Thoughts about Game of Thrones

[I am obliged to inform my reader of a potential for spoiling a story, if you have not read or viewed Game of Thrones to this point.]

I went to bed last night satisfied with my Sunday TV viewing, and I woke up this morning thinking first thing about what I had viewed the previous night. Game of Thrones started the fourth season with pomp and panache, and I’m giddy for more. I’ll probably re-watch the new episode later today, and then start watching the series over from the start for the umpteenth time. I think I have a Game of Thrones obsession…scratch that, I know I do.

It is not easy for me to get addicted to a TV show. Most of the time, news and sports are playing on my television set. I have been burned one too many times by television garbage. If I’m going to sit and watch a show, I want a certain literary quality. I don’t want to feel like I’ve wasted my time on yet another HBO series (like True Blood or Oz).

I am not the biggest fan of binge-watching, either. I know the new American quality-time-with-the-spouse is to watch entire TV series in one day, but my butt starts falling asleep about the middle of a second episode. I get too antsy to sink that deeply into my couch for an entire day…unless of course, it is Game of Thrones I watch. I don’t get antsy when watching Game of Thrones, and there is a well-formed butt groove in my couch when I’m done with my season-long DVDs of George R.R. Martin’s on-screen rendition.

Sunday nights are for American television viewing. No secret for most, but, for me, there has been a brief lull this past month, which started right around the season finale of True Detective. The Walking Dead has tried to fill the gap, but it has failed to keep my attention. While there was an admirable episode that worked Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men into a plot, Walking Dead has lost my interest…truth to tell, Walking Dead became quite “blah” to me a couple of seasons ago. Game of Thrones single-handedly restored my anticipatory love of Sunday TV night.

Why the dedication for the show? The obvious answer is that I am fatally interested in all things sword and sorcery. I am one of those Dungeons and Dragons, comic book geeks that still fantasizes about medieval skulduggery, fantastic superhuman spell-casting, and viciously graphic swordplay, even at the advanced age of 40 (Truth to tell, I’ve discovered in the twenty-first century there are quite a few more of us than I was led to believe as a teenager.). I recently had a conversation with my brother-in-law, a fellow pop-culture enthusiast, about how Game of Thrones was cooler than The Lord of the Rings. He hadn’t seen GoT, and I was trying to bring him into the fold.

Mind you, I love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but Game of Thrones sets itself apart with its brutal depictions of violence. The Red Wedding is still the most disturbing fantasy scene I’ve ever witnessed on the screen. Last night’s episode made me cringe when the Hound viciously hammered an opponent’s face into his knife repeatedly. I’m not a violent man, and I’m ashamed to admit the violence is a draw of the show…but it is. I’m aware that there are proponents of the idea that seeing violence on the screen (TV, movies, video games, etc.) causes young (or old) people to perform violent acts. Two points: 1) Human violence has been a staple of the human condition since well before the invention of the television. 2) Game of Thrones without the violence would be a pretty tame exercise in story-telling. In fact, story-telling as a whole would become fairly tame if we sanitized it entirely of violence; also, it would be rather unfaithful to the reality of human life if we depicted swords and weapons of war as fashion accoutrements. Swords, when used as they are intended, create quite a bit of gore and mess in reality. In the fantastical world of Game of Thrones, swordplay and combat are depicted as realistically as it can be. It’s unnerving, for sure, but it’s also undeniably attention-grabbing.

Then there are the explicitly-depraved sex scenes. While these scenes are an important part of creating the debauched world of Game of Thrones, I admit I don’t need quite that many topless women in every episode, mostly because it’s rather gratuitous. I understand I’m in the minority, mostly because sex is just as much of a certainty to garner viewers as the violence does. Sometimes, it seems like HBO has to fulfill a quota for nudity and sex scenes. I have selfish reasons for this complaint: I love to watch cool sword and sorcery movies and TV with my children…and I’m just not ready to explain the lewdness of Game of Thrones to them. I’m pretty open and honest with my kids about sex and violence, but explaining incest and brothels is going to have to wait until closer to the age of 18…not necessarily because they will be better ready for it, but because I will be.

Another valued component of the show: dragons! I am a sucker for dragons depicted on the screen, all the way back to Disney’s Dragonslayer . The first two films of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy have been an exercise of patience, waiting for any glimpse of Smaug, squealing like a schoolgirl when I finally see his beautifully rendered countenance. The Game of Thrones’ dragons take the cake, though. Through the course of the series, we get to see three dragons grow up about their mother, Daenerys Targaryen. The visual effects utilized in today’s media are wonderful for those of us who belong to the geek world.

My wife is a bigger fan of Game of Thrones than I am, and she loves Daenerys’ character. She loves the scenes when Daenerys has her dragons about her; I’d wager to say she likes to imagine herself in such a role. We have a Doberman Pinscher, and our dog often lays about her feet or side, much like the dragons do for Daenerys. Last night, Daenerys had one of her large dragons at her side, and she stroked and petted the beast. When the other two returned with a goat to eat, the dragon snapped a bit at Daenerys…just like our Doberman does frequently to my wife at mealtime. Suffice to say, the running joke in our house for the rest of time will be that our doggie is, in fact, a dragon.

The literary analyst in me appreciates Game of Thrones as something of an allegory for our American culture. The characters literally stab each other in the back for power consistently. Greed is abundant, and self-indulgence is unapologetically rewarded. King’s Landing is the center of wealth, while poverty flourishes in the realm. Indeed, the powers-that-be spend money prodigally on lavish expenditure and public spectacle, as the treasury becomes hopelessly indebted to other kingdoms. War is a necessary evil of everyday life, and starting new wars is encouraged and constant. Most notably, characters attempt nobility, especially Ned Stark, and their consequence is often defeat at the hands of those in positions of power. It seems the only way to survive in the world of Game of Thrones is to abandon morals and succumb to self-preservation…how much better might we define the current American ethos?!

I unabashedly love this series. Sunday night cannot come soon enough…and next week, the final season of another cultural favorite, Mad Men, begins too. Good times indeed for the literary enthusiast.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

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