Game Of Thrones: “This is an intervention now” Part III

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist . Bookmark the permalink.

 

Part 2 here.

The above video sent to pastabagel as a joke, he got in his car and drove directly to Bananastown.

 

—————

 

Okay, so did no one actually go to the site watermarked at the bottom of the video?  Because it is an outrage.  I want a full report on how you came across this site. Don’t bullshit me and say someone sent it to you.  We’re you searching out her kind of music?  This is an intervention now.  Is that how you found it?  Were you looking for a soundtrack to the shire? This is too much of a nexus of fantasy and Enya to be an accident.

e.g.:

“I’m passionate about music and love to explore new ways of telling stories through sounds. All my life I’ve found myself gazing off into other realms where knights charge into battles with dragons and maidens sing from arched windows. I’m a hopeless romantic and a true geek through and through which will probably be evident in my song choices. ”

What Karliene does on her site is sing pseudo Celtic songs called “Over the Misty Mountains” and “The Dornishman’s Wife”.  I didn’t make that up.  I don’t even know what a Dornish is.  Is it like a Danish?  I know that Cornish game hens are what white people in America eat when they are too racist to admit they like fried chicken.  But Dornish?  Should I just assume it’s from Game of Thrones and move on?  Okay.

This is no longer a criticism.  This is no longer an intervention.  This is an indictment.

You can’t accuse me of hating Game of Thrones because I don’t like the Middle Ages, because Game of Thrones has nothing to do with the Middle Ages.  It’s made up, right? Right?  That’s the line that everyone is feeding to people like me? There was no Baratheon in the Middle Ages.  No magic.  No dragons.  There were whores, but like the speed of light, some things are a universal constant.  The party line is that the Game of Thrones is a made-up story in a fictional universe that has nothing to do with the Middle Ages.  So how could my hating it stem from some imagined hatred of the Middle Ages?

Because secretly you all think the show *is* about the middle ages.  But no one will dare admit it.

The fact that I’m accused of hating this show because I don’t like the Middle Ages is an admission that the show IS about the middle ages, or what peopel want the Middle Ages to be about.

In fact, the only reason people like Game of Thrones and other fantasy stories is because they are part of a new shadow genre that I’m going to call ethnocentric fiction.  This story constructs itself as an authentic medieval fantasy in order to fill in the backstory of an ethnic identity where history provides none.  In much the same way that there was a period during the civil rights era when some black leaders tried to espouse a fiction that the ancestors of the slaves in Africa were all warrior kings and queens because there really isn’t any clear history of the millenia of human civilization in subsaharan Africa prior to slavery, this fantasy fiction is doing the same for northern European whites. GoT, and all the other stories of “realms where knights charge into battles with dragons and maidens sing from arched windows” (from the woman’s about page), are simply a fabricated alternate history to subsitute for the missing history of the Middle Ages.

This is how history works:  Mesopotamia. Egypt. Greece.  Rome. Christianity.  The Fall of the Roman Empire.  A thousand years of moss and runny noses. The Renaissance.

All of these stories, of Westeros, of Middle Earth, of Dungeon’s and Dragons, of the Knights Templar, of Merlin and King Arthur and all the other magical masturbation–all of it is an attempt to fill in that thousand years of pointlessness where the Kings and Knights of Feudalism held sway but achieved nothing.  If aliens visited Europe in the Middle Ages, they would have concluded there was no intelligent life on earth.

But so many people, mostly white people, want that period to have mattered because that was the time when their ancestors held sway.  They look at Ned Stark and Aragorn and at some level they believe that their ancestors were like them.  Fair of skin and hair, broad of chest and square of jaw. Sword at the ready, helm and cowl in place.  Right?  This is the symptom. This is how we know that there is a disease in the culture.

Racial pride is a degenerate idea to begin with, because it basically amounts to taking credit for the greatness of people long dead in order to make up for a lack of greatness today.  This is done all the time by everyone.  But in this case, it’s worse, because this whole genre of fiction is about constructing a racial history where none exists.  It’s this desire to construct the illusion of an authentic feudal epic that is so egregious. That’s the problem.  You have Americans self-identifying as Irish or Scottish or whatever.  You’re American.  But being American is such a goddamn burden these days, what with having to follow the moon-landing and all, that everyone wants to be something a little less imperial.  So they pick an obvious distinguishing characteristic not based on merit, which is race.  Game of Thrones is like Roots, but for whites.

