Game of Thrones (GoT) is the most watched, popular TV series ever created on television.

Oh yeah ?

HBO’s show is being shown through 170 countries and illegally downloaded more time than any other programme on the planet. It’s success go through different cultures. Why is Game of Thrones that popular ?

According to Entertainment Weekly, the show average 23 million viewers per episode which is up 15% from last year. Based on A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of epic fantasy novels by the American novelist and screenwriter Georges R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones is the pinnacle of today’s TV series. Discover why GoT is a success in the world and across cultures.

A Genius named Georges R.R. Martin

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Does this look like the face of mercy?

The first reason why GoT is a success in the world in term of novels but also in term of TV series can seem obvious. Indeed, the primarily reason is due to the quality of the various GoT novels and the writing skills and style of its author Georges R.R. Martin.

His inspiration is coming from historical facts such as the Wars of the Rose. GoT’s first novel was published in 1996 and since then the books have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. The books have been translated into at least 45 languages. It is a worldwide success.

GoT quickly become a hit in the fantasy novels market then globally due to the TV show’s increasing popularity. But it’s success is due to the exceptional quality of storytelling and talent of its author. Georges R.R. Martin is called “the American Tolkien”, and won with GoT many prestigious awards such as Premio Ignotus, Locus Award, World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement even before it’s was aired of TV.
Game of Thrones success worldwide can also be explained by its character complexity.

 

A great story full of complex characters

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“I can see dead people”

The popularity of any TV show and its longevity can be explained by the emotional investment of the viewers concerning characters. “Ostensibly ‘good’ characters often make horrific mistakes and die while “bad” character survives. In GoT’s world, even the best characters are flawed and even the worst have something redeeming.

The good old question of “good” and “bad” isn’t an even interesting one anymore since most characters are grey which is a very notable difference from, for example, Tolkien’s characters. Indeed, you could guess the faith of any character by just finding if they were “good” or “bad” characters.

The series isn’t about good and bad at all: it’s about how the two interact and inform one another. Game of Thrones is a “smart” show compared to what can be find on TV nowadays. GoT make you think, put the viewer in a different reality and is described as the headlining of a new kind of TV shows: the smart ones.

 

The character complexity is not the only reason of GoT success worldwide.

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“Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.”

Archetypes are presented, destroyed and rebuilt, women are equal to men, they even have more power than men. GoT is full of metaphors such as a Wall designed to keep out the others, the denial of climate change as most of the characters are oblivious to the real treat which are the White Walkers. The events present in the books are still very relevant today.

Those are few examples in a sea of metaphors. Viewers transpose those threats and adapt them to their reality and in some case the show is asking them: “are we slipping into semi-medieval society of our own?”.
In GoT, one of the favourite character is Tyrion Lannister. He is a dwarf, member of the most powerful family in Westeros, the Lannister. Tyrion spends his whole life bullied by his family on the physical and mental level.

He never got respect nor acknowledge because of his physical aspect. However, Tyrion is also supremely intelligent and possessing of a quick, biting wit. He is very much an embodiment of the Trickster archetype seen in mythic storytelling throughout history around the world. He is the most bellowed character by fans. Many of those relate to him because of the similarities between what he went through and what some fans went through.
Combining all these elements in a TV show where the setting is not politically correct (the good guy die but not the bad one). However, the storytelling is (such as issues of gender, race, the differently-abled, and multiculturalism are all mentioned). It’s worth mentioning the very dedicated fan base, described as the biggest and most attached one. Those are some reasons behind Game of Thrones success.

Why Game of Thrones is successful internationally?

Concerning the cultural aspect, GoT success could be explained as the evolution of a nation based culture related to a global culture. Indeed, due to the evolution of technologies and the apparition of Internet, every person in the world is connected to another one even through oceans, various continents. This globalization of culture where the USA is the major player in the Western world primarily can explain why the show is such a success.

One of the other culture change that helped GoT to reach this status can be explained by the geek culture becoming mainstream and even the dominant culture among young people. GoT ordinally was known in very “geeky” circles, definitively outside the lights of what was mainstream at the time. Fantasy genre was never as popular as it is today.

However, geek own culture become the mainstream culture of at least the mainstream pop culture. The rise of superheroes movies or even the elevation of geek figures such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk to worldwide heroes are illustration of this fact. This switch of mentality and culture can explain today’s popularity and worldwide presence of GoT.

The rise of Quality TV

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One other point which is important to mention is the evolution of the TV culture and the rise of “Quality TV” and the creation of a “cine literary culture”. “Quality TV” is constructed around the notion of appealing to an audience with abundant disposable income. It is traditionally organizing around texts. It’s combining familiar television formats with themes and aesthetics drawn from more celebrated sources such as the Hollywood gangster film, romantic comedy, and European arthouse cinema.

Jim Collins describes the resulting alignment between cinema and literature as a new kind of “cine-literary culture”. This specific culture allows for “an unprecedented interdependency of the publishing, film, and television industries. This new culture is changing the landscapes of TV shows.

TV shows can reach that “public at large” wherever it may be with ever greater proficiency. The flattening out of former cultural hierarchies therefore results in a new environment. Changing social practices alongside the increasing conglomeration of media industries has made the consumption of ‘quality TV’ a cine-literary experience. Thus, creates new value for corporate producers like HBO.

In conclusion, Games of Thrones success across cultures is the fruit of the emergence of a new global culture. Technology made us all connected and we all have access to HBO’s content legally or not. Everybody can be connected to anyone which favouritism the rise of this new culture where technological figures are nowadays legends. Obviously, this success could not heppen without it’s genious author.