*Spoilers abound, but bear in mind I’m only on season 5.
I wanted to be too cool for Game of Thrones. I envisioned Game of Thrones the way I envisioned Dungeons & Dragons—sweaty nerds circle-jerking to a DVD of the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring. It even has some of the same dudes*! And besides, some of the media that I relate to (like the incomparable Sutton Foster-led Younger), openly mocks it, its hypersexualization of women, its rape fetish. I’m not out in these streets trying to watch dozens of rapes, gleefully and exploitatively filmed.
I was nineteen when Game of Thrones began its eight-season run on HBO, and at the time, becoming deeply invested in a fantasy series was fairly low on my list of priorities**. When GoT first came out, it seemed beautiful, but boring. There’s no denying that the sweeping shots of Northern Ireland, et al are stunning—the series is beautifully filmed, elegant. But I barely remembered who half of the characters in Harry Potter were (Slughorn? Is that a guy?); there was only so much room in my brain. Plus, as the series progressed, the common refrain was, “Don’t get attached to any of the characters! Everyone dies!” Everyone bloody dies? So you’re going to kill off the hot dad, Ned, his hot son, Robb, his hot son, Jon (everyone on this show is very hot, fwiw) and expect me to take that lying down? No!
Eventually, I caved and watched the first season, maybe a year or two late. I liked it fine, but it was a distracted viewing—I’d put it on in the background as I sketched, or fiddled with a guitar. When I started season two, it didn’t grab me, and I abandoned the pursuit. Sure, that scene where Daenerys doms Jason Momoa was ferociously sexy, but I mean, the show kills Khal Drogo immediately, so what was my incentive to keep watching?***
Soon, my knowledge of GoT came purely from Tumblr and Twitter—screengrabs of Joffrey’s bloated, purple face, OMG reactions to the Red Wedding. I thought, with all these spoilers, I already know what happens. No need to devote tens of hours of my life to this, a thing that seemingly everyone likes. How mainstream.
Fast forward several years—for me, a move, two degrees, a marriage, a few garbage jobs and one good one—I’m in a very different place in my life. For years, my husband and I have kept a running list of TV shows we’ve watched together, are watching, and plan to watch. Game of Thrones has been sitting atop it, since its inception. We’ve made it through countless series, but, due to my predilections and my title of Foremost Comedy Scholar in the Greater Boston Area, alarmingly few have been dramas. Six Feet Under, Dexter (because Michael C. Hall is *bites lip and closes eyes*), Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, Twin Peaks (we are…white). That’s in nearly 6 years, at a rate of at least an episode every day. Every time we finished a series, my husband would timidly ask, “Game of Thrones next?” And one day in March 2019, I finally said, “You know what? Sure.”
And I kept my promise! I figured it was this or he’d force me to sit through a movie^,so I’d better strap in for the ride. We’ve watched nearly 5 full seasons in *checks watch* three weeks? We’re clocking about 2 hours of Thrones time a day. I have always been very comfortable admitting when I’m wrong, and boy was I wrong about GoT. As of this writing, we’re almost through season five, and every episode has me yearning for more.
It is hard, though, watching human beings get torn to pieces by zombies and watching characters you’ve grown to love being sexually abused. Watching a little girl get burned alive. This is not a light-hearted show! But it’s thought-provoking, beyond such thoughts as, “If an American wrote these books, and two Americans adapted the series for television, then why is everyone on the show British except Dinklage++?” I think it provides a stunning (and deeply negative!) commentary on religion, particularly the separation of church and state (turns out—it’s important!). Moreover, in an era where the political circus distracts us from far more pressing issues (the Flint water crisis isn’t exactly the same as an undead army bent on world domination, but it’s still fucking important), it’s a mirror, as all good art should be. Even the worst part of this series, the aforementioned “gleeful” depictions of rape, the incessant violence and cruelty, serve as barometer of just how much we want to see; they expose the inherent (dangerous?) voyeurism of American media culture.
Ultimately, I’m as much of a voyeur as anyone else, and I love the show. I might even go so far as to avoid eighth season spoilers when it premieres on Sunday. I’m glad that my husband gently nudged me in the Thrones direction. And, as much as I love Daenerys, Sansa better win the Game.
Okay, so I do have some grievances:
- The entire Greyjoy family, and I guess, by extension, the Boltons. Cancel it. Reshoot the series without them. Labored, boring nonsense. Sorry, Alfie+.
- Real casual attitudes about incest.
- Not enough dark-haired women. Representation matters!
- Stop showing me battles! The best part of the show was that we saw the aftermath of fighting, not the fighting itself! I don’t want to waste twenty precious minutes of screen time watching skeletons kill people. I want to see the strategical conversation between Jon Snow and Tormund! You know nothing, David Benioff & DB Weiss!
- Arya’s whole journey is boring. I truly don’t understand why people like her. Maisie Williams is iconic, don’t get me wrong, but this whole Faceless Man shit better get interesting soon, or, honey, I’m cancelling Braavos.
*Sean Bean is zaddy.
**Admittedly, I did get into Doctor Who shortly thereafter, but you can’t choose who you love, man.
***I made an honest effort to read the books, since I’ve always been a book-first bitch, but I found the writing intolerable. It’s been a minute now, I’m going to give them another try. I mean, I read The Hunger Games series with zero irony—I’m hardly a literary scholar, despite what my literal Master’s degree in literature would have you believe.
^I hate the medium! 2 hours is simultaneously too long and too short a time for a story to be told! Everything should be in a serialized format, television is better than movies, redo movies as miniseries.
++I’ve been playing a game called Guess The Accent with all of the actors to see if I can tell where exactly they’re from. I’m, no brags, amazing at it, although I never would have guessed that Varys is from Northern Ireland. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Northern Irish accents, but they’re…specific! The Scots are pretty easy to pick out, the real treat is pinpointing exactly where in England most of the cast is from (Emilia Clarke is from Oxford, holla). Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Scandinavian accent is, well, hot, and Peter Dinklage, clearly, is from New Jersey. Sidebar: I always knew Dinklage was a fine actor, but I didn’t know he was THE FINEST ACTOR OF OUR TIME. His British accent is so truly awful, and yet it doesn’t matter because he acts his face off in every scene. Tyrion is, in my opinion, by far the best character on the show. I’m borderline upset that my brain hasn’t started cranking out Tyrion Lannister sex dreams. No wonder he has top billing—he’s a goddamn revelation and I think if I’d known just how central he becomes, I’d have stanned this show much, much sooner.