The knights and maidens of the real Middle Ages had their time to show the world what they could do, and they spread the Plague.  Literally.  They forgot everything the Romans had done with indoor plumbing and sanitation, and decided it would be a great idea to cook their food over the same fire in which they burned their feces.  And now George RR Martin and HBO want me to believe that fair lads and lasses “kissed by fire” come from a race of magic and dragons and castles? Just how stupid do you think we are?  Sure there were a lot of Kings and courts and strutting around in chainmail, but none of it amounted to anything.  There was no magic.  No sorcerers, no dragons.  The middle ages left us with nothing but records and ruins. Not history.  Leonardo da Vinci did more in one lifetime than the entire continent did in the previous thousand years.  Thousand years.

Do you know why TV shows about the Roman Empire or the Renaissance (see the Borgias) never quite reach the same level of popularity as these Olde Englishe fantasies?  Because you don’t need to invent or even exaggerate the greatness of those periods.  If history simply kept pace with the Roman Empire, we would be living in colonies on the moons of Jupiter that Galileo discovered.  Instead, we are playing catch up after a thousand years of witch burnings, fairy chasing and indulgences.  Thanks.  And now you want to whitewash all that gruesome truth by trying to tell me that there were mighty heroes fighting for the honor of maidens and dragons?  Bite me. You took away my utopian space age and swapped it for a saving throw against dragon’s breath.

For writers, the Dark Ages are like a thousand-year-old blank canvas.  They can dump into the Middle Ages whatever they want, and the audience will go along for the ride just as long as they keep hidden the fact that the very blankness of that period represents one of the greatest cultural catastrophes in the history of human civilization.  That’s why Tolkien’s world is called Middle Earth.  Because Middle Earth substitutes nicely for those Middle “Ages” that everyone has heard about, but during which nothing even remotely as interesting as the Hobbit happened.  Hobbits and Elves evolved and went extinct? Why not, a thousand years is a long time.

And now we have Westeros.  All of it is made up Celtic and English pseudo-history filling in the gap of the Middle ages.  That’s why stories like this must take place in the Middle Ages, because that time period is history’s missing link.  Consider that Dragons and magic during the age of Rome would seem nonsensical.  Silly.  Stupid even.  But dragons and magic 500 years after that?  Consider how history slid backwards from Ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, and consider why so many people what to immerse themselves in the more backwards part.

But because that period has left us with nothing of substance, everything in these fictions–everyone’s name, the places, the gods, all of it–is cribbed from some other history or culture and compacted together in a way that makes the people who watch subconsciously believe they come from great history.   This isn’t like Americans inflating the very real stories of Davy Crockett and Paul Bunyan to mythological levels to construct for their new country a national identity. This is slapping together a collage and forcing yourself to believe it’s a photograph.

Look at the woman Karliene in the video.  She’s not so much faking her emotion as forcing it.  She’s wants to be swept up in the story, to be overcome with emotion.  She wants the story of Game of Thrones to somehow reflect her Irish or Scottish heritage.  She wants this story to be more “authentic” as a fiction than, say, Star Trek. In her mind, Game of Thrones is less fictional than Star Trek because of its assorted feints to authenticity.  She believes that Game of Thrones is true but for the minor exceptions of magic and dragons.  But the armor and the haughty talk are all real, she thinks.  Real compared to what?  If any of that intrigue were remotely real, we would have those stories.  And we don’t.  After all, if we did, we wouldn’t have to make them up.

But she really really wants GoT to be real.  More real of a substitute history than the Lord of the Rings, or the Hobbit.  Or Enya.  And it was constructed to resonate with people like her in precisely this way, like a new street drug that gives a higher high.  But at some level she knows its a farce, like the addict learns that with every high comes the inevitable crash.  So she’ll go from this to the next thing, chasing the dragon, in both figurative senses. She wants to buy in to the magic and heroes but her brain won’t accept it as the truth.  Ultimately, she’ll be disappointed, but there’ll be a new story waiting to pick up where this one left off. And that’s what fuels this genre, and what turns it into a ghetto.  People searching for their identity down blind alleys set-dressed as authentic histories.  You can wander around these alleys forever and never get out, because none of them lead out on purpose.  No one wants to get out.

