5 Reasons We Don't Appreciate 'Game Of Thrones' Enough
The Game Of Thrones book series (aka A Song Of Ice And Fire) will never be finished. Which is perfect for people like me, who live to complain about the TV series. The show's upcoming ending will be flawed, because all things are, and we'll forever get to talk about how that's not how GRRM would have done it. I should note that at this point, I have put in more hours watching videos criticizing Game Of Thrones than I have watching the actual show.
But in the name of being a less negative person, I feel like I should take a moment to make something clear: Game Of Thrones is an absolutely fucking astounding achievement, and we're incredibly lucky to live in a world in which it exists.
It's Entirely Possible To Love Something To Death
Let's say you've just watched an episode of a very expensive sci-fi or fantasy TV series -- the kind of thing that used to be nerd niche, but now dominates our culture. You're so hyped about what just happened on screen ("You mean Duke Xander was secretly working with the Crimson Brotherhood this whole time!?") that you're desperate to see what other fans think. How do they expect Queen Ka'Ren Ri'charr'd'ssen will react to this betrayal?
So you dive into a subreddit or YouTube or whatever, only to find that the fans seem to be discussing a completely different show. "This plotline is typical Lumberg bullshit!" says a highly upvoted comment. "They're so desperate to win us back after the FLJ fiasco!"
That's odd. You can't remember a character named Lumberg, and have no idea what the FLJ is or in what way it was a fiasco. Hours of reading/watching/podcasts, however, reveal that the "Lumberg" they're referencing is the new showrunner, who apparently replaced the original creator, who was fired last year. The "FLJ fiasco" is fan jargon for a specific romantic storyline from last season that you thought was fine, but which a lot of people seem to think was the moment the show "died."
Yeah, that's the other thing: All of these people, who clearly spend a great deal of time talking and thinking about this show, seem to fucking loathe it.
At Some Point, It's Just More Fun To Hate Something
I hope you know it's not mere flattery when I say that just reading my work means you're far, far better than most people. Everyone else is worse than the filthiest garbage. You and I have sophisticated tastes, is what I'm trying to say. We take pride in the fact that no show -- especially shows considered good -- can slip anything by us. Anything illogical, lazy, or cliche will snag in the precision machinery that is our finely tuned brains.
In fact, it feels good to catch that stuff, to know you spotted something the sheep didn't. That means we get to experience the pleasure of consumption in two stages -- first the enjoyment of the show, and then the ego boost from knowing that our enjoyment was on a level the common fan can't appreciate. We're connoisseurs. So what if I had to use Google auto-complete to see how that word was spelled?
But there comes a point where the show isn't enough, especially if they're doing short seasons and then taking a year-plus off in between. We need more content, so we go under the hood and start reading the behind-the-scenes shit.
Soon, while everybody else is raving about the climactic sword fight in the last episode, we are stewing over the fact that in the source material, that fight took place in the middle of a raging blizzard while both were riding megabears, but the show had to set it in a boring courtyard for budget reasons. While the normies are talking about how they cried over the death of a beloved character, we're pointing out that the character is still alive in the comics, that the "death" only happened because the actor was fired from the show after it was uncovered that he hosted an incredibly racist podcast for nine years.
We're so smart that we can peer through time and space at the much better show we could have gotten, and can spend hours examining all of the facets of our disappointment. When they announced the show was being renewed for another season, we're the superfans who turned up in the comments to say, "UGH, why won't they just let it die?" We love it so much that we just want it to go away so it can't keep disappointing us.
It's A Fucking Miracle That Game Of Thrones Exists
My point is, it's easy to be smart in a way that makes you miserable, to feel like unbridled enjoyment is for simpletons. But a truly analytical mind should be able to view the whole context of the work, and the context is that it's crazy that Game Of Thrones is even a thing.
When people would say geeks have taken over mainstream culture, they usually held up the dominance of superhero movies and Star Wars as evidence. But spaceships and comic books have been mainstream for as long as I've been alive, which is longer than most of you. Star Wars broke every box office record in freaking 1977, and Superman was a smash the very next year (at the time, the sixth-highest-grossing movie ever). Nobody got beat up for knowing what Superman was.
But I knew some nerds in high school, because I used to walk past them on the way to sex, and they absolutely did hide their fantasy novels and D&D dice and never talked about the long hours they'd spent playing Ultima on their Commodore 64. Dragon and sword fantasy was for the outcasts, even when the cool kids were fine being seen with Punisher comics.
