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Why Do I Watch Game of Thrones?

This titular question is what I ask myself with every new episode I watch of this much discussed show. I have never been a big fan of Game of Thrones ever since the first season – I watched it, it had some remotely interesting parts, but for the most part I was either too bored or too disgusted to really call myself a fan. After I finally got around to watch the most discussed episode of the last season “The Mountain and the Viper”, I seriously wondered why I continue to watch this shit. Everyone expressed their emotions about this episode throughout the week that it aired, most people seemed to be shocked, disgusted, or surprised, whatever. Hardly anyone seems to think that it was a little bit too much…

About the episode, Kevin McFarland writes on BoingBoing:

“in the immediate aftermath, everyone focuses on the big-ticket scene at the end of the episode, which has become Game Of Thrones’ calling card ability as televised entertainment

Here’s one of my many problems with Game of Thrones: What exactly is entertaining about watching a man having his skull crushed in gruesome detail? How can anyone enjoy watching something like this? Horror and Splatter have been around for a long time, but nothing has ever been as not entertaining as this. My definition of good entertainment is having a good time and being emotionally involved – even if something violent or sad happens. Game of Thrones is almost always too extreme for me too enjoy. It’s not even sad or violent anyone, it’s just nauseating. I felt literally sick after I saw that squashed mass of what used to be a head on the screen. And here’s another problem I have with Game of Thrones: I usually don’t watch the disgusting bits. I’ll just close my eyes or obstruct my view and wait until the telltale sounds are over. Naturally, this happens quite often with a show like Game of Thrones. This latest episode was just one of many during which I wondered why the fuck anyone would want to watch this show. What is entertaining about a man having his tongue ripped out? What is entertaining about watching a woman eat a raw heart? What is entertaining about watching a man having his body parts cut off in torture? What is entertaining about watching women get raped? What is entertaining about watching a horse having its head cut off? What is entertaining about watching a psychopath torment and kill women? And why is that it’s perfectly OK to show these things in a fictional context, but when these things happen in the real world, nobody seems to show them?

I have the theory that Game of Thrones appeals to the rawest form of sensationalism. It is the tabloid of TV shows, drawing viewers in with its ridiculously exaggerated headlines. It touches taboos which no one want to admit being interested in. Watching Game of Thrones is like staring at a deformed person of the street. You know you shouldn’t stare, but you can’t stop yourself. It’s pure voyeurism. And this is why I don’t understand why the show has so many fans among intellectuals. I’ve been reading tweets and status updates about the show for four years now, and in those four years only one out of the 30+ people who watch GoT in my timeline has expressed an opinion similar to mine.

I know what you’re about to ask; “Don’t you watch Hannibal, Spartacus and other shows with similar violence?” Yes I do. But in those shows, the violence does not necessarily cross that border of being ‘too much’. Hannibal’s violence is incredibly disgusting as well, but it has a fantasy element too it and is somewhat unrealistic. Spartacus’ violence is ridiculously exaggerated, also making it unrealistic. But the difference between Game of Thrones and Hannibal and Spartacus is also the quality of the writing. The latter two have brilliant writing which is very character-driven and always advances the plot. While there are several controversial rape scenes in Spartacus, none of them feel as useless and sensationalist as the one in the early fourth season of GoT. In Spartacus, they are always significant for the plot. In GoT, they did absolutely nothing for the plot (and apparently they weren’t in the book, which is another can of worms).

GoT’s quality of writing has bothered me ever since I started watching the show. While George R.R. Martin’s world can boast incredible detail, the plot seems to be somewhat stagnant. GRRM gets lost in his political intrigues – it’s hard to keep track of who is betraying whom at all times. Meanwhile, the really interesting parts of the story are largely ignored and in the background. I felt exactly the same way about The Wire – an absolutely boring show which I think is massively overrated and a huge waste of time. It is of course different from most shows and therefore unconventional, but I don’t see why it would be entertaining.

People have praised GRRM for his unconventionalism – he created a fantasy world in which fantasy is pretty much unimportant. He has obviously drawn heavily from medieval history, which explains the violence and the political aspects. The show very much gets lost in political discussions (which quickly become useless because at any given point someone is betrayed or killed). I, however, would much rather learn more about white walkers than about old farts watching a wall or some dude learning to read or a crazy bitch nursing a ten year old. And here’s another big problem I have with GoT: too many characters. It took my about 3 seasons to actually learn the names of most of the characters, and even now I don’t even care about half of them. Arya is fun, Tyrion is interesting, and Daenerys is pretty cool. I think GoT could be a good show if it was only about Daenerys, but even she has her limits – or rather, the actress – she’s been becoming less and less enthralling this season. All the other characters? They might as well die, I don’t care.

So far, I never cared when a character on GoT was killed off. And that’s one of my huge problems with GoT: when someone dies in a TV show I watch, I should be emotionally involved. I was incredibly emotional whenever someone died on Buffy, Torchwood or Spartacus, because those shows are just exceptionally well written and have great season arcs. In GoT however, I’m just indifferent or even glad when someone dies. Other people don’t seem to be, because whenever someone is killed on GoT, the internet uproar is great. GRRM has earned a reputation for killing characters like no other, which is another one of those things for which he receives constant praise. His unconventional methods of doing the unexpected, atypical thing are probably what makes GoT so appealing for most people – it’s just something new and different. But in my opinion, he is a sick old psychopath because I absolutely cannot fathom how anyone would call brutal violence, incest, excessive sex or rape entertainment. Proper entertainment manages to balance these issues in an acceptable manner or compensates with a rewarding viewing/reading experience. GoT is just too much.

So why do I watch Game of Thrones? Probably peer pressure. I made the mistake of starting to watch the show when it was first aired because judging by the amount of feedback it received, I assumed it was a good show. I think it’s not a very good show, I think it’s a voyeuristic piece and overrated. So why don’t I just stop watching? Peer pressure. I am exposed to everyone’s feedback whenever a new episode airs, and since after three seasons of having watched the show, I just can’t ignore it. I’m pressured into wanting to know what everyone is talking about, therefore I am forced to watch it myself. I still have to decide if I really want to watch the next season. Of course I am somewhat curious how the events in the recent season finale will be explained, but knowing the pace of this show, they probably won’t be explained at all. And I won’t bother reading the books either, because I definitely don’t care enough about this fandom at all.

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