he world is a pretty dark and depressing place. Have you ever tried to watch the news? It’s just story after story about death, deceit, and demise. On second thought, just don’t watch the news, it’ll make you sad. But this begs the question, with all the media attention focused on tragedy all around the world, why does our entertainment have to follow suit? Many movies, tv shows, and books all use tragedy as a central part of their story, and we seem to love it. I’m personally a fan of happy endings, but I can’t deny I enjoy the sad or tragic movie now and then.
This brings me to one of my favorite shows, Game of Thrones, which debuted Season 5 this past weekend (it looks like we’re in for another great season). Game of Thrones is the ultimate tragedy, one of those shows that we have a love/hate relationship with. Why do all my favorite characters die? Why do things never go the way the audience wants!
This got me thinking, if I had made the show (I wish), how would things have been different? Here’s a few things I would have changed.
1. Ed Stark would have escaped his beheading in a miraculous manner and led the war from the North along with his sons Rob Stark and Jon Snow… with an army of dire wolfs in tow.
2. Joffrey’s death would have been more gruesome and painful. Poison has to be the most unsatisfying death we could have gotten for the little shi*t.
3. The Viper would have finished off the Mountain properly, instead of trying to make a point, because his character was effin’ cool.
4. Khal Drogo would have lived… wait never mind, then we may not have dragons… sorry Khal, you had to go.
Fortunately, I didn’t write the book because without the tragedy, it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones. And despite how often our favorite characters are put to the death or our most hated ones succeed, we love it. Why is this though?
Tragedy Brings Us Happiness
Say what? I know it sounds crazy, but apparently it’s legit. Recent research has explored why we enjoy sad, emotional, or tragic movies or shows and the results are surprising. It appears that watching tragedies actually make us happy and put us in a better mood. So how do we get from tragedy to all smiles? It has something to do with the act of self reflection and empathy.
1. Self Reflection
When we’re watching tragedy, like the scene in the Red Wedding (that one still hurts), we get self reflective and compare our situation to those we are watching. More often than not, we’re far better off, making us feel grateful for what we have. We become more aware of our advantages, our relationships, and the things we may take for granted. All of this ultimately leaves us with pleasant feelings of gratitude.They say comparison is the thief of joy, but clearly that’s not the case here.
The other side of the coin relates to the neurochemical activity occurring in our brains during these situations. When we experience tragedy or sadness of others, even TV characters, we empathize with them. The process of empathy releases the chemical oxytocin, which engages our brain and makes us care about others. Practicing empathy makes us better able to connect with people in the real world as well, and it is this connection that seems to draw us to continue watching sad and tragic media.
So it seems, Game Of Thrones is perfect just the way it is, and watching tragedy isn’t so bad after all – like you needed another reason to watch the show! Enjoy the new season and if you’re feeling down, just watch something that’s even more tragic to brighten your day. For real though.