Why I Watch Game of Thrones

May 3, 2014 | 34 comments
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Since Nathaniel mentioned Game of Thrones and why he doesn’t watch it in his wonderful post earlier this week, I thought I’d give you a few lines on why I do watch the series.

Much ink has been spilled over the gratuitous sex and violence in Game of Thrones. I’ll admit that I roll my eyes over the fact that every conversation that can possibly take place whilst the person speaking (or at least someone else in the room) is having sex, does. Still, I think what tends to bother people even more is the sense that there are no boundaries to the terrible things that can happen in Game of Thrones.

There is indeed a nightmarish quality to the experience of watching the series. The arbitrariness, the dawning realization that something awful will happen to your favorite character, if not in this episode, then in the next, is uncomfortable and unnerving. Who wants to allow this perverse story world of rape and senseless violence to inform his or her real worldview? However much we might dream of dragons or daring quests, the Seven Kingdoms as brought to us in stark and opulent detail by HBO are not a world we are remotely accustomed to or comfortable with inhabiting.

It can all seem quite distant from our ordinary first world lives, where safety is the norm, the Rule of Law obtains, and most of the ghastly things that happen in Game of Thrones are thankfully remote, if not unheard of in real life. Unfortunately the disturbing events and personalities in of Game of Thrones form a real and inescapable part of the world we do inhabit.

In our world too there are ruthless, scheming pimps like Littlefinger. There are 13-year-olds forced into marriage like Sansa and Daenerys. There are children crippled and driven from their homes like Bran. There are powerful mafia, gang, or terrorist families like the Lannisters, and innocents caught within the crossfire. There are children like Arya, surrounded by killing and brutality, and forced to grow up much too fast. There are rapes and burning villages and children left orphaned. There are no dragons, but there are drones raining fire from the sky. This is not the stuff of long ago.  It is happening today, if not in your backyard, then somewhere in the world. In many places, all over the world.

It is happening in Nigeria, where 200 girls are kidnapped from school and disappear into the forest, reports eventually trickling out that they are being forcibly married to terrorists. It is happening in Syria, where the devastating forces of civil war rip through villages, leaving destruction and agony in their wake, and families torn apart and children bleeding. It is happening in India, where every 21 minutes a woman is raped. It is happening in Honduras, where eight children from a small village were kidnapped and tortured to death by gangs last month. It is happening right here in the United States, where vulnerable teenage girls are groomed by pimps and then entrapped into forced prostitution.

When I watch Game of Thrones, it doesn’t desensitize me. It sensitizes me. It reminds me that this sense of wrongness in the world, this terrible feeling that anything awful could happen, and nothing is safe, is how so many of my brothers and sisters are living right now. They don’t necessarily live in castles, or speak cultured British English, but the essentials of human greed and suffering are the same.

I watch Game of Thrones because Arya and Bran Stark remind me terribly, hauntingly of my own two children, who are just their age and so much like them. In some emotional, literary sense, Bran and Arya are my children. I care what happens to them. It squeezes my heart to watch them suffer, to wait endlessly, futilely, for the happy ending that never comes. And with startling vividness I realize that had they been born in Syria or Nigeria, my own children might be living lives like Bran and Arya.

Game of Thrones portrays the randomness and horror of violence, and its real and devastating impact on the most vulnerable, and the most innocent. In that way, it fills a void in our traditional fairy tale entertainment, where things make sense, where innocence and goodness are rewarded, and the bad guys always get it in the end. It is a sobering, stark reminder to open our eyes and see what is occurring outside our comfortable suburban existence. There are dark things happening on our planet, and the innocents are always the ones who suffer. Those children in Nigeria and Syria should be as real and relatable to us as Bran and Arya Stark. Game of Thrones brings what is happening to them into vivid, startling relief, and puts it inescapably before our eyes. Maybe watching it can help us picture what it would be like if those terrible things were happening to us and ours. Maybe it can remind us that those faraway people to whom they are happening now are ours–our brothers and sisters, our responsibility.

