Hell is other people talking about Game of Thrones. And hell, I have discovered to my mounting horror, is impossible to escape. Thrones-fever has gripped the world and people won’t stop going on about the bloody show, and how they can’t believe that their favourite elf just got beheaded after an incestuous tryst with a one-armed witch, or how some dragon queen or other has suddenly shown her nasty side. The fanaticism is bewildering.
Admittedly, this may have something to do with the fact that I have never watched the show. People are constantly telling me to give it a go (there are only 962 hours of densely plotted action to catch up on!) but I just can’t bring myself to do so. The fact that I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, which is now on its eighth season, has become an integral part of my personality. Whenever I meet new people, I make sure they know this very important detail about me. I announce it to strangers on the internet. I have it proudly listed on my LinkedIn. And I drop the fact that I don’t watch the overrated dragon show into conversation at every conceivable opportunity. You see, Game of Thrones is not just a television programme, it is an Extremely Popular Thing, and there is no better way to prove that you are a very interesting, very intelligent, person than by expressing your disdain for Extremely Popular Things. Whenever too many people like something, it’s obvious there’s something wrong with it.
To be clear, I’m not saying people shouldn’t enjoy their Extremely Popular Things. Not at all! I don’t begrudge anyone a little joy. I just think it’s important that Game of Thrones fanatics realise that their joy is mainstream at best, and problematic at worst. (Where are all the working-class dragons in Westeros?) I also think that they should realise that it would be a lot more inclusive of them if they could just like the things I liked, so I could join in with the conversation.
I’ve got to admit, it took me a while to sum up the courage to write this column; you would be amazed at the amount of hate you can get online simply for telling people the thing they love is stupid. Indeed, you don’t even need to be that direct. The moment you so much as mention that you haven’t seen Game of the Thrones, fans get on their high horse and inform you: “Hating popular things isn’t a personality trait!”
Anyway, if there’s one important point that I hope you take away from this piece, it is that some people take TV shows way too seriously. Also, did I mention that I’ve never watched Game of Thrones?
Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist and brand strategist based in New York. Twitter: @ArwaM.