I probably spend far too much time thinking about these things, but TV fan that I am, an analogy has been brewing in my mind of late.
I’ve been a fan of Game of Thrones for six seasons now (longer if you count the three books in the series that I read prior to the show). I’m much newer to The Walking Dead, watching the first three seasons on Netflix over the summer (I have little hope of catching up to the season 7 premier in October). Both shows have caught my imagination and have lodged themselves firmly on my list of “nerdy fan-girl” shows. Quite frankly, both shows have become an addiction that I can’t help but indulge in, even though each one leads to varying degrees of pain and suffering. Let me explain.
I’ve characterized Game of Thrones as a fine wine-rich, complex, with subtleties that take you by surprise. It’s somewhat of an acquired taste, but once you get past the initial discomfort, you find yourself reaching for it again and again, until you find it the most delicious concoction on earth. But like any drug, it can take hold of you and not let go. Sure, there’s the wonderful elation of fantastic writing, intriguing characters, great acts of heroism, adventure, a bit of comic relief, magic, and of course, dragons. There’s also unspeakable violence, rape and torture, intolerable cruelty, suffering children, and an immense sense of injustice. The magic is always dark, with a hefty price tag attached. Favorite characters die, villains often win. When the party is over, you feel like a pile of shit in the morning. And yet, the very next week, you tune in once more, to do it all over again, despite vows of “never again!”.
On the other hand, I’d characterize The Walking Dead as crystal meth. Disclaimer: I’ve never tried crystal meth and don’t ever care to. But from what I understand of the drug, it’s almost instantly addicting, and takes you on a wild, manic high that leaves you crashing afterward. That’s WD-a relentless, adrenaline-fueled high that leaves you exhausted and broken, yet jonesing for more. It’s one long wild ride for survival, and the peril never ends or abates for Rick and Co. Like GoT, there’s plenty of gore and violence, psychopaths in power, and incessant suffering; but it’s the persistent stress of the characters trying to stay alive that drains the very life force out of you. Ever see those before and after photos of meth users? Beautiful young woman before, haggard aged-beyond-her-years woman afterward. That’s me after every episode. Battered and in despair.
So why do I watch these shows and put myself through such abuse? With Thrones, at least, the answer is: hope. However dim, however slight, there’s always a sliver of hope out there, mainly in the character of Daenerys. She’s been through her fair share of trials, but she emerges stronger every time and gets closer to her goal. And the the Starks, after countless crushing tragedies, seem to be on the rise again. And yes-Jon Snow lives! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s enough to keep me tuned in, to weather the atrocities that I’m sure are still to come.
And WD? I’m not sure. I’m only through the third season, and I can’t imagine these people (and myself) being able to withstand much more brutality. And yet it I hear it only gets worse-much worse. My sister, an uber-fan of WD, has gone as far as to say she may not tune in to season 7 next month. There’s only so much despair one person can take, without needing to see that glimmer of hope, however faint. Time will tell. I want to keep watching. But I’m afraid. I’m very afraid.
After all, wine can be enjoyed in moderation, but crystal meth is destructive at any level.