I’m not saying that everyone should watch Game of Thrones, or that everyone’s experience of watching it will be the same as mine. But when I watch Game of Thrones, this is what I see:

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34 Responses to Why I Watch Game of Thrones

  1. Nathaniel Givens on May 3, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I’ve talked about this general issue (what entertainment to watch) with lots of different people, and there are folks who watch things that I don’t watch for reasons that I can understand and respect. But I confess that the “this is how the world really works” argument doesn’t make sense to me.

    When I watch Game of Thrones, it doesn’t desensitize me. It sensitizes me… Game of Thrones portrays the randomness and horror of violence, and its real and devastating impact on the most vulnerable, and the most innocent. In that way, it fills a void in our traditional fairy tale entertainment, where things make sense, where innocence and goodness are rewarded, and the bad guys always get it in the end. It is a sobering, stark reminder to open our eyes and see what is occurring outside our comfortable suburban existence.

    My first question is this: why the fictionalized reminder? Are there not enough photos of dead children killed in Syria to sate the desire to be reminded that we’re lucky to live when and where and how we do? There isn’t a lack of true horror. Why invent more?

    See, I think that the reason why we have stories that make sense, that have happy endings–or at least aesthetic order even in tragedy–is because we are reacting to the chaos and confusion and pain of the real world. We construct narratives in our personal minds and in our art because they are not real. It seems to me that only an affluent, prosperous, and decadent society loses the desire to find art as a release and solace from real-world pain and instead–because the real world has instead become numbingly predictable and and repetitive–begins to invent ever more sordid nightmares to escape into.

    There is an ocean of truth out there, and a human life can only collect about a bucket’s worth. If you fill your bucket with only the darkest and coldest waters, each individual experience you’ve learned about is true, but the overall collection is horribly misleading, because the ocean of truth includes not only the abysmal depths but also the sunlit shallows. What is the basis we have for deciding how much pain is “enough”? How much darkness should we seek out to feel that we are in touch with “reality”, and how much of that darkness should be fictional as opposed to real?

    I guess I’m just not interested in fictionalized suffering for its own sake. To me it seems pornographic. Porn, after all, is about skimming the superficial sensory stimulation of sex off the top of reality without having to bother about the mundane details like human relationships and consequences to our actions. To me, the fictional depravity of Game of Thrones (or pretty much any popular TV show these days) works in much the same way: it conveys a hit of emotional intensity to people who know they can turn the TV off whenever they want and go back to predictable, comfortable lives.

    I guess I just think that sufficient is the evil unto the day thereof, and that if any of us feel like we are too isolated from suffering there are meaningful ways we can expose ourselves to suffering. My friend became a voluntary EMT and, as part of his job, had to watch a child die. That is suffering that strikes me as profound, sacred, and truly terrifying precisely because it is not a safely packaged that comes with a soundtrack, awesome costumes, or a very attractive cast of characters.

    You say that it sensitizes you as opposes to desensitizes you. I believe you, and so I suppose for you it works. That’s fine. I’m emphatically not criticizing your decision to watch Game of Thrones. That’s so not my business or my intent. I just really, really can’t relate to your explanation.

  2. Brian Larsen on May 3, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Nathaniel,

    A couple of thoughts/questions.

    1. How many people do you think would actively seek out exposure to suffering as you describe it on a regular basis versus the number that watch Game of Thrones?

    2. Photos do not a story make. Do not empathy make.

    3. Who are these people filling their bucket of life with only the “darkest and coldest waters?”

    4. Fiction should then only serve to show how the world really doesn’t work?

    I must confess. I am confused by many of your statements.

  3. Nathaniel Givens on May 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Brian-

    1. How many people do you think would actively seek out exposure to suffering as you describe it on a regular basis versus the number that watch Game of Thrones?

    How many people volunteer? Strive to understand the needs of those in want so that they can make the world better for them? Quite a few people do these things. Service out of love requires understanding the people you’re trying to help, and therefore requires empathy and exposure to suffering.

