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Discussing the TV show (2011–2019) based on the books by George R.R. Martin.
What's the role of a mass-consumed fantasy series in today's society? Is it our "fantasy" to have all these horrible things happen to us? Is this an edifying prompt to engage in public moral thinking, or a spectacular distraction of the kind that those Marxist theorists keep warning us about?
Mark and Wes are joined by Sabrina Weiss (from way back on our Locke episode) for this special short-turnaround episode. We get into the function of fantasy and how a more "realistic" show plays with that, the extent to which we're supposed to identify with the characters, depiction of moral complexity, low art vs. high art, identity issues, and more.
Spoiler clarification: This was recorded after episode 4 of the final season, and some incidents in that episode and the general arc of characters up to that point are discussed, but in general, if you have not seen the series (or the current season) at all, nothing here should diminish your later enjoyment, i.e., we don't go into who dies when (except for Ramsey, who was obviously going to get his).
Sources: Here's that article, "Game of Thrones is Bad, and Bad For You" from The Week that we discuss. Here's another article about whether it's a "moral" show. Buy Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords (2012) and the non-overlapping The Ultimate Game of Thrones and Philosophy: You Think or Die (2016).
For podcasts, here's Game of Thrones Philosophy Breakdown. Especially good non-philosophy ones are Game of Thrones: On The Throne (Shat On TV) and Storm of Spoilers.
Want more of this? There's a Citizen-only spoiler-filled follow-up discussion between Mark and Wes.
End song: "Fire and Blood" by Sacrifice Feat. Mark Lint. Hear Mark's interview with Tyler Hislop on Nakedly Examined Music #24.
Jason Bond says
I happened to listen to this episode while preparing to teach a discussion section on Plato’s Republic. Daenerys Targaryen’s journey seems to perfectly parallel the 4 constitutions (excluding aristocracies) described by Socrates. This seems almost too close to be coincidence:
Daenerys begins with a roving band of warlords, eventually ending up at the only Dothraki city of Vaes Dothrak. The city has no walls as the warlords fear no foe. The inhabitants pride honor and physical prowess over all. This is Plato’s Timocracy, inhabitated by those ruled by the will (“thumos”), or middle, part of the soul.
Daenerys’s husband dies and she is forced to seek support from the merchants of Qarth. Qarth is ruled by these wealthy merchants, and each seeks to gain more money, and thus more influence, over the others. This is Plato’s oligarchy, and the rulers are governed by the desire, or lowest, part of the soul.
Eventually, Daenerys frees a slave army, earning their loyalty, and proceeds to liberate other slave cities. She lands in Meereen, where she executes the wealthy rulers and institutes a society where each person is a political equal. This seems very close to Plato’s interpretation of democracy (albeit Daenerys functions as a monarch). Admittedly, the inhabitants of Meereen must somehow be ruled by Necessary and Unnecessary desires for the analogy to hold true.
Finally (after experiencing a brief run-in with ice zombies, a steamy love affair with her nephew, and political tensions with northern rulers), our ostensible heroine of the people makes her way to King’s Landing. Here she succumbs to the power of her position, executing political enemies and indiscriminately burning civilians. The devolution into Plato’s tyranny has been reached and Daenerys is governed by the Lawless desires of the lowest part of her soul. Until she wasn’t. Avoiding spoilers.