Note: Spoilers for the television version of Game of Thrones
The Game of Thrones television show has done amazingly well over the last few years. There are two types of people in the world: those who obsess over the show, and those that haven’t seen it yet. Well, in my experience anyway. This is interesting considering the deplorable characters, the constant shade of gloom and the terrible acts of violence scattered throughout the series (‘You raped her! You murdered her! You killed her children!’).
What fascinates me is that people have fallen in love with this show despite the fact that if it were to actually happen in real life, everyone – besides the truly sick – would turn away in disgust. So, what’s the difference? Is it because it’s happening to made-up characters, or in a fantasy universe that people can disengage from? Would we still root for Arya, even after all the people she has killed, no matter the reason, if she were a real child? No. We would want to find her a foster family as soon as possible and some strong drugs.
My mum refuses to watch it. She hates violence of any kind, feels most sex scenes are unnecessary and swearing is the language of the Devil. Not a good show for her to watch. She argues that even an excellent storyline does not make up for the gruesome and sexually deviant scenes throughout the show. Fair point. HBO does like to go over the top with their adult content. Not that the books are any more kid friendly.
So what fascinates us? I believe it’s the characters themselves. They do things we would never dream of doing, for motivations that seem reasonable to them. All Cersei does, she does for her children (in the television show anyway – for now). But she commits crimes that no person can justify, no matter her “unselfish” motivations. She loves her children and we can identify with that. We can imagine the pain she feels when Myrcella is sent away to her perceived enemies, the agony as she watched her eldest son die. This empathy allows us to understand characters that we would despise in real life. I don’t know about you, but any person that insists on putting Lady to death also deserves to die.
These characters with varying shades of grey pull us in and keep us guessing about their next move. I believe that’s why people enjoy the show so much. The characters are so three-dimensional and unpredictable, people can’t help but watch how they play off against one another. Relationships are formed – such as Arya and the Hound – that we can’t help but watch, waiting to see whether Arya will keep him on the list, or make him an ally.
The intricate ways these characters interact with each other create the story, an intensely complex tapestry that viewers want – no, need – to unravel. Who will sit on the Iron Throne at the end? It’s anyone’s guess.
In this one instance, I think the story definitely outweighs the outrageous violence, unnecessary sex scenes and curses every few sentences of dialogue. Why? Because it’s amazing.