At this point, the Game of Thrones HBO and book series have left the realm of simple entertainment and become a full-force cultural phenomenon. I know because I’m one of those people who resists getting into cable shows and yet I haven’t missed a single episode. I even have bizarre dreams about the series.
I know very few people who don’t watch it. I treated my last hair appointment as a fact-finding mission because my hairstylist, who is immersed in the books, forums and back-story, holds the answers to my burning questions (“Why is Daenerys fire resistant?” and “What’s the deal with Melisandre?”). I also just found out Microsoft Word recognizes and spell checks “Daenerys.”
Game of Thrones, like the gold-and-white-or-was-it-black-and-blue dress, has turned into a cultural, seemingly universal pastime. Its popularity crosses cultural and geographical borders. Why? Is it the nudity and on-screen sexy-time? The violence or the intense human drama coupled with engaging characters and cliffhanger endings?
Why we’re obsessed with Game of Thrones
I believe it’s because Game of Thrones has the intrigue of so-called high-born royal types duking it out for power in a multi-player chess kind of situation where anyone can win. We commoners have always loved that kind of spectacle, haven’t we? Unless, of course, it’s real with real consequences. But it’s not. It’s for show. Maybe it’s got a gladiators-in-the-Coliseum quality that appeals to a blood sport appetite we like to pretend we’ve evolved away from. People have their favorites and they love to root for them, and root against their perceived villains as well. Or maybe for one hour out of the week, we all just want to forget about the pressing social problems and real-life tragedies that haunt us, and collectively immerse ourselves in an imaginary world of rich people’s self-inflicted problems. I am, guiltily, extending that one-hour respite by writing about it, instead of something more serious and important.
I have a feeling the popularity is also driven by what seems to be creator George RR Martin’s vicious sense of humor, and I’m guessing he was a smart, critical child who got annoyed with the predictability of Disney and fairy tales and their “good guys,” who always won. Why is Snow White’s life more valuable than the witch’s anyway? Game of Thrones is all about perspective. Martin’s series violently shakes us out of our “protagonist always wins” conditioning. For example, many were upset at the end of Season 4 about the exploding head death of Prince Oberyn (yes I had to look up how to spell his name, he ain’t Mother of Dragons-famous) by Big Bad Guy aka the Mountain, at Tyrion’s trial by combat. Why were people so upset? Because Oberyn looked and talked like Mandy Patinkin’s beloved character Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Oberyn had a similar noble revenge mission. We were almost waiting for him to say “You keel my father! Prepare to die!” NOPE. He was offed – gruesomely – by the beefcake, and the audience was thoroughly trolled.
The Game of Thrones season 5 premiere on Sunday was watched by almost 7 million people, and that number is still growing. We’re left with the understanding that Dany badly needs the help of Cesar Millan because her dragons don’t believe she is Pack Leader so she can’t control them (learn to say “tsst” and be firm, Dany!) Meanwhile her cute sidekick Missandrei and cute army commander Grey Worm (“Grey Worm?”) seem to have caught each other’s eye… Oh! Young love with a Hemingway twist! Jon Snow with his cascading locks seems to have undercut Stern White Dude Stannis Baratheon by helping his pal Stern White Dude Mance Rayder off to wildling heaven before Awkwardly Blunt Redhead Melisandre burned him alive. That’s what bros are for! And Stannis (I like to call him Stan) seems about to go toe-to-toe with Stern White Dude Roose Bolton who along with his son Ramsey, come from the ancient bloodline of Giant Douches. We get another clue that a similar Asshole Gene runs strongly in the Lamnister bloodline, because just before Ceirsei bids farewell to her pops Stern White Dude Tywin Lamnister, she has a flashback where we see Li’l Ceirsei behaving as poorly as adult Cersei of House Asshole.
This time, fellow commoners, we can’t binge-watch this entire season of Game of Thrones. We must patiently wait a week for the next set of Games at the virtual Coliseum, where the death is fake but the suspense is real!