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Peak-Geek Weekend: How 'Game of Thrones' and 'Avengers: Endgame' are Changing Pop Culture Landscape of India

Peak-Geek Weekend: How 'Game of Thrones' and 'Avengers: Endgame' are Changing Pop Culture Landscape of India

At the end of the nine realms of MCU, and the seven kingdoms of Game of Thrones, where do the geeks go?

The peak-geek weekend is here! The last instalment of Avengers series, Avengers: Endgame, hits the screens today, and on Sunday night (Monday morning for us in India), Game of Thrones' much-anticipated episode, "The Battle of Winterfell," will be aired.

Nothing will be the same after that. The MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) as we know it will come to an end leaving behind a giant crater in the popular culture landscape, which will be hard to fill. Of course, we will still have the Game of Thrones' climax to look forward to for a while, but with the body count that the upcoming episode has the potential of raking up, let's just say that this Monday will, in all likelihood, be truly brutal.

It is interesting to note though, that in just eleven years (Marvel released Iron Man in 2008, and that's when it all began) we have all become such geek culture junkies in India.

We have come to love films based on comic books (which most of us haven't read), worship superheroes, remember their complicated backstories, and become experts on realm travel, and fan theories. We, who readily scoff at films like Naagin, Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, and Veerana, are so hooked on to Game of Thrones that we wait every week with bated breath for a series about dragons, witches, and the walking dead (or the white walkers, as they are popularly known). When did this really happen? When did geek culture become synonymous to popular culture in India? Why is it that if you say, 'I have never watched Game of Thrones', people will look at you with astonishment and a hint of judgement, or why is it that you can never say that you are not a Marvel fan, without attracting a certain degree of hate on online platforms?

While it's hard to pinpoint the exact moment when these geeky series and films overtook India, (specifically urban India) it is safe to say that at the current moment Game of Thrones and Avengers films are more mainstream than Bollywood cinema. In fact, they are so popular, that even the holy trinity of Khans won't risk a release date clash with the Avengers. Bookmyshow alone sold 2.5 million tickets of Avengers: Endgame in advance sale. Reportedly 18 tickets are being sold every second. This level of hysteria over any film, especially a Hollywood film, has never happened before in Indian history.

While the first superhero India ever loved was SpiderMan (the old one, starring Tobey Maguire), other sci-fi films, which made geekdom popular in the west had little success in our country. The 42-year-old cult franchise of Star Wars -- which is a huge deal in the United States-- could never hold the interest of the Indian audience and therefore, never manage more than some devoted followers. Tolkien's magnum opus, Lord of the Rings did not really break the bank either. But, Marvel superheroes have managed to make thousands of fans in India, and the credit for that goes not only to the brilliant storytelling of the makers, or the stellar cast of the film, which practically constitutes of half of Hollywood but also to their marketing strategy. While Marvel is still aiming for the urban audience in India, and most of the ticket sales are happening in the metro cities which have multiplexes and inox theatres, the Marvel gods have not forgotten the smaller towns of India. Many screenings are dubbed in Tamil, Hindi, Telegu to access the regional Indian market. In fact, India is reportedly one of the fastest growing markets for Marvel in the world.

As for Indian Marvel fans, they are so invested in the films that no one wants to leave the MCU just yet. While it was once uncool to be stereotyped as geeks or nerds, thanks to geek culture becoming mainstream, people these days are wearing their geekiness on their sleeves. Myntra, the fashion e-commerce company reported a sale hike of 20 % on all Avengers merchandise, right before the release of the Endgame. Likewise, a Mumbai based company, RedWolf reportedly witness a sale hike of 300% on the Game of Thrones merchandise as the eighth and the final season of the series began.

Many urban young Indians began watching Game of Thrones in India much before Hotstar came into the picture. Back then, the only way to watch the show was by illegally downloading and it seems it hasn't stopped since then. According to a 2019 report by Digital India, the premiere episode of season 8 of the show was pirated 55 million times, within the first 24 hours, out of which, 18% of the illegal viewership originated from India. That's the highest illegal viewership from any country. Hotstar, however, is doing great business with the online streaming of the current season of Game of Thrones. Just before the season premiere aired, the OTT platform crossed 300 million monthly active viewers mark.

Indians, in fact, had been splurging on shows such as GoT and film Franchise such as Marvel by buying merchandise related to them, spending on expensive 3D movie tickets, as well as, getting subscriptions of online platforms. The Marvel movie tickets are always priced at a higher rate, and now, with the last movie coming out, there will be 24*7 screenings of the film to meet the demands of the audience, and the prices aren't getting any lesser. But, the big question is, what happens when Marvel films are all over, and so is Game of Thrones? At the end of the nine realms of MCU, and the seven kingdoms of Game of Thrones, where do the geeks go?

The bigger investment for fans of such larger-than-life fantasies has not been a financial but an emotional one. After seven long seasons of hearing that winter is coming, winter is finally at Winterfell, and after 21 films in MCU, we are in the endgame now. This is truly the peak of geek culture and after the end of these two series, the popular culture may experience a shift from fantasy, because all the good ones have already been made. Marvel may air shows on some obscure superheroes on Disney+, HBO may look for the next best show after its most profitable series draws to a close.

But, what about the fans? Will they move on? Will there be better things to move on to for the geekdom? only time will tell. But, for now, embrace your innate nerdiness, and enjoy this weekend.