At the cost of earning everyone’s undying hatred, I must object to the popularity and acclaim of Game of Thrones. It is not a good show, and no amount of water cooler speculation and universal approval will make it good. By any honest standard, moral or artistic, Game of Thrones is outright trashy and stupid.
I recognize that by saying this I’m pitting myself not only against the great majority of Americans, but even quite a few intellectuals. By a strange miracle, conservatives and liberal alike gush over the show even as they spend the rest of their time demonizing one another. Many of them will write quite eloquently about the show’s allegory or references to history, giving it more dignity than it deserves. I can respect these thoughtful commentaries in themselves, but they can never hide the fact that this show relies heavily on graphic sex and violence to cover up for a convoluted pointless story and watery-thin characters—it is merely fantasy porn with high production value.
The immediate response for any reader who has made it this far might be to ask if I’ve even watched the show. Being a person with a pulse and a television (once upon a time), yes, I have, but I stopped watching when I started to trust my own judgment and ignore what others said. I made it to the death of Joffrey (season four-ish?), found myself not really caring one way or the other about any of these people on the screen, and decided to give it up.
I could take such a detached stance largely because I made a point to close my eyes at all the sex scenes—which was a much bigger part of the show than people admit. Imagine what would happen if all the show’s viewers did this, or if it eliminated the sexual element altogether. I’m quite certain there would be no show.
Better yet, replace all the main actors in the show—nearly all of them young and attractive—with older flabbier ones. Would people root for Daenerys if she looked like Hillary Clinton? Or tolerate Cersei’s perversity if she looked like Elizabeth Warren? Or Jon Snow’s incompetence if he looked like Colin Powell?
Viewers would also notice just how twisted and grotesque the show’s themes are. It basks in all kinds of smut: incest, rape, torture, sodomy, and tons of senseless slaughtering. Even with my eye closed, I still made myself miserable speculating on what horrible thing the characters would do next. And make no mistake, they would certainly do something horrible.
In a moment of honesty, one might wonder, why this heavy stress on sin and nastiness? Is this really how the world works? Does this immorality really add to the show’s authenticity and depth? No, it actually makes the characters less relatable and less believable, qualities we associate with cheap entertainment.
Try to consider the motivations behind any of the characters, and you will be sorely disappointed. Like animals, they all have appetites to satisfy and act accordingly. Morality and conscience are nonexistent, so everyone’s behavior becomes predictable and boring. They seek power, revenge, sex, money, or some combination of these things.
The story covers up for this deficiency by reeling off an endless supply of characters to keep the narrative feeling fresh. Many of the plotlines in Game of Thrones move at a glacial pace, but no one notices because there are so many of them. Take one of those plotlines out of the haystack, and you will see it vanish into nothingness.
The writers of the show are wisely selling high when the hype is hot and ending the show by putting so many of these plot arcs to rest. Finally moving beyond the books, they can give the fans what they want (more dragons, zombies, and revenge killings) and resolve everything rationally before people notice how silly the soap opera was all along.
Some deluded fans have wistfully concluded that life will cease to have meaning after the show finishes. On the contrary, I like to think that they will snap out of their vice and see the show for what it was. Like any other popular series, it glamorized sin and helped the audience escape. I’m sure it will spawn many derivatives that will use the same formula with diminishing success, but I highly doubt it will be the classic that people imagine.
Rather, it will take its place with other popular television series like Dallas, or Friends, or Breaking Bad, which captured the collective imagination for a few years before becoming another guilty pleasure to binge-watch on Netflix.