Should I Watch Game of Thrones?

Game-of-Thrones-sexyGame of Thrones anyone? How about the new Fifty Shades of Grey?

In a world where this kind of sexually charged entertainment is rapidly becoming the choice diet of mainstream audiences… what are Christians to watch? I mean seriously. How many times do we have to watch Facing the Giants?

I just read an article sharing John Piper’s thoughts on “Nudity” and Game of Thrones, and I was compelled to chime in. Yes, I realize that I’m taking a risk to even speak out about Game of Thrones, especially to my Millennial readers (currently, age 19-34), because… they love this show passionately!

So let me just ask the big question. We’ve all heard about the show’s graphic sex and nudity. What’s the verdict?

Should Christians be watching this stuff?

This discussion has never been more relevant, especially since that show is not only the most popular HBO show ever with an average audience of 18.4 million viewers each week, but it is also the most Googled show, and the most pirated show in the world! Most pointedly, it grabs the number one cable spot every week, even beating most broadcast shows on any given week (like the week ending June 15th, where only the NBA finals beat it out). And in a country where at least 91% of American homes pay for TV, it’s not uncommon for homes to subscribe to HBO, Skinamax, and the others… or at least get the three free months of those shows. Maybe that’s why so many of today’s top TV shows are cable shows (in fact, HBO earned two slots in the Top 10 of that list, including the #1 spot).

The problem is, most of these well written shows have learned that a small dose of sex is good for the numbers. And entertainment is all about the numbers. So we’ve been seeing a rise of sex and nudity in mainstream programming, so much so, that it’s really difficult to find entertainment that isn’t sexually charged. This makes it difficult for parents who are trying to teach their kids to make good media decisions.

Last week I turned in two books to one of my publishers, a book to parents about talking to their teens about sex, and a book to teens about sex (they’ll both be releasing early 2015 from Bethany, or a month earlier here on our site). In the book to parents I brought up HBO’s Game of Thrones several times as an example, because the show has a reputation of being sexually explicit. In fact, Saturday Night Live even made fun of the show, jesting that it was written by two authors, a historian, and a 13-year-old boy who, and I quote, “liked boobs!”

When the show first released in 2011, my wife and I heard from several Christian friends how phenomenal it was, so we gave it a try. They were right. It was creative, great performances, and a genre we really enjoyed. Sadly, in episode after episode there was the “gratuitous sex scene.” And let me tell you, not just the typical FX or AMC sex scenes where we often see bare backs and butts, or see two naked people have sex under a thin sheet (sad that this is now “typical,” huh?). These HBO sex scenes are soft porn: full frontal nudity, threesomes, lesbian sex scenes… a one-minute version of almost everything porn offers except for extreme close-ups.

It wasn’t long before my wife and I made a tough decision, “We can’t watch this.”

I say tough, not because it was difficult to know what was right. It was tough because we loved the writing, enjoyed many of the characters… but knew that the show crossed the line (I guess I just tipped my hand as to my opinion on the matter).

Sadly, this is literally the most watched show by the Millennial Generation. In fact, I rarely meet a Millennial who doesn’t watch the show. Whenever I bring it up with college students in Christian circles there is always that awkward moment where finally someone will speak up, “Well, we don’t pay any attention to those parts.” or, “We just fast forward those parts.”

And Game of Thrones isn’t the only entertainment in question. This week we’re starting to hear the hype for the new 50 Shades of Grey movie as well, as the trailer is going viral. Another movie piece of modern “art” that is selling well and is guaranteed to be sexually charged.

In the article I linked above, John Piper asks Does Nudity Make Game of Thrones Off Limits. I’m not sure “nudity” is the right focus here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing Piper, and I’m not condoning pornography, I just want to ask a bigger question. For those of us who have put our faith in Christ alone and are allowing Him to sanctify us, when does today’s “art” become a distraction slowing us down, a sin that we need to “strip off” (Hebrews 12:1,2)?

So I ask, is it okay to watch these sexually charged programs and movies? Should a married couple go see 50 Shades of Grey? Where is the line between a Michelangelo nude painting (which has never started my engines) and a very provocative Game of Thrones scene (which could jump start a eunuch)?

Is this entertainment the next “cohabitation justification”… the next area where young people specifically are going to just abandon Biblical moral principles because… “Come on! I like the show”?

I’d love to hear your responses, and then I’ll be chiming in with my two cents next post.

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About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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14 Responses to Should I Watch Game of Thrones?

