sally Rooney’s extraordinary novel to the screen with such a brilliant cast and crew. It’s also lovely for me to be shooting in Ireland again and telling an Irish story after shooting abroad. The film and TV industry here is full of talented and committed people who can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world.”
In an interview with Irish Independent, Sally Rooney once said, “There is a part of [her] that will never be happy knowing that [she is] just writing entertainment, making decorative aesthetic objects at a time of historical crisis.”
This is the sort of thinking that contributed to prose that is thoughtfully rooted in realism and, inevitably, to a kick-ass television show as well.
Normal People will premiere on Hulu and BBC next year. Go read the book in the meantime.
Imagine building an igloo—a structure strong enough to withstand the full weight of an undead polar bear. All you have are your hands and a machete. Entrenched within the projected perimeter of your home, you begin crafting and stacking bricks with the snow available at your feet. As the walls of your igloo get higher and higher, the world around you begins to disappear. All you can see is the inside of your igloo. It is only when the work is complete that you can cut a door with your now worn machete and reenter the world. Once outside, you take a deep breath and exhale before preparing to turn around and feast your eyes upon your labor…it’s a mess—lopsided and uneven. To top it all off, the pretentious Eskimo next door built an igloo twice as big and immaculate—making yours look like a mistake.
I didn’t just open with that because, this article, first and foremost is a GoTarticle (Why aren’t there igloos beyond the wall?), but also because igloo construction is very similar to the creative process/storytelling (bare with me, I think I’m going somewhere with this). It’s an isolated, monotonous, (often disappointing) stacking of bricks. Creating anything is work, and in order go to work we have to wake up in the morning.
We all do it, we hit the snooze button. Maybe we even stumble into the kitchen and put the kettle on before miserably staggering back to our pillows. Dubious when that alarm goes off again (and again…).The air becomes laced with the smell of cheap coffee and it’s time to wake up. There’s a whole day ahead of us. Some of us have meetings, calls, sales pitches, others work up a sweat. In the shop or on-site: we create, build, and get shit done—all in the face of anxiety, fear, and doubt. At the end of the day, we distract ourselves from the stress of reality with, more often than not, narratives; sometimes we forget that the people crafting those stories endure the same daily struggle.
While the workers who are shown in HBO’s documentary Game of Thrones: The Last Watch may not have always worked up a sweat building the finale season of GoT (because it’s cold in Belfast), they definitely worked their asses off. The insightful documentary (somehowfilmed in secret by the brilliant filmmaker Jeanie Finaly) shows us the not so glamorous side of storytelling. The monotonous part laced with the smell of burnt grounds and riddled with the minding-numbing nanoseconds that exist between one task and the next.
Perhaps the brainchild of some clever foresight, the well-placed doc offers GoT fandom a refreshing/ jarring reminder of hard work. We see gruelling shifts that keep loved ones from seeing their families inhabited by people who would’ve otherwise remained nameless. Big names like David Benioff, D.B Weiss, Emilia Clarke, and Kit Harrington aren’t given nearly as much screen time as people like the delightfully quirky Vladimir Furdik (Night King) and the endearingly class clown-esque Andrew McClay—a Stark soldier who deserves his own spinoff.
Fans have been hard on the final season of Game of Thrones(myself included). The story didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations—but it is, in no form the fault of the men and women who gave their days and nights to create it. I think everyone knows this and the fandom has finally achieved civil equanimity. Last week, after various cast members bashed a petition that called for a rewrite of Season 8(which gained a staggering amount of signatures), another petition was formed; one aimed towards reconciliation.
A lot of fans were unhappy with Daenerys’ character arc; however, that doesn’t mean they have harbored any ill-will toward the woman who so skillfully brought the character to life in the first place. Instead of signing a petition to rewrite the season, fans are now fundraising to support Emilia Clarke’s charity, SameYou—an organization that funds programs and research aimed towards the betterment of brain injury and stroke recovery.
The fundraiser was started by Reddit user ella_ellaria (who has identified herself as Sarah) under the subreddit r/freefolk and has now raised over 100 thousand dollars. The petition was started within the same community that birthed the more vindictive petition. The angel to the aforementioned demon claims the latter wasn’t meant to gain such destructive traction.
