Recently, I have had the immense pleasure of watching Game of Thrones, an HBO television show based off of novels written by George R.R. Martin. This show, while complex in terms of characters and plots, mainly follows the Stark family and their treacherous adventures across the Seven Kingdoms. While I am only in season three, it’s been two weeks since I first began; that should tell you how obsessed I am. In fact, I have been waiting for years to become a member of the Nights Watch, which I can define as either a sworn protector of the North Wall, or an avid watcher of Game of Thrones. This wait was prolonged because of the extremely mature nature of this show. Now 17, and with access to HBO, my first and only goal was to begin Game of Thrones.
However, there’s a reason Game of Thrones is MA. For one, I have spent much of my time gagging and peeking through fingers at the sight of maggots crawling through corpses of the Nights Watch, a throat being ripped from the chest of a Dothraki soldier, a horse having its neck slit open for a forbidden ritual, and many, many heads being split from the bodies of traitors. These are few examples. Each episode, I await shocking scenes that are sure to be full of action and accompanied by a deep, crescendoing theme.
This is by far the least controversial part of the show. I believe that the violence has a purpose, and is used to convey the message of the story. As the Regent Queen Cercei states, “If you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die.” This would not be Game of Thrones if it were not a matter of life and death. The only consequence of this is that I have no room to be attached to any character. And yet, I feel a sense of understanding and connection to each and every one, even the most horrible.
Throughout the show, there are many Lords and Ladies who seek the Iron Throne, many who tried before, and many who will try in the future. These men and women are intelligent, cunning, ruthless, and all rulers in their own way. Characters such as Stannis Baratheon, Cercei and Jamie Lannister, their child Joffrey whom they bore from incest, Robb Stark, Daenerys Targaryen, and many more seek control of part of or all of the Seven Kingdoms for their own just or unjust reasons. Others such as Tyrion Lannister, Arya, Sansa, and Catelyn Stark, Jon Snow, and Theon Greyjoy journey across the land in search for glory, to discover their worth, or simply to return home. We as viewers follow each of them through their development, their triumphs and failures, their sins and decisions. Many characters that I considered intolerable have become valiant and kind, and many that I viewed as genuine and fair have proven themselves to be malevolent. The convincing, powerful story, the thrill of battle, and merely the way these characters are portrayed is intriguing and brilliant. In Game of Thrones, there are so few that I can rely on surviving, but so many that I am rooting for at the same time. By far, it’s the growth of these protagonists and antagonists that have kept me hooked, and prompted me to watch this show so vigorously.
Unfortunately, my largest concern and main issue with Game of Thrones comes in the form of sex. Going in, I knew that there would be an underlying theme of bodily worship and physical pleasure. Whenever I had heard about the show, the central praise was for the action and plot, and yet it would always be followed by a muttered mention of sexual content. I remember Mr. Ranieri mentioning Game of Thrones to our C.S. Lewis elective class sophomore year. He explained that over time this materialistic worldview and the motif of polygamy would fade. Eventually, the writers would realize that there was more to the story, that sex was not what drove Game of Thrones, but the passion and maturation of the characters. This change is clearly obvious now that I’ve reached season three.
Before, Game of Thrones seemed to be a war story sprinkled with pornography. I think it’s important to note the detail that these writers picked up on this fact as well. While George R.R. Martin’s intentions were to revere his view of our finiteness through adulteration and violence, it is clear that that is not what the audience desired. We as humans strive for beauty, excellence, and deep characterization; we don’t want to be told that this is all there is. Over the years, Game of Thrones’ ideology of temporary life became appreciation for the worth that we have as humans.
Game of Thrones is famous for its many lines and phrases, many of which I quote out of sheer admiration for the complexity of the epic. One that firmly stands out is the idiom, “What is Dead May Never Die.” As I continue to watch, I see more and more of this philosophy that we are not finite creatures, and that there is so much more beyond what we see before us now. While Game of Thrones is not for the faint of heart, I believe it is worth it to witness the Seven Kingdoms for yourself.
But please, not until you’re old enough. Know yourself and who you are, and remember that what you see cannot be unseen.