I’m the only one I know my age who’s a fan of Game of Thrones. This isn’t really surprising since a recent survey of the show’s fan base revealed that 72% of people watching GoT were 18-29 years-old and almost 82% were male. While I fit neither of these demographics, my husband, being male, fits one. But he has the same summation for both Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings trilogy: “Just a bunch medieval-looking people running around chasing each other with swords (bah humbug).”
For a devotee of any work of art, disparaging comments like this are enough to trigger my defenses. I could say of his love for plants, birds, and all things science: “It’s the same thing every day, growing, tweeting, and photosynthesizing (boring)”—but I don’t. I take the high road instead and tell him his old, shriveled-up mind can no longer comprehend all the wonderful nuggets of insight embedded in fantasies like those created by George R. R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones. Speaking of George R. R. Martin, to understand just what a creative wizard he really is, even though his books and the TV series have a strong appeal for younger adults and take place in a Middle-Age, British-like empire, Martin himself is a 70-year-old New Jersey native (pronounced “New Joi-zy” if you happen to hail from that state).
Some might question these nuggets of insight I’m talking about considering GoT is a fantasy-based work. Since the story line is all about various kingdoms and their kings and queens warring over the right to be supreme ruler and sit on the Iron Throne, you’d think the theme of GoT would be power and power structures—and it is. But to my mind this is a very superficial understanding of Game of Thrones.
The genius of Martin’s work is how he blows stereotypes to smithereens and in doing so, gives us again and again, a much more intriguing and broad understanding of the potential human beings have for doing both good and evil.
Women are often the ruthless rulers in Game of Thrones—not the men. Queen Cersei, always watchful of potential usurpers to her throne, is threatened by her future daughter-in-law, Princess Sansa. Cersei serves Sansa and all her family notice of her power by beheading the King of the North, Sansa’s father–as Sansa watches from a castle window. There are many shocking, yet interesting plot twists in GoT, aided and abetted by these stereotype-blowing characters previously mentioned. The most intelligent and thoughtful person in Game of Thrones is the least physically powerful: Prince Tyrion, a dwarf. Diminutive Lady Arya is a dangerous assassin, and the big, lummox Samwell Tarly plays against type as a perceptive librarian. Jon Snow is an illegitimate bastard and cast out of his home, ordered to command a wall of ice in a frozen outpost. The wall is intended to keep heathens called the Wildings away from the other civilized kingdoms. Yet Jon Snow, unbeknownst to himself or anyone else, is the true hero and the key to the mystery behind Game of Thrones.
For me, Game of Thrones ask some serious questions and poses a certain conundrum which I think is applicable to our world today. GoT asks whether or not all these kingdoms can lay down their swords, their need for control and power, and work together against a greater evil, death personified in the White Walkers. The White Walkers are frozen, bloodless zombies that have the potential to wipe out humanity.
Repeatedly, the kings and queens are warned: stop fighting among yourselves. Winter is coming.
It’s not too much of a stretch for me to see the analogy in our real world and our current political landscape: we need to stop the sniping over lesser issues and address the zombie in our own living room. The climate is changing and the atmosphere is heating up. Species, including our own, are at risk. Be forewarned: summer is coming–and it may be a long and a hot one if we don’t act before it’s too late.
Image Credit: Game of Thrones