Fictional TV bleeds into our reality

By Wilson Criscione, News Writer


A couple of weeks ago, two of my friends and I were inching closer to a bonfire in the backyard of a country home, flanked on either side by strangers and people who had no interest in speaking to us. As dusk settled in and the temperature dropped, the friend to my left, doing his best British accent, hissed the words, “winter is coming.”

My other friend laughed. I scowled. I knew what this was. I had just watched the first two episodes of “Game of Thrones” and understood this was a common expression in the show. I knew they were going to begin exchanging their favorite moments and quoting their favorite scenes all night until the fire died and they realized I was 15-feet away, bundled up on a rock and nursing empty beer bottles.

Before this happened, I somewhat rudely cut them off and said, “I’ve only seen the first two episodes.”

They were shocked. How could I have not been caught up on “Game of Thrones?” What have I been watching instead? Who am I?

This experience is not particular to “Game of Thrones.” Similar exasperation was expressed when I was behind on “The Walking Dead,” “House of Cards” and “Breaking Bad.” And once I watched those shows, I flipped to the other side. Anyone who hadn’t watched them was just as out of touch as I had been.

This is the culture we live in.

Being behind on a show is like not paying attention to the news. “The Red Wedding” is a significant cultural event; those who do not know what it is should be ashamed, and Walter White is more real than your chemistry professor.

During the “Game of Thrones” season four premiere, nearly half a million people tweeted about the show within 24 hours, according to Forbes. Just 198,000 people tweeted about Mickey Rooney, who had died the day before, in the same time frame.

Maybe the best example I have illustrating the entrenchment of fictional television into reality happened during a meeting here at The Easterner. While discussing story ideas, one staff member, fresh off what I can only assume was a mind-numbing episode the night before, exclaimed to the room that, “one of the best villains of all time died last night.”

Everybody in the newsroom groaned, either petrified he would continue to spoil the show for those who are behind, or disgruntled that another person was talking about what happened in this fantasy world.

What struck me about this was not his excitement to share, we’ve all been there, but how he said it as if the villain was someone we all knew, and their death should be relevant to everyone in the room. Even if we had no idea what he was talking about, we understood this was a significant time for him, and the way his face lit up urged us to never miss a moment like that again.

We want to share those moments with our family and friends. It’s like gossip about a co-worker, only more interesting. Instead of talking about two people who may be having a fling, you could be talking about an incestuous relationship that affects an entire kingdom.

I’m not condemning this culture. I love it. I have no problem with fiction being a big part of people’s lives, just like I have no problem sobbing when Kobe Bryant gets injured. In its own way, fiction, and sports, tell us more about ourselves than whatever we call the real world.

And to my friends who watch “Game of Thrones,” I’m sorry. I’ll catch up, and maybe we can talk about it at the next bonfire.