SALT LAKE CITY — GoT plans for Sunday night?
If not, and you think the above capitalization was a typographical error, there’s a good chance that you are not in the thrall of “Games of Thrones,” the blockbuster HBO show returning April 14 for its eighth and final season.
More than 1 billion people are expected to tune in worldwide — for perspective, 98 million watched the Super Bowl in February — and so the “Game of Thrones” chatter is incessant, both on the internet and in the office. You can’t even buy groceries without the Starks, the Lannisters and the Targaryens looking over your shoulder; there’s GoT wine, Mountain Dew and Oreos.
With all the hoopla over the show, "Game of Thrones" superfans may not believe that some people choose not to watch, and not just because they don’t subscribe to HBO. In fact, there are many good reasons, some of them backed up by science, for having withstood the temptation for the past eight years. While this is a show about families, after all, this is no family show.
You might not be able to convince your friends and coworkers not to watch, but here are six valid reasons (one for each episode) to stand strong when the dragons start flying again Sunday night.
The effect of the violence on your brain.
While the negative effects of violent content on children is widely known, viewing violent images affects adults differently, according to research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
Researchers examined the brain function of two groups of men while watching violent movies: some who had aggressive tendencies, others who did not. While watching the movies, the aggressive men had less activity in the region of the brain associated with decision-making and self-control. The non-aggressive men exposed to violent images reported being more upset and nervous and their blood pressure went up.
But regardless of our aggressive tendencies, researchers have found that adults can become desensitized to violence by watching it repeatedly — and this affects our parenting.
The Orlando Sentinel reported on research by the Annenberg Public Policy Center that found parents become more lenient about what children should watch as their own exposure to violence increased. "We expected there to be a certain amount of what we call desensitization. But what was so stunning was how clear the pattern was and how dramatic it was,” said Dan Romer, now research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and lead author of the study.
You can’t unsee it.
Ask anyone who has watched every episode of "Game of Thrones." Even if they plan to look away at the worst scenes, it's not always possible. And once you've seen what's known as the "Red Wedding" — red, because of the blood — you can't unsee it. Ditto for the maiming of Theon Greyjoy.
Unlike necessary, historical violence in war movies such as "Saving Private Ryan," "Game of Thrones" violence, such as a man being eaten alive by dogs, is meant to shock and titillate, which is why there are articles online such as "The 20 Most Gruesome Game of Thrones Deaths, Ranked" and "The Most Disgusting Deaths."
Really, we only have so many brain cells. Do you really want these sorts of images taking up space in your brain for the rest of your life? Thought not. One "Game of Thrones" fan website calculated that there have been 174,373 deaths on the show since it started. Don't let your neurons join them.
Honestly? It’s porn.
There's lots of nudity in "Game of Thrones," and it's not very tasteful. Even when the sex isn't rape, much of it is violent, or takes place in brothels. A major "romance" of the show is incestuous. The Daily Mail has reported that activity on pornographic websites falls while the show is on, and that searches for sexy images of the actors spike. If you have to rush to turn the TV off if your adolescent walks in the room, should you be watching yourself?
Do you really need more stress in your life?
We've all got plenty of troublesome relatives and stressful events in our own lives; some people don't have the desire or bandwidth to take on the problems of others. Writing for WBUR, the public radio station in Boston, Julie Wittes Schlack said she'd rather have a blessedly free evening than somewhere else she has to be at a set time — even if it's in front of the TV.
"I spend so many hours in obligatory activities — going to work, caring for loved ones, cleaning the house, reading the news through half-covered eyes — that the notion of unstructured time and the promise of spontaneity hold greater allure than ever," she wrote.
Plus, with the rest of the world in front of their televisions, the next six Sunday evenings will be a great time to go to the grocery store or out to eat. And the theaters are sure to be empty. Thanks, GoT!
Admittedly, the language, as bad as it is, is more mainstream than the sex and violence. But a major character is born out of wedlock, and the show's writers gleefully insert the expletive for that condition at every opportunity. And that's just the start of it. Like violence, we become desensitized to profanity with repeated exposure, as do our kids. This may be why The Washington Post has reported that children are using profanity at earlier ages than past generations. As the Post headline says, "It's all because they hear you using them."
“By the time kids go to school now, they’re saying all the words that we try to protect them from on television,” psychology professor Timothy Jay told the Post. “We find that swearing really takes off between (ages) 3 and 4.”
The post-GoT blues.
You can see it coming right at you like a huge zombie dragon: The season finale blues. All the hype and excitement leading up the season will end on May 19. Winter is ending. Forever. The letdown we experience after an anticipated event is real and has even been studied by psychologists, who call it post-adrenaline blues or post-event depression. It seems unfair to get depressed after the happiest events of our lives, such as a wedding or Christmas morning.
University of Wisconsin psychologist Shilagh A. Mirgain has offered tips on how to avoid a crash landing, such as savoring the memories and planning a new goal or happy event. "I’m a big fan of repurposing and thinking about what’s next,” Mirgain said. “When I come back from vacation I have my next travel destination chosen. Athletes can focus on the next race, and someone who just had a wedding could start thinking about the honeymoon or one-year anniversary.”
Thinking about a new TV show (which also one day will end) or one of the many threatened spinoffs to "Game of Thrones" is doubtful to satisfy the GoT-obessed. Better to avoid the pain altogether. Come May 20, you'll be smiling and well-rested while everyone else is morose. That alone is a good reason to say "Game off."