TV Analysis: Is “Game of Thrones” emotionally manipulative?
The return of the highly successful HBO phenomenon was generously accompanied by the assurance of a 5th and 6th season. “Game of Thrones” can be called the greatest fantasy show to ever land on television, a medium infamous for staying within the confounds of crime and courtroom dramas.
Last year many fans who hadn’t yet dove into the critically accalimed source material were shocked, dismayed, and some even became Youtube stars. This particular episode “The Rains of Castamere” allowed publications to throw around one of their favorite words: “controversy.”
When something is controversial that means people were polarized and divided by a certain circumstance. This was not the case. “Game of Thrones” kept its initial promise that no character was safe, even your favorite characters. A promise that was made by the end of season one when Ned Stark’s fate was sealed.
One of the higest redeeming qualities of “Game of Thrones” is the juggling of multiple storylines in a single universe. With so many characters we are bound to get many different personalities. There are characters we will root for, there are morally ambiguous characters, and then there are characters who we just want to die already.
It is textbook manipulation to have an audience of human beings fall in love with a character only to have them unjustly murdered. The definition of “manipulate” is to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner. A writer’s job, in any medium, is to manipulate. In a pessimisstic point of view, a show’s ability to alter a person’s emotions can be considered “unfair” or even “controversial” when gone too far. Is it unfair to feel feelings? Maybe, as human beings we want to feel feelings. That’s why the saddest of films can still be called entertainment.
Martin may have conceived the idea that our hero, Ned Stark, would lose his life by the end of his first novel, but as a professional writer he knew that the journey, the line connecting point A to point B was an opportune moment to make Ned Stark three-dimensional which would, in result, make his death all the more impactful.
Storytelling is manipulation, with the primary goal being to engage an emotional reaction from the audience. This is true in all forms of art. All art is also subjective so one form of manipulation might not work on everyone.
If a show, movie, or video game makes you shrug when the protagonist dies, then maybe they didn’t quite do it right. There have been many failed scenes out there where the key death scene was less devastating due to the lack of character development.
“Game of Thrones” didn’t break new ground here, this is just a factor of good storytelling. Game of Thrones has an impressive production design, cast/crew of skilled artist, but the show has flourished due to its ability to manipulate the audience into caring too much for the many doomed characters it places center stage.