Monday, February 16, 2015

What does the popularity of HBO's Game Of Thrones say about Humanity?

Consider these facts:

Number of countries in the world = 196

Number of United Nations member states = 193

Number of countries viewing the 2015 Super Bowl  = 180

Number of countries viewing HBO Game of Thrones = 193

Should we doubt the veracity of HBO's claim? I don't know, but even if this number is a bit stretched, it would still seem that Game of Thrones is insanely popular. Possibly one of the most popular TV series of all time. It's certainly one of my favorites.

[As an aside, I was curious about which three countries don't watch Game of Thrones? I searched the web but could find no answer.]

In case you aren't aware, the show is based on author George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy saga, "A Song of Ice and Fire," which is currently a five book series.

Makes me wonder, what must it be like for viewers in some of those other countries?

"Faster! Must be in front of TV by Sunday at 9 PM."
photo credit: via photopin (license)

Frightened from watching the show, bush children scan the sky for dragons.
photo credit: Kgalagadi via photopin (license)

Brutal, man, I can't watch this red wedding scene.
photo credit: via photopin (license)

Some other interesting facts gleaned from the HBO documentary, Game of Thrones Season 5, a Day in the Life which speak to the scope of the show.

Number of countries where season 5 is being filmed = 5
The documentary showed scenes from Dubrovnik, Croatia; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Seville, Spain; Osuna, Spain.

Number of sets used for filming = 151

Number of cast members = 166

Number of crew members = approximately 1,000

Number of extras = 5,000

Number of people who applied to be an extra = 85,000

Is it any wonder that the average budget for each episode is reported to be six million dollars. Obviously, HBO wouldn't continue to spend this kind of cash unless it received high ratings which begs the question, why is this show so appealing? What does it say about 21st century humans who are so enthralled with this fantasy?

Let me put it in perspective...

Perhaps the answer lies with the parallel to reality. I won't get into specific examples so as not to spoil things for those who haven't had a chance to watch the show or read the books. If you are already a fan, you'll understand what I'm writing about.

Unlike most stories, Game of Thrones has no leading protagonist and no specific antagonist. The many contenders for the Iron Throne engage in constantly shifting alliances to achieve their ends. Once won, the victor's claim to the throne is always tenuous at best. Can we not see this same thing happening in the real world?

Then there exists the moral ambiguity of the characters. Individuals in the ensemble cast are portrayed as neither all good nor all bad. They struggle with right and wrong from their own unique points-of-view. Morally centered characters often rationalize evil deeds. Evil characters are capable of showing kindness. There is both religious zealotry and moral debauchery. The helpless masses struggle to survive while caught up in the socio-political turmoil. They are just like us.

Game of Thrones is no fairy tale. There is no happily ever after. As viewers, we become attached to charismatic individuals, those with whom we can maybe identify with. Those characters die, or in most cases they are brutally slain. In real life, our dreams sometimes die, too.

Although fantasy, Game of Thrones reflects the larger game of life. No matter our similarities, differences, cultural preferences, or political persuasions we can live vicariously through the made up characters in that world. They allow us to feel comfortable with our own shortcomings.

Do you agree or am I off base? Feel free to comment.

Game of Thrones, Season 5 begins April 12, 2015 on HBO.

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