My wife and I caught up on Game of Thrones the night before the Presidential debate. While watching the debate, GoT was still on my mind, and I started thinking about how similar the world of Westeros is to our world. There are a few clear parallels. (SPOILERS)
Religious Zealotry threatening governments: Through season 6 the people of King’s Landing dealt with the Faith Militant, a fundamentalist religious group given judicial power over the city. Cersei Lannister tried to use them for her own purposes, ultimately suffering humiliation for her overconfidence. Other characters tried to deal with them in a less obvious way, playing them from the inside. And in the end, lives were lost due to political leaders using religious zealotry as a political force.
We are seeing that happen more and more in American politics, as religious fundamentalism becomes more tied in with government policies and politicians using their religion as a platform to execute restrictive laws. But in the end, nobody is safe once religion mixes with government. Our Faith Militant is less obvious and more subtle, but it exists in the religious overtones of the Trump candidacy and local politics in right-leaning states
Strong women taking power: One of the most exciting aspects of season 6 was watching strong women take leadership roles (for better or for worse). Daenerys Targaryen is the most obvious example. We have seen her time and again bucking patriarchal roles to ensure freedom in Slaver’s Bay and claim back the Iron Throne for her line. Recently we saw the emergence of Yara Greyjoy, an extremely effective leader in the Iron Isles who was pushed out of leadership by a usurping (and murderous) uncle. Instead of sulking, Yara allied herself with Daenerys, providing ships for the eventual battle for the Seven Kingdoms.
And of course we have to mention Cersei, who after a rough season claimed the throne following Tommen’s untimely suicide. While her claim to the throne is illegitimate by nearly every law in the Seven Kingdoms and her intentions clearly villainous, it is thrilling to see a women working her way to the top while centuries of patriarchal tradition worked against her.
In our world we have seen women coming to power over the past decade, most notably the Hillary Clinton candidacy. Like the world of Westeros, our society is slowly forgetting its patriarchal standards and allowing for a more egalitarian society. Clinton is not as good a leader as Daenerys, but she represents a liberation similar to Daenerys freeing the slaves. The glass roof is cracked, and women can push themselves up to the top.
The third world striking back: While Slaver’s Bay clearly is a complex society, to the inhabitants of the Seven Kingdoms, it might as well be the third world. The politics of Slaver’s Bay clearly has little impact on the race for the Iron Throne, at least until Daenerys set up her empire in the slave cities.
The relationship between Slaver’s Bay and the Seven Kingdoms is similar to how the West viewed many ex-colonial countries in the 20th century: distant lands, useful for some trading but ultimately of lesser importance to the games between the super-powers. But now those former third-world nations are coming back. With countries like India and Brazil poised to become economic powers, ex-colonial nations like Iran providing a clear threat to Western interests and China threatening Western economic hegemony, our world is changing. The old third world is coming into power. They are the Daenerys to our Seven Kingdoms.
Climate change: While mentioned often lately, Game of Thrones provides the clearest metaphor for our world with the White Walkers. These un-dead snow zombies from beyond the Wall are the biggest threat to Westeros. But even as the Night’s Watch faces off against them, the other powers in Westeros are constantly struggling to get to the top. Yet in the end, whoever is on the Iron Throne does not matter in the face of the White Walkers.
Our world is going to have to face climate change eventually. It is our White Walkers We are past the point of no return. But instead of dealing with that, we are squabbling over whether gay people can get married. Does that really matter in the long run? Why are we spending our time on that argument instead of worrying about bigger issues? Look at the debate. The environment came up once. Instead we got to watch two capitalists argue about who would be better for the middle class. You know what will be better for the middle-class in the long run? Not having the climate of the planet become deadly to our civilization.
Maybe Clinton and Trump should watch Game of Thrones.