    I can understand being exposed to suffering having positive effects when it comes as a byproduct of serving others, although I think there are practical limits to what most of us can endure and still function. I can’t understand intentional exposure to simulated suffering for its own sake.

    2. Photos do not a story make. Do not empathy make.

    If you’re saying that studying real-world problems isn’t going to be as fully engaging to the senses as the top-tier production quality of Game of Thrones (in HD and with surround sound) then of course I agree with you. Entertainment is, by definition, designed to engage us and Game of Thrones is top-notch entertainment.

    But there is the little problem that all that empathy it generates is for fictional characters. I guess the theory is that you feel really bad for what happens to Ned Stark and then transfer that sadness to some nameless, faceless individual out there in the real world (somewhere) who had a run of really bad luck, but I’m not sure exactly what the exchange rate on sadness from make-believe worlds to the empathy is, or how it is possible to empathize with hypothetical, generic individuals instead of real-life human beings.

    3. Who are these people filling their bucket of life with only the “darkest and coldest waters?”

    I wasn’t describing a person or group of people. I was illustrating a principle. You could, hypothetically, fill your bucket with nothing but misery and suffering and every single experience would be true. But the total collection wouldn’t be representative of the real world. So when someone says that something is accurate, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is enlightening.

    4. Fiction should then only serve to show how the world really doesn’t work?

    Far from delineating the appropriate uses of fiction (not something I’m remotely interested in attempting), I was just pointing out that one function of narrative-building is to react against the powerlessness we all feel in a universe that is often arbitrary, callous, senseless, and devoid of meaning (at least from our limited perspective and in the short run). We react to the lack of meaning by creating meaning. That is one central function of narrative. This is primarily true in our individual lives, not in our fiction. But it is also true in fiction. Fiction, at least according to one school of thought I admire, is about using un-true events and characters to reveal truth. It does this by creating meaning.

    The philosophy of George R. R. Martin, by contrast, is essentially anti-artistic. He uses all the bells and whistles to engross an audience (and the HBO showrunners up that anti by adding more sex and specifically more rape to keep everyone’s attention) but the overall project is nihilistic. There is no meaning. There is no purpose. it strikes me as nihilism wrapped in neon lights (which, I must admit, are crafted exquisitely. George R. R. Martin can write, let there be no doubt of that!)

  4. CSpence on May 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    I don’t need excuses to watch this awesome show. However, I do watch the censored version (sans sex and nudity) downloadable via torrents.

  5. Jonathan on May 3, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Nathaniel: To build on your point, I am reminded of a C. S. Lewis quote (which I will paraphrase). ‘We don’t read fairy tales to know that dragons exist — just looking around us in the world will show us that is true. We read fairy tales to know that dragons can be defeated.’

    That is my problem with Game of Thrones (the books…I don’t have HBO) — there is plenty of time spent looking at evil and no time dedicated to the proposition that evil can be defeated. But whether it be in the real world or in fiction, evil can be defeated.

  6. Brian Larsen on May 3, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Thanks for the response.

    1. Quite a few does not equal the amount who watch Game of Thrones. Also, as you noted in your first response, being exposed to simulated suffering may actually sensitize some people. So, while you do not find it helpful, I am simply pointing out that massive fictionalized exposure to suffering may in fat be very, very good–though, admittedly, not for everyone. The history of literature is, to be simple, just such exposure.

    2. Actually, quite a few recent studies in neuroscience suggest a very strong relation to an increase in empathy after people read literary fiction, which if full of suffering.

    3. One could hypothetical “do” all sorts of things and they would illustrate all sorts of principles. So, as you said, just because someone could fill their bucket with “darkness and coldness” it doesn’t means fiction that exposes people to darkness and coldness should be avoided. Again, I think you understand this. I just don’t understand why you feel the need to make such a claim.

    4. We will need to agree to disagree here, viz. fiction’s role in creating meaning; nihilism. (It’s a very long conversation dealing with abstract terminology (art, truth, meaning)). If, however, as you noted, people can watch Game of Thrones in safety and then go back to their comfortable, predicable lives–then perhaps the “nihilism” of the movie may just spur catharsis. A very moralizing force. Again, the history of fictitious literature.

