I found my favorite party food at a TV-viewing party. It’s a dip made from Ro-Tel, sausage, and melted cheese. I gathered with probably a dozen people from my church to tune into a television show and eat junk food. Our hosts pulled chairs into the living room to accommodate those who could not squeeze onto the couch. After all, how else would we see the season three finale of LOST?
Not Penny’s boat? We have to go back? What does it all mean?!?!?
The event above took place more than ten years ago. Many, if not most things about television viewing and consumption changed incredibly since then. Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video provide all the programming anyone could ever want, and more streaming services exist with Disney+ set to launch soon.
Hence the recent pieces released through various pop culture analysts observing the HBO show, Game of Thrones, might be the last communal viewing experience Americans enjoy.
I’m not here to write an analysis of Game of Thrones. I can’t—I don’t watch it. Instead, I shall analyze us as a culture. If you’ve been on social media for 0.5 seconds, you know many people do watch Game of Thrones. The premiere of the final season of the show garnered 17.4 million viewers. Chances are that one-in-twenty people you meet today tuned in to view it. Let me say this: do not find a way to watch this show. Let me also say: you need to know what’s going on here.
If you know anything about Game of Thrones, you know it often features graphic nudity. From virtually any media outlet, you can find out the graphic nudity takes place in the hallowed grounds of incest and sexual violence. And to think, some people in the Eastern Hemisphere think us savages. The nerve!
You know, I’m a decently young man, but I remember back in the day, an uprising occurred in which people, seemingly with one voice, declared time was up and grouped around a slogan… #MeToo I think it was. Memory is a funny thing, you know. The experts say it gets hazier as we grow older. Anyhow, what the young people probably won’t remember is that women began revealing men in places of prominence and power abused them sexually. Wealth and prestige could not protect those in the hashtag crosshairs of the movement. Media moguls and celebrated journalists toppled as dominos, one after another. The #MeToo movement mowed down these sexually aggressive men and did not look back. The time of reckoning arrived. Sex abuse, rape, unwelcome propositions, quid pro quo exchanges—all of these would be struck down.
Logically, the citizens of the United States would then gather around the television to watch a medieval high fantasy epic which regularly requires its actresses to remove their clothes and film sex and rape scenes with men. What isn’t communal about graphic sexuality?
If we take cultural inventory for where we currently stand, I think we should all find ourselves disappointed and ashamed. No. We do not care about women. We do not care about the trauma of their abuse at the hands of men and people in power. If we did, we would not pay HBO money to show it to us week after week. We would not make a television show featuring multiple on-screen rapes and sexual assaults into a pop cultural phenomenon. We would not be telling aspiring actresses that if they really want to be famous, they need to simulate sex for money.
I’m no prophet, nor the son of a prophet (my dad works in telecommunications). As the actresses on Game of Thrones move on at the close of the series this year, I’ll be interested to see how they reflect on their bodies forever displayed for all time. How will they feel about it in 20 years? I cannot say. Will we discover they felt compelled to do scenes they found disturbing? Will they reveal they needed therapy after shooting their scenes? I do not know them, nor follow their celebrity close enough to prognosticate.
Whether we intend to do so or not, we constantly say things about ourselves. We find the Romans barbaric for their consumption of gladiatorial matches, yet we only turned the menu page away from real violence and on to the page labeled “voyeurism.” Over 17 million people stated with one voice last Sunday night: #GameOfThrones > #MeToo.
Until conviction rules our posturing, we will continue to act according to appetite. God help us.
Further reading: One More Time on Game of Thrones by Kevin DeYoung