I just went to the Renaissance Faire this weekend.  First of all, nothing about the Faire is remotely Renaissance.  It’s all middle ages.  All knights and castles and theater majors welcoming kids to “the shire.”  “Shire”, of course, being the word that people used in the Middle Ages to refer to counties, but which no one in modern times ever used at all until they saw Lord of the Rings, after which it became synonymous in their pea-brains with “village” during clumsy historical recreations.  And you can tell that people are drawn to these simulations of history by some tribal instinct.  You need look no further than the collage of tribal symbols tattooed on their bodies to conclude this.  A celtic knot here, a Fraktur font there, a chinese symbol on the back.  You don’t know who you are, so invent a tribe with people who look like you, and steal symbols from cultures hither and yon as your brand to attempt to co-opt their power.  It’s all walking in circles.

And now Westeros.  Great Westeros, with its talk of “lands” and things being “by right” and other things ending in the suffix “-born.”  People love the language, the clothes, the safe space of misogyny and spousal abuse.  It feels nice and right to them.  It feels and looks to them like what they imagine their history to be.  They say it’s a mature and complex story because of gay sex, bathing whores and wide shots of penises.  These same fans will say Batman is more complex in some new iteration of the story because he’s dark and the film is more dark and sometimes he second-guesses himself.  If you don’t know what really good stories and histories are, this passes for good.

But Game of Thrones is also very ambitious.  Not because the story it tells is rich and interesting.  It’s not.  Sure, important characters get killed, as fans are quick to tell you.  But so many get killed for so little reason that the story is basically a stream of consciousness tale from a child’s  mind. But who cares, we’re inside it, and for now we can live inside it.

If the characters are actually that important to the story, then the story would fall apart without them, right?  Unless there never really was a story to begin with.  Nothing is planned out ahead of time, and for that reason it cannot have any narrative or thematic complexity.  Much like the map in the title sequence, Game of Thrones is a machine with far too many parts than are needed to accomplish what it does.  But that’s not the purpose.  The purpose is to build one of those blind alleys.  To line it with pubs, stables, and inns and place period characters on the streets.  The purpose is to create a fantasy world to inhabit, and for that to work, we need lots of banquets and closeups of celtic knot patterns in the fabrics.

We also need winter.  All of these fantasy stories take place in or reference winter.  Always winter.  You know why the fans love stories of knights and maidens in winter?  Because when the setting is cold it justifies the characters wearing the full costumes.  All the of the breast pieces, vests, capes, cloaks.  All that stuff that you get to see or read about in these stories wouldn’t make any sense if the temperature in these worlds was higher than 65 F.  At that point, people stop wearing all the extra layers of fancy dress, and it just doesn’t serve the illusion if no one’s wearing the costumes.  The fans want costumes, so the stories get set in winter.

All of that stuff fans of the show love, the hairstyles, the costumes, the millwork on the chairs, the jewelry, all that stuff serves exactly the same purpose as the blinking lights on the control panels of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek. You say “children of the forest” and I hear “reverse the polarity of the warp coil.”  You say “dragon-born” and I hear “dilithium crystal.”  You say “Dothraki” and I hear “Klingon.”  They are both escapes.  The dialogue, where it isn’t intentionally pretentious to be the motto on a LARPers foam shield, is irrelevant.

But where the escape in Star Trek is usually more personal, about an escape from one’s immediate existence and a rationalization for one’s choices and attitudes going forwards (usually for introverted and technically minded people), Game of Thrones and other sword and sorcery romances (which is what this is, sorry fans) is a back story for identity construction.  And this is where it’s ambitious.

Game of Thrones is ambitious because as a vessel for racial identity reconstruction, it doesn’t just stop at replacing the Middle Ages.  It is also serving as a sort of alternate past history of the founding of England in the first instance. Look, if people don’t know what the hell happened in the British Isles in the Middle Ages, I can assure you they haven’t the slightest inkling of an idea what was happening there before Beowulf.