    As you may have noted, I didn’t address your comments on pornography. I won’t and don’t feel the need. The OP was, primarily as I read it, about suffering. Suffering and understanding suffering (via proxy) are two of the greatest tools we have to learn charity in this life. I’m just trying to expand on the my view of the OP’s explanation, which you you said you didn’t understand. I don’t know that I have much more to say;–and I’m definitely not saying everyone should go watch Game of Thrones: I’m just trying to help share a few reasons why some people might and why it may not be as “depraved” as it might first appear.

  7. Brian Larsen on May 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Jonathan: I don’t need to read a book to know that rapists, murderers, etc. exist. We may need to read books, however, to know what that means in real terms (human cost) and thus be willing to defeat them.

  8. Sarah Familia on May 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    #4 CSpence, this is not so much my excuse for watching it as one of the reasons I find it so compelling. No excuses necessary.

    #1 & #3 Nathaniel, of course I didn’t expect you to relate to my experience with Game of Thrones, since yours is obviously very different. I’m merely providing an alternative reading, so to speak.

    Narratives that create empathy are extraordinarily important. Anyone who has ever worked with an NGO knows that giving a human face to a problem is the first step toward generating the resources to solve it. It is probably true that not everyone who watches Game of Thrones thinks of Syria. But I do, and it impacts me powerfully. If reading my post helps someone else to do the same, then that has value to me.

    I read a lot of Thomas Hardy too, not because I revel in suffering and despair, but because it opens my heart and mind to experiences and points of view that are very different from mine. I feel a hunger to plumb the depths of the human experience as well as soaring to its heights. I guess in a small way it’s along the lines of what motivated Christ to descend below all things so he could have ultimate empathy for us. When he was alone on the cross asking why God had forsaken him, I wonder how close he came to nihilism himself. I wonder if it is possible to really appreciate faith if one hasn’t felt at one time or another a strong temptation toward nihilism. The problem of evil is not a trite or trivial one, and any theodicy that fails to take into account the depth of evidence in favor of ultimate chaos and meaninglessness risks vacuousness.

    The people who really catch my interest in Game of Thrones, as you could tell from my examples, are the ones who are trapped and helpless and good, and surrounded by evil. They don’t defeat the evil around them; they are often defeated by it. But they retain somehow their basic humanity, their honor, their goodness. I am amazed by it, and humbled, just as I am amazed and humbled by the people who survive the unspeakable tragedies of our real world. Sometimes defeating evil is simply refusing to become it. And sometimes, when hope is gone, we must soldier on without hope and without expectation of future deliverance, simply because there is a spark within us that refuses to go out.

  9. Jean @ Howling Frog on May 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    That’s why I read history and current issues. For entertainment, I find reality quite depressing enough that I prefer my fiction to be on the cheerful side, or at least historically based.

  10. Jean @ Howling Frog on May 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Funnily enough, the thing I read right after this piece also turned out to be about Game of Thrones: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2014/05/cersei-lannister-rape-culture-and-a-lot-of-me-flipping-the-bird-in-general/ (er, some language in there), and now I’m on this very-funny-but-LOTS-of-language piece, http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/08/26/enter-ye-myne-mystic-world-of-gayng-raype-what-the-r-stands-for-in-george-r-r-martin/ I didn’t know much about Game of Thrones before, but now I feel very educated.

  11. John on May 3, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I could have written a post very much like this and called it “Why I Listen To Rap Music”. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  12. Martin Holden on May 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    I have read the books and think they are brilliant and for that reason I have watched a few minutes of Game Of Thrones on more than one occasion but always end up switching to another channel because of the nudity and language. Perhaps it is just me but in the books I can just gloss over those many occasions in which sex and swearing occur but I find I can’t do that while watching tv. I’m not sure that I agree with this blogs argument but if I want to be reminded of the evil in the world I will read the books or watch the news.

