Game of Thrones: Seven Reasons Why We Love It (review)

Written by Brant David

Brant David takes apart the hit HBO series Game of Thrones to figure out what the big appeal is. It’s more complicated than you think. — The vast majority of us technophiles are also lovers of sci-fi and fantasy, in any capacity. That includes the Game of Thrones series, which has just started its fourth season on HBO at the time of this writing.


Image credit: HBO

Before the series, though, A Game of Thrones was the title of the first book in author George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Now Martin is an executive producer and sometimes-writer for the HBO series. And he is continuing to add to the original series of books, too.

I read the first book in Martin’s series and got about halfway through the second one when life circumstances disrupted my reading.  So now I’m enjoying the HBO series like a newbie to the stories.

As an avid fan of the mini-movies — especially the opening animated graphic sequence they feature — I never know what’s going to happen. The show is always surprising. And that’s why it’s intriguing. But you’ve got to ask yourself: Why is everyone going so nuts for this series? I took a deep look.

Why the Draw?

What it all comes down to is Martin’s world and its characters — although part of a place and time that never existed in our history and are so alien to our everyday lives — relate directly to modern-day Western civilization and culture in many fundamental ways. Let me count them.

Game of Thrones Map Courtesy of Stanford University

Image credit: Stanford University

Scientific appeal. The gritty realism of GoT is so authentic that the geology department at Stanford University has even given us a map, based partially on “Earth Principles of the Geologic Science.” It illustrates Martin’s imaginary world while also providing science-like details of its gradual development. This appeal to the science-informed mind of today makes a fantasy genre story immensely more powerful.

Lots of sex, including blatant homoerotic sex. And British porn stars, too. This season, the show is even recruiting British porn stars to get in on the action. I don’t know why anyone is surprised.

In the Spring of 2013 when I was talking with legendary sci-fi author Joe Haldeman and his wife Gay in Cedar Key, Fl, Game of Thrones came up. I mentioned that some people had said to me that it was “thinly disguised porn.”

Gay, with a smile, retorted: “Well, it is!”

And so it goes. All the blatant and often-illicit sex in Game of Thrones reflects our sex-obsessed times — for better and worse. The news today so often concerns homoerotic issues. But epic fantasy literature rarely goes there — until now.

Crass language. And how!  Foul, harsh and crass language is everywhere in GoT.

Fantasy literature typically goes for a more uptight, high-minded audience. GoT isn’t so self-conscious.

Look and listen all around you. Foul, harsh and crass language surrounds most of us to the point that we’re numb to it. And GoT holds that up to us as a mirror.

Endless political and monetary machinations in a nihilistic world. A key difference in GoT is its focus on politics — as opposed to some magical or spiritual message.

Politics, love it or hate it, emerged as the overarching American religion a century ago. The price that we’ve paid for that — and our almost obsessive-compulsive consumerism which is a facile and perverse form of capitalism — is huge. Too many of us live in a world that feels empty, hollow and meaningless.

Right now there’s more wealth in the world than ever before in our history, but there’s also tremendous existential angst. And longing for some better, vanished time…

Gender politics. Gender identity politics to me is the worst aspect of our society and culture today. But it’s ubiquitous. And that theme flows throughout GoT. Summing it up nicely, Daenerys Targaryen quips to her handmaiden Missandei: “All men must die. But we are not men.”

Game of Thrones Daenerys Targaryen

Image credit: A Song of Ice and Fire, Wiki

Doubts about magic and the gods. The sorcery in this sword-and-sorcery epic takes a while to manifest. Most people in the Seven Kingdoms even scoff at the existence of the Targaryen dragons.

The gods are often mocked — or characters speak of them with contempt. At the same time,  we have Lady Melisandre, who is devoted to the Lord of Light, who she insists is one of only two real gods. The other god, she says, is the evil Lord of Darkness. The godless against the bi-theistic or monotheistic religious devotees — together with dubious attitudes toward anything magical — resounds with a lot of viewers. For good reason.

Every character is imperfect and a unique mixture of good and evil. It’s quite difficult to decide who the good and the evil really are in GoT.

Martin’s characters are all flawed. Yet they all contain some measure of sincere and noble traits.

These are some of the most-human and realistic characters ever presented by the fantasy genre. And that, in the end, is what makes any kind of literature great. And timeless.

For, I’m Brant David.

Based in New Jersey, Brant David is a senior writer for Follow him at +Brant David on Google+ and