When You Don’t Watch Game of Thrones
By: Connor Lenahan
I have a fairly embarrassing confession to make. Despite the fact that I am a film and television student and online writer about pop culture, I have completely missed the boat on one of the largest pop phenomenon in this century. I speak, of course, of Game of Thrones. Nearly everywhere you go on the internet is covering the series as it has just finished up its sixth season. Yet I haven’t seen a minute of this.
At some level this makes me a bad student. In an era where there is no such thing as a unified culture around a show in the way we had seen even a decade ago, Game of Thrones remains the largest outlier. For example, in the 1990s nearly 30 million people would tune in to watch ER each week. Now that we have Netflix and more original shows than ever, those kinds of numbers are impossible to replicate.
Although the HBO smash might not be putting up ratings that rival the titans of yester-decade, it commands the cultural conversation in a way that only Breaking Bad has. Sure, you get a passing hit like Making a Murderer that turns everyone into amateur detectives every once in a while, but for years now it’s been Westeros that dominates the landscape.
Yet I barely even know what Westeros is. Hell, I can recognize a few of the actors names and know that they are affiliated with the show – Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – but save for Tyrion Lannister I couldn’t definitively name a character by face.
This wasn’t explicitly intentional. After all, when Game of Thrones started I was in the middle of high school. By the time it became a serious force I was already a few seasons behind. Yet the appeal has never made sense to me.
This is what I am caught up on, and why I am oddly at peace with being left out of nearly half the conversations on my Twitter timelines or pop culture news sources. I am not a fan of fantasy entertainment of any kind. I have only seen one Harry Potter movie. I gave up on The Lord of The Rings within 25 minutes. I can’t get super excited to live in a world that has zero similarity to my own.
It should then come as no surprise that my favorite TV drama of all time is The Wire, the most aggressively realistic scripted show in history. I love The Simpsons more than the majority of the people in my family specifically because it is based around a normal American family, albeit with goofy plots. But once you start throwing dragons at me? Nope, my brain shuts off.
My big issue these days is that most every article is assumptive that you are watching the show. This makes a great deal of sense – why would a severely serialized program be inclusive of new viewers after six years? But it doesn’t help people like me that have been dragging their feet on watching.
This is a challenge now. Because most of the people I am friends with are either die-hard fans or begin to swear by the show. Yet this doesn’t sway me. There’s so much good television on now that it’s hard to find the motivation to put one in front of the other. I still have never watched The Sopranos, although that’s widely regarded as the best drama ever aired.
So this becomes my hope – I want someone to be able to make a case to me for why I should watch this show beyond “it’s the hottest thing on TV right now.” I know that I am in the wrong for not watching it, especially since I study TV and this is going to finish its run as one of the most critically acclaimed series of all time. But I can’t get over the hurdle.
But I just can’t bring myself to start. The timing of this article is specific: I fly out to Los Angeles tomorrow for a Fourth of July vacation and need something to watch on the plane. I might finally bite the bullet, but I also might just watch Kitchen Nightmares and play sudoku.
Help me out here. Should I stop being stubborn and get in on the fun?