It seems like anti-Game of Thrones posts are all the rage nowadays. John Piper got in first with his article about 12 questions to ask before watching Game of Thrones. JP knows what’s up, so check out the post here. He talks mainly about nudity and how GoT is treating sex like a spectator sport – which I thought was a great point. He briefly touched on the reason I quit, but not in depth.
After JP’s article there was a flurry of rhetoric, as usually happens when someone writes a thought provoking article about something many people enjoy. I’ve read a few of the articles and they seem to focus mainly on either violence, nudity, or the blurring lines between TV drama and porn.
Personally, not many articles resounded with me. Piper’s, although a compelling argument, focussed on nudity, which doesn’t bother me. This is not because of the age old lie that lust is not a thing for women, but simply because I’m not a particularly visual person. So it wasn’t quite enough to make me quit a show I like. I have quite a low threshold for violence, so those articles were more relevant, but I’m well practiced at knowing when to skip scenes. I still don’t know what happened with Reek and Theon, and I’ve no interest in finding out. So nudity; I can deal. Violence; I can skip. What else?
I thought if I ever got over GoT, it would be because of the writing. I put up with a myriad of boring characters because of my loyalty to the few interesting ones. I read chapters in which no one did anything except say ‘piss’ and punch people. I read chapters that slowly built up to an interesting event only to skip to a Danerys chapter just before interesting event actually happened, and then I’d have to wait half a book before it got back to it. I had my heart ripped out repeatedly as George R. Martin broke the contract between reader and author that decrees ‘main characters shall not be killed mid-story, and loyal pets shall live forever’. I’ve been through a lot. I really have. I read four of the books obsessively, despite not really enjoying them, and then fell down in a fit of hyperventilation when my sister left the fifth book in Australia.
So what made me quit three episodes into season 4?
In short, it’s because there are certain things that I don’t want to become desensitized to. Desensitization is when you see something so many times that your emotional response to it diminishes. Standards of what was a violent movie 40 years wouldn’t even register with us now, even with a pansy like me. The producers of GoT seem to be trying to push the limits slightly past what people will accept on mainstream TV, and in doing so are guiding us onto the next level of desensitization. Season 1 tested those limits, season 2 pushed a little further, by season 4, any kind of boundary was blown out of the water.
There was a scene in about the third or fourth episode where two characters were arguing, while surrounded by women being quite casually raped. It wasn’t just the scene that disturbed me but by how casually it was being treated. This came after a lot of morally ambiguous and not so ambiguous sex scenes (remember Joffrey’s present?). Also, a heck of a lot of scenes with women who kind of consented, and we all know from my rape culture post that ‘kind of consent’ is not counted as ‘actual consent’. It was this blasé treatment of sexual violence that made me stop watching. I realised that GoT was pushing us onto the next level of desensitization. If I kept watching, I would get used to seeing people abused on my screen every week and my emotional response would diminish.
Around the same time two young girls in India were gang raped and killed. A photo was released of the girls, hanging from a tree surrounded by a large group of people. Their local politician responded by saying rape “is a social crime… sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong”. I first saw the photo on my Facebook newsfeed. It was posted without any kind of trigger warning, which pissed me off. I don’t need to see the photo to be upset by the crime. If I had heard about it first I wouldn’t have looked it up, but several of my friends made that decision for me, and that is an image that I will never be able to un-see. Luckily I was home alone because after I saw that image I totally ugly cried. I ugly cried because sometimes the world is an awful place, and sometimes people are really, unfathomably crap. Boundlessly crap. Crap without measure. When confronted by situations that could potentially result in epic grief, I tend to shut down. It’s a commitment to allow these situations to affect you, and sometimes I have to go to great lengths to not get emotionally invested. Once you let those emotions in, you can’t ignore them.
We need to be upset by injustice, and rape, and violence. If no one is upset, no one will stand against it.
Desensitization is not a good thing. Most of us have become desensitized in the past without realising it, in terms of what we find scary or violent. This next level of desensitisation is so blatant, so boundary breaking, that we can’t ignore it. The choice is with us if we choose to step into reduced sensitivity.
You only need to read the comment threads on Youtube to see that people have normalised sexual and domestic violence. Just an hour ago someone posted a photo of a badly parked car. In the comments two guys were joking about beating up their girlfriends. These comments are prevalent and unchallenged. Why? I believe it’s because we’re used to hearing it. We should be a culture that is sensitive towards the suffering of others, especially as Christians. Sensitivity is the key to compassion. We aren’t called to be a hard hearted people, but to be soft, and filled with compassion.
Maybe this makes me sound like I’m being precious about a TV show, but I’m OK with that. This is not a case of ‘if you don’t like it, don’t watch it’. I’m not here to tell you what to do. If you want to watch Game of Thrones then I’m not one to judge you, and I know that different things affect different people. If you can watch GoT and not be affected by these things, then watch away. You may however find similar issues with a different show. My point here is not just to argue against GoT. I have every intention of reading the books, unless I find the same problem occurring. The purpose of this argument is remind you that there are injustices in this world that we must be upset by and if you notice your attitudes change, or your emotional response lessening towards things such a sexual violence, please, for the sake of the world, stop watching.