Great news for those planning to vacation in Westeros this summer: “Game of Thrones” returns next week. And I for one will be watching – something else.
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Apologies to the millions of “GoT” fans out there, but the show leaves me colder than a spell in the Land of Always Winter. To mark the seventh and penultimate season, here are seven reasons I will not be watching
1. The F word
I have a basic rule about the books I read: they shouldn’t weigh more than my children. Which rules out pretty much every book ever written in the fantasy genre, especially George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice of Fire” series.
My antipathy toward the genre also extends to television. Stick the F-word label on a show and I’m out of there faster than a cheetah on roller skates.
My biggest problem with “Game of Thrones” isn’t so much the show itself as the “swords and broads” genre it has spawned. Without the success of “GoT,” we might have been spared “The Last Kingdom,” “Vikings,” “The Bastard Executioner,” “Reign” the list goes on like a Lord Varys speech.
Oddly enough, as I write this I can hear the sounds of anguished screams and clashing swords coming from the living room, which means one of two things: either my eldest daughter is catching up on season six of “GoT,” or a medieval marauder has got into the apartment. I suppose I’d better check
2. Twisted firestarters
Bloody medieval marauders anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, in all the years I have watched television, I have never once uttered the sentence “What this show really needs is dragons” (well, except for that time I accidentally tuned into “Downton Abbey” – dragons would have improved that immeasurably).
I understand there are three dragons on “GoT” – and the fact there is so much information about them online is another reason I happily avoid the show. It’s also why I would prefer to attend a military parade in Pyongyang than this week’s Comic-Con in San Diego.
Incidentally, I don’t know what’s more disturbing: the fact that I can learn so much about Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons online, or the fact there’s an app that helps me speak Dothraki – and to think people mocked me when I did that Star Trek Klingon night class.
3. Breast behavior
Ask people to tell you the two things they must associate with “GoT” and they will probably say “breasts.” Indeed, whenever I walk into the room when “GoT” is on, one of two things will be happening:
i) A man is being executed on a very cold, bleak day;
ii) A pair of beautifully lit breasts (sometimes two pairs – or was that the time I had double vision?) will be on display, like something from a Rubens painting but without the plumpness. When they labeled it “fantasy,” I didn’t realize they meant the fantasy of a horny adolescent boy. Which leads us to
4. Let’s talk about plot, baby
“GoT” is credited with introducing “sexposition” onto our television screens – using sex scenes to spice up otherwise perfunctory exposition. “Saturday Night Live” spoofed it perfectly back in 2012 when Andy Samberg played geeky Adam Friedberg, a teenage consultant who finds more and more ways to introduce sex and nudity onto the show – making it more “Game of Moans” than “Thrones.”
One of the show’s directors, Neil Marshall, even admitted that a particular executive producer was always pushing him to include more full-frontal nudity (female, naturally), saying he represented the “perv” side of the audience.
It’s fair to say that while “GoT” did not invent gratuitous sex and nudity on television, it did perfect it.
5. I’m voting Brexit
Maybe I could buy into the fantasy element a little more if “GoT” weren’t crammed with so many familiar British faces. I don’t see warring warriors when I watch – I see that lesbian florist from “Imagine Me & You”; two of the male strippers from “The Full Monty”; those two actors (Charles Dance, Julian Glover) who have appeared in every single British TV show since 1976; and, to top it all, I’ve just seen Withnail! Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the dragons got their big start on “Merlin.”
6. Bloody awful
There are more violent shows on television (including the most popular, “The Walking Dead”), but “GoT” can’t resist a splash of “claret” to leave the geeks intoxicated (a horse was just decapitated as I walked past the screen – at least, I hope that was “GoT” and not a wildlife documentary). The battle sequences are so notoriously brutal, the only thing I can compare them to is when IKEA opens its doors on Black Friday.
I let my eldest daughter watch “GoT” when she assured me that “everyone” in her class had been watching it “for ages.” But now I’ve actually witnessed quite how savage it is, I think it ranks as the second-worst parenting decision I’ve ever made – just behind taking her to last year’s IKEA Black Friday sale.
7. Hush up your Shakespeare
Writer Lev Grossman once called Martin “the American Tolkien,” thus combining two of my least favorite things (just kidding – Tolkien’s OK). In fairness, I do love the fact that Martin spent three years as a staff writer on that wonderfully cheesy late-‘80s show “Beauty and the Beast” (with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton). But I hate the comparison between his work and Shakespeare’s, especially that infuriating cliché that if Shakespeare were alive today he’d be writing “Game of Thrones.” (Everyone knows that if Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be the writer-in-residence at Central Park – that gig’s got his name all over it.)
Just because Martin was inspired by Shakespeare’s history plays – specifically, the War of the Roses between the Lancastrians (the Lannisters) and the Yorkists (the Starks) – and because most of the actors deliver their lines with British accents doesn’t make “GoT” any more Shakespearean than, say, “Dallas” is Tennessee Williams-esque because it’s set in the South and contains damaged people.
And don’t get me started on how “GoT” is great to watch because of its Machiavellian machinations and internecine feuds – we could say the same about both President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s answer to Joffrey.
Despite all these caveats, I must say one thing in the show’s favor: It has given my eldest daughter’s educators a “contemporary” reference that the students can relate to.
Her Bible Studies teacher, for example, compared dissolute king Robert Baratheon to King Saul, highlighting how things can go awry for once-great men. Now I’m waiting to hear how he uses Jaime and Cersei Lannister’s relationship to really get the kids’ attention.