Game of Thrones petition highlights the importance and power of the audience

Image Source: CNET Magazine

By Giorgina McKay | @ggmckay11

Over a million Game of Thrones fans have signed an online petition calling for a remake of the show’s final season, after many were left disappointed and dissatisfied with its conclusion.

Diehard fans of the incredibly popular HBO drama took to social media to voice their frustration and anger over what they viewed to be ‘terrible writing’ in the season’s first five episodes.

In particular, fans took issue with certain plot points and technical issues, such as not being able to see the climactic ‘Battle of Winterfell’ clearly due to poor lighting and the sudden pivot of one of the main characters, Daenerys, to being a ‘mad queen’, which led to the burning of the city of King’s Landing.

However, the final nail in the coffin for fans seemed to be the show’s final episode, which aired last week, in which one of the show’s most beloved characters suffered a tragic death.

Outraged fans swarmed to the online petition – created after the prior episode – which called for the remake of the eighth season with different writers.

Avid fan of the show Chris Dastoor said, “I think the worst part was just how rushed it was. Everything was just crammed into the end.

“I’m not surprised it disappointed though because everyone had high expectations and often their own perspective on what should happen… the creativity just didn’t hold up to the same standard as the earlier seasons.”

Despite fans rallying around the call for a season remake, the petition’s founder, going by the alias ‘Dylan D’, said this was never his intention.

“I made this petition some few days after episode four, ‘The Last of the Starks’, aired,” he wrote in a petition update.

“I was just so disappointed and angry. It was simply me venting a bit.”

Dylan said that the real point of the petition was not to inflict change, but to send a message.

“I don’t think people can reasonably expect HBO to completely remake the season, or any part of this particular series (keep in mind the prequel spinoffs). It costs a fortune to shoot one episode, and I think most signers understand that,” he said.

“Will HBO lose gobs of money over this? Eh probably not. As Heath Ledger’s Joker once said, ‘it’s not about the money, it’s about sending a message’. And I think this message is one of frustration and disappointment at its core.”

Fans petitioning for changes to television series or movies is not an uncommon phenomenon.

Shows like Lost and Lucifer have received similar treatment in the past; just recently, a petition to recast Robert Pattinson in the upcoming Batman adaptation has been circulating online.

While some may find these petitions ridiculous, Sally Ashton, a tutor at the University of South Australia with an extensive background in television broadcasting and writing, thinks otherwise.

“I think the idea that a culture can have that kind of power to change something is interesting because it’s a protest more than anything. It’s people saying that they weren’t happy, and I think it’s probably their democratic right to express that,” she said.

“So does that concern me about the industry? Not particularly. What it does kind of tell me about the industry is that people are underestimating their audience.”

In the golden age of social media and online streaming, audiences are now playing a more integral role in the popularity and global success of film and TV than ever before.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 43 per cent of Australians aged 18-24 watched their television online.

As a result, streaming services have received a big pay day, with Netflix reaching 139 million subscribers worldwide in the final quarter of 2018.

“Production companies are not stupid; they know that their bread and butter actually lies within the scope of the audience and what the audience wants,” Ms Ashton said.

“There’s a lot of material out there that they’re sorting through all the time and we’re living in an age where people are very literate about what it is that they’re viewing, and they have this kind of new literacy.

“I don’t think they have the right to dictate, but if the writers and producers aren’t thinking about their audience then we’re getting something wrong in terms of what we’re putting out to them, and, as I’ve said, the issue I think probably with Game of Thrones, for example, was the fact that it really wasn’t thinking through what it’s audience wanted.”

Ms Ashton said this is because television viewers have become more sophisticated in their choices.

“We’ve got this golden age of television that is really increasing people’s sophistication on reading texts such as films and television itself,” she said.

“And there’s this expectation that people really want a good product to be the outcome of that, and when they’re let down it becomes very apparent… there’s probably something there that people need to consider in terms of creative production definitely.”

Ms Ashton said that people invest in shows because they are like family – audiences develop an attachment to them – and at the end of the day the audience is letting the showrunners know their dissatisfaction.

“The interesting thing with Game of Thrones is that there was an assumption that the fans were kind of getting what they wanted by certain things kind of being paid off, and at the end of the day that didn’t occur, and there was a particular character arc that I think has been what people have been upset about,” she said.

“And I kind of get that at the end of the day because it was a question of trying to attend to a progression of a character that didn’t come off and just wasn’t achieved affectively. Are they dictating it? No. People invest in shows; they’re like family; they’re things that people belong to.”

Despite fans’ demands for a remake of the show’s final season, it seems that HBO and the show’s writers will be moving onto other things.

The series’ co-creators, David Benioff and D.B Weiss, will begin production for a Star Wars spinoff series based on the much-loved Skywalker saga.

Dylan said, “I didn’t make this petition to be an entitled, whiny fan. I made it because I was immensely disappointed and needed to vent.”

“Am I petitioning anyone? No. But am I dissatisfied? Look we got what we got in the end, so I think there’s no point in crying over spilt milk,” Ms Ashton said.

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