Look at all this greatness that we are convincing ourselves we come from!  Portentous polysyllabic names! Lands! Prepositional Phrases! Whores! How sophisticated and refined our sensibilities, even then. Your family’s been in America since the Mayflower, but why not imagine you came from Kings born of dragons. Women love the hell out of this show because it provides a graceful side exit out of the burdens of feminism.  “Women weren’t equal then,” they will think under their hennaed hair. But then with a knowing come-hither gaze they will say, “But they had their ways…”  Back on earth, the dishes pile up.

Feminism’s not so great when you realize that “having it all” means doing it all.  Feminism means you have to be the kitchen wench, the handmaiden, the whore, the queen, and now you also have to be the knight and the trader and the blacksmith and the bootblack. Those jobs didn’t just vanish. But that’s a good thing, right, if it means you can have a shot at being the knight or the king?  Equality means you can be conquered just like the men.

Sorry, folks there’s no going back now.  You are the life you live, and there’s no borrowing from history or pop culture to make yourself into something you’re not. History only moves forwards.

Fortunately, imagination and self-delusion work in both directions, so by all means, go ahead and fantasize about being a knight or maiden for an hour a week, if it helps you forget that back in the 21st century, you’re a peasant. 

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27 Responses to Game Of Thrones: “This is an intervention now” Part III

  1. qubitman says:

    What kind of person spends all the time and energy to construct their own blog and then spends more time making a separate website to allow for registered users to comment? I’ve tried starting my own website, but 15 minutes in it became apparent that it just wasn’t worth the effort. I’m gonna build a website just to write shit for internet eyeballs to see? Why? What kind of person does that?

  2. Kayode says:

    This is brilliant.

    The period 500 – 1500 did have a golden age. It belonged to the middle east. And it was on par with the other real golden ages of history. But it was too tied to the islamic religion so that show will never fly for american audiences.

  3. Another_Steve says:

    The model of history where there is a dark age and a renaissance is kind of out dated. What did happen was a long cold period and the plague of Justinian that knocked the population density way down combined with social trends that have their beginnings deep in the imperial roman period (paying taxes to Goths, Franks and Arabs is a lot cheaper). Gothic architecture, Thomas Aquinas and scholasticism are obvious counter examples to the claim that there’s a big dead zone in the history of western thought. I follow where Game of Thrones works as a fictional national epic of sorts for white americans who are missing a link to the past. But saying a thousand years went by and nothing really happened is really myopic.

  4. Homestuckergrl says:

    Is there a reason you seem so obsessed over telling people on the internet how you know Karliene better than she knows herself? You speculate how she acts, the way she thinks and then press it and frame it as if it were indisputable fact.
    Let us not forget how ethnocentric you are regarding Americans, but that is besides the point. Also, let me point out it is not just white Americans who love Game of Thrones… I love the undertoned racism there. I don’t care if you’re white or not, that statement you made about “I follow where Game of Thrones works as a fictional national epic of sorts for white americans who are missing a link to the past.” is incredibly racist. Aside from the fact that people of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds love GoT. The only thing enjoyable about this blog is the fact that I can laugh at how far you can shove your foot into your mouth.

  5. Face Bringer says:

    I enjoy and admire pastabagel’s dissection of the fantasy genre but it won’t sway people who admire the quality acting, ambiance and production values of GoT. Very funny though.

  6. Sumanguru says:

    I agree with this analysis, except for one thing.

    “…because there really isn’t any clear history of the millenia of human civilization in subsaharan Africa prior to slavery…”

    Uh…Sundiata Keita? Mansa Musa? Sonni Ali? Timbuktu? Gao?

  7. John R says:

    Interestingly, the popular history is already as mythological as pastbagel is suggesting it’s functioning here. E.g., Fairies are as modern as they are medieval. Witch-hunting was Renaissance and early modern, not medieval. With the exception of a couple early centuries of nasty economic and military setbacks, a lot happened during the middle ages and they were actually quite impressive. Waterwheels and coal power, clocks and compasses, the virtual end of slavery, the wheeled plow and rigid horse collr, the University and monastic orders, Peace/Truce of God, codified legal standing for women, Romanesque and Gothic, chivalry and troubadours and romance, universal healthcare, the rise of big commerce and big government.