“Since the tongue-in-cheek nature of that petition has flown over a lot of people’ heads, to the point that it’s prompted backlash from some of the cast, we wanted to show that Game of Thrones fans appreciates the hard work of the incredible cast & and crew despite their constraints.”
Emilia Clarke’s charity comes after she wrote a personal essay for The New Yorker revealing to the world that she suffered two life-threatening brain aneurysms while working on the earlier seasons of Game of Thrones. Clarke kept doing her job even though “every minute of every day [she] thought [she] was going to die.” It was her strength and occupational integrity that prompted the fundraiser. Supporters are now hashtagging #WeStandByDaenerys.
The Mother of Dragons had this to say about the fundraiser via Instagram:
With the help of the internet’s deluded deification, sometimes people just write at the expense of others. We objectify and ridicule… It’s great that we hold our stories to such a high standard, but stories, communication, is about bringing people together—reminding each other that we share the same pain and experiences. You are not alone.
The truth is, your neighbor’s igloo isn’t bigger or better than yours—it’s the same size. That “pretentious” Eskimo woke up the same way in order to build it. If critique becomes malicious (even of our own work), well, then we’ve lost sight of why we starting building in the first place: we needed a place to live.
Imagine a crowded arena filled with fans of hip-hop music. They await the arrival of some illustrious artist such as the Fresh Prince, DJ Jazzy Jeff, or Queen Latifah; but then, a scrawny emo kid takes the stage—it’s Romeo of house Montague. The beat drops…
In Northeastern Italy born and raised
Pining over love interests is how I spend most of my days
Stressin’ out cryin’ (eventually) dyin’ all cool
Reading some poetry outside of the school
When a couple of families that were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I stirred up one little feud and my mom got scared
She said ‘You’re gonna end up dying with that Capulet girl by the end of this play’
No? Yeah, that was bad. What won’t be is the recently announced a hip hop musical adaptation of the William Shakespeare tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Not taking place in West Philadelphia or Northeastern Italy in the 14th century, this new take will feature a different and more contemporary setting. It is being described as “a contemporary, musical take on Romeo and Juliet set against the urban rhythms of New York. The love story follows a young waitress from the streets of Brooklyn and an aspiring musician from a wealthy family whose unconventional romance forces them to confront their life choices.”
This news comes via Variety which also reports that the project will be directed and written by Solvan “Slick” Naim—a much better rapper than I will ever be. The Algerian-American writer, director, and rapper hails from Bushwick, Brooklyn; Naim already has a comedy series on Netflix entitled “It’s Bruno” which premiered today. He will pen the script for the untitled R&J project with Dave Broome for everyone’s favorite streaming powerhouse.
Producing the film will be the Fresh Prince himself, William Smith along with Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere (Flavor Unit Entertainment), James Lassiter, and Caleeb Pinkett (Overbrook Entertainment).
“The straw on the floor stank of urine. There was no window, no bed, not even a slop bucket…” those two lines are taken directly from the beginning of Eddard Stark’s last POV chapter in George R.R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones. Before he lost his head, our protagonist found himself in a less-than-accommodating cell—jaded, disillusioned and dissatisfied. At first, he cursed all those he believed played a part in putting him there: Littlefinger, Janos Slynt, Cersei, Jaime, Varys and so on. The last name he ends up cursing is his own:
‘Fool,’ he cried to the darkness, ‘thrice-damned blind fool.’
The five stages of grief, in order, are listed as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In his solitude, Ned Stark seems to experience these stages, all but one—bargaining. After an undefined amount of time, he is visited by Varys, who reaffirms his current circumstances. He’s fucked. Ned, in between the stages of denial and anger, wonders why the eunuch did not intervene when his men were being slaughtered. Varys, rationalizing their situation says:
I was unarmed, unarmored, and surrounded by Lannister swords…When I was a young boy, before I was cut, I traveled with a troupe of mummers through the Free Cities. They taught me that each man has a role to play.
