Why do people support Manchester United?
‘Support’ – It’s a very powerful word. Does it mean you love the club with all your heart? I don’t entirely believe so. Love is an emotion that comes with attachment. It’s something that matures over time. Love is like whiskey in a barrel. Attachment is an entirely different matter. The right question to ask is, how does one get attached to something he isn’t directly connected to?
It’s natural for a kid living in India to pick a team like United as his favourite. They win more. They win more often. I’m merely talking about the very birth of a kid’s selection here. I was born in the nineties. All my friends maul out their football arguments over the existence of four clubs – United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. When we started watching football, these four were the cream on top of the table. They all had moments of glory.
It’s after selection, that loyalty kicks in. When you’re sure you’re with the candidate, you root for them no matter what happens. We don’t want to be wrong. We find excuses to cover their flaws. We find flaws in rivals which we use as excuses. Liverpool supporters that had their birth in the early two thousands still give it all for their club. They know they’ve been fighting a lost cause for the past half a decade, but they won’t ever accept it.
Unlike the English, who find their loyalty on the basis of geography, we find ours based on performance. What would incentivise a fifth grader to cheer Reading? Nothing. No one around him does it. No one cares about the club. Let’s pick Manchester City. They’re new, they’re fresh, they’re loaded. Thirty fellow batch mates became die-hard fans in 2012 – All hail City.
Our IPL works on a mixture of geography and performance. No person living in Mumbai would dream of supporting Delhi, till he pops in some LSD. But a kid in Goa who follows cricket, he could support any city in India, the probability of him supporting Chennai more because they’re consistent performers.
The human brain is beautiful. It needs reassurance that its choice in selection is the right one. I will support an institution either because A) It has existing power. B) It is the best current performer/ It is close to being the best or C) Because everyone around me is doing it.
How is any of this related to Game of Thrones? It has everything to do with it.
Whatever we’ve read or seen in fiction is shown through a singular viewpoint- The author’s. The story evolves through a lead character/characters who trick the viewer into believing that their side is the best way to enjoy the story. We slowly forget their flaws, we slowly rationalise the way they think and keep the book down in the end knowing our lead had his way. I lived on Harry Potter since I was 11. Looking back now, I really don’t think Harry had a great personality. After a lot of thinking, I’ve drawn the conclusion that Rowling cheated. She gave us someone who we could easily like. He had no parents – Sympathy. He had a powerful destiny that he didn’t choose, besides being gifted with unique powers himself – Incentive. He always walked the line, he was straightforward in love, he was brave, he was popular and he saved the year at the end of each book. What’s not to like?
All these pop-culture icons follow the trademark hero’s journey. Lord of the Rings, Inheritance, Potter, Star Wars, you name it. We sit on the shoulders of the hero from the beginning to the end. In our heart, we know nothing wrong will ever happen to him. We sit on a rollercoaster because we know we’ll be safe while having the feeling of impending death right in front of our eyes. Let’s face it, we love having a thrill when we know we’ll be tucked into bed in the end.
Authors bank on the reader’s support. Which is why they give you those two dollops of chocolate cream right on your plate- Performance and Consistency.
No one ever reads a story out objectively. There were five brothers on one side who were sons of Gods. There were hundred on the other side who were human. They fought a war. The five cheated and eventually won. No, the Shivsena will harvest my privates if I narrate the Mahabharata like that. The Pandava’s are protagonists. They HAVE to be correct.
That is why I love George R. R Martin. He simply gives you a wide angle lens, and a story. No one is right, no one is wrong. Everyone is an equally big rounded cunt. Why did so many people love the Starks? It’s because in his mammoth collection of books, the Starks are the only ones who follow the path of extreme hero’s righteousness we’ve been trained to love since we were kids.
I don’t want to play a spoiler to the unfortunate ones who haven’t passed the third season in the television adaptation of the books, so I’ll restrict myself to that point. I find the Red Wedding one of the greatest highlights shown in the recent past in pop-culture. It broke the entire way people viewed a story. It established that audiences need to grow up. Life isn’t a frigging fairy-tale. All those reactions on the internet were a cultural triumph, almost like an awakening.
12 of my closest friends ardently follow the series. We each find ourselves attached to a house of our own choice, and hating another house who we despise for reasons suiting our personality as compared to what the author wants us to choose. Tell a twelve year old Harry Potter bug he looks like a guy who ought to be in Hufflepuff, and he’ll lock himself up in a room for a year. Everyone wants to be a in Griffindor, because it’s cool. There’d be a few who wouldn’t mind Slytherin because again, it’s cool. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum, but it’s still an extremity. No one wants the middle.
In Game of Thrones, it’s not about the house, but about the game. Every single time we read through a new viewpoint, we rationalise based on the character we’re reading through. I hate the Starks. I love the Lannisters. I haven’t ever been more aroused by the mind of a character as I was when I found out how Tywin Lannister plotted the Wedding. It’s genius.
People complain about how Martin is absolutely merciless when it comes to his characters. I think it’s daring. The man has balls. He’d rather sacrifice the guaranteed success of keeping a central character by simply ending his life when he finds his job is done. It’s what Hitchcock did in Psycho. It was unheard of, killing the leading lady before she’s had the chance to show what she was worth. It’s taking a choice, do I care more about my story, or the person starring in it. Martin chooses the former. His entire tale drips the colour grey. There’s grey everywhere, in the characters, in their choices, in the way they behave. For once, no one is right and no one is wrong. I can’t get enough.
What makes it even harder to take in is that the thousand plus characters written in GOT all come from a single person’s mind. How complex would his brain be? He’s woven a phenomenal tale of political genius out of a brain I would love to inhabit, even for a split second. His use of religious differences, the shockwaves of incest, greed, lust and ego make Game of Thrones the most life like fantasy series, psychologically speaking that is.
I always judge people based on the way they gossip. It’s so easy to understand whether the story came from the person who’s been wronged, or the person who has wronged based on the way they narrate it. I stay silent and ask questions till I find out which side the person lies. It’s a little trick.
In today’s world, we’re so conditioned to picking what’s seemingly white or black that we forget that both are actual shades of grey. For me, Martin is my messiah. I’ll kill him if he dies before finishing the series. Though I’m sure he’d smile if he hears of this plan. How ironic is it, to make a paradoxical statement about a man who never gave a damn about our mainstream figures of speech anyway.
Till next time…