Who are our White Walkers?

game of thrones cmyk

ILLUSTRATION BY SAVANNAH DONALD/STAFF ILLUSTRATOR

Caleb Wood
Opinion Columnist
calwood@uab.edu
caleb staff photos cmyk

It seems people are increasingly stuck in their own bubbles. Divides now exist in all forms of life: the news we read, the places we live, even the TV we watch. Just a few years ago, a show could air on TV, be watched by 30 million viewers, inspire a round of speculation and discussion, and then be back for the very next week. When the final season “Game of Thrones” starts this Sunday, it will be that kind of TV event. The excitement is palpable. Fans have learned Dothraki. References splatter the internet. Some have even named their children Khaleesi. This excitement over the series’ end seems out of place in today’s modern TV landscape. In the past, big TV events raised important discussions.

Some such as the “The Puppy Episode” of “Ellen” where Ellen Degeneres came out, were truly hot-button issues. When it aired, positive portrayals of LGBT characters were rare in mainstream American culture, and the discussions it started on that matter were intense (Birmingham’s ABC affiliate even refused to air it). It ended up, however, being well liked and paving the way for other LGBT characters in TV and film.  

Now, the most common question about TV we can ask is “what are you watching?” an implicit acknowledgment that we are all on different wavelengths when it comes to TV. The audiences have been divided among so many programs that it is hard to hold discussions about what has happened recently on that new episode of TV. Those divides are not just among individuals.  TV has become just another site of the ever-widening cultural divide in the US. Many shows fall into being watched by either primarily urban communities, rural communities or the Black Belt. A map of a TV show’s popularity can look like a presidential vote map. It is a shame that our media landscape has become so contentious over the past few years. While those divides have allowed for a variety of different shows to flourish, it has come with a cost. Now, TV has become just another great divider in our already too divided time.

We’ve lost the ability to come together as a nation and reflect on a piece of entertainment. When it “Game of Thrones” ends this year, it will mark the end of one of TV’s last cultural touchstones. I will be a farewell to decades of TV history that came before it. It looks like winter is coming for TV as we knew it.

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