HBO has this series titled Game of Thrones. The show has become quite popular. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Contemptuous non-viewers ridicule it as weird dragon porn. Enthusiasts recognize it as a compelling fusion of sex, violence, and realpolitik. Great cinematography, very good acting, and a loosely interpreted literary basis grant it a respectability beyond those baser appeals.
Game of Thrones has a refreshing absence of symbolism and subtlety. It requires neither think pieces nor theories. It’s pure entertainment. It avoids the prevalent trap of getting so caught up in its own camp that it loses credulity and becomes unwatchable. (‘Sup, House of Cards?)
The Internet loves it some GoT. Content purveyors of all stripes have noticed this. Recaps, analysis, and reaction podcasts are everywhere. The show’s appeal is part of the reason I’m fleshing this rant into blog post length. Outlets must push that timely GoT content on Twitter.com, especially in July/August. I get it.
Here’s the thing. It’s 2017. Non-sports appointment television no longer exists. The M*A*S*H finale will not disappear into the ether for a few decades if you miss it. People can and should be able to watch scripted television when it suits them and on whatever device they choose. We even have a term — “linear television” — to demarcate huddling around the television as something old, passé people do.
— The Pixel Factor (@ThePixelFactor) August 4, 2017
Game of Thrones defies this trend somewhat. Airing on summer Sunday nights minimizes scheduling conflicts. Many do congregate with other humans in front of a large, traditional screen at an appointed time. But that can’t stop us from upholding the standards of an “on demand” society.
Some like to bank up episodes for one “binge.” Some are traveling. Some want something to look forward to on a Monday. Some have a partner who doesn’t stay up late at the best of times and really can’t do so when 39 weeks pregnant. The reason is irrelevant. The point is that we’ve won the battle to not watch television at the precise time the network man wants us to, unless it is sports.
Society has accepted the “spoiler alert” as a principle in nearly every other context. It’s not a concept taken ad absurdum. One can discuss the Sopranos ending by now. One can deploy the Red Wedding as an analogy. (Though it’s been done. Stop it.) But an acceptable grace period is presumed. One waits at least a few days before blabbing about intricate plot revelations to one’s six-figure social media following. Let the people who care catch up.
Note: the pod may be offline for 5-10 minutes because we had to edit out @jonlovett‘s Game of Thrones spoiler. He’s doing great.
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) August 7, 2017
Of course, 2017 has been a year for the rapid erosion of reasonable, well-established norms. Any compunctions about spoiling “Game of Thrones” have been cast aside.
Shared headlines give away GoT plot developments. People debate said plot points over open channels. People drop episode references into unrelated conversations. Your favorite political podcast will drop a GoT spoiler, during the opening seconds, in the middle of the ad read. (Thanks, Jon Lovett.) The tiptoeing through a minefield comparison no longer works. Avoiding GoT spoilers is cowering in the face of a firebombing.
— James Hibberd (@JamesHibberd) August 7, 2017
No one is making me go on social media. (Well, my job is.) Technically, I could stay off, just as I could avoid the “water cooler” in my physical office space, get my news spoiler-free from my broadsheet newspaper, and instruct all of my friends not to IM me about it in the immediate aftermath.
And, really, what does a GoT spoiler even mean anymore? The show is not going to cut out Sopranos-style during the decisive battle. Humanity dying would be incredibly bleak. The show has boxed itself into one broad, plausible outcome. The individual episodes now are just spicing up the corner-rounding process required to get there.
Still, as in real life, things would be better if everyone could be a tad more considerate of others. And by “others,” I mean me. Things would be better if everyone could be a tad more considerate of my needs. Stop ruining Game of Thrones for me before I can watch it, you jerks.