  1. Jennifer Teeler says:

    Interesting that you blogged about this. We don’t have cable, but I had the Game of Thrones series on my Netflix queue. I recently received and watched the first one. Fantasy adventure movies and books might be my favorite genre and I did read the Game of Thrones books (skipping over the racier sections), so I knew what I was getting into when I rented the movies, but I was REALLY hoping that the sex would have been handled in a “tasteful” way. While I, too, enjoyed the plot and characters, I was extremely uncomfortable with the explicit sex. I was watching it on a laptop and cringed every time one of my family members walked by. I also fervently hoped that none of my three teenagers would pop it into the DVD player before I got a chance to return it. Sadly, I won’t be watching the rest of the series. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

  2. Chad says:

    I am 33 and have never watched Game of Thrones…guess I’m in the minority. However, I wanted to comment on something that I think you hinted at. It seems, especially when it comes to entertainment, that we have focused on the wrong things. For some reason, we have gone from, “What brings me closer to Christ?” to “What can I get away with and still be Christian?” It seems to me that if we feel the need to ask the question, “Am I allowed to watch this?” then we probably shouldn’t be watching it.

    • Thanks Chad. It’s a tough balance. Our kids are growing up in a world where they have to ask “should I watch this” or “should I listen to this” every day. It’s a reality. And as we allow Christ to renew our minds, we will be able to discern what is holy and pleasing to him (Romans 12:1,2). Obviously we don’t want to become Pharisitical (is that a word?) and begin thinking our little rules are making us more righteous, but at the same time, our freedom in Christ isn’t an excuse to sin more. Christ calls us to be pure. And as Paul writes in Galatians 5:13: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

  3. Hal says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    When I was younger, my youth pastor told me that the Lord spoke to him and told him to warn his students about watching violence. He said that entertaining ourselves with violence would destroy our compassion for others.

    I don’t know if the Lord really spoke to him or not, but the bible does say that we should stop our ears from hearing bloodshed, and to shut our eyes from seeing evil (Isa 33:15). The violence on tv may be fake, but it is glorifying evil for the sake of profit. How can we watch it?

    It’s not much wonder how people can commit mass murder without any feeling. They’ve seen such realistic depictions of it for so long that seeing it in real life isn’t much different.

    I worked for about two years at a funeral home where my primary job was to pick up dead bodies. I had to pick up bodies that died in just about every way – from natural deaths to car accidents, suicides, gun shots, etc. Once, I watched the fireman shovel a man’s brains up from the pavement, and I pulled that man’s eight-year-old son’s charred body out the car. I wore some of these people’s blood on my clothes. Yet it is nothing like the evil of violence on tv. I was saddened by these deaths at the funeral home, but on tv we rejoice and are captivated by the bloodiness of it all.

    Is it any coincidence that both violence and sexual explicitness are staples of mainstream media, both screen and music? The flesh lusts after both of these things, but we should crucify the flesh.

    I was a teenager when Mortal Kombat first came out as a video game. I still remember when I first played it. Even though the violence on the first game was nothing compared to what is played now, and even though I wasn’t a christian yet, I still felt inside that it was wrong. But I liked it, and my friends liked it. I kept playing and that little feeling went away.

    I’ve never seen an episode of the Game of Thrones, but I don’t think I need to. I’ve heard a lot about it.

    I still think the best test of what we should watch should be this: If Jesus literally walked in and sat down next to you, would you still watch it?

    I’m not trying to be legalistic, but I think people need to really check their hearts on this one. Are we listening to the Holy Spirit when they make decisions to watch this kind of stuff?

    • AlMenconi says:

      I couldn’t have said it better. Col 2:8 warns us not to let others spoil our faith and joy with their philosophies, wrong and shallow answers, instead of what Christ has taught. It seems to be addressing the majority of today’s entertainment choices. Does it affect you? The real questions should be; #1 “How is your faith in Jesus and the Joy of your salvation.” And #2 “What are you entertainment choices?”

  4. Melanie Connors says:

    Several years ago Bill and I began watching The Sopranos. It had it’s fair share of sex, although I can’t actually recall if it contained a lot of nudity. At the time I was part of the worship team at our church. While singing praises to God the image I had seen the night before of Tony Soprano receiving a oral sex flashed in my mind. We never watched another episode. It was hard for us as well because we liked the writing and the characters. My point I guess is this, I agree with you that nudity isn’t the whole problem. In my opinion the problem is that what goes into our minds stays there. I think the added element of actually enjoying the show is what makes it stick in there so much. We loved the Sopranos but had to walk away.
    Blessings,
    Melanie Connors

    • Wow… thanks for sharing. I appreciate your comment. Quite an image. The mind is pretty amazing. I can still see images of stuff I saw when I was a kid. Thanks Melanie.

