Game of Thrones fans, I’ve come to a moment of understanding, and I want to share it with you.
Not because some longform fiction I invested myself in disappointed me, or because I can relate directly from a singular instance of my own with a show or movie or book series. But from a place of empathy and consideration I think I get it.
I saw this meme floating around the internet, and I will admit to chuckling at it when I first saw it:
…But the more I thought about it, the less I smirked, and the more I began to understand: this wasn’t just a tv show. I mean, it could be called that, sure, but it wasn’t. Nothing is THIS huge, with THIS many fans, and is still “just a tv show.”
You invested yourself into something for 10 years across eight seasons. It was good — really good. You decided to care, and for seven of those eight seasons, the caring came with a huge reward: the writing was sharp, the production values were high, and every week during the season, you had something to look forward to, as well as some point of relation with your fellow fans.
It’s on that last point I really feel you: despite whatever differences we may all have as people, you had this commonality that you shared with millions of others. There was a touchstone that you could return to when conversations got boring or stale or awkward. You always had this great thing you cared about, and if someone else cared about it too, you had a common thread. There was community there.
As society slowly devolved the past few years, this touchstone became more and more important. As people became more divisive and derisive and outright abusive to one another, at least there was Game of Thrones. As corporations, political parties, and tech companies all amplified fear and anger and differences between one another just to get clicks and shares and likes and dollars and votes, at least there was Game of Thrones. As dystopia slowly creeps in, at least there was this thing you had to look forward to, that always rewarded you, that you could talk about with your coworkers and friends and community the next day to avoid talking politics, or societal issues, or other nasty things.
…Not that they shouldn’t be discussed, or that you were avoidant. I know you weren’t. But we all need a break from intensity. Every amazing album ever recorded had “down songs” to help ampifly the “up songs”. The best comedy routines work in “rest bits” so that the laughs don’t become exhaustive. You have to unclench your jaw and your anus every so often. Game of Thrones let you do that.
And then, they shit the bed; almost seemingly on purpose. They didn’t care. They just decided “fuck it” and not only disappointed you, but wrecked whatever fondness you might have had for the earlier seasons by irrevocably destroying the characters and their journeys.
I don’t watch the shows, and I don’t read the books, and from my friends and folks who do, I’ve gathered at least that much. And at first, my reaction was “So what? It’s just a show. Get over it.”
And then I put myself in your shoes for a bit, and realized — it’s not whiny or entitled to ask that your investment be honored. If I had an investment broker who spent 7 years with a stock portfolio, and I watched it grow and felt like my investment in that broker and in those stocks were well run and i was going to get back what I put into it, and the branch manager took it over and pissed in the file drawer and I lost everything, I’d be a little more than pissed.
And this is TIME we’re talking about, which is worth so much more than money. Money comes and goes. Time only goes. And you spent a LOT of time on Game of Thrones. And it was not respected or managed well, and I understand that now.
Trust is a hard-won thing, and it’s getting harder and harder to trust almost anything. Deepfake videos, AI-generated audio of famous people saying things they never said, dishonest youtube video campaigns pretending to be “real” people played by paid actors, Trump, Fox News, Brexit, a crumbling environment, irrevocable mass human extinction just around the corner…
You didn’t need this shit. I get it. And I am sorry your dragon show ended stupidly.
Joe P gets it.
I certainly don’t expect any of GoT to be redone but I had expected a great, satisfying and consistent return on my invested emotion, enthusiasm and time. I have many similar thoughts related to the organic ownership by fans that evolves for franchises, products, continuing narratives and so on.
It’s an ownership inescapably intertwined with consumerism, capitalism, authorship, vision, responsibility, enticement, engagement and the increasingly rare shared experience you astutely noted above.
Quick lesson for the DBs or anyone that is open to hearing it: Never discard or disrespect the investment of the self that you have demanded of fans and relied upon to further your creation.
Thanks, Joe P. And thanks, Kevin L. Great article and thoughtful response.