Why is Game of Thrones so satisfying to watch? (my 5 reasons)

click for image source (ditto for those below)
click for image source (ditto for those below)

I enjoy Game of Thrones an incredible amount, as I’m sure many people do. For the past two weeks, I have devoted my scant time after work to re-watching the entire series in preparation for the show’s return on April 6.

To be honest, I am not much of one for re-watching–or, for that matter, re-reading. With so much media in the world to sift through, I am hyper-aware each time I choose to re-watch a film, I pass up an opportunity to discover another cinematic masterpiece.

So why, then, am I willing to re-watch Game of Thrones?

GOT, as it is sometimes called, enjoys a popularity that rivals that of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, two other epic fantasy series that have captivated millions of people around the globe. Yet it’s decidedly more grown-up than Harry Potterand most certainly won’t have the same sappy ending. And although I adore LOTR and re-watch the entire trilogy every New Year’s Day, the over-dramatization coupled with a borderline obnoxious use of slow motion–particularly in The Return of the King–sometime undermine the films’ better qualities.

I could attempt to come up with a pseudo-academic explanation for why Game of Thrones is so popular, but there are many, many people who have written about the seduction of fantasy far better than I can. Instead, I will keep this short, partly out of a desire to keep this post concise, but mostly because I’m eager to watch tonight’s episode!

5 Reasons: The Awesomeness of Game of Thrones

1. Beauty is not necessarily equated with goodness.

cersei lannister

The gorgeous Lena Heady, who portrays the cruel queen Cersei Lannister, is a remarkable actress. She’s capable of depicting utter maliciousness–especially in those moments when she savors her ability to torture Sansa Stark–and also inspiring pity. The queen is walking proof that beauty does not equal goodness. Rather, she understands the power of her beauty and uses it to manipulate those around her. Compare that to the interesting way in which Daenerys Targaryen utilizes her physical attractiveness and small stature to trick dictators and slavers. Then there’s the whole Tyrion Lannister business, who, despite his father’s hatred for being a dwarf, is in many ways the moral center of the series because of his complexity and intelligence. I could go on and on–suffice it to say that George R. R. Martin never made the sickening and simple-minded mistake of writing characters who are beautiful and therefore must also be good, or characters who are ugly and therefore must also be evil. (I’m looking at you, every Disney movie ever made).

2. Bodies, bodies, BODIES. And many of them naked.

516425-daenerys_and_baby_dragon

No, sorry, I’m not going to post any naked bodies on this blog–not when it’s finally starting to get decently indexed on Google! That said, there are a lot of boobs, butts, and thighs in GOT–and of a surprising and welcome variety! Boobs of all colors, sizes, and shapes. Even some male bits make it onto the show from time to time. Obviously I would be in favor of more nudity and a better balance in terms of male/female exhibition, but still: the fact remains that there isn’t just one person getting naked all the time, and the person who DOES get naked a lot (*ahem*) is neither 5’10” nor a size 0. Nor does she have breast implants. Nor is she insanely toned! Or tan! And legions of people find her beautiful nonetheless. What a shocker!

3. Arya Stark.

arya stark needle

Normally I despise child actors, especially female ones. What can I say? I’m a girl, and watching young girls act stupid on TV/in movies frustrates me. Besides, almost all child actors are terrible. It’s not something they can really help…they’re just too young and inexperienced to be able to do any better. None of these stereotypes apply to Maisie Williams, who is flat-out amazing as Arya Stark. Her character is 100% refreshing: she’s only 10 or so, but she absolutely refuses to take any bullshit. The scenes where she holds her witty own with Tywin Lannister are especially enjoyable to watch.

4. Multiple types of loving.

dick in a box

I realize this photo is grainy, but it was important for me to grab this particular shot when Yara and Balon Greyjoy open a box to find Theon’s mutilated genitals inside. Not the most pleasant scene, but Yara’s declaration to rescue her brother from his torturer, despite barely knowing him, is touching nonetheless. She has a protective stance toward her brother, and her reverse gender role is a welcome addition to the already-feminist series even if a castration is involved.
Then there is the complex relationship between Jamie and Cersei Lannister, who clearly love each other in a romantic sense that goes beyond appropriate sibling affection. Even though their incest is deplorable, it’s nice to see that the queen cares about someone, and makes you wonder how desperate and lonely both of them must be in order to believe that their crimes are worth committing.
More examples of interesting love: the relationship between Loras Tyrell and Renly Baratheon, a relationship that many people even today still consider an anomaly despite the fact that homosexuality is but one of many sexual inclinations that people have practiced for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years; Margaery Tyrell’s cleverly manipulation of Joffrey who, despite his extreme sadomasochism, is cowardly and craves affection; Ser Jorah Mormont’s indentured love for a woman who directs his every thought and movement; Jamie Lanniser’s growing affection and respect for Brienne of Tarth. The list goes on. There is hardly an un-complex relationship in the whole series.

5. It’s morally voyeuristic.

burning

Despite all of the wonderful things I’ve said about GOT thus far, I think this last reason is the one that draws most people to the show. I feel like I hear about gross, absurd injustices every day–injustices that I usually feel I am helpless to stop in any way. Systemic violence is not easily destroyed, nor is twisted logic easily uprooted. I wish it were as easy as sauntering into a slave city and ordering my dragon to burn the master alive. Unfortunately, victories are far more infrequent in reality, and when they do take place, they’re usually less satisfying and much more ambiguous.

