The Internet's heart got set all aflutter recently with talk of Netflix bringing the iconic video game series The Legend of Zelda to life as a TV show. But while everyone freaked out, one thing irked me: describing the planned show as Game of Thrones, but for a family audience. Why can't it just be Zelda?
Setting aside the fact that Zelda and GoT are perhaps on completely different ends of the fantasy spectrum in terms of tone and content and aesthetics, this sort of comparison is something we're quite sick of in general. But in this particular instance, it smacks of ignorance — and it actually does a disservice to Game of Thrones, as the thing that everyone else should apply to whatever original material is being adapted.
This is not to knock Game of Thrones at all, nor to say that a potential Zelda series can be 'better' — GoT is, after all, perhaps the premier example of lavish, extremely well done fantasy on TV these days, and I love it for that. But just because Game of Thrones is great at what it is, that does not mean that everything that follows has to be exactly the same style and material. If you want to imitate the achievement of making an extremely lavish, well acted and brilliantly put together piece of television, then do so. That's a good thing to want to be, after all! But just because you're creating a piece of fantasy does not mean it has to hit the same beats, look the same, and convey the same tone as Game of Thrones. There's already a show out there doing that pretty damn well.
The strength of Game of Thrones, and what made it such a big hit when it started, was that it was quite unlike anything television had seen in years. A more realistically-toned (at least at first) fantasy universe where political intrigue and family feuds replaced elves and magic and goblins was so unfamiliar to the mainstream, especially after years of Tolkien-esque fantasy dominating popular culture following Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies, that it was a breath of fresh air, a reminder that fantasy could be something different.
Do we really just want producers to pounce on that originality and just repeat it and repeat it until that's all we have for fantasy on television? I don't really think so. It's the same for the original idea, or the source material being adapted in the case of Zelda — they don't need to be pigeonholed into being something they're not, potentially losing whatever made them unique and interesting in the first place.
Fantasy encompasses multitudes
But ultimately, it's a disservice to the strength of fantasy in general. What makes fantasy so great — what makes any genre so great, really — is that it's so wide-reaching that it can encapsulate such a variety of tones and aesthetics and stories. The fact that The Legend of Zelda and Game of Thrones can stand beside each other and still both be called 'Fantasy' is a testament to that.
We should champion the fact that the fantasy genre is a place where so many different stories can be told through loosely familiar binding links, not call for everything to be more like one specific example of it. It is adventurous and bold and fantastical by definition as a genre; it can be so many things. Game of Thrones is just one example of that, a great example of it, as is Lord of the Rings or Zelda or literally thousands of other books and shows and films and games that call themselves fantasy. They're all different from each other, and that variety is where fantasy can really thrive. It should be the same when it comes to television, rather than it all jumping on the Westerosi bandwagon.
So if there's a new fantasy show coming out, adaptation or otherwise, and you tell me it's Game of Thrones but X, stop. I don't want it to be Game of Thrones — I have a show I can watch that does exactly that already. Give me something fresh and exciting and different.