Thinking About “Game of Thrones”

My eyes are bleeding. That’s because I have been persuaded to binge-watch “Game of Thrones.” I have read that the source material for George R. R. Martin’s series of epic fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, reimagines the wars and intrigues of the imperial dynasties of medieval Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with the addition of some fantasy elements, such as zombies and dragons, and a surfeit of gratuitous violence and some quite watchable nudity. I did like two of the characters – Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) – but chiefly because they use brains rather than brawn to survive.

GoT

I’m thinking that what attracts many to watch “Game of Thrones” is what repels me: it is a celebration of monarchy, feudalism and war. Even as a fantasy meant solely for entertainment, “Game of Thrones” portrays monarchy as the highest form of government, feudalism as the supreme economic system, and war as an occupation both glorious and efficacious. I cannot account for the popularity of a TV series with these themes, especially in the USA, where we fought a bloody war against monarchy!

Just once… I’d like to be treated to a TV series about a democratic republic with no games and no thrones; a drama in which nobody is better than anybody because of what family they were born into or how many people they slaughtered; a drama celebrating great achievements of the mind, particularly achievements in science and technology, economics and politics.

I’d like to be treated to a TV series in which the drama does not hang on the brutalizing of rival clans but on facing down nature, including human nature, and on prevailing over environmental and social adversity; a drama in which the heroes and heroines, rather than forging weapons of war, forge freedom and liberty for all; a drama in which social unrest is quelled by economic justice rather than by fire and sword.

I’d like to be treated to a TV series in which the storyline, rather than being tailored to the incurious—those mind-numbed by violent, sexist video games, who rarely crack a book—is instead fitted to the insatiably curious, those yearning for learning about how to better the human condition; a storyline attractive to humanist minds, to those who aspire to make the world a healthier, more sustainable one, in which the whole species may survive.

I’d passionately watch something like that. You could even throw in some gratuitous nudity. But I’m guessing that a TV series matching that description will never be popular: it would not speak to the primitive passions of those who believe justice emanates from arrow and blade, that social progress is as real as walking dead people and flying fire-breathers, and that genealogy trumps genius.

Still… that’s my ultimate “fantasy” TV show.

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John Mill

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