On Magic TV

Browsing the catalogue of programs we have today I see a lot of magic — or fantasy or whatever — programs. I watch the trailers and it all sounds so silly. In the back of my mind I always think they’re trying to be the next Game of Thrones.

But GOT was so good and popular precisely because it was not about magic. Magic was something, in GOT, from another time; and only the more primitive peoples — those savages from the north or the brutes of the east — still believed in it.

Yes, of course, there were dragons from, I don’t know, season 2, but they were never a fundamental part of the series — they were only game changer in the sense that they were a promise of being game changers (more on that later). Daenerys’ early victories were a mixture of luck and political manoeuvre (her marriage, her allies and so on) — her initial ascend even reminds me of the way Kahneman describes the growth of a big company.

GOT was, first and mainly, a political series that could be more or less mapped onto the real world, filled with archetypes we are actually quite familiar.

One can even see how the series degenerates as it becomes more magical. By the time we have full grown dragons, witches, resurrections, time travel and so on, it becomes quite boring.

This is the same with other series or cultural productions: the Lord of the Rings has very few magic — yes, it has weird creatures, but they are treated like the fauna of the world; and the wizards are more akin to a sort of very ancient person who spent his life studying than your Harry Potter kind of wizard. The anime Evangelion is also like this: when one asks what it is about, it all sounds so silly — giant robots and whatnot — but it is good precisely because it is not about giant robots. Its about, I don’t know, existentialism and 19th century German philosophy.

I suppose this has to do with the distinction someone made between imagination and fantasy:

« Imagination, as Haldane uses the term, is a way of exploring aspects of reality and possibilities that are grounded in reality, even though it makes use of scenarios that are fictional or even impossible. Imagination is healthy and can increase our understanding of the moral and social worlds. Fantasy, by contrast, is unanchored in reality, and indeed it reflects a flight from reality and the discipline it imposes and responsibility that it entails. Haldane gives as an example the movie _Pretty Woman_, an absurdly unrealistic portrayal of prostitution and human relationships. »