Game of Thrones has a fan base that continues to grow. Its production budget is in millions whereas the revenue it generates effortlessly exceeds that amount. People of all demographics seem to admire this fantasy drama inspired by western medieval culture. What is it that makes Game of Thrones one of the most watched TV shows on earth? What is it that makes people rave and effervesce in anticipation of upcoming episodes? Is it the big Budget? Or is it the fact that it is based on a book series that already had a rich and vibrant fan base? Or is it because it is on HBO? Or maybe it is just a fortuitous epiphenomenon of Peter Dinklage’s charm?
HBO is a highly lucrative outlet for writers and directors embarking on a journey to tell a story that requires many episodes, and sometimes a number of seasons, for proper appreciation. According to Huffington Post, a late 2013 Bloomberg estimate puts the number of US subscribers at about 28.7 millions. HBO also has millions of international subscribers. A viewership of this size lures amazing talents all over the world. Game of thrones is certainly well-written and well-directed, but the fact that HBO is able to utilize these positives and provide a potential fandom of gargantuan proportions is of more value.
HBO also has a great reputation. It brought us The Sopranos, Rome, True Detective, Band of Brothers, and The Wire. However, another key factor that amplifies GoT’s fan base is the popularity of the novel series it is based on: A song of ice and fire. Five books have been published and two are set for release in near future. These books have received rave reviews by Science Fiction Weekly, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly and Daily News. And according to Salon magazine’s Andrew Leonard, “The success is all the more remarkable because [the series debuted] without mass market publicity or any kind of buzz in the fantasy/SF scene. George R. R. Martin earned his following the hard way, by word of mouth, by hooking his characters into the psyche of his readers to an extent that most writers of fantasy only dream of.” This quote illustrates why the show was, due to engaging writing of George RR Martin, fated for a huge success.
GoT has knights, kings, religions, realms, violence, dragons, direwolves, telekinesis, and all kinds of supernatural powers and events. Yup, this show has everything. It’s as if the George RR Martin anticipated that HBO would broadcast a show based on his novels.
GoT also has a vast range of amazingly nuanced characters. It also shows society as a milieu of individual and social forces lying on seemingly severe, but behind the veneer highly flexible, power hierarchies, and each force casts an influence according to its position on its hierarchies.
GoT also criticizes, probably unintentionally, our contemporary society. Lannisters won partly because they were cunning but mostly because they were rich. Similarly, American elections are heavily influenced by money. You must rival, if not outshine, your opponent’s astonishingly vast spending behind political campaigns to stand a chance of winning at any level in American government. Gays live in fear in the seven kingdoms of Westeros. Many homosexuals still hide their sexual orientation in modern world due to fear of more subtle persecutions. Finally, the world of Game of Thrones is a world of outrageous financial disparity. Even though a modern world commoner can afford basic utilities and food, Occupy Wall Street and severe republican opposition to Obamacare have shown us that not only is the financial elite as wealthy and as powerful as the rich families of Game of Thrones but also it is bankrupt of even a shred of concern for the well-being of an average man.
In conclusion, Game of Thrones owes its tremendous success to amazing writing, previously established fan base, HBO’s popularity and innumerable subscribers, and incredibly intricate characters. But more importantly, it owes its success to the criticism of modern society that makes it more relatable for people of all cultures and ages.