I keep seeing memes about “I’ve never watched an episode of Game of Thrones.” Some people act like it’s a badge of honor. Others, as if it were a sign of serious stupidity or bad taste. I am in the “never watched” camp, but it’s not something I’m proud of. It’ s just a simple fact.
As the internet rants on about GOT, making jokes about dragons and incest and wondering who will survive the final season, I wish I could watch the show. This is a cultural phenomenon that encompass a lot of people (everyone knows that winter is coming). I’d like to be part of the crowd and I feel like I’m missing out, but I can’t do it.
SPOILER ALERT: While I’ve only read the first three books in the A Song of Fire and Ice series, I’ve heard or guessed some of the things that happen after that. If you’re caught up on your GOT viewing, you’re way ahead of me. If not, I might accidentally tell you something you didn’t know yet (but if you know anything about GOT, I doubt it.)
When I read the first book, I was intrigued. George R. R. Martin got my attention with his unusual story-telling. Ned Stark was clearly the hero. Despite the pain and personal sacrifices involved, he did the right thing. And then suddenly he was dead. I was surprised, and wondered where the series could be headed.
I was also mesmerized by the dwarf Tyrion Lannister. I still don’t know if he’s officially a villain or not, but he did lots of horrible things and was clearly untrustworthy. Admirable was not a word you would use to describe him. So, why did I like him so much?
Tyrion had clearly been through the wringer, abused by everyone around him, including and especially by his powerful family. His dilemmas had layers and he was smart. He’d learned from his hard life, but he was still capable of making mistakes. I found myself wanting him to win.
Initially, I found all the bad behavior and unexpected characters riveting. It was hard to tear myself away from the betrayals and gore, but over time, reading the books left me needing a shower. I was Bran Stark, a voyeur, watching these ugly lives unfold and hoping things might change for the better if I just stuck with it.
Then Littlefinger took Sansa away. The way he drooled over the daughter of the woman who had rejected him made my hackles rise. I wanted to save Sansa. She had already been through so much, her every choice another disaster. By this point, the only thing I could trust Martin to do was abuse her even more.
This was the final straw for me. I love fantasy and adventure, but I wasn’t up for this new take, where the good people all suffered or died and the most heroic had ambiguous morals at best.
Some argue that this style of fantasy is more realistic, more in tune with the real world. But I’m a Lord of the Rings fan for a reason: I need hope. I need to believe that doing the right thing will eventually pay off, that sacrifice will be rewarded, that good will prevail.
A Song of Ice and Fire left me with no hope at all.
Are you able to watch Game of Thrones?