Climate change, #MeToo and Game of Thrones

Mother of dragons: “The whole show is just a discussion on power,” said actress Emilia Clarke.

Blood. Ice. Death. Fire. Revenge. Last night, after eight years on our screens, the epic fantasy series finally reached its end. But what was Game of Thrones really about?

(Warning: spoilers for season eight, but not for the finale.)

And so, after eight seasons, 73 episodes and more twists than anyone could count, last night Game of Thrones aired its final 80 minutes of television.

Reactions to the final season have been mixed. This week, over one million people signed an online petition calling for season eight to be re-made “with competent writers”. Critics have puzzled over rushed plot lines and unravelling character development.

Regardless of how you feel about the ending, it’s a show that has changed television. The final season cost a record-breaking $15 million per episode. It has millions of viewers worldwide, although exact numbers are hard to pin down — partly because it is also the most pirated show in history. Its success sparked a boom in big-budget TV shows, with large casts and complex plots.

Game of Thrones also changed the way that fantasy TV treats women. Heroes or villains, the female characters are often stronger and smarter than the men around them — even if they are abused and objectified by them.

This season in particular has put women right at its centre, from Arya Stark slaying the Night King to Daenyrys Targaryen burning a city alive.

The show is based on books by George R. R. Martin, who based his stories on the Wars of the Roses. But for all the power struggles in Westeros, he says there is one issue that trumps them all.

“The people in Westeros are fighting their individual battles,” he told The New York Times last year. “And those are so distracting that they’re ignoring the threat of ‘winter is coming’, which has the potential to destroy all of them.”

Indeed, Jon Snow spent several seasons trying to convince those in charge to focus on battling the icy White Walkers. “How do I convince people who don’t know me that an enemy they don’t believe in is coming to kill them all?” he asked.

Was Game of Thrones a story about climate change all along?

You know nothing?

The parallels are obvious. The arrival of winter threatens everyone in Westeros. But even when leaders accept the truth, they wait for others to make the necessary sacrifices. The same is happening on Earth. We are fighting over important issues but, according to Martin, “None of them are important if, like, we’re dead and our cities are under the ocean.”

But if that is true, why were the White Walkers defeated so early in season eight? At its heart, Game of Thrones is a story about people — especially women — dealing with the trauma of the past. The actress Emilia Clarke said that Daenyrys’ act of genocide came from years of “disappointment, shame, hurt and lost love”. After all, “there’s only so much pain you can handle before you snap”.

You Decide

  1. Was Game of Thrones sexist?
  2. What was the main theme driving the show’s action?

Activities

  1. Finish this sentence: “Game of Thrones is a show about…”
  2. Last week, the head of the BAFTAs said that more TV shows should address climate change. Create a plan for the first episode of your own TV show about the issue. It could be fiction or non-fiction.

Some People Say...

“We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.”

George R. R. Martin, A Game Of Thrones

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Game Of Thrones is based on George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book was published in 1996, and there have been four more books since then. However, the series is unfinished: there are still at least two more books to go. This means that the final seasons of the TV show may end differently to the novels.
What do we not know?
When the final novels in the series will be published, or how Martin feels about the way the TV show has ended. We also do not know what the planned prequels and sequels will be about, although there are rumours that there will be as many as five spin-offs.

Word Watch

Pirated
The first episode of this season was illegally streamed or downloaded 54 million times in the first 24 hours, according to online piracy data firm Muso.
Boom
When Game of Thrones first aired in 2011, the US had 266 scripted TV shows; in 2018, there were 495.
Abused
It is important to note that Game Of Thrones has been criticised for the rape and abuse that many of its female characters endure, as well as the gratuitous nudity of earlier seasons. The rape of teenager Sansa Stark (which does not appear in the books) drew particular anger. In a recent episode, Sansa’s statement that the abuse made her stronger was also criticised.
Wars of the Roses
A series of wars in England’s history between 1455 and 1485. It was a fight for the country’s throne between the two houses of Lancaster and York (or, in Game of Thrones, Lannister and Stark).
Westeros
The fictional continent where the action takes place.
Climate change
Last year, the UN warned that Earth has just 12 years to stop a climate “catastrophe” caused by global warming.
White Walkers
Icy, zombie-like creatures intent on killing humans.

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