This past April, I started reacquainting myself with George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, spurred by the start of Season Six of HBO's "Game of Thrones." When not actually watching the show, I spent my time searching Reddit and Imgur for Game of Thrones memes, reading new theories about Jon Snow's parentage on Quora, and listening to the audiobooks on my iPhone. My family got used to the sight of me walking around our apartment with headphones on. If they asked me a question, I'd roll my eyes or grunt in annoyance. Being summoned back to the real world was such a drag.
Normally, I would say that a man in his forties spending this much time on sword and sorcery fantasy stories is a man trying to escape something—such as the pressures of fatherhood.
I did not try to get my sons to watch "Game of Thrones" with me. Despite all the sword fights, magic and adventure--exactly the type of thing that a guy raised on comic books would want to share with his two pre-teen boys--"Game of Thrones" is wildly inappropriate for children. Like a lot of HBO's previous hit shows--The Sopranos, the Wire, Deadwood--GOT is gruesomely violent, overtly sexual and emotionally brutalizing. A lot of characters die, and those who don't are just as likely to end up burned, raped or crippled. I'm happy to say that my sons are not yet desensitized enough to enjoy this type of thing.
What's more, neither seems terribly interested in the fantasy genre. The elder, who is 13, is really only concerned with social media, Drake, and his hair. The younger one, almost 10, likes to play Minecraft and memorize the Billboard charts from the Eighties through the Oughts. Different strokes, etc.
Even if you have never watched "Game of Thrones," you've probably heard that the writers regularly kill off the main characters, often at moments when the audience least expects it. This is in keeping with the source material. George R.R. Martin has made a point of subverting the narrative expectations set by fantasy classics like The Lord Of The Rings, particularly the idea that the hero will survive to the end of the story.
My children, on the other hand, hate surprises, especially nasty ones. Years ago, I read my son, as a bedtime story, a chapter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This particular chapter features a plot twist right out of the Martin playbook: a character who we've come to know and started to like, Cedric Diggory, is suddenly killed. When I read this scene, my son got quiet for a few moments, then started wailing so loudly his mother rushed into the room. It took another hour for her to get him to sleep and afterwards she yelled at me so loudly she almost woke him up again.
It's just as well my kids don't discover "Game of Thrones" now anyway. The most powerful force in Westeros, far more destructive than dragons, ice demons and sorcery, is family. Both the show and the books are full of awful patriarchs: Tywin Lannister, whose dedication to maintaining his family's power and reputation warps his children in terrible ways; Stannis Baratheon, who burns his own daughter alive in order to help him win a battle (and it doesn't work, which only compounds his bad judgment); Craster, the "wilding" who weds his own daughters and gives his baby sons to the demonic White Walkers; and even Ned Stark, the protagonist of the first season, whose stubborn sense of honor costs him his head, and arguably the lives of his wife and several of his sons.
My children already get plenty of examples of incompetent fathering from my day-to-day interactions with them--I see no need to provide more. They have their whole lives to discover the shitty parenting so ably celebrated in the world's art and literature--from Hamlet's mom to Homer Simpson. For the moment, then, "Game of Thrones" will remain a private pleasure, no-kids-allowed, like alcohol, expensive restaurants and curse words.