Obviously, there are many, many more reasons why Game of Thrones is enjoyable–I haven’t even mentioned Varys or Littlefinger!–but I think I’ve waxed lyrical long enough.

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22 thoughts on “Why is Game of Thrones so satisfying to watch? (my 5 reasons)

  1. I love your point about beauty not representing goodness in terms of the characters. The ones I root for in GOT are the ones that are at the bottom of society, people like Arya, Brienne, or Tyrion. They all get treated poorly due to their size or how they look.

    On the other hand, Cersei Lannister is extremely sexy in an evil way 🙂

    1. Whew yes, Lena Heady is absolutely gorgeous. And she’s a great actress to boot. But yes, I also root for the misfits—Arya, Tyrion, Brienne, and Margaery too, to some extent. I find Margaery’s clever manipulations very sexy 😉 And I’m also enjoying Prince Oberyn this season, too.

  2. I found your post very interesting even though I don’t know much about GOT. My brother is a HUGE fan of both the books and the show and so I’ve been asking him if I should give GOT a go. He tells me that it *is* violent so that is the one thing that has stopped me…I don’t have a strong stomach for mutilated genitals and such, but I can appreciate how this must be an amazing story.

    1. Well, it is definitely not for everyone, and that is more than ok! Neither violence nor graphic sexuality bother me in film (usually) – though I do remember being disturbed by the opening fight sequence in “Gangs of New York.” You could always start with the books, I suppose, and then see if you really want to see all of that played out on screen! It’s very exciting, and quite heartwarming, too. So it’s not just brash violence like in action movies, and there’s a lot of complexity and clever characters that I think you would enjoy. But again, it is up to you! You shouldn’t feel guilty for avoiding it if you genuinely don’t think you would enjoy it.

  3. I love Game of Thrones! Alas, I devoured all the books and now have to wait for the series to catch up. The books are good, but to be honest, they do have a problem with too many secondary characters in a couple of them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in one of the books (can’t quite remember which one), I wanted to skip a lot of the chapters to read about the characters I enjoyed the most. I think the thing that really makes it for me is how morally ambiguous and complex characters are – Tyrion is a brilliant character, in fact I would go as far as saying he’s my favourite. Arya is my second favourite, along with Brienne. I’m looking forward to the next book, not sure how long we’ll have to wait though! I’m also hoping to buy season 3, I haven’t got HBO or Sky TV so usually have to wait for DVD. Looking forward to that 🙂

      1. I’m not surprised to hear you say that about the secondary characters. I have trouble keeping up with all the people in the TV show, and I know they’ve whittled down the cast for the film version! Besides, I have the worst time remembering names – I’m much better with faces. With most books, I have to write down a list of all the characters + some identifying characteristics, otherwise I just get lost. Sounds like I’ll definitely have to do that once I start reading the GOT series!

        Ah I’m sorry to hear you have to wait for season 3. It’s a shame you can’t pay to download the complete series online. Don’t know why that hasn’t been invented yet, really. Ought to be something like iTunes for TV & movies, not just streaming services!

        And how could I not love Tyrion? He’s so clever. I really like Margaery Tyrell for that reason, too. And Brienne, and Daenerys, and Varys!

  4. Excellent list, I look forward to part two containing Varys and Littlefinger! 😉 The books really are amazing so I’d highly suggest reading them. Good public transport reads. Can’t wait for season 4!

    1. ooo I wasn’t even planning on doing a part two, but maybe I should? 😉 perhaps after the 4th season has ended. I am definitely planning on reading the books!! Just have to finish “For Whom the Bell Tolls” first. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Great points! and I cannot wait for this show to start again!!! I watched the show before I read the books, but since have read the whole series. Sigh. Couldn’t stop myself. Usually I find that books are better than the television/film adaptation (Lovely Bones being an exception), so I’m wondering how this will impact this season’s viewing…

    1. Yes, I’m planning to start reading the books very soon!! But honestly, I love being completely surprised by the TV show, so I might try to just “keep pace” with the televised version.

      Agreed that Lovely Bones made a better movie! As did The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and a handful of others.

  6. I agree with everything you are saying, particularly about how amazing little Maisie Williams is in portraying that spunky and dangerously scary Arya Stark, with her prayer-list of death.

    One thing I enjoy about the series (and especially the books they are adapted from) are the rich and deep secondary characters. Every main character seems to have a cloud of secondary characters they are woven in with, which is fantastic since you never know when someone suddenly and unexpectedly springs forward as a major character.

    When you go back and re-watch, you can’t help but notice them in the background, waiting to come forward and either save the day… or do something else…

    1. You make a great point! I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, but you’re right – the transition from minor to main character is more fluid than in most films/books. I certainly agree that almost all of the characters are multidimensional! It’s funny, because Ned Stark is the closest thing to a typical hero, and yet he gets killed off at the end of the first book/season. Things get more interesting after that… To be honest, he wasn’t that interesting of a character. Too predictable!

      I can’t wait to start reading the series! I’ve held off party because I know how long it takes George R. R. Martin to write the books. But I don’t think I can wait any longer.

    1. it’s funny, whenever I see that a TV show or a movie is going to have nudity, I automatically assume that it’s going to be more complex/in-depth/interesting/critical than your average piece of film. I think once you cross that line, all sorts of other exciting possibilities open up.

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