6 facts of life according to Game of Thrones

If you haven’t seen any episode of the international hit television series Game of Thrones which is based on the best-selling novels, well I suggest you better start watching them now because what you are about to read contains spoilers. Yes, I don’t mind if you read this article after you’ve seen the series or read the books because you will have a better understanding of my points once you get to know all the characters involved.

Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin is not just an excellent storyteller; he is also a keen observer of people’s behavior. Okay, so his advanced age gives him an advantage over us but still, we have to thank him for sharing his wisdom and imagination.

Some folks probably watch the show just for the sex scenes and violence but others watch it for the witty one-liners their favorite characters throw at each other. In other words, viewers like me bring more than the image of John Snow or Robb Stark to bed. We also absorb the subtle lessons Martin wants to impart through the failures and successes of his characters.

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So the following are the facts of life according to the world of Game of Thrones:

1. Sex and Violence sells.

Well, yeah. I thought I would start with the obvious. We cringe but somehow we can’t look away. It’s partly because we are all unconsciously drawn to other people’s suffering and partly because we want to see if justice will be served.

Before there was order in the universe, there was a lot of sex and violence. Unfortunately, men initiated most of the sex and violence. Author Martin shows us that women, even those with royal blood like Cersei Lannister were treated like commodities. We can’t even say that women are treated better now because we still hear of news in some parts of the globe of women being stoned to death or being gang raped and murdered afterwards. Barbarians existed then and they still exist now.

Having said that, Martin also showed that women are also capable of violence. Cersei Lannister is a fine example of someone who will not hesitate to kill her own brother just because she doesn’t like the way he looks.

2. Kill or be killed.

There are many instances in the story where this is demonstrated. Tyrion’s decision to kill his father is one.

The first thing Tyrion Lannister did after his brother Jaime helped him escape his dingy jail cell was to kill his former lover Shae and father Tywin Lannister. Tyrion didn’t even think twice about doing it after he realized that his father conspired with a whore to seduce him and consequently serve as witness against him during his murder trial for the death of his nephew, King Joffrey. I guess even if Tyrion managed to escape, his father would have hunted him down if he hadn’t killed him.

Let’s not forget that Ned Stark lost his head because he actually believed a psychopathic king like Joffrey Baratheon would let him live. If Ned weren’t too trusting of the Lannisters, he would still be alive to rule the North. His son Robb suffered the same fate. He lost his head too after he trusted the very same man he betrayed.

What about Oberyn? He managed to wound and bring down an opponent twice his size with his spear but because he couldn’t stop talking and congratulating himself, didn’t see it coming when his opponent tripped him over, poked his eyes and smash his head in.

The lesson here is to not hesitate in killing your opponent and make sure he is dead before declaring yourself a winner.

3. Do not underestimate the size of your enemy.

A winner against the odds - in reel and real life!

A winner against the odds – in reel and real life!

It was too late when Tywin Lannister, Ned Stark, and The Hound realized this. Tywin was killed by his dwarf son Tyrion. Ned sentenced to death by a teenage King Joffrey. The Hound beaten to a pulp by a female knight Brienne of Tarth and left for dead by the child Arya Stark.

4. It’s all about appearances and perception.

Apparently if you make people believe that you are worthy of the throne, they may actually believe you. This is true in the case of the Lannisters. Because the people are beholden to anyone with royal blood, they will show deference to the next heir to the throne in the event of the King’s death. After Robert Baratheon’s death, his obvious successor was his first-born son Joffrey. Only the viewers are privy to the well-known secret that Joffrey is actually the result of Cersei’s incestuous relationship with her brother Jaime. But as long as the masses do not know this, they can continue to keep their hold on the throne.

While the masses think that the Lannisters possess a lot of gold, they are actually deeply in debt to the Iron Bank. The cost of winning the war against Stannis Barratheon in Blackwater and bribing men to conspire against Robb Stark, the King of the North has taken a toll on their balance sheet. But as long as the masses do not know this, they are safe to keep their hold on the throne.

Mother of dragons Daenerys Targaryen had to build her reputation as a fearless leader from the ground up. Being a woman and her half-naked appearance didn’t help her cause. If not for her dragons, she wouldn’t get any respect at all.

The lesson here is to make people believe that you have power over them.

5. Most people do not know what to do with their freedom.

How many times have we seen this manifested in real life? It has to be countless of times throughout human history. Most people are clueless about what’s good for them, which is precisely the reason why it is easy for others to order them around like slaves.

Mother of dragons Daenerys Targaryen thought she was doing the slaves a favor by giving them their freedom but she was shocked to find out that some folks are happy enough to work for their master because that’s all they know. Some loyal subjects felt a sudden sense of loss of direction once they gained their freedom.

This makes me wonder what the North Korean folks would do if ever they become free from the clutches of their dear leader. In the Middle East, chaos followed after the people became free of their dictators. In the Philippines, 30 years after gaining democracy, most Filipinos still don’t know what to do with their freedom. They still vote for the same type of bozos who treat the country like their personal fiefdom.

