Chances are that if you’ve watched television, gone on the internet or just had a conversation with anyone in the last year, than you’ve heard of the wildly popular HBO series Game of Thrones. Based off of George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones (or GOT) is an epic fantasy universe set in the land of Westeros. The story follows multiple families, their allies and their enemies on great and convoluted adventures that all revolve around the Iron Throne. Game of Thrones has bombarded the masses with its use in popular media. With hundreds of parody videos, thousands of GOT based products and references in almost all modern television, Game of Thrones is dominating the world of Pop Culture.
Game of thrones is based on a very fairly simple concept, one of knights and dragons, that many would say, only pertains to fantasy enthusiasts and nerds. This however, is not the case. According to Slate.com’s June Thomas, Game of Thrones has an average viewer per episode count of 9.3 million.
Many may often ask: Why is this? Why are we obsessed with Game of Thrones? The answer may be a bit simpler than one would think. While GOT uses a constant onslaught of gratuitous sex and violence, the real factor behind this hit show is something much more calculated and thought out.
The fact is, that Game of Thrones has a formula, one that HBO has been utilizing for the entire length of the series.
One of the aspects that sets this show apart from the majority of other shows on television today is its vast world. Westeros and its adjacent continent of Essos are both immense stretches of land with varied geography and an extremely storied past. Game of Thrones wouldn’t be what it is without the hundreds of characters it involves, both alive and dead and all of the various webs each one intertwines. One of the things that really grabs the audience of Game of Thrones is the complexity of each of the characters storylines. Because of the fact that GOT jumps around continents constantly to reveal various plot lines simultaneously, the audience is always transfixed on what is happening on screen.
Not so fast though, if you are watching GOT because you need to find out how your favorite character finally makes it to their very own happily ever after, you should probably stop now. One of the more brilliant things that happens in Game of Thrones is that many of the main characters are killed off without warning.
R. R. Martin isn’t deliberately trying to make you cry in your living room on a Sunday night (although that may happen). He has his reasons for killing off popular characters which he revealed to Conan O’Brian in an interview.
“We’ve all seen the movies where the hero is in trouble — he’s surrounded by 20 people, but you know he’s gonna get away ’cause he’s the hero. You don’t really feel any fear for him. I want my readers, and I want viewers to be afraid when my characters are in danger. I want them to be afraid to turn the next page because the next character may not survive it.”
This is a major factor in the grand GOT formula, just another reason to keep fans watching, especially on the night that it airs. No one wants to go to work on Monday morning only to find out that your favorite character died last night and you totally missed it.
The most outstanding piece of the Game of Thrones puzzle might actually be the most subtle. Dozens of different men and women struggle for positions of power, people are cut down in the streets, and of course The Wall. All of these and more are just examples of how GOT is metaphorically telling modern day stories in a fantasy setting. Those Lords and Ladies constantly pursuing power might as well be running political campaigns. That wall may as well be one separating two neighboring countries, and the denial of the White Walkers existence definitely has something to do with climate change. Regardless of the instance, there is usually some kind of reference that is hidden somewhere within every key point in this show. So whether you notice or not, part of the reason that you like Game of Thrones is because the problems and situations are relatable to our everyday lives.
In the world of pop culture, GOT has definitely left its mark. With hundreds of parody videos, memes and references in almost all modern television, Game of Thrones has become the master of the use of “Tastemakers.”
“Historically, popular culture has been closely associated with mass media that introduce and encourage the adoption of certain trends. We can see these media as “tastemakers”—people or institutions that shape the way others think, eat, listen, drink, dress and more. Similar in some ways to the media gatekeepers … tastemakers can have huge influence.”
Because GOT relies so heavily on tastemakers, it doesn’t really need things like commercials and advertisements to get you to watch. They rely on the things you already know you like, to let you know that you should like this too. Clearly, if the shows that you’re already watching like Game of Thrones, then maybe you should as well.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how HBO gets you to like Game of Thrones. Whether you tune in for the dragons, the betrayal, the characters, the sex, the violence, the world, the story, or just because your friend told you that you would “probably like it,” all that matters is that you watch. Be warned though, for once it is seen, there is no going back. This award winning show is a whirlwind of action and drama that will glue your eyes to the screen and have you begging for more. Whether or not pop culture decides to stick around for the entire epic story of A Song of Ice and Fire remains to be seen. For now however, we can relax in the comfort of our homes as we watch all the players that partake in the madness that is a Game of Thrones.