Now, Lord Eddard Stark’s predicament may serve as a quasi-metaphor for the way one feels when their narrative expectations are not met, and it is indeed why I mention it; however, I also bring this particular moment to your attention because of one very important fact: the show did it better. The foundation of the scene in the show may be the same, the water, rock, and cement stirred similarly but solidified in a slightly different manner. The writers of HBO’s adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, Game Of Thrones added a stellar addition to Ned’s series of retorts:
You think my life is some precious thing to me? That I would trade my honour for a few more years of…of what?! You grew up with actors; you learned their craft and you learnt it well. But I grew up with soldiers. I learned how to die a long time ago (addition in bold).
The showrunners built upon an already fantastic exchange with a fist-pump-worthy display of Eddard Stark’s Ned Starkness. As viewers, we all of a sudden became okay with our hero’s death; if Ned Stark were to die, at least he would die with honor. Dignity. The end would feel a little less discombobulating. He will not have died for nothing. We could make peace with the fact that his character would always be viewed as an honorable man, but then it happened—Ned Stark accepted the reality of his circumstances. He admits to the treason he did not commit in order to save his family. Ok. Fine. At least he’ll get to live now and redeem his honor in some other fashion down the road. Nope.
“Ser Iiyn, bring me his head!”
Ned Stark’s execution was made even more powerful due to a worthy bunch of words written by HBO’s finest. In the seasons that followed, GoT seemed to follow this formula; adding things to and subtracting things from George R.R. Martin’s hard work in ways that seemed reasonable. Cinematic. Writers gave Robb Stark more focus, made Catelyn Stark more sympathetic via prayer wheel weaving monologues, and had Arya bring Tywin Lannister cups. The show wisely even cut some of the novels more graphic scenes, because, well—chill, George.
For a while, the show was brilliant, trustworthy—we expected to be awed. It did not compromise. It was surprising to find a fantasy series so relatable and grounded while at the same time obviously immense. A boatload of prophecies and foreshadowing on top of layers upon layers of SEEMINGLY well-rounded character arcs. This all began with the death of Ned Stark, as did the most important thing we learned from Westeros: narrative decisions have consequences.
In K.M. Weiland’s book, Creating Character Arcs (an often referenced book by narrative nerds with too much time on their hands), she defines a character arc as revolving around the lie that a character believes. Over the course of the narrative the character will have to come face to face with this lie and either overcome it or succumb to it—positive and negative character arcs accordingly.
The lie that Ned Stark believes is that his honor is all that matters. What makes Ned’s death so tragic is the fact that he overcomes the lie he believes when he does what is best for his daughters but dies anyway. Although the audience could see this as a negative arc, I choose to see it as a positive character arc, albeit a less victorious one.
Given Joffrey’s character and subsequent reaction, Ned’s fate still makes sense. Seven seasons later, the show itself does not… and the internet is on fire. It is ablaze with the type of heat that can only come from incomprehensible madness or one very pissed off fan base—and the latter is an understatement. A lot of people hate the latest season of Game of Thrones. It feels rushed, contrived, inconclusive, and chaotic. Scorpions are being fired while Tyrion’s demonstrably gigantic brain suffers through a severe case of constipation simply to move the plot along.
Get off the privy!
The consequences of this unsatisfactory season: fans with a proclivity for overreacting. Reddit ninjas have bombed Google so that Dan Weiss and David Benioff (sorry guys) are the first faces one sees when they google “bad writing.” A petition has already been made begging HBO to fix this season (yesterday it had something like 16,000 signatures, now, 300,000+). Hell, I wrote an article about lowering my expectations for this season, and I’m still pissed off. All this hate stems from a handful of disjointed character arcs mixed in with broken promises.
When a story plants a seed of ominous information or foreshadows something, it essentially bargains with its audience. For all the “prince that was promised” prophecies and not-so-long-night allusions, winter came and went without so much as a single case of frostbite. And the character arcs. Oh, the arcs. Jon believes the same lie as Ned and apparently hasn’t learned shit from dying as his already questionable intelligence seems to fade. Jaime believes all that matters in the world is him and his sister—if the past few seasons were any indication, he grows to learn that this is not the case. So why the fuck would he regress? And of course, Dany’s lie is that she is the fateful ruler (no matter what). All that genocide might even make sense for her if we could have actually witnessed the decline of her sanity in an earned way.
