Game of Thrones, A Song of Authenticity and Franchises
Before I ever put a condom on a banana, or on anything else for that matter, I knew the intimate details of Cersei and Jaime’s hot incestuous sex. I lugged a hardcover copy of A Clash of Kings on my walk to and from school every day. I read during lunch break. The classroom would melt into a battle field strewn with men in the direwolf emblazoned armour of the Starks or lion inspired sigils of the red caped Lannisters. All equally dead.
It was 2002. I was 12 years old and Arya Stark was my soul sister; she was also a better friend than any of my classmates. My older cousin Ben got me hooked after I came to him one day complaining about the proliferation of common fantasy tropes: heroes who never died despite their incredibly dangerous odds, dime a dozen villains only slightly more interesting than protagonists who could do no wrong, princesses that constantly needed saving, or women warriors who managed to slay giants yet still be the most eligible and beautiful bachelorettes of the realm.
He recommended Game of Thrones. GOT as it is known to its fans, is a fantasy series about those involved in an epic struggle that will shape the destiny of Westeros. Westeros is divided into The Seven Kingdoms and is reminiscent of medieval Europe. Although most of the story takes place in Westeros, it is only one continent of many that form the rich, culturally diverse world of Game of Thrones. A world where magic is interwoven with religion and religion is interwoven with politics. The books, five so far, are written in third person omniscient and told through the eyes of over 30 characters. Some of the protagonists include: Lords and Ladies from the Seven Great Houses especially Jon Snow, Arya, Bran, Sansa Robb, Eddard and Catelyn of House Stark and Tyrion, Jaime, Cersei and Tywin of House Lannister and the sole survivors of the Targaryen dynasty as well as the POV of characters these main protagonists encounter on their journeys. Right from book one there were ugly heroes, main characters dying, and villains my heart reached out to.
4 Years Later
Now, its 2014 and Game of Thrones is trending. The show, based on George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire has dominated television for four years; making lesser known actors like Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), and Maisie Williams (Arya) overnight successes. It first aired on HBO in the spring of 2011. I consider it my earliest and favourite 21st birthday present. People wear toques that say Team Stark and shirts with anime pictures of Daenerys Stormborn and her three dragons: Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion. I have Game of Thrones merchandise as well.
The world of Game of Thrones is being enjoyed by an audience that spans more than just cliques. Its fandom has evolved from fantasy book worms into an entity that contains people from different countries and generations. Some fans are traditionalists who trace their roots to battered pages of the original book – first released way back in 1996. While others clear their schedule every Sunday from early-April to mid-June to sit down with a glass of wine and watch Aidan Gillen as Littlefinger quietly scheme his way up the rungs of power.
Due to sit-coms like The Big Bang Theory and many new Blockbusters featuring Marvel comic book characters, nerds are finding themselves occupying a position they never thought they would. Nerds are cool. Just like with the smaller example of Game of Thrones, this means that many new people are exploring worlds full of wonder and imagination they would normally overlook. An appreciation for fantasy and science fiction as popular genres has grown. As well as a demand for more quality in what used to be known as “escapist” fiction.
Popularity does have its setbacks.
For every person who is inspired from watching Game of Thrones or Harry Potter on TV to read the books, five more people are the kind of “fans” who grow weak kneed at Kit Harrington’s (the actor portraying Jon Snow’s) chiseled abs or Emma Watson’s post Hermione bob. Their interest is either purely based on celebrity crushes, or a herd instinct to like what everybody else likes.
One of the main ways this shows up is through conversation. Mine range from thought provoking discussions on the foreshadowing of possible plot twists or lamenting deviations from the books. For example, HBO’s sexed up version of the series turning Missandei, originally eight years and a younger sister figure to Daenerys, into a ravishing twenty-something. (And there’s a good chance that at least one of the “child” actors will grow up rather more quickly then they otherwise would given HBO’s proclivity towards ‘adult’ situations and all things nude.) While others —starting with me— admit that yes, Melisandre is much prettier than Stannis Baratheon’s real wife. Then adding, but what do you think about the conflict of her being a priestess of R’hllor clashing with the worship of the Seven in Westoros? I know I’ve totally lost my friends when I start comparing Melisandre’s religion to the clash between the first Christian missionaries who came to Pagan dominated Europe.
Just like Tyrion Lannister, I know when to pick my battles. Overall, nerd culture becoming popular does a lot more good for OG’s (original geeks) like me than it does bad. It means that George R.R. Martin will definitely finish his series, that I can look forward to watching the intrigue of the Small Council every Sunday, and that Arya gets to be my friend as well as someone I talk about with my other friends. Besides, John Snow does have very nice abs…
Meanwhile, Season Four’s finale “The Children,” aired on June 15th and George R.R. Martin’s sixth book, The Winds of Winter is rumoured to be coming out in 2015 after season 5 if all goes well. For readers jonesing for Thrones several authors to tide you over are: Joe Abercombie, Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan. And for TV watchers not opposed to sci-fi, all I can say is have you ever heard of Battlestar Galactica?