Wise astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson describes a black hole as "a hole in the three-dimensional fabric of space." You can fall into it from any direction, and once you're in, you don't come out. Well, I have fallen very far and very hard into a cultural black hole, and I cannot find the light. I've never seen a single minute of Game of Thrones.
How did this happen? Why am I willingly denying myself this basic HBO subscriber's right and the shared cultural experience that comes with it? What is my problem? Please allow me to explain.
There are so many shows to flirt with these days that if you choose to skip over one, repercussions are minor. Sit out on House of Cards and, oh, well, everyone's already on to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. No big whoop -- unless the show reaches what I call "streamroller" status. That's when a show has passed its tipping point and begins oppressively and relentlessly rolling over everything in its path. Viewers become fanatics. The New York Times publishes episode recaps. People read about the stars' personal lives in, well, People.
If you're watching a streamrolling series, this collective enjoyment is like being invited to a fantastic party. But if you miss the first episode, the first season, the second… well, then you find yourself sitting at home eating frozen Trader Joe's macarons while everyone else is at the Met Gala.
I love being streamrolled by a TV series! But Game of Thrones premiered at a point when I couldn't add another show to my list. (We all have a list, right?) During the first season, my co-worker Paula arrived on a Monday morning and said, with the fervor of a newly inducted cult member, "You MUST watch Game of Thrones." Little did I know how those six words would haunt me. I'd compare living in this strange bubble to Matt Damon's experience on Mars, but -- another confession -- I didn't see The Martian, either. So here's what it's actually like.
I'm all alone on Sunday nights
By now I've learned not to even attempt to get together with people on this Holy Day. All of my friends already have plans; they're apparently dating people with unpronounceable names.
I can no longer read the internet
"Red Wedding." "Naked walk of shame." "Hodor." After a big plot twist, the digital world's a jumble of nouns and names for me, like getting Mad Libs answers without the story. Recently, I read all about Hodor despite having no clue who he was. This is proof of how overbearing our cultural guilt can become. I want to play the game, yet I don't want to watch the Game. The saddest part? I can't even enjoy the "What Game of Thrones characters look like in real life" slideshows. The befores and afters are lost on me.
I have no idea who's famous anymore
My well of entertainment knowledge is California-desert dry. I saw a poster of Me Before You and wondered who the young ingenue was. I ran into Peter Dinklage walking his dog in Brooklyn and internally squealed -- not because he's… Tyrone? Titian? -- because I loved him in The Station Agent. I read that Natalie Dormer ran the London marathon in 3:51 and thought, "Wow, impressive! Who's Natalie Dormer?" I saw Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on a magazine cover and thought he was a model. And I might as well stop watching the Emmys. Missing one measly show has made me culturally ignorant.
My taste cannot be trusted
"Sorry, I don't watch Game of Thrones" is a bona fide conversation-killer. My judgment is immediately called into question. "But have you seen Girls this season? Doll & Em? Togetherness?" These are non-starters. All of these shows seem identical to Thrones, so it's puzzling that there's very little audience crossover. Side note: do people call it Thrones?
I've invented my own Thrones universe
Our brains love to create narratives out of scraps. Now, I'm not pretending to be more imaginative than George R. R. Martin (is he British?) or David Benioff (married to Amanda Peet, right?), but I've cobbled together storylines based on what I've gleaned over the years. And in my mind, every episode contains an orgy, an oration, a shocking death, a Jesus-style resurrection, and possibly some incest? In my version, Dinklage's character (Tyler? Tanner? WHAT IS HIS NAME?!) is a sweetheart, Jon Snow is a sensitive, mop-haired heartthrob, and that blonde woman rules with an iron fist but gets into trouble for her emails. Am I close?
I'm overcome with hubris
After seasons of politely fending off suggestions to watch the show, I shored up an admittedly gross sense of pride. I'm invincible to peer pressure! The feeling brought me back to December 1997, when I refused to see Titanic just because every other sixth-grader was raving about it. But since we're being brutally honest, all that pride, both then and now, only masks my FOJI.
Fear of joining in
FOJI: the only acronym more ego-crippling than FOMO. Yes, it's socially unacceptable not to watch a popular show. But even worse is watching and not "getting" it. What if I hate GoT? (Possible.) What if I'm confused? (Inevitable.) What if I fall asleep? (Could happen.) Turns out I'm not the only one afraid of committing. Search "Game of Thrones," and Google's suggested results include "how to explain game of thrones to a beginner" and "describe game of thrones in one sentence."
At last: daring to watch Game of Thrones
Clearly, there's only one solution to my self-imposed exile. (I feel like exiles are big in GoT… true or false?) Every young woman must mature eventually -- or at least be able to contribute to a cocktail conversation about who decapitated whom. And so I shall reluctantly tiptoe over to Westeros. Hold the door, Games of Thrones fans. I'm coming through.
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