A young woman retrieves four books and three magazines from a nook in her bedroom shelf. She spreads the reading materials out on the knitted bed throw lying on top of her comforter, fanning them so that each cover can be seen in all its glory.
Among the near-collage of posters on the walls of the room, including one large poster of Lady Gaga, boasting the “Born This Way Ball Tour 2011,” two posters stick out from the rest.
Rachel Kucharz, 20, has a bit of an obsession. The two posters, four books, and two magazines all have one thing in common – they all celebrate the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
Her experience with the book series turned television show began only about a year ago, after a suggestion from her brother.
“My brother was like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna start watching this show, you should watch it,’ and I said, ‘Okay, I’ve heard some things,’” she said. “And I had no idea how much I would love it.”
After the conclusion of the third season in mid-2013, she began the book series to “numb the pain” of having to wait nearly a year for new episodes. She has finished four of the five books currently out, and will anxiously wait for book six.
But Kucharz is not the only fan with heightened anticipation of new episodes and books from the “Game of Thrones” series. Fans are becoming not only more intensely devoted to the series, but omnipresent in popular culture.
Let’s break down the sudden influx of new “Game of Thrones” fans since the start of the fourth season on April 6:
• The season four premiere gave the series a record high of 6.6 million viewers for the initial broadcast and another 1.2 million in replays. The third episode airing April 20 matched this record exactly, for a total of 8.2 million viewers.
• HBO Go, HBO’s mobile app, crashed the night of April 6 due to a superfluous amount of viewers trying to access the season premiere on the app.
• Because of that, the season four premiere saw over a million illegal downloads online, with episode two seeing 1.5 million downloads, both within the first 24 hours of the files being online. These numbers made the show the most pirated of all time.
Paul Booth, 33, assistant professor of cinema and media studies at DePaul University, understands the public’s insatiable appetite for “Game of Thrones” as of late. A fan himself, he said that the show has the qualities of a cult television show – an expansive world and a significant fan following. Author George R.R. Martin has created an elaborate alternate world in his series.
Kucharz revels in the universe Martin has created. She glows as she speaks of what she loves most about the series, primarily the characters. “I think the characters really keep people around; they keep me around.”
She especially loves the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. The three magazines she displayed on her bed, one Vanity Fair and two issues of Entertainment Weekly, each contain actress Emilia Clarke on the cover in character as Danaerys, looking fierce yet elegant in her signature ocean blue getup.
Despite the show’s growing visibility, the show also has gotten much criticism for its commonplace displays of sexism and sexual violence. Most recently, episode three of season four caused a firestorm of criticism for a rape scene between two major characters that apparently deviated from the original scene in the book. Kucharz thinks much of this criticism is unwarranted.
“I think that people are way too sensitive about it. It’s a show. It’s fiction,” she said. Kucharz adds that Martin did a good job in the book series of creating strong female characters like Danaerys, Arya Stark, and Cersei Lannister, who oppose the sexism forced upon them, especially in the medieval world of the series.
Kucharz shows no signs of giving up on her love of “Game of Thrones.” She smiles as she glances at the Game of Thrones calendar on the wall adjacent to her bed, the month flipped to April, with character Tyrion Lannister looking contemplative. She reaches out to her poster of a fallen (spoiler!) Robb Stark, his face half-lit by ominous blue light.
“Isn’t ‘Game of Thrones’ about half of the things I talk about?”Kucharz jokingly asks her roommate. Her roommate nods reluctantly, causing Kucharz to correct herself. “Actually, it’s about 90 percent.”
With the book series ongoing and the show approved for at least two more seasons, Kucharz knows this game of thrones is far from over. But she will remain a loyal fan until the game can no longer be played.
“I think I’ll be a fan forever, just because I’ve donated so much time to watching and reading,” she said. “I love pretty much everything about it.”