'Games of Thrones' Showrunners Need to Read the Internet Comments

In a new Entertainment Weekly interview, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss revealed they made a pact last year to no longer read online commentary about the show. Really? Yup, it’s true. Benioff said of the pair’s so-called “troll-abstinence” policy.

We both made this pact that we were going to stop looking at stuff online because you can go into a rabbit hole and get lost in this world of online Thrones commentary if you’re not careful.

To be honest, I’m of two minds about this issue. On the one hand, I am doubled over in laughter over the fact that no matter how much Game of Thrones super fans piss and moan online about the injustice of some minute plot detail from the books being changed, the showrunners won’t see it. There’s just something that is so perfectly hilarious about that. On the other hand, there is a whole lot of articulate, carefully constructed, totally important Game of Thrones criticism going on in the Internet these days, and if it’s truly Benioff and Weiss’s goal to make Game of Thrones the best series it possibly can be, aren’t they doing themselves, the fans, and the show a major disservice by shutting out all online commentary, period?

But you don’t have to tell me twice: I know that the comments section of pretty much any website is where intelligence and basic human decency go to die. Benioff continued:

You look at a message board and there might be nine positive comments, but the tenth one is negative — and that’s the one you’ll remember, that’s what sticks in your head. And you want to have an argument with the person: ‘Well, here’s why this happened [in the show],’ and you can’t. You start having an argument in your mind and you realize you’re losing your mind. You’re having an internal argument with somebody named DragonQueen43 — and you’re never going to win that argument.

Weiss went on to make the rather interesting argument that even reading positive comments about the show online can be a bad thing. “Even with the positive stuff it becomes a bit like trying to have a conversation in an echo chamber. It completely confounds the normal creative process.” So, Benioff and Weiss don’t want to be lulled into complacency by reading too much praise about the show from viewers. That makes sense. I get it.

But! I agree with Alanna Bennett. I think if Benioff and Weiss were actually reading what people had to say (at least once in a while), they could probably improve certain aspects of the series considerably. This season’s rape scene between Jaime Lannister and his sister Cersei Lanniester was, in my opinion, an enormous misstep for the show. Writing an article about why the sequence was problematic obviously doesn’t allow Benioff and Weiss to go back in time and fix it (someday...), but they might be able to avoid making the same kind of mistake with other characters in the future.

What about Game of Thrones’ startling reliance on graphic sexual violence? Is it necessary? As author George R.R. Martin recently said, would it be “fundamentally false and dishonest” to curtail the amount of sexual violence depicted in the books and thus on the show? I don’t have the answer, but there are a number of really interesting conversations about this topic happening online right now. Unfortunately, Benioff and Weiss are missing out.

If the Games of Thrones’ showrunners want to make a point of staying away from the message boards over at World of Westeros: The Internet’s Largest, Most Insane Game of Thrones Online Fan Community, I understand. It’s not that worthwhile discussions aren’t happening there, too, it’s just that the chances of butting heads with an unreasonable Internet goblin are far too high. (I made that community up, by the way. Stop googling.) It’s probably healthy for Benioff and Weiss to limit their consumption of online Game of Thrones commentary to a certain extent, but I just don’t think it’s a wise decision to block out all of it completely.

However, I am in full support of troll-abstinence.

Image: HBO