As brilliantly unique as HBO’s Game of Thrones is, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that it’s “one of a kind.” The science fiction/fantasy genre has been popular for quite some time now. But not like this. Sure, books like Harry Potter and movie series like Star Wars or Star Trek have attracted fans in the millions. But there’s something about Game of Thrones that has a different appeal. Suddenly, the science-fiction fantasy genre is cool. And while Harry Potter, as an example, is beloved by millions, I’ve seen people look at my laptop strangely as I sit in my college lecture halls with a Deathly Hallows sticker on display. Yet with Game of Thrones, nobody dares question your pride. Why? I’m as big a fan of Game of Thrones as anybody, having devoured episode after episode on HBO GO in a matter of a couple weeks. But I’ve always been a fan of the fantasy genre. But myself and people like me aren’t the only ones watching this time: everyone is watching.
Perhaps it’s the sexiness and forbidden nature of it. Game of Thrones , unlike so much other fantasy pop culture is not for children at all. There are graphic sex scenes, full frontal nudity, graphic violence, and vulgar language. Under no circumstances is Westeros a land for children. Nor is it a desirable land. Or maybe it’s the political theory. Without a doubt, Westeros is one of the most corrupt governments, fictional or realistic, that there is. Politics is something that everyone in the world can be interested in- whether the world is fantastical or not.
For some reason, I don’t think it’s any of those things. Sure, the sex is alluring. But why not just watch any of the other HBO shows that allow that content? Nor is it the violence and depressing nature of Westeros: the graphics are cool, but we don’t really love seeing character’s heads squashed or people’s throats slashed (especially when they’re our favorite characters). And while political theory holds its fascination, it certainly isn’t enough to garner to viewership and fan base that Game of Thrones is holding onto.
In my opinion, what it all boils down to is that Game of Thrones is not about the genre it’s in. Game of Thrones is not about audiences wishing to exist in a world that isn’t their own: it’s about watching a world that isn’t their own, and thanking the gods old and new that they’re mere spectators. Spectators of brilliance, nonetheless. And in spectating instead of romanticizing, the audience is able to take in more of the rawness of the story. The characters exist both in multitude and in vivacity, each uniquely flawed in their own way. There is not one angelic character (not even Danenerys). The show is plot-rich and action packed. It’s not about the “magic” of the world that they’re in because the show is not about “magic” at all. It is about a world of people in a different place, in a different time, where magic happens to exist. Those people who don’t like the fantasy genre or think it’s “uncool” are able to brush the magical elements aside if they please and take in everything else that the show has to offer. It’s own unique spin on the fantasy genre, placing it in a genre all its own.
Game of Thrones will continue to thrive for many years to come, and likely in the later years of its run and the years following many copy-cat types will make attempts. They won’t succeed. Because it takes a very specific grasp on fantasy that George R. R. Martin and the producers/writers/director of the TV show have. And it is not one that the can be duplicated. Game of Thrones is not “one of a kind”. It’s the only of its kind.