And the clever-ish white to black wardrobe progression doesn’t make it any more convincing…
Am I writing this article to appeal to the vast army of dissatisfied customers? Absolutely. It’s a popular idea at the moment and the audience matters. Sure there’s been fan service—quirky love triangles, warm and fuzzy reunions. No one can deny that the series’ writing has gone downhill since its departure from George R.R. Martin’s source material; rock without water and cement is just rock. We were actually fine with the rock, but why the rush? The compromising gravel? If the true Warden of the North refused to compromise until right at the very end, then neither should any writer.
Put your heart and soul into that text—type until the keys break, write until the ink bleeds. The whole world is watching—a worthy cast and crew is at your disposal; a disappointing ending is forgivable, but a disappointing season? If writers don’t pay attention to their audience, then an honorable man who once sat in the dark pondering the future of his world really did die for nothing.
Woah, you’re going to ruin your sword, bro…
And now, the majority of us story-obsessed free folk are jaded, disillusioned and dissatisfied—cursing the showrunners and all those believed to have played a part in putting us in said position. Episodes one and two found us in a state of denial: ” they’re just setting up all the pieces.” Episode three brought the anger: “Why can’t I see anything? That’s it for the Night King?” After episodes four and five, we became depressed, on the verge of bargaining with the ways in which book adaptations should be accepted right before we lose our heads.
In the darkness of disappointment, we curse our own expectations.
“Fool, thrice-damned blind fool.”
At least there’s no straw on the floor stinking of urine.
I went into work this past Monday and one of my coworkers mentioned how all he saw on his phone when he awoke that morning was GoT backlash. “If people are this upset by a television show they shouldn’t be watching it,” he said.
Maybe he’s right… at the end of the day, Eddard lowered his head, said a prayer and made his peace with the end…
Each person we’re close with makes us feel a specific and inimitable way—every relationship is different. We are different with different people. Friends, coworkers, and acquaintances all make up the eternally-growing tapestry of our lives. We may grow apart from old friends and make new ones along the way, but the relationships we form will always be a part of who we were and are. In this way, the characters we spend time with are a direct reflection of ourselves. This is the notion that occurred to Bruce Feiler when he was tasked with facing his own mortality.
In 2008, doctors told writer Bruce Feiler there was a cancerous tumor in his femur. Almost immediately, Bruce’s thoughts turned to his children. His three-year-old twin daughters. If he wasn’t around, who would advise them paternally? Tell them to put away their phones at the dinner table and take it easy on the family Suburban? He wanted them to know him. So he made a list of all the qualities of himself he wanted his girls to know and associated them with men he had known throughout his life. He had known these men since the playground, college, and various business ventures—men he trusted but may have lost touch with. He wrote them all letters, six in total, asking them to be a father to his daughters if the worst were to happen.
The worst didn’t happen, and the council was never fully activated, but Feiler’s story became the foundation of his book, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me. The memoir became a best-seller and has now, according to Deadline, inspired a television show which was just picked up by NBC. Council of Dads stars Sarah Wayne Callies, Clive Standen, Tom Everett Scott, and J. August Richards. The show tells the story of Scott (quasi Bruce played by Clive Standen) and his family after he receives a potentially terminal diagnosis. Facing this grim prognosis, Scott and his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) assemble a group of their closest three friends to help guide Scott’s family through all of life’s challenges. Deadline goes on to give us a preview of who these three influential men are as people:
The trusted group of role models Scott has assembled to help his family include his oldest friend Anthony, his AA sponsor Alrry and his surgeon and wife’s best friend Oliver. The three men agree to devote themselves to supporting and guiding Scott’s family through “all the triumphs and challenges life has to offer — just in case he ever can’t be there to do so himself.
NBC is undoubtedly aiming for the type of drama associated with their uber-successful This Is Us in its Council of Dads pickup. Hopefully, the show will produce the same amount of tearfully smiling faces that the former has. Tony Phelan and Joan Rater will write and executive produce along with Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, and Kristie Anne Reed. The pilot was directed by James Strong.