It’s easy to see why Game of Thrones is so popular. Although some have difficulty following its complex plot, it’s exactly this complexity which make this show so compelling; its multiple intertwining storylines and sudden character deaths create a sense of heightened reality for the viewer.
Violence, sex, and love exist side by side, intensifying each other, sometimes colliding as a symptom of the fleeting nature of life in Westeros. Game of Thrones gives us everything we do not have in our own lives – a sense of adventure, danger, political scheming for the seven kingdoms, and of course, the existence of magic and dragons.
The most-recent fourth season has quickly escalated into the high tension atmosphere that viewers expect from the series. With shocks at every turn, it does not disappoint.
The characters who have survived now seem to possess immense strength and determination. This survivalist aspect of the story and the vast array of landscapes and kingdoms are very intriguing for students who grew up with Lord of the Rings.
Game of Thrones frequently elicits gushing excitement from many Carls. Because the show is a long-term series with new surprises each week, it allows for students to gather together for weekly viewing parties, creating a community around the show and its culture.
“The Knights’ Watch,” an on-campus group devoted to the viewing of the show, facilitates these gatherings among students and encourages viewers to get their friends interested. To get a glimpse into the Game of Thrones culture on campus, I contacted a few members of the club to get their perspective.
Lord-Commander of the Knight’s Watch
I would just say that everyone I have heard from has had a really great time coming. It was a long wait for the new season and having a designated time and great venue, along with good company, makes an epic show feel like even more of a big deal.
And I think that people who are new to the show would definitely have a good time, along with the Old Guard. Although we heartily welcome anyone, whether or not they have seen previous seasons, I do feel like watching the fourth season of a very complex show out of context takes away from the experience somewhat. And if there were a smaller group that would be interested in watching earlier seasons in the epic fashion that they deserve, I would be more than happy to help make that happen for them. HBO has been extremely understanding and helpful to us, and they allow public showings of any of their shows, including earlier seasons of Game of Thrones, at no cost for licensing.
As for what GoT means to Carleton, I can’t speak for all but I can give my best guess from my personal experience. But I think the attitude of Carleton complements the style of Game of Thrones very well. That is, they are unapologetically confident in their own identity, whether or not it’s the norm. Also, it is just a much more thought-provoking show than most on TV today, because (using myself as an example) I find myself rooting simultaneously for opposing sides in the same conflict, which I can never remember doing for other media. And I think as a statement about what the enthusiasm says about Carleton, that it helps show that Carls know what they like and are not afraid to get excited about it. An excellent trait, if you ask me.
But to answer your questions, we have averaged a little over 200 students at our first two showings, even though we had some scheduling conflicts at our last showing, when the Spanish movie club had already reserved the Weitz.
And there are a ton of things I find very interesting about Game of Thrones, but the biggest reason that I have stayed so involved in it is that it is a very realistic story; while most fantasy worlds very clearly establish their hero, where everyone not with them is against them, the characters of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire (the novels the show is based on) are almost never clearly good or bad. No one character is the protagonist. The fan favorites have their bad qualities, just as characters I formerly hated have some very strong redeeming qualities.
Additionally, in the words of George R. R. Martin, “No one is safe.” He has a reputation for killing off key characters at any time. This has encouraged me to get even more invested in the story, since I truly worry about my favorite characters, as they might not even survive the season, let alone “win” the Game of Thrones.
Knight’s Watch Viewer
I really enjoy going to the showings because the energy is so high. It’s a lot more fun than just watching it alone in my room (the big screen is a vast improvement over my MacBook screen).
Having read the books, it’s great to be around people who haven’t read them and have no idea what’s coming-- their surprise can be even more amusing than the actual show (and boy is season 4 full of surprises!). It’s hilarious to hear people speculating about what’s going to happen after each episode airs while I just silently laugh to myself like “not even close”. It’s definitely a show that breeds a lot of deep discussion, which is why it’s nice to watch with other people.
I think this club is so successful because it is such a popular show. It reaches such a wide audience--it certainly isn’t just for people who are into fantasy as a genre.
I usually hate fantasy, but for some reason the books and the show (which has done a really good job adapting and staying true to the books, in my opinion) just really click with me. I think it’s because the characters are so complex, which kind of defies the black and white “good vs. evil” you see in a lot of fantasy (at least in my experience; I’m sure a lot of people here would be outraged to hear me say that).
There are also all these subtle conversations in the show about what it means to be in a position of power; whether the ends ever justify the means in war; how feminism, sexuality, and gender roles interact with leadership and power; and whether people are inherently good or evil (just to name a few). It’s quite a complex and intelligent story, with good writing both in the books and the show. I think Carleton students appreciate that. I also think they appreciate the chance to watch the show without having to steal their roommate’s HBOGO account.
If someone hasn’t watched the shows yet, I would tell them to just give it a shot, especially if you don’t usually like fantasy! But you definitely have to start from the beginning, otherwise you will be totally lost.
I also strongly recommend that you read the books before watching the show, because there is just so much more depth there that gives you a greater understanding of the characters and the plot. Of course, lots of people get by without reading the books, but I think you’re selling yourself short if you don’t read them.