I realized something a few weeks ago. Something that surprised me. Something that had not occurred to me but that, as soon as I realized it, I was shocked I had not realized sooner.
Listen: I am burned out on Game of Thrones. I am tired of talking about it, reading about it, hearing about it, and even thinking about it.
The only thing I’m not tired of is the show itself.
Before I go further—and before, if you are not tired of these things, you take offense—I want you to know that I am passing no judgment on those fans, critics, journalists, bloggers, marketers, podcasters, and ordinary television viewers who are not burnt out. This is not an indictment or a shunning or judgment of those who are enthusiastically talking about.
What this is, instead, is the story of my Game of Thrones journey and the “burnt out” state I find myself in at the moment.
The “I am burned out on talking about this” revelation
As I said before, I didn’t realize the state of my perspective on the world of Westeros until recently. It occurred during a Lyft ride, during which my driver insistently wanted to talk about how I thought the show would end.
The conversation went something like this:
Driver: Who do you think will end up on the throne?
Me: I’m not really sure.
Driver: You think Daenerys will kill Jon Snow or will Jon Snow kill Daenerys?
Me: It’s hard to say.
Driver: Who do you think will die first?
Me: Euron, I guess. But I’m anxious about who will die.
Driver: I think Jon Snow will be killed by Daenerys. And Cersei will die. And Theon will [words words words]
Me: I’m trying not to predict anything. I think it becomes exhausting.
This is paraphrased, of course, but it was soon after this conversation that I realized I had told the truth. I don’t like predicting what will happen and I am exhausted by it.
I then started to realized exactly how and why I had become so exhausted by Game of Thrones and the conversation surrounding it.
It began with Con of Thrones
Last summer, I attended a thrilling, exciting, and ultimately exhausting event called Con of Thrones in Dallas, Texas. What I did not realize until recently was that I’ve only written two things mentioning Game of Thrones in the year since that event: a brief recommended reading list and an exploration of how a Game of Thrones spinoff book was being misrepresented in the Google Knowledge Graph.
This isn’t to say that I did not have fun at Con of Thrones. I had an incredible time. I met a host of fellow fans and GoT buffs, many of whom had created work I admired, including Dave Gonzales and Joanna Robinson and Shakespeare of Thrones and Ian Thomas Malone. I got to talk about Game of Thrones and its Grateful Dead connections with anyone who would listen, getting the chance to nerd out deeply with folks who share my passions. Most significantly, I was able to meet Pat Sponaugle, a Game of Thrones blogger who was the first reviewer of The Moonborn and has become a genuine friend of mine.
However, I think something else began at this event: Game of Thrones fatigue.
Which is what leads me to…
A few of the reasons I’m reluctant to write about this final Game of Thrones season
First of all:
There are enough good Game of Thrones takes
I mean, there are. There are so many good takes on Game of Thrones. Tons.
Just browse through Watchers on the Wall or the aforementioned Pat Sponaugle’s blog or tweet threads about Shakespeare’s influences on GRRM if you want to see all these thoughtful, intelligent, assessments.
There are enough bad Game of Thrones takes
And then there are the other takes. I won’t name any such takers here—as that’s not my style and not the kind of conversation I want to engage in—but, seriously, so many bad takes.
This is one element of fatigue that set in during Con of Thrones. I will never forget watching a panel during which someone I respect found himself repeatedly interrupted by a crew of influencer-esque professional fans, one of whom stood on a chair and yelled “WHO WANTS TO SEE JAIME LANNISTER KILL THE NIGHT KING AND BECOME THE NIGHT KING SLAYER?”
Then there are the recaps. While I do not consider recaps to be inherently bad—and there are some talented, thoughtful recappers out there—I do find the premise of recaps to be exhausting and one of the lower brow forms of cultural commentary. Rather than attempt to invent my own novel and coherent take-down of recaps, I recommend reading the recent Harper’s editorial “Like This or Die” by Christian Lorentzen, in particular this section:
It became customary for outlets like Slate to publish online discussions of episodes the day after they aired. The practice of recapping spread to ever more venues, including the New York Times, and to ever less sophisticated programs. The journalists who engaged in it seemed to have finally found a way to combine their two favorite activities—watching television and doing their homework. That the television shows were perfectly comprehensible and didn’t require much actual exegesis didn’t matter, because people clicked anyway. Enjoying television, once something considered slothful, became a respectable activity among the chattering classes, and one could hear a sigh of relief.
We live in an era of endless content creation. The hashtag #ForTheThrone now trends on a regular basis, when the a truer hashtag would be #ForTheClicks.
I’ve exhausted myself in my efforts to dispute the difference between fan theories and fan speculation or predictions
I won’t retread this one, other than to say that, if you’re interested, you should read my blog post What We Talk About When We Talk About Fan Theories or Why That Game of Thrones Fan Theory is Not a Game of Thrones Fan Theory.
In short, guesses as to how something will end are not fan theories. This is a form of conversation that permeates pop culture, something we’ve seen with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Westworld and so much more.
It distracts me from enjoying the show
Then there is this aspect of it. I still love watching Game of Thrones. I do. I can’t wait for tonight’s episode, and the one after that, and the one after that. I am sad that soon I will not be able to say that ever again.
However, the idea of live-tweeting an episode holds zero appeal for me. Even taking notes during it is something I would not like to do.
I want to savor every minute of it. I want the deaths—and we know, there will be deaths—to hit me hard. I expect to cry, to weep, to be bummed out and disappointed.
What I don’t want to do is find myself unable to enjoy the show because I am so focused on the analysis that might lie within it.
I want to watch Game of Thrones and enjoy it. And I am hesitant to be distracted from enjoying it.
Game of Thrones commentary too often reeks of content over substance
Then there is this. We live in a world of content, content, content. Words and clicks and lists.
It’s not just Game of Thrones, of course. It’s the world we live in. Chasing clicks at all cost. Listicles for the sake of listicles. Even slideshows, somehow, still.
Huffing and posting, recapping and speculating, anything that will build retargeting lists and drive ad revenue and earn links and capture eyeballs.
Again, I don’t mind good content about Game of Thrones. I like challenging analysis. I like thoughtful editorials. I like content, when it includes substance.
Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in.
This is the world we live in:
The above is what happens when one googles “daenerys” and searches through the news. It’s “Here’s What Will Happen in Game of Thrones” and “Everything You Need to Know” and anything else that anyone could possible write, again and again, ad nauseam, Westeros without end.
I am burned out
That’s it, of course. I am burned out on the conversation surrounding Game of Thrones. Not all of it, but a lot of it. Most of it. Too much of it.
This is the one tweet I’ve written about the new season:
And yes, I recognize a certain irony in writing this blog post. But it’s the one blog post I feel compelled to write about Game of Thrones at the moment.
Although, of course, I do have ideas for one or two more Game of Thrones blog posts in me. We’ll see when I have the energy for them.