Music

Does Ed Sheeran Deserve All The Backlash From His ‘Game Of Thrones’ Appearance (And Everything Else)?

If you’ve been on the internet or near other humans at all over the past few days, you’ve probably heard about the eventful Season 7 premiere of Game Of Thrones. Some spoiler-y plot stuff happened that we won’t talk about here (but already have here), yes, but more importantly — at least to the haters online — Ed Sheeran made a guest appearance that for some reason was instantly torn to shreds:

Sheeran’s Twitter mentions were apparently much worse than that: Just a couple weeks after calling Twitter a “headf**k” and quitting it due to all the nasty things people write about him, he doubled down on his tweeting exodus by deleting his account for real. It’s actually back online now, but his bio reads, “I don’t use this anymore, please follow me on @teddysphotos on instagram, lots of love x.”

The backlash was so intense that director Jeremy Podeswa felt the need to defend his guest star, saying in a recent interview:

“I’m a bit surprised that people have made that much fuss about it. To me, he does seem quite organic, in his own way, to the show. […] If you didn’t know that he was a pop star or an entertainer of any kind, you would think he’s just one of the guys.”

So how did we get to this point? It seems like every time Sheeran blinks, the internet is flooded with comments about how he sucks, how his music is no good, and other ill-spirited jabs of the sort. But why?

It seems he’s somehow fallen into the same league as Nickelback, Michael Bay, and Adam Sandler: Sheeran has become a default target for non-creative trolls who love talking but have nothing to say. Like the aforementioned three, Sheeran is an “easy target” in his own ways. He’s a red-headed “ginger” who isn’t known for having a traditional pop star look, and he’s a male songwriter with gentle and sensitive songs. People like to make fun of these things, for some reason. Detractors who focus on these innocuous but apparently criticism-worthy elements of Sheeran are the minority, though, because Sheeran’s star continues to shine in spite of them.

This year, he put out No. 1 album ÷, scored a big hit with “Shape Of You,” and racked up a bunch of Youtube views with his Carpool Karaoke segment. Sheeran is one of the most visible musicians on the planet, which has fueled his haters and made them a more and more vocal minority.

In this case, though, do the trolls have a point? Was Sheeran’s Game Of Thrones cameo really that indefensible, a true affront on the show’s integrity?

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Well, Sheeran’s role is just the latest of many musical guest appearances on the show: Members of Coldplay, Mastodon, Of Monsters And Men, and many others have visited Westeros before. As for the actual scene, there was no egregious abuse of Sheeran’s star power: All he did was sing a short song that came directly from the books and sit silently with his fellow Lannister soldiers, periodically offering Aria Stark some food and drink. It’s not like he got on stage in jeans and a t-shirt to sing “Thinking Out Loud.” Speaking of Stark, actress Maisie Williams was the main reason Sheeran was there in the first place: She’s a big fan of the singer, so his appearance was a gift to her from the show’s creators.

His guest role wasn’t particularly unusual, it was faithful to the spirit of the show, and it meant a lot to one of the drama’s stars. It was fine. Lady Gaga put it best in a recent Instagram post defending her friend:

“I wish all people on the internet would be positive and loving and apart of creating an online community that is kind and empowering, not hateful and mean. No reason to tear down an artist simply because they are on top. Work harder to be kinder everybody. That should be your first duty to humanity.”

There’s enough hate out there, way too much to waste it on a likable pop star who hasn’t done anything but make a lot of people happy with his universally appealing music. Call it a joke all you want, but it’s time to leave Ed Sheeran alone. It might not be a good idea to mess with a Lannister soldier anyway.

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