Hey - Two Brothers Talking

Hey Paul,

June 4, 2019

In 2008, I used to go on a nerd-culture website called Topless Robot almost every day. It was on this website that I first heard of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire and that it was being made into a pilot for HBO. Last week that show ended. Perhaps you have heard about it from every single person on the internet and quite a few in real life. I did not like the way it ended. Many fans did not either. I think there is already a lot written on how and why the show failed. I think that those types of thoughts are worthwhile but I don’t have any of them. Or rather, I do not care to share them.

I think talking about the craft of writing is important. As is talking about the relationship fans do and should have with a show, the level of responsibility writers have to do a good job, the merits of not rushing through the completion of an artwork, and the way that capitalism influences the art that we can have. However, I don’t want to talk about those things either.

I, like all people on the internet, want to talk about things I remember from my childhood. Thinking about the media event of Game of Thrones sends me back to thinking of the first two big media events that I can remember taking part in: the series finale of Seinfeld and the premiere of Star Wars: Episode I.   

Both of these things happened at the end of the 90s and help define, in a small way, the end of that time for me. There is an idea that I have heard that the terrorist attacks in the early millennium sent us all into a cultural malaise, a kind of need for the safe and secure. We all bemoan the sorry state of originality of visual media (a complaint that is probably older than that and that ignores the many new and fresh independent works that spring up from all over). But even if it had not been for September 11th, I think the 2000s would have been a backward time.

I was too young to really remember the Clinton Presidency, but I remember how it felt to live through the Bush era. It was an embarrassing time. Maybe that’s not a new feeling either. I certainly feel it now.

I also remember having conversations with people, and overhearing conversations between adults, about what they thought the ending of Seinfeld would be. Kramer gets back in the bagel business, Jerry and Elaine sleep together, George gets mixed up with the mob, whatever.

I remember walking to the first afternoon showing of the Phantom Menace, in a cheap halloween costume, when no other person was wearing any kind of costume. I remember feeling stupid. I was disappointed before the title crawl. I felt embarrassed for liking this thing too much. I don’t remember what I thought of the movie, but now, of course, I find it lacking the things that I loved about the first movies. Those prequel movies, like the current sequel movies, were not for me. But they could have been, had it not been for public opinion, and had I not been so concerned with having the “right” tastes.

Seinfeld’s finale and the prequels were not well received. People were furious in some cases. They felt as stupid as I did. There have been so many disappointments since: The Sopranos, Indiana Jones and Crystal Skull, Lost, the new J.K. Rowling movies. There have been high points too. The Lord of the Rings movies are truly exceptional (including the ending) and I will always remember watching Breaking Bad with you and calling mom to talk about it.

But for the most part, if I had to say, things that I have been excited for have been disappointments.

Game of Thrones was different though. Maybe, I am the different one now. So much of what used to excite me does nothing for me. I will never deny that Star Wars was important for me. So was Seinfeld. Now they are just things that I like. I used to love them so much that I wanted them to be a part of who I was. Maybe it is healthy that I have changed.

Game of Thrones was something we shared. You and me, but also everyone else. It felt really good to talk to people about that. It feels really good to talk to people about The Office. It feels really good to talk to people and not have that contrarian part of my brain go off or to have to listen to the new angle of a hot take from someone else. We could just like it. And despite many of the questionable choices, we did like it.  

The way the show ends was fine. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible, it was just a whimper and a turn of the wheel. The problems with this season are catalogued on every blog and news site on the internet. I am not going to get into them and I don’t care about the show writers. It is not their fault that they were not up to the challenge. It is their fault that they are deeply sexist and more than a little stupid, but I am not mad at them for ruining the show. When George R.R. Martin finishes his books, I will read them and I will have them. But I won’t share them with anyone. Most everyone will have moved on.

Game of Thrones was disappointing, sure, but the thing that really makes me feel empty is that if we take this show to mean anything, it is that nothing much matters in the end, that there is no reason to hope that things will get better or that people are good, and you are a fool to not only think that they could, but to like these stupid things in the first place. It is a reminder that everything sucks. The president is a fascist moron and I am child who dressed up like a loser.

That does not take away the way this show has helped grow real relationships. I will remember the harmless but superior feeling of knowing what the Red Wedding would do to our friends that haven’t read the books and cooking meals themed for the show. The sharing of this thing that was, at points, great. The terrible hateful ending does not take away these things, but it does put them away, to fade into memory, until one day you pull them out and look at them again.  

Let’s try and pull them out more often.

  Love,

James

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