What Happens When You Just Don’t Get GoT

Pop Culture

What Happens When You Just Don’t Get GoT

Illustration: Cleon Dsouza / Arré

So who died this week? No, wait! Don’t tell me. Who didn’t leave the door open and why the hell not? What happened at that wedding – you know, tha-at one? Hodor, Hodor, Hodor. Is that other fellow alive or dead? Or is he both alive and dead? Will the TV series finish before the books do? No, wait! Don’t tell me.

Long gone is the time when Mondays used to suck just for the regular, average, everyday, ordinary reasons all working people could relate to. Now, there’s also the melodramatic Game of Thrones (GOT) spectacle to contend with. Maybe I’m spending too much time with all the wrong people, but is it not getting worse with each passing episode?

One innocuous Monday, sometime last year, this writer made the mistake of stating, with no underhand intentions, that “I know nothing” in a big gathering. Ten people called me Jon Snow – each one naturally feeling cleverer than the last – and I smiled in fake acknowledgement until my cheekbones began to crackle. (I got the reference much later, thanks to Google.) Recently, I was almost an unwitting part of a GOT episode home screening to be attended by a dozen people, featuring a big hi-res television, mood lighting, popcorn, beer, chips, and lots of tissue paper.

There are people I know who refuse to log on to the internet all day for fear of spoilers, since they only get time to watch the episode at night. Others get off on either a) disclosing major plot points the second they finish watching an episode, spoiling it for anyone who happens to hear or read them, or b) making up fake spoilers just for kicks. Then there are the ones who bitch and moan for six whole days after each spoiler that comes their way. There’s also an altogether different category of GOT users that prefers to wait for the entire season to get over, so they can binge-watch over soggy potato chips and Diet Coke one wasted weekend. (This lot is known as the idiot category.)

I should clarify that this is not a cathartic unloading designed to help me deal with the Fear-turned-Reality of Missing Out (FROMO). Sure, feeling left out isn’t great, but social acceptance is only a 400 MB illegal download away.

After watching an episode, friends greet each other like old war veterans comparing slain limbs over a bottle of cheap rum, elongating the syllable in “fuck” until hell freezes over (f-aaaaaaaaaaaaa…ck). The internet is filled with cryptic one-word status updates on social media; knowing glances are exchanged at the workplace or in trains, cabs, and autos. Wherever you look, people are frantically checking their phones for no apparent reason; they’re sweating and shaking, or just grinning stupidly. I want to discuss the etymology of “thulla” and whether or not it’s pejorative to pigs, but all around me, people are talking about newly exposed breasts, lead actors bumped off, bearded old writers, lead actors reappearing. Soon, the season ends and some “Winter is Coming” (woo-hoo) nonsense takes over the airwaves ad nauseam.

I should clarify that this is not a cathartic unloading designed to help me deal with the Fear-turned-Reality of Missing Out (FROMO). Sure, feeling left out isn’t great, but social acceptance is only a 400 MB illegal download away. In any case, I’ve never been particularly intrigued by the fantasy genre in fiction (what’s a Gollum?), and the one GoT episode I tried watching a year ago was SO boring I ended up reading a book instead.

By all accounts, it’s a good, well-made show (and set of books), even if it does sound a little manipulative and Marilyn Manson shock-rocky to me. (“Chalo, production meeting today. Which actor – female obviously – will take her clothes off this week? Who are we going to kill next time? How do we keep the masala going – should we do an item number in June?”) But I concede that I have no right to critically analyse the show, given I’ve seen all of nine minutes of the pilot episode and none since.

What’s fascinating is how GOT, at least while the season is underway, has become this grand cultural phenomenon – a beast unto itself. Without fail, each Monday (Sunday evening, US time presumably) is greeted with farcical fanfare. It’s all the more surprising considering we live in the age of zero attention sp-…

People forget things mid-sentence (or mid-tweet). There’s a constant search for the next new thing to discuss. Everything is the flavour of the week. Remember how we were all complaining about or saluting Modiji and his good and simple tax? Who cares now? It’s old news; we’ll talk about it next year – maybe. Everything is a quick fix and a hot-take. The Women’s World Cup just concluded, but I’ve already forgotten who won. Maybe that’s a stretch, but I’ve genuinely forgotten who won the last cricket World Cup. Or the name of the most recent Salman Khan film – is it Bulb? Table Lamp? A/C?

And yet, somehow, the first half of the first day of each week unites a (very, very, very vocal) majority of the English-speaking, torrents-using, intellectual property-stealing young women and men of our times in directing their critical gaze toward the latest Game of Thrones wonder episode. Even if the tone suggests otherwise, I’m actually quite awestruck by how consistent the show is in evoking such strong reactions. Is there anything else in pop culture that can manage such a feat?

There isn’t. So, very childishly, the gripe here becomes: Why Game of Thrones and not something just marginally less annoying, obnoxious, alienating, and in-your-face? People are obviously capable of focussing for periods longer than seven seconds – occasionally. So why waste that golden opportunity on recurring deaths, hackneyed online memes, hidden swords/doors/flying chariots? (I assume). Unless that stuff is exactly what holds the attention. In that case, I’m happy to live with the FROMO.

This article was published earlier on May 30, 2016.