  5. Tracey says:

    Thanks for this post! We have many discussions about this at lunch. I work in a church and we often talk about what we watch. I ran into this with the Showtime series The Tudors. There was sex, but most of the scenes were not as you describe from Game of Thrones. They were from the back, thru the gossamer curtains, etc. I am glad you mentioned Fifty Shades of Grey. My book club has chosen a book (not that one) that I probably will have to pass on finishing. Besides the bad writing from the very first chapter, I found out by reading the Amazon reviews that there is A LOT of sex perpetrated by and to the main character, who is only 16! And not just teenage stuff. Sex with an adult, with her brother and others. I just can’t bring myself to knowingly read this for the sake of reading it for our group. Many of the reviews said that the sex was mostly for shock value and gratuitous. Like you said, sex sells and money is the end return. I find I have to make decisions on books and movies now that even 10 years ago I would not have had to do. (Never watched the Sopranos.) We must remember Romans 8:7! I agree with Hal. Very well said.

  6. Debbie says:

    I have not seen Game of Thrones either. I enjoy shows that have that genre. I enjoy watching movies like the X-Men series. Coming from the position of a wife of a man who has struggled with pornography in the past and raising 3 Jesus loving men, I would choose not to watch the show. Sex scenes make me uncomfortable while sitting next to my husband because I know he struggles and I do not want to be my choice in show the cause of his stumble. When we talk with our youth group we continuously say to them, “If Jesus were standing next to you, would you still make the same choice?” So if there is a show that I was watching and Jesus appeared in physical form would I still watch the show or change the channel real quick?

  7. Jen says:

    I think it’s a great question and one that more people should ask themselves. Just because a show has some great qualities or “everyone” is watching it doesn’t make it okay. I started reading the Game of Thrones book years ago, but didn’t get very far. I’m just not into incest and page after page of graphic sex. I am not at all interested in watching the show and have discussed my opinion with my husband whose friends all watch it. Out of respect for me, he has never watched an episode and out of respect for him I will never watch Magic Mike, 50 Shades, or any of those type of movies. We can’t unsee what has been seen and I don’t believe any good can come from watching these shows.

  8. Sean says:

    Easy answer, should Christians watch GOT? NO!!!

    Show does take the sex to far though, and this is coming from someone who has no issue with it. It’s fine when it serves a purpose, but nudity for the sake of nudity causes the eyes to roll. Still in the defense of the show it’s supposed to take a realistic approach to the material. Good guys lose. Good guys die. People die in unheroric ways. etc. Poor Robb Stark played the game badly and found out that actions have consequences, and just because you win battles doesn’t mean you win the war. But yes, if you consider yourself a true die hard Christian, I have no idea why you’d even give the show, or book series(less sex) a thought.

    I would love to hear what arguements some of you have for the majority of Millennials who do watch the show? I know I’m all ears.

    Still the main reason I just had to post something here, was once again a Christian acts like this generation is exposed to more Sinful material then ALL THE GENERATIONS BEFORE. Go back to the 1930’s and read a Conan the Barbarian story, where he attempts to rape a Gods daughter. Go to the 70’s where a hit show called Saturday Night Live has a skit where the age of consent is dropped, and goes on to show humerous scenes of older man dating 8 year olds.

    I guess each generation is supposed to be the worse, in truth they’re no different the ones who came before.

    • Sean, I rarely debate with you, but you’ll have to allow a kind retort from me this time. 🙂 I have to disagree with your implication that earlier generations in the 1900s were exposed to just as much “smut” or “sexually charged” material as this generation. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying there wasn’t sexually explicit material available. Watch the opening credits of any Bond film, watch 80’s teen flicks, or classic Kubrick… as perverted as today, for sure. The difference is two things: the quantity and the availability. In other words, sexually explicit stuff has always been around the US, but please don’t try to say that TV in the 50’s or 60’s was even close to as sexually charged as today. Back then sexual content was shocking, now… it’s hard to find a show without it. (Quantity) Plus, back then porn was something you had to hunt for, and now porn is something you have to dodge (availability). Now, if you were to have compared today to Biblical times… I don’t know if I could argue that today is more sexually explicit. Then you would have had a point. But in the last 100 years in America, sexually charged entertainment media has grown big time.

      Thanks again Sean, I just wanted to push back on that one point.

  9. Wes says:

    I graduated HS in 1991.

    I graduated college in 1995.

    I was active in youth ministry until 2011.

    It was around 2002-03 that I noticed a huge shift. Things we didn’t ever talk about or would never admit to were suddenly OK and joked about and accepted as normal. Not just around the guys but in mixed groups.

    I know that our brains will normalize that which we are exposed to, and that we expose ourselves to regularly.

    The town kids who come out to our farm are grossed out and repulsed by everyday happenings that my kids don’t even think about or notice.

    As Christ followers we are commanded to flee sexual immorality.

    1 Thess 4:3-12 is very clear…”IT IS GOD’S WILL that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality…”

    Violence, sex, nudity and profanity all have a negative affect on us. It is rampant in our society. I cannot keep my kids from all of it, however, I don’t have to allow it into my home through my TV or computer.

    I want to be as consistent as possible. I want my actions to reflect my words and beliefs as much as I am able. How to tell my kids this is wrong behavior but it is ok to be entertained by it?????

    Wes