6. Masses and peasants do not really matter to the people in power.

The people in power have their own agenda. They will try to use their influence over their opponents using diplomacy. If that doesn’t work, they will use a broker or a third party to make people see it their way. And if that still doesn’t work, they will use bribery and violence to get their way. That was the case then and it is still the case now. When war breaks, the masses become casualty. The rulers of Westeros show us how this is done to an art form.

* * *

A lot of viewers think that what happens in the television series cannot or doesn’t happen in real life but they are wrong. It has happened in the past and it is still happening now. The violence may not be as much in civilized society but it doesn’t mean that those in power in “civilized” society do not manipulate situations in some backward country. It may be through arming the rebels or supporting puppet regimes. Either way, the general public do not really matter much in the scheme of things.

So truth be told, atrocities committed by a few powerful men and women will not likely stop until the masses realize their power over these people. And, unfortunately, that will never happen.

23 Replies to “6 facts of life according to Game of Thrones”

  1. You watch Game of Thrones and you see all these different groups wanting the Iron Throne. Some just want to take it, to “pay for it with iron not gold”. It’s a way of saying anything worth truly having is earned and not bought. Some believe they were born to sit on that Iron Throne. In GoT you see what people are willing to do to get what they want. Maybe a show like Sopranos is like that but GoT has that tangible Iron Throne as a symbol. For pinoys the Iron Throne is pansin. Regardless of how they make the connection or how flimsly the association, they will make that connection to get to the Iron Throne of pansin. KSP is the root of all evil. This KSP is a manifestation of low national self esteem. So we embrace the trivial and believe it’s meaningful. Then our embrace of that which I interpret as shallow and superficial gives us an excuse to be irrationally exhuberant. The Pinoy wants international pansin anyway they can get it, short of what Cunanan did to Versace.

    1. You watch Game of Thrones and you see all these different groups wanting the Iron Throne. Some just want to take it, to “pay for it with iron not gold”. It’s a way of saying anything worth truly having is earned and not bought. Some believe they were born to sit on that Iron Throne. In GoT you see what people are willing to do to get what they want.

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. The iron throne is worth dying for because it comes with a lot of privileges for the one sitting on it, his families and their allies. The privilege includes owning land as far as and beyond the eye can see and not to mention having slave labor.

    2. Hey Gogs and Ilda, since we’re on the subject of fantasy, I’d like to ask if the two of you are acquainted with another fantasy setting called Warhammer 40,000 which also has a lot of uncomfortable parallels with Philippine society. If you aren’t, you can visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warhammer_40,000 and http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/TabletopGame/Warhammer40000

      Anyway, it is a sci-fi/fantasy setting with aliens, monsters, demons and gigantic armor-clad warriors who fight said aliens, monsters and demons. However, the setting is well-known for being a brutal dystopia.

      The Imperium of Man, the humans of the setting, serve and worship the Emperor of Mankind. A powerful man with godlike powers who should have died thousands of years ago but is somehow kept alive with a bizarre life support system called the Golden Throne. People worship him despite the fact that he wanted to avoid being called a “god” in the first place.

      The Ecclesiarchy, who should look very familiar to you, facilitate worship of the God-Emperor and bog down society with their over-religious sentiments.

      The Council of Terra, the ruling class who should also look very familiar to you, exist as dynasties that have gone on for centuries.

      Lastly, common citizens of the Imperium of Man are completely unaware of the dangers that threaten them. The Administratum (government) and the Ecclesiarchy effectively keep them in the dark about the aliens, monsters and demons that are out for their blood.

      If you guys have the time and interest, it might be worth a look for you guys…

  2. Great article, Ilda!

    BTW, thanks to cable subscription, Game of Thrones became one of my favorite TV shows EVER. You can never tell who’s the good guy or bad guy, but you can feel with those characters.

    One of them is Tyrion. I admire him. Yes, everyone is making fun of him being a dwarf. But his best weapon? His intelligence and wit, and that makes him respectable. I grinned when Joffrey died and I feel bad for him when he found out that Shae betrayed him; of course, he loved her, even she’s a whore. It hurt him a lot. And then now, he kills his own father yet w/ no remorse since Tywin is one of the people who made Tyrion’s life a living hell, including Cersei.

    I’ve watched the last episode of Season 4. And it strikes me. A lot. Just like the previous 4 seasons.

    1. Thanks, WinterSoldier!

      Glad you already finished watching season 4. I still can’t get over the deaths of some of the regular characters like the Hound and Tywin.

      1. The Hound was left to die. But we don’t know that he is dead. Believe me, I am only in the first book so I only know what I see on the show. Besides when almost anyone dies there it usually explicit rarely implied. What I found eye opening was this interview with the author himself. Implying that even the “heroes” had flaws. Flaws that cost them as you have also hinted here Ilda. http://www.dorkly.com/post/63864/george-rr-martins-open-letter-about-the-deaths-in-game-of-thrones

        1. @Gogs

          Yes, that’s what we think too. The Hound could still be alive next season. Someone could save him after all. Or maybe he will turn into a white walker…lol.