  13. Riley on May 3, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    When Azor Ahai (Jon Snow) is reborn amidst smoke and salt wielding the flaming sword Lightbringer to defend the world from R’hllor’s nemesis, the Other (White Walkers), then there will be a happy ending!

  14. Dq on May 3, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    I don’t buy it. I see the lure of the rationale but I think it’s just that all too easy to rationalize our choices (desire for entertainment) into an acceptable format.

    What’s the fruit of game of thrones? More charitable behavior? Christ showed us the way through his deeds and his response to tragedy inflicted upon him should heighten our empathy of tragedy. I find it strange that we have the pinnacle of virtue and service and love on one hand to inspire us to follow him and on the other the absolutely worst moral depravity (as entertainment no less) being defended as inspiring good works and a changed heart.

    I just don’t buy it. I think you’re quite frankly faced with the dissonance of turning away from the truth your soul knows when you indulge in the show so you’re trying to rationalize as not being so bad. Would you describe the show as being godly or godlike? If now why turn to it or justify it.

    Don’t get me wrong, on a continuum of watching xzy non graphic action movie and this show, I’d say they’re both ungodly and not ideal choices for a disciple of Christ. One is further down the path on the wrong continuum, and we all indulge in these things to various degrees as we yield to the imperfections of the natural man.

    But don’t try to convince me this show is not something you’ll ultimately be better for putting off on the path of discipleship where you become a saint through the atonement of Christ. To saw otherwise really seems to miss the essence of the point of the plan of salvation.

  15. Nathan Whilk on May 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    It’s hard to square your love for the NC-17 Game of Thrones with the 1-star rating you gave _Maze Runner_ because it “was way too scary. I was always afraid that something horrible was about to happen, and most of the time it did.”

    Me, I only buy HBO for the articles.

  16. Casey on May 4, 2014 at 12:21 am

    I wrote about my GoT love a while back (linked in my name if anyone cares), and while I don’t feel particularly compelled to justify it–it’s good, I like it, it’s got content that’s potentially objectionable, and that’s that–I am interested in the generally taxonomy of “objectionable-ness” where graphic sex is worse than nudity alone, which is worse than implied sex, which is worse than language, which is (often) worse than violence. That’s definitely true in a Mormon context, but also more broadly in American entertainment. I’ll leave it to others to parse out what that means and whether it even holds true in all cases, and meanwhile I don’t object to anyone feeling GoT is a little too extreme for them in exchange for the courtesy of not questioning my discipleship too harshly because I feel differently!

  17. Martin James on May 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Moralistic fantasies are just another form of porn.

  18. rameumptom on May 5, 2014 at 10:11 am

    So, from how I gather your reasons: because girls in Nigeria are being kidnapped, we should watch Game of Thrones??? That is a crazy analogy. Better to say we should get involved in the tragedies of life and solve them, than to engage in fantasy worlds of debauchery and desecration. Why not spend your time reading/watching the real stuff, and then do something about it? I personally think it does desensitize us. At best, it distracts us from what is really happening – turning the real tragedies into just more entertainment to watch in shock, and then move on to the next show. I’m with Nathanael – I’m not watching it.

  19. Martin James on May 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I don’t watch tv but…

    Your examples of pain and suffering and evil all seem to be surprisingly external. I think it is an open question about what we should seek out to see and know about, but the evil that matters most and I would say almost exclusively matters is the evil that we do ourselves.

    Your model seems to be that the way for us to avoid evil is to gird ourselves against meaninglessness and suffering and avoid becoming desensitized and hopeless. I’m sympathetic to that model but it seems overly reactive and it seems one-sided and not focused on our own motivations and evil desires.

    The question to me is what gives us insight to the evil desires to which we are blind without simply gratifying those evil desires and making them acceptable.

    I think it is unique to each person what awakes them to the fact that “them is us” when it comes to evil. After all, if we were all such wholesome creatures why given the affluence and predictability that we have, do we long for drama and fiction. After all, to desire a reprieve from powerlessness is a form of a will-to-power.

