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Game of Thrones: only the good die young

Game of Thrones: only the good die young

George Schmidt discusses the moral universe of the Game of Thrones HBO series at Religion Dispatches:

HBO’s Game of Thrones returned for its third season on Sunday having already inspired a variety of media, from a Helmut Lang line of clothing to satires like School of Thrones, Game of Cats, and a ’90s version of the opening credits (set, of course, to Queen’s “I Want It All.”) Like the novels on which the show is partly based, Game of Thrones has resonated with viewers in a way that only a handful of shows have.

Among nerds and an assortment of geeks, “the American Tolkien,” to quote Lev Grossman, has always held a degree of interest, but it took HBO’s Emmy award-winning adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s work to make it a fashionable topic among the wilder shores of journalism and academia. In fact, Wiley, the same publishers who brought us titles like Transformers and Philosophy, released an addition to their “And Philosophy” book series called—you guessed it—Game of Thrones and Philosophy.


It took the writers of Saturday Night Live (see below, ed.) to uncover the adolescent-boy ideology at work in the frequent and gratuitous nudity and violence, depicting Martin’s collaborator in the HBO series as a 13-year-old boy by the name of Adam Friedberg. Regardless of Friedberg’s influences, the HBO series and particularly the novels collectively referred to as A Song of Ice and Fire have not gained currency simply by speaking to capitalism’s ever-increasing demand for gore and female objectification. Rather, Martin’s work speaks to the progressively complex power dynamics we must navigate and make sense of in a post-Cold War world.


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Murdoch Matthew

We don’t watch television much (Gary catches Masterpiece Theatre when the digital gods are friendly). I notice The Game of Thrones because I’ve been a Peter Dinklage fan since he starred (starred!!) in The Station Agent movie. I’ve looked at a few gay scenes from GoT shown on YouTube. (There aren’t many gay scenes in movies — one look for reflections of one’s own experience.)

I have my own issues with “adolescent-boy ideology . . . frequent and gratuitous nudity and violence.” All the wreckage and explosions in recent box-office hit movies clearly seems intended to appeal to adolescents. Buffy the Vampire Slayer made one major character a carpenter who could rebuild structures destroyed in a fight or monster outbreak. But Buffy was wry; modern movies are just loud.

Comic book exaggeration of gender markers is excessive. Superman began as a working-class bloke in tights; he and his fellows now rival Tom of Finland fantasies. Wonder Woman originally wore culottes; now she wears a bikini bottom and overflows her top. Objectification is unavoidable — we know one another through our bodies and delve deeper only with acquaintance. But when all is surface and exaggeration, there’s not much value.

However clearly big boobs and big bangs are designed to appeal to emerging male teens, there’s a problem with labeling such things as adolescent. When I was young, “mature” was a value label not a description. Gay men and bachelors were considered immature, they hadn’t grown up into the approved social role. The “puer aeternus” archetype was considered destructive. All this now seems more social control than psychology. Children-submissive, Women-housewifes, Men-breadwinners and warriors. The hormones have quieted down, but do any of you feel different as a person than you did in youth? People are people; they do what opportunity and ability permit; they aren’t defined by age or gender choices nowadays. Or not so much.

As for “gratuitous nudity,” yes, it can be a distraction, but gratuitous avoidance of nudity reflects an unhealthy attitude toward the body. Skin is skin. Posing actors behind concealing lampshades or furniture makes the fact of sexuality seem shameful. I don’t want naked bodies flaunted on screen, but if the story has them naked, let them be naked. Tittering IS adolescent.

The problem with violence as entertainment is that it isn’t realistic. A movie opens with six people being shot dead — they’re just plot points, not persons with histories and families. The hero is bashed and is up again fully functional in the next scene — no visit to the emergency room or week of recovery. There’s been a move to get movie-makers to show the results of the violence they depict. That would rein them in considerably. Even the news shies away from showing the results of real violence — tornado victims, bodies demolished by US drones . . . Violence happens. Duels were still being fought in the early days of the US Republic. Avoiding the results of violence anesthetizes viewers. (“Bang! Bang! You’re dead” isn’t a game in real life.) Show the violence if necessary, but don’t show it as clean or without consequence. (A moment of silence for all the Native Americans shot to death on Saturday afternoons in the cinema.)

Bill Moorhead

Laura: Context is all!

I don’t subscribe to HBO, so I’m always a year behind in watching GoT. But I’ve read all the books (twice, actually), so I knew that the “Red Wedding” was coming sooner or later!

Make no assumptions. Lots of unexpected things yet to happen. (Come on, GRRM! Finish them up!)


No one else seems to think this screen shot from my Twitter feed is funny but me. But I hope you do.

Laura Toepfer

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