    And there were plenty of fascinating people and events: Charlemagne, Eleanor, Joan of Arc, Francis, Benedict, Merovingians, Lombards, Vikings, Muslims, Genghis Khan, Saladin, the Black Death, William the Conqueror, Crusades, Italian Renaissance, Marco Polo, Magna Carta, Gregory, Investiture, Augustine, Thomas, Dante, Alfred, Hundred Years’ War, Carolingian Empire, Holy Roman Empire…

    But we don’t know any of that history, do we? Well, maybe a caricature here and there, but the version of the Middle Ages in popular history exists to give us an historical narrative that promises that without its superstitious darkness we would now be living on Galileo’s moons of Jupiter. Don’t like how modernity treated witches, women, and slaves? Unhappy with our many genocides, horrendous imperialisms, and world wars? Blame it on the Medievals! And so the popular history of the Middle Ages is mythological in the sense of its place in the origins story for modernity.

    But it works the other way, too. When you came from somewhere vague you can blame your own failings on your vague past, but you start to wonder where you came from. Just ask any kid who finds out he is adopted. And so, as you’re pointing out here, we invent our own backstories.

    The show is based on the Wars of the Roses, which occurred at the margin between the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This was basically the same time Leonardo was painting his Last Supper and Adoration of the Magi. In other words, it’s the part of the origins story that you tell to set up your identity. And yes, they compress and caricature a thousand years into typical, if brutal and high-budget, sword and sorcery fare. Who are my real parents? Where did I come from? And then you get to make up whatever you want, because nobody knows anything about the Middle Ages anyways except that they were dark and superstitious and just a placeholder until modernity finally came along.

    So yes, by knowing nothing real about the Middle Ages we get to fill in the blanks of our origins. So the real question is, Why tell the story this way?

    • Iustinianus says:

      “Witch-hunting was Renaissance and early modern, not medieval.”

      Malleus Maleficarum tibi legendus est.

      • terentius says:

        scriptum post medio aevo

      • John R says:

        Agreed, I do recommend reading it. Its primary arguments is that witchcraft is real, not mere superstition. Why would a book written in the late 15th century have to make such an argument if the Medievals were witch-hunters whereas the Moderns thought witchcraft to be superstition? This was, of course, written right at the same time as the Renaissance, after 1000 years of Middle Ages, so if we were transitioning from witch-burning to regarding witch hunts as superstition the book wouldn’t need to argue witchcraft was real.

        But that’s not how it worked. The reason the textbooks have names like “The Witch-Hunt In Early Modern Europe,” instead of “… In Medieval Europe” is that the witch-hunts characterized the age of Descartes, not Augustine or Thomas. The consensus view across the Middle Ages saw belief in witchcraft as somewhere between superstition and heresy; writers east and west as well as council decisions and judicial records are very close on this for a millennium. And so, in keeping with this tradition, Rome condemned Malleus right when it was written, and even the Spanish Inquisition regarded its content as suspect.

        Not sure what else to say. For a variety of reasons, witch trials could only flourish once the Modern pushed aside the Medieval. The Malleus is a perfect example of this, because it explicitly set out to overturn 1000 years of tradition, occurred right in the transition period between late medieval and renaissance, and was rejected outright by both Rome and church courts.

        • Iustinianus says:

          I don’t understand what you are arguing in your first paragraph. You may as well say: the Summa Theologiae’s primary argument is that God exists. Why would a book written in the late 13th century have to make such an argument if the Medievals were God-fearing? If we were transitioning from God-fearing to atheism, the book wouldn’t need to argue God exists, etc.

          You, not I, draw a distinction between the Medieval on the one hand and the Renaissance-Modern on the other so that “Witch-hunting was Renaissance and early modern, not medieval.” Yes, Early Modern Europe was witch-crazy (I never disputed this), but that was in part because the consensus view had often considered witchcraft as heresy and heresy as treason. The Corpus Iuris Civilis, the Lateran councils, and Thomas all make this connection (from the Summa Theologicae: “As for heretics, their sin deserves banishment, not only from the Church by excommunication, but also from this world by death”). Are these medieval enough?

          The Malleus may be post medium aevum, but its sources and the stories it relates are not. And I’m not sure the Italian Renaissance had reached Kramer’s corner of Europe, but he himself was an inquisitor, and his pope did issue Summis desiderantes affectibus, which explicitly mentions inbubi, succubi, and witchy women. Later, Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn is said to have accused Protestants (i.e., heretics) of witchcraft (from the Levack book you referenced), and the Compendium Maleficarum does the same.

