Culture Clips: Game of Thrones Conquers Millions, Facebook Billions

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Game of Thrones

Winter is coming. In, like, about five and a half months or something. In the meantime, HBO’s Game of Thrones is coming, too. Its seventh season begins July 16.

The show has become about the closest thing to “must-see TV” in today’s fragmented television landscape: Time tossed it on its cover this week and called it “the world’s most popular show.” Last year’s Season 6 finale pulled in a record 8.9 million viewers. But the official ratings don’t truly reflect its popularity, given that Game of Thrones was also television’s most-pirated show for the fifth straight year last year.

But the HBO fantasy series is also one of the most sexually explicit shows on television.  And it has served as a tawdry, explicit form of sex education for some—including one of the show’s youngest performers.

“The first time I ever found out about oral sex was from reading the script,” says Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark. “I was like, ‘Wow! People do that? That’s fascinating!”

But most teens aren’t following Game of Thrones‘ example. As we touched on last week, fewer teens are sexually active these days, which researchers say punctures some well-worn parental fears.

“There’s this myth that kids hook up quite a bit and have sex with someone they literally just met,” says Dr. Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatrics at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “This [study] dispels that myth, that our teenagers are having sex with people they don’t know.”

Moreover, the teen birth rate hit a record low last year: There were 20.3 live births per 1,000 females between the ages of 15-19, a decline of 9% from the previous year. And as we’ve documented, drug abuse among teens is also on the decline.

One exception? Marijuana use, which teens seem to think is no big deal. A new study from the University of Bristol (England) suggests that it kind of is. Researchers have found that teens who use marijuana are more likely to use other drugs when they hit adulthood. Oh, and alcohol and tobacco use goes up amongst such weed-using teens, as well.

Teens aren’t showing any inclination to curb their Facebook habits, though. Nor, frankly, are the rest of us. The social networking site now has 2 billion active monthly users. Australia’s The Standard notes that, if Facebook were a religion, it would be the second biggest on the planet, trailing only Christianity. (And not, it must be said, by very much.)

Which makes it pretty interesting that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently said that he’d like the network to be more like a church. “People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and give to charity—not just because they’re religious, but because they’re part of a community,” Zuckerberg said. “A church doesn’t just come together. It has a pastor who cares for the well-being of their congregation, makes sure they have food and shelter … Leaders set the culture, inspire us, give us a safety net, and look out for us.”

If Zuckerberg wants to transform his brainchild into something better, the entertainment world seems eager to give fans a more empowered picture of femininity. Entertainment Weekly points out that Wonder Woman leads a number of films featuring a female protagonist. And it’s not just grown women taking center stage: ABC points to preteen heroines such as Laura in Logan, Eleven in Netflix’s Stranger Things and Mija in the South Korean fantasy film Okja, also available on Netflix, as role models for little girls. (For now, we’ll skip over the fact that even the MPAA says that little girls probably shouldn’t be watching the bloody, R-rated Logan.)

Maybe someone needs to pick up the slack for all the guys who aren’t even working these days—perhaps because video games are far more entertaining than punching a clock. But hey, it’s not just guys who want to quit the rat race: Most of us engage in escapism of some kind or another—including films and television—about 13 hours a week. That works out to a whopping four years of total time spent during the average person’s lifespan.

Even stars need to escape. Adele announced in a handwritten note that she might be done touring. Comedian Hannibal Buress, who has a small role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, sent a celebrity lookalike to the film’s premiere. And Rob Lowe said he spent some quality time in the mountains with Bigfoot. (OK, Lowe was technically working on his new reality show, The Lowe Files, but still.)

And finally, let’s talk about who else might want to escape: Anyone who’s starred in a salacious R-rated comedy lately. Most have been scorned by critics and ignored by audiences. Variety’s Seth Kelley even opines that “the R-rated, raunchy comedy’s partying days may be over.”

Well, we can hope, right?

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

bobed 11 months ago
Shows with a rating over 14A or so should legally be prohibited from including children. I say this with absolute seriousness. Thinking of the filth on Game of Thrones...from the miniscule amounts I've seen, it's as explicit as they come, and I suspect I've not seen the worst of it. Forcing a child to not only read and memorize, but PARTICIPATE in, that kind of graphic material is child abuse. Sorry folks, but that's just it. Plain and simple. I pray for Sophie Turner and the other innocent children who have been exposed to this violence and filth firsthand, and made to act it out in a perverse pantomime. As for their parents, who not only approved their children's involvement but likely pushed them toward it in the first place...I can't 
describe the disgust I feel towards them. God will judge.
charitysplace 11 months ago
I suspect an enormous chunk of the viewership of GOT is just in it to see who wins -- the show was incredibly slow-moving until they reached the end of the source material, then it blasted its way through a dozen characters and snapped plot threads all of last season. If you've read the books (I have) ... Benioff and Weis' characterization is all over the place; they misunderstood Stannis perhaps worst of all, but others have suffered as well from their tendency to write plot lines based on the actor's acting abilities. I agree that GOT is HUGE... but once it's done, it's over. I doubt it will have any lasting staying power or repeated successes.
charitysplace 11 months ago
PS: I'm surprised Facebook is doing so well. I sometimes forget the entire world didn't delete their account 7 years ago when I did. :P
SJamison 11 months ago
I've finally been reading some of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" books that "Game of Thrones" is based on; you can see my opinions at my blog. (SKJAM Reviews)

Next week I'll finally be rejoining the world of the gainfully employed, so the video game market will be one down.  :P