I am a fan of medieval fantasy, but I don’t watch, or read, Game of Thrones. I love the works of Tolkien. I’m an Elder Scrolls obsessive. I thought the Warcraft movie was a thumping good time. I enjoy Narnia, Willow, The Princess Bride, even my secret shame, the Harry Potter films. I like swords, bows, elves, wizards, dragons, magic, enchanted forests and talking animals.
My fantasy palate is broad enough to make me a bull’s-eye for HBO’s commissioning editors. But I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Those teeming Hodor memes will remain a mystery to me. For now.
By birth year I am a reluctant millennial (I’m 35). Millennials are more sensitive to being marketed to than so called Gen X-ers. Authenticity is what drives a millennial’s patronage. An algorithm can predict what I want to buy but if someone could read your mind, would you want them to?
That sensitivity extends to the notion of a target demographic. There is a tipping point where wish-fulfilment shape shifts into icky cynical marketing. Feeling, ‘this is for me’ is more comfortable than realising, ‘I am the target for this’.
HBO’s Game of Thrones takes a workmanlike approach to snaring the teenage boy demographic. Adults meanwhile can intellectualize its facile titillation with a ready political subtext.
The English actor Ian McShane summed Game of Thrones up with breath-taking brevity. “It’s only tits and dragons”. No matter how friends prosthelytize for the show, that description feels like the final word.
It’s a description I’m not comfortable with. Are tits and dragons how I want to spend my time? It’s certainly not how my wife (my main couch companion) wants to spend her time. That is part of why it makes me uncomfortable.
Game of Thrones’s merits are obedient to a paper thin marketing conceit. Someone somewhere has decided that what I need is a show about tits and dragons. That same someone has calculated that such a prospect needs to be de-shamed. It needs to be gritty. It needs to be serious. It needs to be adult.
I can feel the presence of that calculation and like the rubber stamped millennial I am, it makes me heave. It feels the same as when Google Ads figure out that I want to buy artisanal hand-made slippers for hipsters, before I do. I’ll bet if I did watch it, HBO’s calculations about me would be borne out. I’d enjoy it. I might even become a fan.
But that initial allergic reaction has left me six seasons in the hole. I can’t fill that hole without first embracing a prurient interest in tits and dragons. The time investment is in fierce competition with less opaque attempts on my attention.
It’s inevitable I’ll watch it some day. Maybe when I’m a dirty old man.