I'm a big fan of fantasy. I've read the books. So why don't I watch HBO's series Game of Thrones? You'd think I'd be all over it. And while I admit there's the temptation, there are also several reasons why I don't.
First of all, there's the practical reason. I don't have HBO. I don't even have cable (unless you count Netflix). There's just not enough of a compelling reason for me to get cable, let alone HBO. Now, I know, I could buy the seasons after they come out on DVD, but I don't really want to spend my money on that, either. And while I've read that it is only of the most illegally downloaded shows out there, well, getting an illegal copy is just that, illegal.
Now, that's a pretty weak excuse, if I really wanted to watch it. But there are other more important reasons why I don't want to. The content is one of those reasons. While I've been desensitized to on screen violence, from what I've heard, this show takes it to a whole 'nother level. And in a way, it's hard to relate. Unless you're two years old, you probably don't use violence to get your way (and if you do, you should be behind bars). Even our wars don't rely much on outright violence. Instead, many targets are killed by use of drones, snipers, or bombs. Still real, but not up close and personal like a good ol' sword fight. So the violence on the show isn't as relatable as it could be if they just toned it down a bit.
More importantly, in regards to content, though, is the sex. Take a look at the parent advisory section on IMDb.com and you'll see a list in the sex section that makes you think this is a porno, not a drama. And while the violence might not affect people that much (just like in video games, where 99.9% of people that play violent video games don't go out and shoot anyone), the sex portrayed actually can affect you, in subtle ways. Based on the books, the sex in the show doesn't seem to involve loving intimacy between husband and wife, but it's more along the lines of men hiring a prostitute, incest, or violent sexual assault against women. When the best you can hope for is consensual sex between two unmarried people, you know you've got a warped sense of values. There's enough media trying to warp our perceptions on sex. I don't need to add porn disguised as a story to that. At least in the books, it didn't go over all the dirty details, usually, but there's a difference between written word and seeing it on video. And even reading it got too much at times.
Which brings me to the next point, possibly the most important. Like I said, I've read the books. I thought the first book was great, and Ned's death shocked me. I kept expecting him to come out and say it had all been a trick, that someone else died in his place. But no such luck. As memorable as that was, though, when I read the second book, I didn't know who to root for. Ned had seemed like the only really good person. I went to Dany and Jon Snow. Tyrion had his funny moments, but was a bit too cynical for me. But with most of them gone in the fourth book, and without much to do in the fifth book, I stopped cheering for them. And that is one of the weaknesses of George R. R. Martin's story: if anyone can die unexpectedly, then sooner or later, I'm going to protect myself by severing my attachment to the characters. If anyone can die unexpectedly, then it begs to wonder, why are we even reading their story, aside from the shock value? Sure, some people can die, like in the real world, but if I'm expecting the entire cast to die sooner or later, then what's the point?
So while all the political maneuvering interests me, I think I'll stick to more family friendly media, especially since I'm now a father. Or better yet, write my own books, dealing with similar themes, but only hinting at the terrible details, instead of showing them in full splendor.
Martin's books might possibly have left more of an impression that way.