Game of Thrones is perhaps the single most popular mass cultural product today. One indicator: In 2015, the show’s Wikipedia page was among the ten most-visited in English, German, French, Italian, and Russian, a remarkable distinction. Game of Thrones really is one of the major planks of our “global culture” as produced by the media masters in America. Given the show’s popularity, it is worth examining the values it promotes.
Game of Thrones’ most pervasive degenerate theme is the gratuitous inclusion of numerous quasi-pornographic sex scenes, something the Jewish-owned company which produced the show, HBO, has long been notorious for. This includes an explicit portrayal of brother-sister incest “doggy-style” in the very first episode. Though I have not read the novels on which the series is based, I am told the author George R. R. Martin’s literary description of that event was much more allusive and vague. (There is, after all, nothing degenerate as such about telling a story involving incest.) The pornographic elements were therefore presumably inserted by the TV show’s creators, David Benioff (born David Friedman) and Daniel Brett Weiss.
Nonetheless, Game of Thrones also portrays traditionalist values, in keeping with the show’s medieval fantasy setting, such as honor, loyalty, and discipline. The two overwhelming facts facing people in the world of Game of Thrones appear to be family and hierarchy, two eminently Right-wing themes.
These values and the show’s violence create a sense of realism, quite different in this respect from the Lord of the Rings films, despite the inclusion of magic. The brutal violence, often eliminating leading characters we have come to identify with, is quite in keeping with the actual violence among the ruling classes of early medieval Europe. White viewers get a taste of the kind of tough and often brief lives of their forefathers, a rarity. Forefathers who, it cannot be emphasized enough, fought on and persevered despite the incredible hardship, making our lives possible as their descendants.
The show frequently portrays younger characters being lectured and educated by older ones in the realities of the world and traditional wisdom, in order to have them better accept the decisions and disciplines expected of them.
On family, Catelyn Stark, the loving mother of the young King in the North Robb Stark, urges her son to not marry out of ephemeral passionate love. She tells him:
Your father didn’t love me when we married. He hardly knew me or I him. Love didn’t just happen to us. We built it slowly over the years, stone by stone, for you, for your brothers and sisters, for all of us. It’s not as exciting as secret passion in the woods, but it is stronger. It lasts longer.
While I am not an advocate of arranged marriages, this is wonderful advice for finding genuine love and happiness, and founding good, healthy families. Catelyn’s words are completely at odds with the glorification of frivolous sex that otherwise dominates Western pop culture today (especially in pop music).
Tywin Lannister, a powerful and ruthless southern lord embodying raison d’État, also speaks to his son, Jaime Lannister, about family, albeit very differently. He tells him:
Your mother’s dead. Before long I’ll be dead. And you and your brother and your sister and all of her children. All of us dead; all of us rotting in the ground. It’s the family name that lives on. It’s all that lives on. Not your personal glory, not your honor, but family. Do you understand?
Tywin, like Catelyn, thus condemns individualist selfishness, albeit in a very different way. Individualism is vain because the individual ends in death. His life can only have meaning if it is part of something greater, more lasting. For Tywin, that thing is family. And what are nation and race but extended families?
The character who is most explicitly schooled on respect for hierarchy is Jon Snow, a Stark bastard who joins a kind of monastic warrior order known as the Night’s Watch, which guards the realm’s northern border. Jon is dissatisfied with his role and frequently criticizes or disobeys his superiors. The Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch takes him aside to scold him saying: “You want to lead one day? Then learn to follow.” Another Night’s Watch superior, Alliser Thorne, on a separate occasion also gave Jon some wisdom on this theme:
Do you know what leadership means, Lord Snow? It means that the person in charge gets second guessed by every clever little twat with a mouth. But if he starts second guessing himself, that’s the end. For him, for the clever little twats, for everyone.
This is something that we who are so critical should bear in mind. Armchair criticism is very easy, actually doing something is supremely difficult. (Personally, I try, though this is difficult at times, to limit my denunciations of others to cases of bad faith, and make only constructive criticism of others’ execution.)
There is also a brilliant scene in which Tywin, not disinterestedly, advises in Socratic fashion the boy-king Tommen, his grandson, to hold wisdom as the highest virtue, and to be modest by heeding the advice of those wiser than he is.
Beyond these individual cases, what are the overall values of the show? This article cannot claim to make a comprehensive assessment, and much depends on future episodes (I am writing as of season five) but some observations can already be made.
The story of the Starks’ undoing, which is the main event of the show’s first three seasons, is a lesson in the perils of putting sentimentality before reason and of being honorable with those who are dishonorable. It is an ode to realism. This is a good antidote to liberal illusions.
There is however a second set of good guys, those around the young Daenerys Targaryen, who is busy building an empire in the show’s equivalent of Asia before returning to Westeros (Europe) to reclaim the throne. Daenerys’ adventures are rather disconnected from the rest of the show and have a rather infantile, magical quality. She triumphs without real effort or dramatic tension (her struggles are not, as in the wars of Westeros, between fellow main characters, but between her and secondary characters, leaving no doubt that she will always win).
What’s more, Daenerys not only wins but does so despite ruling arrogantly as a young person and as an idealist (she emancipates slaves, promises goodness to all, et cetera). She promises not to be another spoke on the wheel of the “game of thrones,” but to “break the wheel.” Thus Daenerys can be considered a stand in for an infantile femininity and sentimental egalitarianism, ultimately leading to Bolshevism (which is, among other things, the critique of an existing order based on the lie that one can form a human society without a ruling class or even without inequality in general). Daenerys overcomes the contradictions of all this, basically, through an outsized and implausible character shield.
If Daenerys really does triumph and create an egalitarian utopia, then Game of Thrones will not have been an illustration of the merits of realism, family, and hierarchy, but a denunciation of the real world, with all its viciousness, in favor of a communistic imaginary world.
I am curious as to the direction the show will take in the next seasons, which will apparently not be based on George R. R. Martin’s still-unfinished novels, but will be invented by the producers. Martin himself is incidentally a big fat liberal who cites Emma Lazarus to demand settlement of Muslims in America. Nonetheless, at least for me, Game of Thrones has been an enjoyable romp through an often compelling fantasy world, one which recalls the experiences and wisdom of my European forefathers.
Note:1. I will not discuss gender roles in the show, which are for the most part traditional but feature some unrealistic portrayals of female fighters. The latter is for the most part considered unusual. Nonetheless, the inclusion of a little girl shown physically defeating grown men on occasion is degenerate. This gives women and girls unrealistic portrayals of their own physical strength. In the real world, such illusions lead them to be raped and murdered.