“Think I’ll take two chickens,” says the goth behind me.
“Think I’ll take two chickens,” says the Hound, the bestial bodyguard on-screen.
Shh. I have not read the books. I don’t intend to read the books. And like Jon Snow—my Game of Thrones avatar, according to Buzzfeed—I know nothing. But I like it that way. I don’t have HBO or even a TV, and I don’t intend to get either soon. Yet I have seen every episode of GoT, via more questionable means.
Tonight I’m watching the premiere of season four at a not-so-secret bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and sipping Dansk Mjod Viking Blod Mead from a co-branded Game of Thrones–Ommegang Brewery tulip glass. “Is this legal?” a new initiate queries, while 50 would-be cable subscribers gaze into a screen of medieval skulduggery. The promotional glassware would suggest HBO has plotted as strategically as the Imp and has a stake. And of course, this kind of viewing party wouldn’t be possible if the bar didn’t subscribe to premium cable. So is it any different from watching an NFL game at your local watering hole?
Maybe, maybe not. HBO’s official statement on the matter reads: “Though we appreciate the huge enthusiasm around Game of Thrones, the HBO subscription is for residential use only. The two most obvious reasons for this requisite are, one, that it depletes the value of the subscription if any public forum can show this content and, two, that HBO is a service that at times airs adult content which may not be appropriate for all in a public forum.”
To the second point, yes, America is terrified of bare breasts, nipples in particular. (But keep that blood flowing!) To the first point, it’s worth noting that sports fans have enjoyed their pastimes in bars for decades, via broadcast and pay-per-view. Only recently have fans of serial drama started to indulge in the same type of venue. Mad Men and True Blood are just two other cable series that are substantially enhanced by a boozy group setting. And in the case of GoT, hoots ring out for Daenerys and her dragons, while groans of sympathy resound for one-handed, dishonored and sex-deprived kingslayer Jaime Lannister.
But wait, back to my new glass. Is there some secret collusion here? The tulip glass, which I’ve christened Thirstador—for we name our vessels as we would our swords, do we not?—where did he come from? Not HBO, as I’d originally assumed. The bar itself purchased 20 to give away as a promotion—how’s that for dedication to the cult? So while some HBO subscriptions may have been lost (to the tune of $4,500, for 50 Optimum Silver packages), what is the marketing value of all those tweeting and tumblring tastemakers in the hipster equivalent of King’s Landing? I’d say it’s the difference between two chickens and every fucking chicken in the room.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9:00pm on HBO and, if you’re in the New York area, can be viewed at some of the bars listed here.
Photo courtesy of Everett