  20. Christian J on May 6, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Sarah, I don’t want to turn this into a highfalutin lecture on the superiority of the books. But, I found the violence and sexuality to be much more matter of fact in print. It may be the nature of tv/film/photography, but I’ve found the show giving it too much weight.

    And I think the best reason to read this compelling story of anguish and striving and loss is for art’s sake. For the beauty of great literature. I read it for the same reason I go see Gauguin or RIOULT or Joseph Arthur. And that’s the only reason I need.

  21. Tim on May 6, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I also read it because it’s fantastic literature.

    And because I’m inspired by the triumph of goodness of some of the characters, particularly some of the Starks. In the face of so much evil and defeat, they continue to be strong moral characters. That, to me, is the real triumph of good over evil.

  22. Josh Smith on May 6, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    I have absolutely no concern with whether anyone watches Game of Thrones, or not. It sounds like a compelling series. I’m engrossed in a series myself, and I’m the last person who gets to cast judgment on another’s television fetish.

    Can Game of Thrones help us better understanding evil and suffering … by vicariously living fictional evil and suffering? I doubt it. Is Game of Thrones compelling because I can “safely” observe evil and suffering via theater? You bet. Fictional evil and suffering makes great theater.

    Game of Thrones is a world imagined by George R. R. Martin. He sounds like a wonderfully creative fellow and a fabulous story teller. Am I going to refer to Mr. Martin to educate my conscience regarding suffering in Syria and Nigeria? Nope. I don’t need Martin’s imaginary world for that.

  23. Raymond Takashi Swenson on May 9, 2014 at 2:22 am

    HBO has far more nudity than the books. On the other hand, the violence and sheer evil described in the books would become nauseating if fully depicted on screen.

    Martin was inspired to write these stories based on a medieval hstory of France and the machinations of real people to walk over anyone, including their family members, to grasp and hold power. I doubt that anyone in his right mind would want to live in Westeros permanently. There is no community anywhere in that world that embodies peace and love, no people who envision life without recurring warfare. It is like the most extreme cultures amongst the Nephites and Lamanites, and the suicidal, fratricidal Jaredites. It is like the Warring States era in Japan. It is like the worst of the conquests that were performed by Mongols and others. If we do not feel our hearts break for the people who lived in those cultures, we need to ask why not.

  24. Wm on May 9, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    “Can Game of Thrones help us better understanding evil and suffering … by vicariously living fictional evil and suffering? I doubt it. Is Game of Thrones compelling because I can “safely” observe evil and suffering via theater? You bet.”

    Unless you’re actively on the front lines of horrific world events*, non-fictional experiences of the world are just as vicarious, mediated and narrativized as fiction.

    The jury is still out on what A Song of Ice & Fire’s final worldview is (I’ve only read the books and have no plans to watch the HBO series), and I may, in the end, find it to be emptier than I had hoped, but so far it does show three things quite strongly:

    1. The difficulties of creating safe spaces for good and the dangers of underestimating the ruthless/power hungry.

    2. The danger of squabbling over fleeting power when there are larger dangers looming.

    3. The futility of vengeance.

    *And even then, anyone commenting here is not going to actually be fully inhabiting the world in which these events are occurring.

  25. Josh Smith on May 9, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    In the interest of generating a bit of debate …

    Wm (#24):

    My point is that real people telling real experiences is ample to educate my conscience regarding evil and suffering. Martin’s imagined world is entertaining, but it is completely unnecessary to teach us about evil and suffering.

    The original post suggests that Game of Thrones somehow has something of meaning to add to the real life experiences of people in Nigeria and Syria. That’s nonsense. If we want to have compassion for people in Nigeria and Syria, then we need to hear from those people.

    Saying Game of Thrones gives us added understanding to real life suffering trivializes what is real. Can you imagine talking to a survivor of WWII and saying, “Wow, I saw Saving Private Ryan. You really went through hell.”? Of course not.

    … again, just interested in a bit of debate. Any tone of contention is merely for debate purposes. Nothing personal.

