Should shocked Game of Thrones fans get anger management therapy?

Photo: The Red Wedding, Game of Thrones / Photo HBO Helen Sloan
Photo: The Red Wedding, Game of Thrones / Photo HBO Helen Sloan

SAN DIEGO, June 6, 2013 – The novel was written 13 years ago. Millions of fans knew what was coming. But for the majority of viewers watching Sunday’s episode of the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” it was a shocking turn of events.

Several major characters were killed in a brutally graphic, blood scene known in George R.R. Martin’s novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire” as the “Red Wedding.” Without unnecessarily spilling the beans along with the blood, there are fans who are reelinh, still hurt, angry and upset about it four days later.

Fans participating in our “Game of Thrones” live chat on Communities were no different. Many flocked to our news site for the first time to express their emotions to fellow fans.

This was just brutal tonight and I’m not sure that there is enough left to root for that I want to give my time and energy.” – Viewer Nick

“Wow my girlfriend won’t stop crying and that’s too bad.” – Viewer Jesse

“I knew a favorite character was going to die soon, but I just loved (Name)… When the Rains of Castamere song started to play, I got the chills…I knew something bad was brewing, but not that bad. OMG.” – Viewer DWLyle

“Wow…. I left my tv, googled a website that’s doing a live chat JUST so I could express my WTF factor to someone. Holy s**t sticks… The silence was the icing on the cake. It was almost like they did it just as a “betcha didnt see that” right to my face. I never read the books but plan to. They kept playing my emotional strings only to cut them at the very end (a bit literally too)… I rarely get emotionally involved/attached to a show. I felt genuine anger.” – Viewer Limitz

Hundreds of thousands of people took to Twitter and flooded GOT fan sites. Author Martin said it wasn’t all that much different when fans first read the third novel in his series in which the Red Wedding takes place. They told him they burned his book and vowed never to read it again.

Is the outrage and anger extreme over a fictional character’s death extreme? We went to CDN columnist Paul Mountjoy, a psychotherapist, psychology researcher and a member of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. He writes the CDN column “Steps to Authentic Happiness Through Positive Psychology.”

Mountjoy says people identify with fictional characters on TV shows for any number of reasons, “They may see themselves in a character. They may see what they WISH to be in a character. Or a character may remind them of someone they felt or feel strongly about, whether it’s love or hate,” said Mountjoy.

Mountjoy said the relationships they development and establish with characters can be as real and meaningful as a relationship with a friend. “They get emotionally involved as a result. They cannot ‘suspend disbelief’ for long,” says Mountjoy.

Mountjoy explains that a person’s basal ganglia, a component in the hormonal neurotransmitter dopamine, gives us pleasure. Watching a character a person has established a relationship with provides pleasure, particularly in ongoing dramas like soap operas where many emotions are felt. “Game of Thrones” is a long running serial with many characters, familial relationships, and strong emotions – just like a daytime soap opera.

“If the characters die, particularly a violent death, a person feels loss … a part of their self-assessed value is gone. Someone they respect is brutalized and a show they treasured is now destroyed along with the character he or she developed their relationship with,” Mountjoy says.

The result? People blame the media for their loss. “Folks hate loss,” Mountjoy point out.

Mountjoy says it can be even worse for socially isolated people, who invest even more into living vicariously through a given character.

So if you’re still feeling down and angry today, not to worry. But if your anger, depression, or stress over “Game of Thrones” doesn’t die down within about two weeks, Mountjoy advises you to consider visiting a doctor. He’s dead serious. You might feel foolish about it, but if you are still experiencing distress you may have underlying issues that need attention. If the anger turns into acting out, “that’s going too far.”

Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin said readers were just as upset with him over the Red Wedding 13 years ago when it was first published. Photo: WENN.
Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin said readers were just as upset with him over the Red Wedding 13 years ago when it was first published. Photo: WENN.

“Game of Thrones” author Martin has said in interviews people wrote him and said after being mad for about two weeks after reading about some awful death in one of the novels and trashing the book, they would sheepishly go buy another copy because they had to find out what happened next.

Viewers wouldn’t have embraced the HBO series without caring deeply about the characters in the story. There is no enjoyment in watching the fate of a fictional character unfold if we don’t care about them. We are thrilled when they prevail; we are devastated when they lose at love, or die. But as Martin himself says, “Valar Morghulis,” which translates from his fictional language to “All men must die.” All men must die whether they play the game, or not. So why not play?

The final episode of Season 3 of “Game of Thrones” airs on Sunday, June 9. Fans have good reason not to miss it. But be aware, things could get worse before they get better.

Communities Digital News offers our online version of talk therapy, the “Game of Thrones” Season Finale Live Chat. We will begin a little early at 8:30 p.m. ET so we can share our thoughts after a week’s reflection on the events of the Red Wedding, and prepare ourselves for the last hour of the series this season

Game of Thrones returns with the final episode of Season 3, “Myrha” on Sunday, June 9, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on HBO East and HBO Latino East (with Spanish subtitles); followed by airings on HBO West and Latino West at 9 p.m. Pacific Time. All four channels repeat the episode through the evening.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.  

Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group


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