Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Game of Thrones provides a political archetype for the ages

I don't watch much television. In fact, I watch no broadcast TV at all, finding it so execrable these days that I would rather tear out my fingernails with pliers than sit through any of the dross that passes for content on the main networks. I am, however, a serial monogamist when it comes to online streaming, watching just one series from beginning to end at any time.

Most recently, I have enjoyed Season 8 of Game of Thrones. Well, 'enjoyed' might be too strong a word because, like most reviewers, I think the writers of Season 8 literally lost the plot. I blame George R R Martin, the author of the books on which the series is based, because he fell behind the storyline of the dramatised version with his books, leaving it to some second-rate Hollywood scriptwriters to imagine how the story might end.

Even if you're not a Game of Thrones aficianado, by now you'll know how the story played out. The Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of the Andals, etc, turned out to be not quite the benevolent monarch that she originally appeared.

Daenerys started out as the unwilling bride of the chief of the Dothraki, a sort of Mongol horde in the eastern continent of Essos, and after the death of her husband and being cast out of the tribe, she builds a loyal following and sets about freeing the slaves in various realms, deposing brutal and corrupt leaders and settling ancient disputes. She presents herself as a kinder, gentler leader, who is only interested in the welfare of her people, not unlike some of the progressive leaders around the world today.

Of course, history tells us the road to political hell is paved with the good intentions of progressive leaders, and so turned out to be the case with Daenerys Targaryen. Her final goal was to conquer and set to rights her ancestral homeland of Westeros, the land where the titular game of thrones is played out. No sooner had Daenerys conquered Kings Landing, the capital of Westeros, and its evil Queen Cersei, than she decides in a fit of pique to exterminate every man, woman and child in that city - in other words to commit genocide.

I am not sure whether it was intentional, but the writers of Game of Thrones created in the character of Daenerys the perfect archetype of the benevolent leader-turned-tyrant. Rising to power with overwhelming public support, particularly from the downtrodden, such leaders soon begin to equate the people's interests with their own. They believe only they know what is best for everyone else and they see any threat to themselves as a threat to the people. They regard any resistance to their increasing authoritarianism as an evil that must be expurgated from their domain, and soon pass draconian laws, which inevitably lead to shootings in the streets and ultimately to the mass killing that was the resort of Daenerys Targaryen.

The lesson is never trust a kinder, gentler leader.

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