          • John R says:

            Hi Iustinianus,

            – Let’s remember the history of the argument: I said that “witch-hunting was Renaissance and Early Modern, not Medieval” and you told me to read the Malleus. That’s the point we’re arguing over: the Malleus proves that witch-hunting was Medieval, not Renaissance and Early Modern. I don’t see anything you’ve written that defends that claim. I also don’t see why you would focus on this one specific sentence in my much broader post.

            – The main point of Thomas’s Summa Theologica is not that God exists. Now, yes, the most popularly-known portion of the work is the 1/20th of a percent of it that outlines the so-called “five ways,” but “God exists” is not the point of the work. For that matter, the five ways themselves conclude not “and therefore you should now assent to the existence of God even though you didn’t before” but “and this everyone understands to be God” etc. He assumes his audience to be Christian and engages in scholastic argumentation based on that assumption. (The first of nearly 100 Questions in the work regards the relationship between philosophical science and divine revelation, which was a live topic at the time.)

            – The second paragraph is tough for me to understand. You argue that there was a medieval tradition of viewing heresy as treason, but we’re talking about witchcraft, not heresy. (In fact, while we don’t use the word ‘heresy’ today, the same idea is still popular: that is in part the point of this blog/community.) If anything, belief that witchcraft was real was far more likely to be regarded as heresy than practice of witchcraft. To summarize a bit more in depth:

            We have evidence for many sentences other than death, such as Elvira, Ancya, and Trullo, ranging from extended penance to excommunication. Paderborn goes so far as to make the execution of a witch a capital offense! Plenty of medieval writers/leaders spoke against popular beliefs in witchcraft as a reversion to paganism: Boniface, Charlemagne, Augustine, Colomon (Hungary), Agobard, Regino, Leptinnes, the Canon Episcopi, Burchard, Gregory VII, etc.

            Convictions of witchcraft were enabled during the high Middle Ages (13th century), but they were uncommon. In the 14th century, the piecemeal changes started coming together well enough to overturn the consensus of the previous millennium, and in the 15th century we start to get actual witch hunts. In the late 15th century the anti-witchcraft sentiments spread throughout the populace, enabling the widespread witch-hunts of the late 16th and most of the 17th centuries.

            – The third paragraph makes the relevant point that Malleus draws on some earlier sources. I’m assuming you have in mind Nider’s Formicarius, written in the early/mid-15th and popularized around the same time as the Malleus, as the reference to a late 16th-century Bishop is clearly not Medieval. Again, with the Formicarius we’re talking about things that were gaining momentum concurrently with the transition from Medieval to Modern. The progression did not go, Medieval witch hunts gave way to Modern tolerance. The progression went, Medieval regard of witch hunting as superstitious gave way to Early Modern hunting of witches, which then gave way to Modern tolerance.

            Certainly, you’re right that the pieces moved around as the Middle Ages were ending, and so in that respect late Medieval developments got the ball rolling for witch-hunting, if a couple of centuries prior to the full expression of the craze. But the same can be said of all development of the Renaissance, New Science, Early Modern philosophy, etc. So it’s not going to help support the “darkness-to-light” interpretation of the relationship between the Medieval and Modern.

    • Curio says:

      I’m opening myself up to criticism by even thinking about posting these links, but philosopher James Franklin has some excellent resources related to the so-called “dark ages”

      http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/medmyths.html

      http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/scholastics.html

      John R is correct in his assessment. Turning the middle ages into a 500 year lacuna which only fantasy can fill is just as much a projection as anything Pastabagel accuses GoT/LOTR fans of.

      • dovahkiin says:

        I think it’s actually backwards. This isn’t about imagining a history that doesn’t exist, it’s about re-writing what did exist.

        We want the knights and honor, but not the Church and the heresy. We want courtly love. We don’t want the De Medici family running things like the (Sam) Waltons. We want fancy clothing but not the plague. We want these ancients to have been well educated, not superstitious, well dressed but not blood thirsty. We don’t like the plague or the relics of ancient dead saints.

