Fuck Game of Thrones

by Charles Miller on June 8, 2015

Look, bad things happen to people in fiction just like bad things happen in real life. And at least the people in fiction aren't real so it didn't really happen to them.

I get that.

And you can have great entertainment where bad things happen to bad people, or bad things happen to good people, or bad things happen to indifferent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I get that too.

But at some point you find yourself sitting on a couch watching a drawn-out scene where a child is burned alive screaming over and over for her parents to save her, and you think “Why the fuck am I still watching this show?”

Bad things happen in real life. Bad things have happened throughout history. So what, I'm watching television. If I wanted to experience the reality of a brutal, lawless campaign for supremacy between tribal warlords, there are plenty of places in the world I could go to see that today. I wouldn't survive very long, but at least I'd get what I deserved for my attempt at misery tourism.

Bad things happen in good drama, too. But drama comes with a contract. The bad things are there because they are contributing to something greater. Something that can let you learn, or understand, or experience something you otherwise wouldn't have; leading you out the other side glad that you put yourself through the ordeal, albeit sometimes begrudgingly.

To refresh our memories, here's how George R. R. Martin explained the Red Wedding:

I killed Ned in the first book and it shocked a lot of people. I killed Ned because everybody thinks he's the hero and that, sure, he's going to get into trouble, but then he'll somehow get out of it. The next predictable thing is to think his eldest son is going to rise up and avenge his father. And everybody is going to expect that. So immediately [killing Robb] became the next thing I had to do.

There are increasingly flimsy justifications for the horrors of Game of Thrones. They motivate character A. Or they open up space for character B. But in the end it's obvious that it's really about providing the now-mandated quota of shock, and giving the writers some hipster cred for subverting fantasy tropes.

I did not enjoy watching Sansa Stark’s rape. I did not enjoy watching Shireen Baratheon burned at the stake.

If that's what you want to watch TV for, go for it. But I'm out.

Previously: Why does it matter that Future is a monad?

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