What makes HBO’s Game of Thrones such an overwhelming success?
We know the series is a hit because HBO has already made plans to air season four next year.
Ardent fans of the show have taken issue with me for suggesting that the show’s appeal is partly a triumph of our fascination with costumes, foreign accents, Vikings, historical pieces and, of course, the nudity. But it is also an amalgam of creativity and vivid originality, a highly successful adaptation of the books. I grant you that it is heartwarming for me to observe how much people love this show, Sunday after Sunday.
I accept all of these factors. And yet …
I also wonder if Game of Thrones is quite possibly a triumph of what I like to call Geek Chic.
Geek Chic is a difficult concept to pin down, but it definitely exists. I suspect that people who swore by Pink Floyd’s The Wall, all six thousand of the Star Wars sequels and The Hunger Games (more on this theme coming at another time) find a kinship in the Game of Thrones cult. People love to see science fiction run amok. The concept that I leanred in (high) school — the willing suspension of disbelief — is in full flower here.
It is largely a private club. Its fans grow impatient with neophytes’ questions and — perish the thought — critiques.
I put forth this notion to one of my Indiewire colleagues, who loves Game of Thrones and animatedly makes a case for its ample popularity. He read the books and understands all of the show’s nuances. This is what he had to say when we talked about Game of Thrones and Geek Chic:
It’s incredibly dense and jumps storylines every scene. The often awkward exposition barely manages to keep viewers who haven’t read the books abreast of what’s going on. And that exposition isn’t for episodes or scenes you may have missed; it’s for plot points the showrunners didn’t have the time or money or completist rigor to include in the show.
Ah, now I see it. I am SUPPOSED to feel off guard. It is by the show’s brilliant design that I am flailing to keep up and make sense of what I am seeing on the tube.
Very clever, HBO. Still, I wish the show was easier to grasp because I don’t want to watch it feeling like an outsider, with my nose pressed against the glass.
By the way, I am hardly alone in this case. Many people I know — who enjoy the show — find it needlessly dense, too. It is as if the producers want to keep an audience on its heels. If that is the case, it is a strange strategy.
I’m already looking forward the episode airing next Sunday.