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 Potter, and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.