Why I Stopped Watching 'Game Of Thrones' Even Though I Was A Huge Fan
This time last year, I was a massive "Game of Thrones" fan. I waited for Sunday night every week to see what would happen next, watching breathlessly and frantically texting friends about it.
I have fond memories of cramming into a dorm room with my friends to watch the first season and discussing it for hours with my roommate. I even got my parents into the show. When they moved into a new apartment, we spent the first night sitting on fold-up chairs around an iPad gasping as Oberyn, well, popped.
So trust me when I say it was a hard decision to stop watching "Game of Thrones."
Although I was still a fan one year ago, my patience with the show was beginning to fade.
I realized I was starting to dread watching "Game of Thrones" each week.
Where I once felt growing excitement, I instead felt anxious. It seemed like every episode just wanted to present some new horror, especially where it concerned the treatment of women and sexual violence.
By choosing to watch the show, I was implicitly endorsing this violence and telling the showrunners it was OK to keep doing what they're doing.
"Game of Thrones" seems to delight in new ways to gross you out. From that Oberyn moment to the beheadings that are so regular they somehow became banal to the repulsive sacrifice of young Shireen, the show became more and more unpleasant to watch.
And then, as we all know, Sansa's wedding night rape was horrifying. It wasn't just that it was something terrible to see, but it was handled irresponsibly by the showrunners by focusing on Theon's reaction.
That scene happened after years of watching women be sexually violated on "Game of Thrones."
Of course, people argue it's just showing the "reality" of a medieval world. But are you seriously saying in a world with f*cking dragons you have to stick with "reality" when it comes to the treatment of women?
How come when all these dude fantasy authors create new, miraculous worlds they're always still worlds where women are treated like shit? — Emily McCombs (@msemilymccombs) May 3, 2016
In the previous season, there was controversy over a scene where Jaime and Cersei have sex. To most viewers, Jaime assaulted Cersei. But the showrunners insisted it "[became] consensual by the end" -- which is a ridiculous comment to make about sexual assault.
This was all on top of nameless women being raped, Ros being used sexually and then murdered by Joffrey and a child molester that Arya interacts with.
As Alison Herman wrote at Flavorwire:
'Game of Thrones' viewers are no longer willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt when it comes to showing the impact of, or even acknowledging, sexual violence — and are very much willing to criticize or abandon ship before the show's creators transition from Sansa's rape to its fallout.
In other words, the show lost our trust.
There was so much destruction on the show, it lost meaning.
"Game of Thrones" changed the game when they killed off Ned Stark in season one. They showed from the start they weren't going to follow the prescribed rules of fantasy: Your lead, noble hero remains at the center of the plot -- alive.
But then the show just kept pulling that same move over and over again. The show gets you to care about someone just to kill them off. It gets you to think someone is having success, like Sansa or Daenerys, only to cut them down.
Aside from the devaluation of human life the show puts on you, the constant destruction makes the plot feel useless.
Why bother caring if Daenerys can control her dragons if you know soon enough chances are they'll all end up dead in some gross manner? Why bother caring if Arya becomes Faceless if you know it probably won't save her?
This is exactly what happened to me -- I stopped caring what happened on the show because I knew any character's gains or losses ultimately just didn't matter.
Meanwhile, there's no clear way for this all to end.
There's a reason the prescribed rules of fantasy exist. They carry plots forward and keep the viewer/reader interested.
But with the lack of rules in "Game of Thrones," I think the only way for the show to reasonably end is if everyone is killed by White Walkers.
All fantasy series eventually include a set journey -- Harry Potter must find the Horcruxes; Frodo must destroy the Ring; Lyra has to find Roger; the Rebel Alliance has to blow up the Death Star -- which drives the plot to the end. So far, over the course of years, "Game of Thrones" hasn't given us a journey with a clear goal, and I'm tired of waiting for it.
So even if the show ends with Daenerys gaining control of Westeros (if that's what we're supposed to believe the "journey" of the series is), all that means is she's in control for the next two minutes until someone else leaps for it.
The show trained me to believe there won't be a satisfying ending, which makes me uninterested in seeing how it will all turn out.
So I decided to stop watching "Game of Thrones."
My sister and I realized we had no desire to choose to put ourselves through whatever new horrors the showrunners irresponsibly throw on screens.
We started a Twitter account to let people vote on the watchability of each week's episode, just in case curiosity got the best of us and we reversed our decision so we could see how Brienne's doing.
So far, polls have shown the episodes this season have been bearable. But what's most interesting to us is after years of investment, we don't really care about what happens on "Game of Thrones" anymore.
At the end of the day -- even when it feels like the whole world is watching it -- a show is just a show. And you don't have to actively choose to watch anything that makes you uncomfortable.