        While I think the fact that such fantasies are often lilly white is important, that can’t be the only appeal. What GOT seems to be is Downtown Abbey with swords — an idealized 21st century ideal of what the medieval world would be like if only they acted exactly like we do. None of that silly “Christianity” thing, especially in reference to the Catholic Church. None of the nonsense about how they thought that candles would protect them from plague, none of the witch burnings. Much the same as how Downtown Abbey is about a modern English attitudes reflected back into the 19th Century. None of the nonsense about how those Brits were racist or bigotted about religion, stout Anglicans (I don’t think it’s ever happened that the Victorian DA nobles ever quote a scripture, even though such a thing would have been common in that era). Same in GOT, for a medieval world, these people are virtually Atheist — they don’t quote a religious text, they don’t accuse each other of Heresy, they don’t burn witches, the don’t use superstitious things to cure their diseases. What about this is actually medieval? We’re putting ourselves back into history, and saying that ancient (and even modern) people are just like us moderns.

        What we gain, imo is two things. First, we get to be right. If only the Barons of yore had been just like us, it would have been a better world. This is pretty obviously a conceit, as we’d be the first people in the history of history to be right about everything. But it also means that since we’re already “right”, we don’t need to change. THEY were idiots, we are right. No need to listen to those morons about such things as child rearing, religion, politics, social issues, anything. Second, we get to deny the place of our Traditions. I say the latter especially in regards to Catholicism — a system of religion that invented Christianity as we know it. For most Americans, especially, Church History begins in 1500 or so with the rise of Protestantism. For later Americans, it would begin with the founding of some modern Protestant church. So the idea of Tradition, and it doesn’t have to be just religion, but civil or political or whatever, never sits very comfortably with most Americans. We don’t like stuffy, and we don’t like having our desires suppressed in the name of “politeness” or “religion” or “decorum”. We like anti-tradition, letting it all hang out, and doing what feels good. Which is what happens on GOT. No one ever really says NO to themselves, ever. No one refuses a wench because of Therion 3:25 forbidding premarital sex. The actual medievals became nuns and monks and Friars and the like because they feared God.

        No one quotes the Simirillion in LOTR even though the beginning is essentially a religious text — because that’s not what we think should happen. Tolkien was a real scholar of ancient texts, he knew that people of the era he’s setting ME in would have been religious to a fault, and certainly would have known their own mythos and what kinds of things are forbidden. And it would have mattered to people with swords and being invaded by Orcs and Wraiths. It just wouldn’t have sold with the modern or post-modern audience that saw Religion as a root of evil, sectarianism as satanic, and the idea of restraining your desires as unhealthy.

  8. AndrewSshi says:

    Honestly, I am once again uncertain how one could watch GoT and come away with the notion that the Middle Ages (or an environment like our Middle Ages), monarchy, a stratified class system, or magic are awesome. I’d go further and argue that GoT is basically an extended argument for liberal democracy and constitutionalism. If you watch GoT and think that living in a pre-modern monarchy in which magic sometimes works would be awesome, you’re probably not viewing it correctly.

  9. ThePoliticalOmnivore says:

    I am still digesting this–but quickly, please, I beg you: DISCOVER WHAT PASTABAGLE THINKS OF DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS.

    a) I *must* know.
    b) If he denies he plays it (actively, with a jealously guarded original Dungeons Master’s Screen, and with ‘special’ dice only he gets to touch) he’s a lying liar who lies with lying.

  10. inarticulateinthecity says:

    This NERD RAGE needs to stop.

    The Middle Ages left us with nothing? Really? REALLY?

    Has this person ever read a book not specified in his college syllabus?

  11. JohnJ says:

    This seems to me to be a fascinating insight that completely misses the point. Pastabagel focuses on the fact that whites were predominant in the Middle Ages. Ignoring the fact that he’s completely wrong (see: China. The point is that whites were predominant in the Middle Ages only where whites were predominant. Other races were predominant when and where other races were predominant.), he misses the point that race itself is a proxy for identity. I know people who identify as Christians more than white, and they discuss Christian history, and they think being Christian gives them credit for the good they believe other Christians have done. I know women who think they deserve credit for the fact that other women fought for equality.

    Where Pastabagel says ” Game of Thrones and other sword and sorcery romances (which is what this is, sorry fans) is a back story for identity construction.” and tries to differentiate Sci-fi from fantasy, he misses the point again. He should have just said “romances [are] a back story for identity construction.” If you focus properly on the issue of identity construction, you realize that genre doesn’t matter. Any genre can serve as a tool for identity construction. In fact, any art can. All art tells a story, and where that story serves a purpose of constructing identity, that’s the issue at hand.