          I read the article on that link last week but I wasn’t sure if that was really written but Martin himself.

  3. Even before Game of Thrones became famous, these facts of life should have already been evident to Filipinos:

    I guess, with regard to number 1, sex and violence hit very primal triggers in humans. It’s just that with Filipinos, they just don’t seem…very restrained. It’s like their “religious” society is like a cage, and when they see sex and violence, parang pinakawalan sa hawla.

    Your number 2 can be translated locally: Matira ang matibay.

    When talking about Number 3, Perhaps Filipinos are exactly the kind to underestimate their enemies. They are the kind of people who are quick to make summary judgments based on physical appearance and what is on the surface, instead of doing more research and trying to understand their enemy. What they are also, is complacent: bahala na, pwede-na-yan, and mediocrity pervade the Filipino way of life.

    Number 4: It’s all about appearances and perception – This especially holds true in Filipino society where Filipinos overly rely on external factors in order to determine their self-worth. Politics IS perception, and in a land like the Philippines where power plays and politicking are ways of life they take appearance, and face, very seriously.

    Number 5 – not only do Filipinos know not what to do with their freedom, they have a very warped definition of it. They think it is a license to do anything they want, without regard for the consequences of their actions and the sentiments of those around them. When they are called out on their errant behavior, they act like victims and cry foul.

    Number 6 – I don’t know when the common tao will ever get angry enough that they don’t matter to those in power.

    Game of Thrones? Big deal; the Philippines has had its own power plays long beforehand; and what has come out of those who have sat on the throne found here is all that brown stuff. 😛

    1. Hello Amir Al Bahr!

      Unfortunately, I was guilty of underestimating the power of irrational people moving in large groups during the 2010 elections. I speak from experience. 🙁

      I agree with you on item number 4. Nowadays a lot of people are outraged by images of the Napoleses and Estradas bragging about their wealth but you have to wonder why they didn’t mind looking at those same images before news of the pork barrel scam broke out. The majority were actually beholden to them because of their wealth and power. How ironic.

      Yup, we can definitely write our own game of thrones series. The ending will always be sad for the masses.

    1. Filipinos prefer their “Legal Wife” soap opera than this epic, mid-boggling mini-series (or novels from G.R.R. Martin)from HBO. Can’t help if Filipino minds still run with Pentium I processors 🙂

  4. I feel like I am missing out a lot. I haven’t had the chance to watch any episodes yet. I hope it’s on Netflix. By the way, great article!

    1. You should get the book series. Hopefully, George R. R. Martin finishes the last novel before he croaks.

        1. My colleague is annoyed that Martin doesn’t want to find the time to write the next two books anymore. I told him that usually happens when the writer is engaged in a lot of publicity tours for the show. He is also very involved in the creation of the series.

          I told my colleague he can get ideas from the film Misery in how to convince Martin to resume writing. 😉

        2. If anything, I wish, like Martin, that HBO could afford more episodes per season. It just doesn’t feel the same as the novels. It might make it more difficult for the producers, though. Quite a bit of the material is ‘unfilmable.’

        3. Johnny , they already film in at least three different countries. That might be the biggest cast for a tv show ever . HBO gets revenue from subscribers and not ads. Anyway I hope to plow through the books .

        4. Its five countries I think. Morocco, Malta, Croatia, Iceland, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Twenty different locations spread throughout. Not including the stuff they do in Los Angeles. I hear this series is running up to around five or six million dollars per episode to produce. (Even with the decision to let Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion keep his nose to avoid expensive prosthetic appliances.)

          Good luck with tackling the novels, my friend. It can be a challenge. Thousands of pages of violent fantasy/horror turns some people away outright. And it can be disappointing when the adaptation doesn’t exactly fit a narrative that already makes sense. Things like the TV version’s more sympathetic portrayal of Tyrion (the manner in which he dispatches Shae and Tywin in the novels can leave a really bad taste in the mouth of those coming at the story from HBO’s storyline) and the absence of certain major characters like ‘Coldhands’ and ‘Lady Stoneheart’ (maybe HBO decided there were too many shows starring the undead/zombies on cable).

    2. Hello Hector!

      You are missing out. 🙂

      I’m glad some people who haven’t watched the series or read the book enjoyed my article. Thanks!

  5. All I watched are the last 3 episodes of Season 4, and I have Clash of Kings which I only started reading. I may not be a fan, but I had to catch up since it became part of work.

    I’d see this series more like a soap opera in a Fantasy setting. But G.R.R. Martin certainly is good with characterization, as any good novelist is. I think the lesson with his works is that human flaws sometimes cause human suffering. People should learn to admit their faults and fix them for the good of others. It’s a theme touched on from Socrates to Shakespeare to today. Yet I’m sure few really want to do that.

    Emilia Clarke looks good in the pic, by the way.

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