For the past seven years, Game of Thrones dazzled countless fans and became a culture-wide phenomenon. Legions of people from all walks of life are dedicated to the show, its stories, and all the characters fighting for the Iron Throne. As the final season begins, fans are excited and devastated all at once. They’ll finally know who claims Westeros, but the series that kidnapped their attention will end.
I, on the other hand, am just grateful that it’ll finally be over.
Like any media, Game of Thrones has its flaws. Among fantasy worlds, Westeros is fairly bland. There are swords, kings, dragons, and magic, but no other races of people or hordes of interactive and problematic gods. Looking at other popular fantasy worlds, like Middle Earth or Harry Potter, this world misses a sort of otherworldly-ness to it. Other than some scaly beasts and white walkers, this could easily be a King-Arthur-esque story. Westeros has more in common with The Tudors than it does with Tamriel. For some people, that’s great, for others, it leaves something to be desired. Not saying there has to be elves, but boy do I like elves.
Furthermore, everyone in the show is selfish and manipulative, even the “good” ones. While Dany does protect the unprotected, she fights for the Iron Throne because she believes it is her birthright and no one else’s. Arya, a fan favorite, is trained in assassin arts and has a murder list. And Tyrion? He lives and breathes in convincing other people to do things. Any semblance of “goodness” doesn’t stop these characters from having questionable morals and decisions. Pure heroes may feel overly common in fantasy stories, but they are staples and symbols of hope in otherwise dark and complicated worlds. Every fantasy world should be different, of course, but certain things add to the wonder of it all. And, in the case of Game of Thrones, the lack of clear heroes will make concluding the series hard. This world doesn’t seem to have any true good guys, just people who do “good” things but for the sake of their own interest. After all, almost everyone is banding together to fight the Night King out of selfishness. If their people weren’t in danger, they might not help at all. Westeros has no hero, and for some people that makes it more interesting. Others, it makes the whole situation disappointing. No leader will feel like a good one.
And then there’s the shock value problem. While GoT is hardly as egregious as other click-bait TV shows *cough* The Walking Dead *cough*, some of their scenes are overblown for shock value versus worth. GoT does great by having it’s important, painful scenes mean something. Stannis burning his daughter showed Melisandre’s corruption and his desperation. Ramsay’s treatment of Theon and Sansa showed his flair for cruelty. The Walk of Shame inflamed Cersei’s growing madness and turned her towards blind rage. Unfortunately, though, GoT tends to take it too far. The rapes of both Daenerys and Sansa were too gratuitous. Several death scenes were too slow and graphic. That freedom to show violence should be used sparingly and deliberate, not just aggressively injected into every possible scene. Did anyone really need to watch Petyr Baelish inform prostitutes how to touch one another for a whole, drawn-out scene? Not really. The same effect could have been achieved without exploiting the acts or events. But of course, it’s just easier to be egregious, isn’t it?
Overall, of course Game of Thrones has problems. Every piece of media does. And to be honest, it might just not be my style. I prefer subtle decisions, even in the most horrifying events. I’m not a huge fan of fantasy worlds, at least not in television. And I’m definitely not in love with political intrigue. I am a completely biased viewer. But those facts above are just reasons why me and other people may not like GoT so much. The reason I hate it is something else entirely.
It’s the fans.
The culture around GoT is painfully, utterly toxic. I have become an abject mute about the show because any time I reveal I haven’t watched much is met with vitriol. “You haven’t’ watched??? You HAVE to see at least the first episode. You’ll get sooo hooked.” Or “I would love to watch Game of Thrones with you, c’mon, let’s hang out and do it!” Or “You just didn’t watch enough, it’s amazing, trust me.”
Well, trust me, I watched the first episode and hated it. But I was okay with that.
I can’t even express how awkward it is telling people I’ve watched over twenty episodes, know most of the entire plot, and STILL don’t like it. I haven’t tried explaining that to everyone because it’s exhausting to have my dislike met with such aggression.
And it’s not like I actively offer this information. It only comes up after I’ve been quiet and someone starts trying to get my opinion. I’ll try to be casual, say I haven’t watched much or it’s not my thing, and then they’ll launch into one of the above, or just start ranting about how great it is.
I don’t hate the fact that so many people have found something to love together. That’s awesome and unifying and amazing. Even if Game of Thrones was the actual worst thing I’d ever seen and everyone loved it, if they left me alone I’d honor it for its contributions. But instead it’s become a cesspool where I’m vilified for not being apart of the group. Being bullied just because I don’t find a show to be my cup of tea is pretty bullshit.
The Harry Potter fandom used to be a lot like this. At its height, right around the Seventh book, fans were in full-craze. I read almost every entry and enjoyed it as a part of culture, but I thought Harry was boring and Snape was just a shitty “nice guy” and the only part I loved about the books was JK Rowling’s ability to world-build. And I used to be vilified for that, too.
But over time, with the weirdness of Fantastic Beasts and Rowling’s post-novel, unnecessary adds, the fandom has crumbled. Things have gotten bizarre, the joy people had for it is all muddled, and now a lot of fans don’t even like the author much anymore. Sure, they still have their house scarves and are happy to go to Harry Potter World and read the books over and over. But something has been broken over the past few years. Considering how well fans and Rowling used to bond, that’s heartbreaking.
Sure, I don’t like GoT much. But that doesn’t mean I want things other people love to be ruined. That sucks. The only thing I want is to be treated like a human instead of a leper. I want fans to enjoy their thing but accept other people won’t always also love that thing.
Well, and I don’t want what happened with Fantastic Beasts to happen the upcoming GoT prequel show. While it’s nice HP fans are better at accepting the flaws of their favorite franchise now, nobody needs to know that the first Brandon Stark was really gay all along.
If fans treated me and other dissenters better, I’d wish another seven seasons on GoT. But I’ll be really happy for it to cool off so casual conversations about shows didn’t turn into an aggressive, dangerous minefield. Everyone’s entitled to their love of political intrigue fantasy worlds involving kings and queens with gray morals. But that doesn’t mean they have to be my beloved worlds.
Here’s to the hopeful downfall of GoT bullying. It’s a good time to take a break from all the bloody battles for a bit, right?