Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Game of Thrones: A Decade in Review

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Friends of The Fandomentals, with just four days left in 2019, it’s time to say goodbye to these good ol’ 10s. A lot has changed since 2010, particularly in the fandom space. We’ll likely look back on the genre cinema of this time as Disney’s solidification of power and control. But when it comes to TV, there was one show that dominated absolutely and utterly everything: Game of Thrones.

It’s almost staggering to think about. This show first aired in 2011, and though we’ve all seen the staggering viewership graphs of more and more people joining each year to watch David Benioff and Dan Weiss’s masterpiece, it’s not exactly like it was unpopular in its first year either. By 2013, it felt like it had already begun to permeate everywhere. I remember vividly just getting into podcasts and thinking about picking up one dedicated to Thrones, only to find that there were at least fifty available. It was around this time references began springing up on The Office and Parks and Recreation as well.

Let’s not forget its awards and accolades, of course. Out of the gate, we saw nominations, while Peter Dinklage swept up the “Best Supporting Actor” Emmy for season 1. Yet the true ascendance began with its first “Outstanding Drama Series” Emmy in season 5—a title it never lost again each time it was eligible. And of course, we all know how famously high the quality of the show was from season 5 onward.

The thing is, we actually could see how this show’s popularity took form. Remember the super edgy shows that sprang up, trying to copy its formula? Heck, remember when Black Sails try-harded for one season before becoming the most beautiful thing ever? Even now, after Thrones’s… unceremonious fall from grace, we’re still contending with media that’s pushing the dark and gritty boundaries, or writing backwards from ‘shocks’ they think the audience is going to want.

This is why we here have been so assiduous about offering a critical voice about the show in the past, and will continue to be assiduous in at least closing out our frenetic analyses of Season 8. At some point…tbd. We promise.

But what’s truly unsettling to me now, here at the very end of the decade, is that while storymakers may still take cues from Thrones (honestly, they made a strong business case if nothing else), and while Benioff and Weiss are certainly still out there working on some non-Star Wars project for far too much money than they’re worth, this show is mostly forgotten. Okay, not forgotten, because the memes are still extremely funny, especially when there was another major franchise that just ended in a less-than-ideal manner.

[reveal heading=”%image% Spoilery Rise of Skywalker meme below“]


It’s just, that’s it, isn’t it? No one talks about it anymore. We as a society decided it shit the bed, we shrugged, and come 2020 I can’t think of a single soul who’s still going to be attempting to talk about it. Well, except for one particularly masochistic fusion…

Heck, even Fuller House’s recent references to Thrones only served to make the show seem more out of touch, rather than spark any kind of true annoyance in me.

I truly never thought we’d be here. I could say more about the journey of our decade itself, but it seems clear to me that we each had separate breaking points for when we realized that this show relied on shock after shock, with no thought to messaging, story, or payoff. For me, it was Leaf throwing glowy fire bombs on Jojen. For some, it was the ever-disgusting choices made in Sansa’s season 5 plotline. And for most, it was a mad-queen heel-turn where Daenerys went from friend to foe in her framing over the course of one episode, all because she was sad at a party.

It doesn’t matter when or why, because the conclusion was the same: this is meaningless, and how was engagement ever even possible in the first place? It’s a question I’m struggling to answer, but I think it’s also possibly the wrong question to be asking. Instead, let’s try: what does our collective experience with Game of Thrones say about our society over the past decade? There’s certainly cynical readings, like how much we can overlook, and the group-think determination to see the emperor with clothes on.

But if I may inject just a pinch of optimism, it’s that we all have the ability to wake up, and when we do, it is powerful. Let us make sure that we keep our eyes open in the 20s, and from the bottom of my heart, I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.


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