What does "Game of Thrones" viewership say about us?


Folks are still talking about the big ":Game of Thrones" finale, but now that that all the excitement has died down perhaps we should step back and look at the bigger picture.

It’s estimated that 45 million people watched the last season of the blockbuster show. That, in and of itself, raises big questions about who we are and what we value.

Because significant portions of the show were outright pornographic. Over the years, folks have tried to make the case that these very explicit scenes were somehow essential to the show's ambiance. But the idea that the series' approach to sex was more than just smut fell apart back in 2016 when HBO, the cable network that produces "Game of Thrones," had to sue Pornhub — one of the web's largest porn sites — for copyright infringement. After all, if pornographers are using clips from your show, then it's hard to deny that what you are producing is, well, pornographic.

But "Game of Thrones" was also extremely violent.

Again, the point is often made that the brutality of the series was required by the medieval setting. And throughout the show's run, people have also insisted that, because the series was so well-written, the carnage was hardly ever just out and out gratuitous. But those arguments really just concede the point; they are simply attempts to justify what everyone pretty much agrees was a stunning amount of violence.

So what does all this say about us and our society?

To begin with, it reveals just how deeply confused we are. We applaud the #MeToo Movement, and we are adamantly opposed to sexism and the exploitation of vulnerable persons, and yet we eagerly watched a show in which the distillation of all those evils — pornography — played a prominent role.

We deplore the polarization of our country, and we are concerned about the level of actual, physical violence in our culture, and yet we just finished celebrating a series that was drenched in gore.

But these dynamics also demonstrate just how much we have forgotten and just how we take for granted. Because, apart from the obviously fantastic elements, the world used to be an awful lot like "Game of Thrones" — full of savagery and sexual oppression. And life is still that way for many of the folks who inhabit this planet. But to the extent that it's not, those advances are, in large part, due to the Christian Faith and to the institutions it has founded and the virtues it has encouraged.

So why do we want to return — even imaginatively — to a sexist and bloodthirsty past? Why do we want to experience — even vicariously — horrors that we have worked so hard to overcome? And how is this not a rejection of the Faith that has made the world so much better for so many people?

 If those questions appear as important to you as they do to me, send me a note or give me a call. We have a lot to talk about.