    It doesn’t have to be historical. That’s a false marker. Any story can attempt to tie identity to virtue. Yes, even Star Trek can be interpreted as telling the story that white people will win the future.

    I don’t mean to diminish Pastabagel’s intelligent insight about storytelling that appeals to identity. That kind of smarts is why I come here. But that insight should be made more complete by decoupling it from a couple of errors.

    In summary, 2 points: 1. Race is not the only way people identify themselves. 2. Any art can tell a story that attempts to tie identity to virtue.

  12. Pingback: Whyever you think you like Game Of Thrones, you're wrong? - blog by Gurdur - Blogs on the Heathen Hub

  13. Yig Snake Daddy says:

    Bleh. This is a really badly argued critique. He’s arguing that AGOT serves as an imagined historical-heroic identity construction for privileged 21st century whites. And to do that he has to completely ignore the deep critiques of feudalism, kingship and chivalry that the story demonstrates at every turn. Or he’s claiming that the books’ readers are missing those points, which I can assure you we are not.

    He argues that AGOT is a mishmash of English and Welsh mythology set in an imagined Middle Ages, and that that somehow makes it a bad story. Since that’s exactly what GRRM set out to do, the author is essentially arguing that the story should never have been written at all — that a story of that type could not, by definition, be a good one. Which is skating very close to an indictment of all imaginative fiction.

    And what most attentive readers would call an abundance of clearly-developed narrative threads that intricately intertwine in unexpected ways, he sees nothing but unstructured improvisation: “Nothing is planned out ahead of time, and for that reason it cannot have any narrative or thematic complexity.”

    Incidentally, many good books with narrative and thematic complexity have been written improvisationally — Tristam Shandy, to pick just one example.

    I could go on, but why bother? He doesn’t like the story, which is a respectable opinion, but his arguments are pure sophistry.

  14. King Eternity says:

    “You can’t accuse me of hating Game of Thrones because I don’t like the Middle Ages, because Game of Thrones has nothing to do with the Middle Ages. It’s made up, right? Right? That’s the line that everyone is feeding to people like me?”

    WHO IS HE TALKING TO!??!!?

  15. sarcasticwriter says:

    I’d love to see Pastabagel challenged to praise a TV show.

    And Breaking Bad isn’t allowed.

  16. dsgntd_plyr says:

    “In fact, the only reason people like Game of Thrones and other fantasy stories is because they are part of a new shadow genre that I’m going to call ethnocentric fiction.”

    As an earlier commentator pointed out GOT, Breaking Bad, Mad Men etc aren’t that popular with the average viewer. But they are popular with a particular type of Upper-Middle Class White viewer.

    This type of viewer just absolutely, positively, loves vibrant diversity! Except their neighborhoods are super white, because they don’t really love diverse vibrancy*, but the frame they have set-up as controllers of The Narrative means they must proclaim a love of The Other.

    This is mentally exhausting. So Hollywood/Broadway/the BBC give them period pieces (“Mad Men”), or fantasy worlds (“GOT”), which only make sense if they’re Aryan.

    *http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/21622-smart-enough-to-know-better-intelligence-is-not-a-remedy-for-racism

  17. GC says:

    “This isn’t like Americans inflating the very real stories of Davy Crockett and Paul Bunyan to mythological levels to construct for their new country a national identity.”

    Not only is this special pleading, it’s largely wrong. A surprisingly large amount of mythology consists of “inflated” versions of people and events that actually existed. It’s as true for King David as it was for Davy Crockett.

    “You have Americans self-identifying as Irish or Scottish or whatever. You’re American. But being American is such a goddamn burden these days, what with having to follow the moon-landing and all, that everyone wants to be something a little less imperial.”

    Nope. It has nothing to do with imperialism and everything to do with a cultural inferiority complex. They do it because “American” (sans hyphen) means nothing; people like to think of themselves of inheritors of an ancient historical legacy, which New World folks can’t lay claim to. Calling yourself African-American, Irish-American, Italian-American etc. fills the void.

    Pasta’s previous attempt to accuse the British of this is misguided – the Old World doesn’t have this problem, nor, consequently, this “hyphen-identity” phenomenon.

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