There is a new and pernicious form of social exclusion in the UK today – that is, people like me who haven’t seen a single second of Game of Thrones.
We must stand mutely by the water cooler as our colleagues gasp and cackle at what the Night King did to Arya Stark or vice versa, or how long it took Daenerys Targaryen to shed her clothes in last night’s episode, or which brother and sister got it on together. We must tolerate friends telling us regularly that “you know nothing, Jon Snow” (you’ve known me for 15 years, Bob – it’s Chris, not Jon), and that “winter is coming” (it’s May, Bob – summer is coming).
I’m not even safe in my own house. For the past few weeks I’ve been awakened by nocturnal sweet-packet rustlings and sudden shrieks as my wife and eldest daughter have stayed up for their latest 2am fix. There are Game of Thrones t-shirts and cuddly toys and even nightdresses scattered around. There is far too much chat about dragons, and not enough about homework. There’s just the dog and me, looking at one another in shared dumb-animal ignorance.
It’s the same on social media. The words “spoiler alert” must be the most commonly typed on Twitter at the moment, as Thronies (as I’ve just decided to call them) swap hot takes and outlandish theories about who did what to whom and why and what it all means for Bran or Bronn or Brienne or Bilbo or whoever.
Now, I’m sure it’s great TV. I’m not averse to the odd dragon myself, and I happily admit Ms Targaryen looks splendid sans clobber. But I have a personal failing that makes it impossible for me to take part in this fantasy fest. It is that if everyone else likes something – and in this case it seems to be literally everyone – then I simply can’t. If a new novel is selling out I will refuse to read it. If a new hit song is worming its way into every ear, I won’t enjoy it. And if a TV programme or movie has created global mania, there’s not the slightest chance I’m going to sit down and watch it (unless Will Ferrell’s in it). I won’t see the must-see.
Is this just cheap snobbery? Well, yes, but what’s wrong with that? After all, if everyone likes something then that something has to appeal not only to people like me with unimpeachable taste but also to that sub-species that laughs at Mrs Brown’s Boys and believes Hyacinth Bucket to be the greatest comic creation of the 20th century. I will not share their headspace.
Does this mean I miss out on great experiences? No doubt. I haven’t seen The Wire or Breaking Bad or The Sopranos or Mad Men or House of Cards or Homeland or much else from the canon of “best ever programmes” in this self-described “Golden Age” of TV. Neither have I watched the groupthink classics from earlier generations – Twin Peaks, say, or V. I don’t tune in for Doctor Who and have mild contempt for grown-ups who moon over such drivel.
There’s also the time aspect. As far as I understand it, the people who watch Game of Thrones are the same people who are currently obsessed with Line of Duty and the Marvel movies and every other modish hit of the day. How do they do it? How can they be so non-busy that they have the capacity to flake out for hours at a time and stare at all this stuff? What’s it doing to their eyesight? What’s it doing to the shape of their bottom?
My cultural irrelevance is, then, a burden I bear happily. I pay little attention to the flickering blue screen in the corner of the living room. I prefer silence and stillness and natural light and a book that creases my brow. I smile vacantly as my office mates debate whether this or that super-hero could batter this or that other super-hero, or whether Tom Baker was better than David Tennant, and instead gently mull the attractions of the grave. I increasingly seek out the chatterless, Game of Thrones-free company of the dog. I am, I must accept, a bit odd and probably a bit dull.
A quick Google tells me Line of Duty finishes on Sunday, and that the new Avengers movie is the last. I also find that there are only three episodes of Game of Thrones left, and then it will be done for ever. This has cheered me a little, on the basis I might at least get an undisturbed night’s sleep. But another quick Google and I am undone – another series of Line of Duty has already been greenlit. Marvel will soon release another Spider-Man movie, and one called Black Widow, and Black Panther 2. And it turns out a Game of Thrones prequel, set 5,000 years before, is planned. Of course it is. Of course. And you’ll watch every last second of it, won’t you?
Chris Deerin is a leading journalist and commentator who heads independent, non-party think tank Reform Scotland