The 'Game of Thrones' Creator Reveals Why He's Killing Your Favorite Characters

May 17th 2016

In most TV shows and movies about war, the "heroes" tend to defy death, surviving despite the grim realities of violence and death in warfare.

Writer George R.R. Martin, whose book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" inspired the HBO series "Game of Thrones," doesn't think main (often war-waging) characters are necessarily entitled to survival. In fact, he considers it "such a cheat" that Hollywood tends to kill off extras while allowing the stars to live on, The Guardian reports.

In an interview with Galaxy’s Edge, a science fiction magazine, Martin explains that it is a writer's duty to tell the truth — even if that person is a fiction writer — and "the truth is, as we say in 'Game of Thrones,' all men must die."

"We’ve all read this story a million times when a bunch of heroes set out on adventure and it’s the hero and his best friend and his girlfriend and they go through amazing hair-raising adventures and none of them die," Martin told Galaxy's Edge. "The only ones who die are extras."

Martin continued:

"That’s such a cheat. It doesn’t happen that way. They go into battle and their best friend dies or they get horribly wounded. They lose their leg or death comes at them unexpectedly."

Mental Floss has an interesting list of movie heroes who managed to survive even though their characters were supposed to die, according to the novels and screenplays on which they were based. Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park survives a dinosaur attack, for example, even though his character dies at the end of the novel that the film was adapted from.

"Since Steven Spielberg cast the very charismatic and likeable Jeff Goldblum to play Malcolm, co-screenwriter Michael Crichton let the character survive," Mental Floss reports.

Game of Thrones, which has developed a reputation for killing off likeable, major characters, appeals in part because it defies this Hollywood trend.

It is unclear exactly why film and TV producers choose to kill off extras and allow protagonists to survive against the odds. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that stars who are cast as the "heroes" resist roles that require them to die; perhaps it's because producers feel that audiences would be turned off by the death of a likeable protagonist.

What we do know, however, is that many people fear death. Based on a 2015 analysis of fear-related Google searches, "death" ranked among the most commonly searched fear-related phrases, Time reports. Being confronted with the death of a popular, central character could therefore unsettle audiences, forcing them to confront their own mortality.

"Once you’ve accepted that you have to include death, then you should be honest and indicate it can strike down anybody at any time," Martin told Galaxy's Edge. "You don’t get to live forever just because you are a cute kid or the hero’s best friend or the hero. Sometimes the hero dies, at least in my books."

RELATED: George R.R. Martin's Comments on Syrian Refugees are Causing Controversy

Share your opinion

Do you think it's inauthentic for heroes to always survive in films and TV shows?

No 11%Yes 89%