As recently as 1998, Peter Jackson was struggling to get funding for a proper Lord Of The Rings trilogy (at one point they were asked to rewrite it as a single two-hour film). Prior to the release of Fellowship of the Ring, seemingly every article written about it referred to it as a "gamble." This was absolutely niche territory, and executives worried there weren't enough nerdy losers out there for the movie to make its money back.
So if you're a geek, the world has come around in ways that previous generations of geek never imagined in their wildest dreams. Game Of Thrones was the #1 show on the air the last season it was on. (Beating out a show about zombies at #2!) Now let's look at the most popular TV shows on the air when I was 16 years old, in 1991:
1. 60 Minutes
3. Murphy Brown
5. Home Improvement
6. Designing Women
7. Full House
8. Murder, She Wrote
9. Major Dad
11. Room for Two
12. Monday Night Football
13. Unsolved Mysteries
14. CBS Sunday Night Movie
15. Evening Shade
16. Northern Exposure
17. A Different World
18. The Cosby Show
20. America's Funniest Home Videos
Sweet Jesus, that's dire. The prime demographic for programming back then was the age 86-104 block. So the fact that as a culture, we've gotten to a place where we're getting a six-episode season of a fantasy show that may have cost more than $100 million to film -- and will look better than any movie I could have watched in high school -- is a marvel.
Now step back and realize how much the show got right beyond the sheer scale of it, like the way they absolutely nailed the casting for at least a dozen parts off the top of my head. (Try to imagine anyone else as Tyrion, or Tywin, or Stannis, or Varys, or ...) And remember they had to totally reshoot the pilot because it was "a piece of shit," including swapping out key cast members. These guys were figuring it out on the fly, and somehow they made it work.
Now step even further back and realize this show doesn't get off the ground unless Peter Jackson nails Fellowship a decade earlier, and I'm not even sure that movie is a hit if it doesn't happen to open just two months after the 9/11 attacks, in a culture desperate for life-affirming escapism.
Now step way back and just try to comprehend everything that had to be possible for a civilization to produce a work of art on this scale. The vast resources that had to be available, the advances in technology that border on magic. Go back to the Middle Ages and show them Game Of Thrones and the tools that were required to make it, and they'd be more amazed than if you produced an actual goddamned dragon.
The ability to have something like this and then, upon seeing it, feel disappointment, is a privilege probably none of us fully appreciate.
Appreciating Something Doesn't Mean Ignoring Its Flaws
This isn't a "Leave Game Of Thrones alone!" column. Pop culture criticism is how I put food on my dog's table. And do you think HBO is upset that every episode yields 10 million hours of enraged YouTube content? There's no insulting thumbnail you can craft that doesn't just act as free promotion at the end of the day. Creators would much prefer that you hate their work than ignore it.
I'm also not saying the flaws we obsess over should be ignored, or that anyone is being unfair to the show. The Dorne storyline was awful! The nudity is often gratuitous! Episode 6 of Season 7 plays like they shot it without a script, then tried to cobble it together in the editing bay! The show is funded by HBO, which is owned by AT&T WarnerMedia, which has probably done lots of evil through its dozens of subsidiary brands!
But to keep your sanity in this world, you have to be able to see those flaws as part of a whole, that the bad doesn't wipe out all of the good. Nothing is pure in this world, whether you're talking about a work of art, a person, or a government. Being happy in this life means allowing yourself to draw joy from flawed things, although hopefully we don't take it to absurd lengths. ("It's a shame they put Charles Manson in jail, because this song kind of slaps!")
If, like me, you're addicted to finding flaws, being happy means learning to exist in a world that's full of them. Otherwise you'll wind up ignoring an inarguable truth: That a perfect Game Of Thrones not only doesn't exist, but can't exist. It's as much a figment of your imagination as the perfect marriage, or friend, or society. You can wind up spending your whole life chasing something that not only isn't real, but is impossible.
You Don't Know What You've Got ...
If society falls apart and we have to tell our grubby kids about how things used to be in the glory days, we'll not talk about our amazing skyscrapers or Mars landers. We'll talk about Game Of Thrones.
Those other things are impressive, but that's tremendous wealth and resources devoted to some kind of actual purpose -- commerce, science, whatever. But Game Of Thrones is taking enough resources to put a person on the moon and devoting it to pure fun. "That, kids, is what we used to be. We had so much wealth that we would use a big pile of it to bring our daydreams to life, just to make people happy for an hour. Then we'd spend months talking about how Aidan Gillen never quite landed on an accent."
"Wasn't that a huge waste of time?" they'll say. And we'll say yes, it was. And that's why it was amazing.
For more, check out The Inconvenient Truth About Game Of Thrones:
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