HBO’s Game of Thrones series debuted in April 2011, and I completely missed it. I vaguely recall hearing about it, but nothing substantive enough to drive me to watch. Over the next couple of years, I heard bits and pieces. I was certainly aware of it gaining fan-based momentum and by the time time season three started in 2013, I could count on my Twitter feed lighting up every time a new episode aired. But I had yet to actually see any of it for myself. By any definition, I could not have been a fan of the show.
Sometime last year, both having heard no end of adulations for the show, my fiancée and I finally sat down to watch. We fired it up online and started watching from the beginning. I gave up after four episodes.
Despite having a long history with and appreciation for the fantasy genre, I didn’t care for it. I couldn’t find any of the characters remotely likeable on any level, so there was nothing for me to connect with. My fiancée continued through the first season, ultimately deciding that she liked the show and has continued on since then. So I’ve caught snippets of the show since, and have not seen anything to change my mind about the characters.
I am not a fan of the show.
It’s a curious distinction. Strictly speaking, I was not a fan of the show before I had seen it. I couldn’t have been. But now, having seen it and coming to the active conclusion that I do not care for it, my language changes when talking about it. Previously, if someone asked if I watched it, I would respond with something like, “I haven’t seen it yet.” Now, my response is, “I’m not a fan.”
And that changes the course of the discussion. “I haven’t seen it” solicits responses like, “You’re missing out! It’s great!” and “You totally should watch this!” If I note my Not-a-Fan (which almost seems like it should be capitalized now) status, the tone of the response changes and tends to become defensive. “What? How can you not like Game of Thrones?” I go from becoming a potential ally to an outsider and an enemy. I go from someone who is being invited into the club to someone to be actively shunned from it.
Personally, I don’t care if you like Game of Thrones or not. It’s simply not something I find engaging, and I’d rather focus my energies on things I do find engaging. The problem is when fans take it as a personal attack. If they assume my judgement of the show is also a judgement on them, they’re naturally going to take offense. Which, given mankind’s history of doing exactly that type of thing, one can hardly fault them for.
But just because I don’t get anything out of Game of Thrones doesn’t mean nobody gets anything out of it. Its popularity clearly says otherwise. People can have all sorts of different reasons for enjoying the show, from the overall plot to the production values to the dialogue to the actors to the intrigue… Heck, they might well identify with the characters in ways that I can’t! And that’s okay. I can sit and periodically binge-watch Firefly while you shake your head in confusion. What I’m Not-a-Fan of doesn’t have to impact your preferences and what you’re Not-a-Fan of doesn’t have to impact mine. We use shows like these to entertain us and help us understand our own lives better, and if you can’t get that out of one show, then just go on to the next!