The Cultural Phenomenon that is Game of Thrones : Political Intrigue and Real-Life Parallels
Game of Thrones was a gamble for HBO, but one that has paid off handsomely. The epic tale of Westerosi political intrigue, fictional history, and, of course, dragons, has given HBO some of its highest viewership ratings since The Sopranos turned our screens black years ago. The hordes of viewers Thrones garners each week continues to increase. The question turns to one that is seemingly difficult to answer: How is it such a popular show?
The mainstream viewing public is generally not thought to be a fantasy-loving crowd. It is these fantasy elements that have made some segments of the population uninterested in tuning into the show, claiming that they are not into “Lord of the Rings.” Even plenty of those viewers that do tune in to watch one of the most masterfully crafted shows ever on television are not much into the fantasy genre. Clearly, there is something beyond the fantasy realm that has attracted so much attention.
Thrones, then, is misconstrued as a fantasy show. While the show does incorporate fantastical elements, such as the White Walkers or warlocks like those in Qarth, Thrones is arguably not a show grounded in fantasy. These are just facets of the story that transform it into being the amalgamation of reality and fantasy that it is. And it is this idea of “reality” that is the biggest draw to Thrones. Thrones encompasses many of the themes that we face in our daily lives, or themes that occur in our readings of current events. The political issues that affect the world of Westeros are very similar to those being encountered by our modern world today, and parallels can even be drawn between Westerosi political figures and those political figures that are prominent in our world.
Take, for example, Tywin Lannister. Staunch, broody, and ever-scheming, he is the equivalent of Vladimir Putin. Whatever Tywin does is for the Lannister name, just as whatever Putin does is for the Russian name. Though many powerful politicians perform actions for the betterment of their countries, Tywin and Putin do so with such brute force and lack of care that it is striking. Robert Baratheon, on the other hand, is a boorish drunk who was never able to do much for his kingdom due to his love for food, drink, and prostitutes. Baratheon is like Toronto mayor Rob Ford: a man who succumbs to his vices to the detriment of his political career and his citizens. A final example of the real world parallels of Westerosi politicians and world leaders is between Cersei Lannister and Sarah Palin: two women who clearly believe they are smarter than they really are, and two women whose most redeeming traits are their loyalty to their children. Their contributions to the politics of their respective nations seem to be a series of missteps rather than power plays.
What these examples mean to show is the idea that although Westeros is a place where many viewers escape to on Sunday nights, it is also a place that we can compare to our own lives. It is a place where we can see how one can deal with our enemies and be stronger. Whenever tough, tomboy Arya graces our screens, it is a reminder that no matter your size, you have the ability to take down anyone who belittles you. It is a place where if the politics of the workplace are becoming too difficult to control, you can take solace in knowing that your boss is not King Joffrey. More importantly, though, it is a place where we can see people fight against the evils of their lives, and feel as though they are fighting our evils. Every battle, every death, and every move in Thrones is bound to have meaning for at least some viewers on a weekly basis. As much as we may wish we had dragons like Dany’s to fight the injustices in our lives, we get to see her fight the injustices she faces instead. And although it may not solve any of the problems in our lives, Thrones gives us that sweet, satisfying moment where we get to see someone else take control, and perhaps that is the defining factor that makes three million people tune in each week.
Jordanna Ishmael is a college student who is navigating the trials and tribulations of life by writing random articles for NerdGlaze.