  26. Cameron N. on May 9, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    ^ Agreed.

    This seems a bit disingenuous or self-deceiving. Should we watch porn so we can empathize more with sex workers or porn viewers and their woes?

    Learning about things ‘as they really are’ trumps such ideas, in my humble opinion.

  27. Wm on May 10, 2014 at 9:28 am

    “My point is that real people telling real experiences is ample to educate my conscience regarding evil and suffering.”

    Real people telling real experiences is still a mediated, narrativized mode that is more closely akin to fiction than lived experience.

    I’m not claiming that there is some great universal good that George R.R. Martin is doing (and, in fact, I don’t endorse the HBO show at all; nor would I recommend the books too everybody, as in most things related to art, your mileage may vary).

    What you are saying is true to your personal experience, your conscience. Does that mean that is true to all experiences and consciences? How would you prove that? What we have in this thread is conflicting testimony. Why should I believe yours above anyone else’s? And I do believe your testimony. I just don’t see it as the only possible one.

    “This seems a bit disingenuous or self-deceiving. Should we watch porn so we can empathize more with sex workers or porn viewers and their woes?”

    Hyperbole much?

  28. Stephen R. Marsh on May 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    ” guess I’m just not interested in fictionalized suffering for its own sake. To me it seems pornographic. Porn, after all, is about skimming the superficial sensory stimulation”

    Pretty much answers it for me. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had more time to watch television.

  29. Stephen R. Marsh on May 10, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    As to the books, I forced myself to come back and read the rest to fit in with office discussions. But the first book has such a shifting sense of scale (is that wandering military unit a platoon, a brigade, a squad or a division in size?). The author does get a better grip, sometimes, later on (and has huge failures there too from time to time).

  30. Ray on May 10, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Not as an endorsement of the show, but:

    Saying the show has too much sex and violence generally is something that can be said from a position of relative safety or the other extreme. As the post says, that is life for far too many people on this planet. One way or another, it is good to “see” that reality, since, personally, I still avoid doing something about it.

    I do what I can to help the struggling, but I simply can’t force myself yet to do what my heart tells me I should.

  31. SilverRain on May 11, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I find it interesting how passionately people defend their choice of violent and explicit entertainment. Sorry, but the lessons that can be learned about human suffering don’t require storytelling. You don’t have to travel to Africa, and you certainly don’t have to subscribe to HBO.

    You want to understand evil and human suffering? Simply open your eyes. No matter how privileged a life we live, there are those in our wards, on our streets, whose lives are waking nightmares.

    You can’t buy a valid sense of moral superiority or intelligence. You gain understanding of human suffering only when you condescend, as Christ did, to mourn with those who mourn, to comfort them, and to stand as His witness by being His hands on this earth. Immerse yourself in the sorrows of your world, minister to the broken hearted and you will find more wisdom than you could ever find in the pages of fiction or by hearing tales from distant places across the sea.

  32. Josh Smith on May 12, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Just a quick note to say I’m not grumpy or put out by any of the comments here or the original post.

    I also probably don’t have anything intelligent to add to the thread. Let’s see if I can muster something …

    Isn’t the basis of all Western literature evil and suffering? I mean, if we mitigate evil and suffering in our fiction, then what are we left with? Teletubbies? We need serious, genuine conflict or we don’t have stories.

    That’s the best I can do this morning. Have a great day, all.

  33. Kaimi on June 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

    It seems like a lot of the criticisms of Game of Thrones in this thread — we don’t need to watch an account of suffering and wrong, etc. — could apply to a large amount of great literature. Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and so on. If the child-directed violence of George Martin bothers you, wait till you get to Medea.

    There’s a reason why these stories are powerful, and have been cultural touchstones for millennia.

  34. Acidhedz on July 15, 2014 at 9:38 am

    People watch things because they enjoy it. There is no other reason. If you didn’t like it, you wouldn’t watch it.
    In order to enjoy something like game of thrones you must be a barbaric degenerate.

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