I Love 'Game Of Thrones' But I HATE 'Game Of Thrones' Fans
Game of Thrones has always been a show that arouses strong emotions, and with the series only one episode away from its grand finale, those emotions are running higher than ever.
The penultimate episode, in which -- SPOILER ALERT -- a certain Mother of Dragons committed certain acts which could only reasonably be described as war crimes, has pushed sections of the fandom beyond “high emotion” and all the way to “maniacal screeching”.
Put simply, a lot of people HATE the way Game of Thrones has gone in its final season, to the extent that there is now a Change.org petition -- with 101,000 signatures and counting -- demanding HBO remake the entire eighth season “with competent writers”.
That’s right: there are tens of thousands of people in this world who genuinely believe, firstly, that there is a realistic chance of a corporation spending millions and millions of dollars on a do-over of a TV show they already did, and secondly, that if they don’t like a show the best response is to whine about it till someone does it the way they want to.
Now, the criticisms of the latest developments in Game of Thrones are inherently ridiculous of course, because actually Daenerys’ descent into darkness has been heavily foreshadowed for several years, if not from the beginning, and the show has always been about the terrible consequences in investing too much power in the hands of a single person, and the corruptibility of humanity is a central theme, and it’s ridiculous to suppose that a show like Game of Thrones was going to end “happily”, and…
No! See what these people made me do? They’ve made me engage with them.
The stuck-pig squealing of malcontent GoT fans has sucked me into a dialogue with their pointless, petty nitpicking. I promised myself I wouldn’t, but the screeching got so loud I couldn’t help myself, and I started to screech back.
Because of course, I’m a fan too. And I have strong emotions about the show too. I even have opinions about what the show does and doesn’t do, and what it could’ve done better. But my firmest opinion about Game of Thrones is that I like it. I love it. I enjoy watching it. It brings me enormous pleasure. But what does not bring me any pleasure at all is other fans.
Frankly, the worst thing about the show, from my perspective, is the other people who watch it.
I’m not saying the GoT fandom is ruining GoT: I’m just saying that they make me wish there were a psychotic dragon queen willing to dispense some cleansing fire here in this world too.
In theory, it shouldn’t be this way. A fan should enjoy engaging with other fans, talking about their passions, bonding over a shared commitment to a cultural phenomenon. But what actually happens whenever I come into contact with fellow fans is a powerful itching sensation at the back of my brain as my fingers involuntarily start to seek out a blunt instrument.
This is not exclusive to Game of Thrones fandom, by the way. For “Game of Thrones fans who consider Daenerys’s heel turn a personal betrayal”, you could substitute “Breaking Bad fans who think the ending didn’t make sense” or “Avengers fans trying to pick apart the logic of time travel” or “Simpsons fans who hate The Simpsons”. In fact, that latter group seems to be a huge part of a lot of fandoms: going by online commentary, Doctor Who, for example, is watched exclusively by people who can’t stand it.
Why do fans have to be like this? Why do they have to rail against the thing they claim to love? The answer, I think, is that when you grow to love something, you start to believe it was made just for you -- to your exact specifications. So that when it turns out the creators actually have their own ideas for what their creation should be, and they turn it into something that doesn’t align precisely with the version that you had constructed in your mind’s eye, you take it as a personal insult.
Of course, that’s madness. When faced with a TV show or movie or book or game or anything that doesn’t turn out the way you expected, there are several possible responses. You might go, “Ah, that’s an interesting way to go with it”. You might go, “Wow, this is so much better than I imagined!” You might go, “I don’t like this, I think I’ll stop watching/reading/listening/playing”. You might even go, “This is not perfect and I have noticed several flaws, but despite my ability to identify and critique these flaws, I do enjoy it and I accept others may differ in their assessment.”
All of those responses are entirely reasonable. What is unreasonable is to go, “This is UNACCEPTABLE. You have SPIT IN THE FACE of your loyal fans. This is an INSULT to EVERYTHING that this piece of popular entertainment STANDS FOR. I demand you CHANGE EVERYTHING to match my preconceptions or I will CRY LIKE A BABY.”
But that is what fandom is. It’s not people celebrating something they love. It’s people refusing to accept any work of fiction that isn’t identical to the work of fiction they’d have written. It’s people expending energy on hating something that they could instead have used to find something else they like better.
It’s people, to borrow the phrase of the immortal William Shatner, who need to get a life.
It really sucks to say this. I am a fan of many things. It’s a great shame that my love for various TV series, movie franchises and books has been the cause of my ever-intensifying hatred for a large swathe of my fellow human beings. But the simple fact is that fans are jerks, and the best way to enjoy anything is to avoid any contact whatsoever with anyone else who also enjoys it.
Watch your shows in solitude: any other way madness lies.
After the final Game of Thrones episode drops, we are going to be flooded with a mighty tsunami of tweets, reviews, YouTube rants and think-pieces on what was wrong with it, what it should’ve been instead, why the showrunners are talentless morons, and how the missteps of the writers’ room has set back the cause of progressive politics 50 years.
You probably won’t be able to completely avoid this tide. But when you see it, take a deep breath, count to 10, and remember that you love the show far too much to become a fan.