Here's why fans are so obsessed with 'Game of Thrones', say psychologists

21 May 2019 - 11:46 By Sanet Oberholzer
The Stark clan in episode 4 of season 8 of 'Game of Thrones'.
The Stark clan in episode 4 of season 8 of 'Game of Thrones'.
Image: Showmax

For many people across the world, this week is a sad one indeed: the Game of Thrones finale has come and gone.

More than 1.3-million viewers are so furious with the way their favourite TV show played out during season 8 that they've signed a petition calling for HBO to remake the show with "competent writers".

But why are so many fans so deeply invested in the fate of a bunch of fictional characters? And is it normal to get so obsessed with a TV show? We asked some local psychologists to weigh in.

Craig Traub, a clinical psychologist and criminologist who practices in Sandton, says this phenomenon is far from contemporary. According to him, mass fellowship towards fictional characters has existed since the advent of oral tradition, ancient texts, classical works and radio serials.

Traub says: "In particular, final seasons and/or episodes of TV series are commonly revered and even grieved, such as with Friends, Seinfeld, Cheers, Frasier and many more. People who have followed specific characters for several episodes or seasons may be highly invested in their development or even demise." 

But what hooks people to start with?

Pauline Mawson, a clinical psychologist from Boksburg, is of the opinion that Game of Thrones offered people an opportunity to escape from their reality and live someone else's reality.

She says that, in a similar way, 50 Shades of Grey like Game of Thrones tapped into the "darker sides of our consciousness". These "dark thoughts" seem more acceptable when shared by a collective community - the audience. 

"It allowed people to live out their unspoken, more secretive fantasies in a socially acceptable manner and without fear of judgment as it is right in front of you playing out on the television screen. These fantasies may be sexual or violent and if acted out in real life may have severe consequences," Mawson says.

More than that, however, you may legitimately have become addicted to Game of Thrones.

Mawson explains that "the sounds, colours and manner in which the programme is put together are also very stimulating and addictive. Research has shown that video games, computer games and cellphone games are as addictive as drugs like cocaine and have the same impact on our brain".

While further research could identify if this is also indeed the case with TV shows like Game of Thrones, the possibility is very real.

Addicted or not, if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you have our sincerest condolences. We hope you find your next weekly series thrill soon.


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