Don’t worry if you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years – this article is spoiler-free.
On Sunday, 19th of May, it felt like the world came to a relative standstill as we all came together and watched the last ever episode of ‘Game of Thrones’. The ramifications of this show are so widespread that it may even affect viewers’ attitudes on politics – according to a study by Professor Anthony Gierzynski. However you feel about the final season, it is undeniably a cultural phenomenon. I think I may know one of the reasons why.
In a political world that seems precarious at best (and terrifying at worst), it’s no wonder this bloodthirsty epic no wonder became so popular. We face so many of the same issues daily, albeit on a much less showy scale. One of the key elements of the show is the battle for, and amassing of, power. Not only does it feel almost never-ending – the pursuit of power colours the decisions of most characters, as well as how we view them.
The idea of the nobility of ruling, that ends always justify their means; these are as familiar to us as they are to citizens of Westeros. We watch time and time again as innocents suffer in order to further a ruler’s political ideal. Mostly portayed as tyrannical, but occasionally seen as necessary evil, these losses feel distant, like another aspect of the fantasy. But that’s not necessarily true.
Real life democracies are already beginning to show the limitations of a system built on the of putting personal gain over policy. When highly-publicised elections roll around – such as the USA’s 2018 midterm elections – it feels like anything would be said or done by those in power in order for them to stay in power.
Let us not forget the alleged crisis of the migrant caravan, brought up close to elections to fear-monger and sway uncertain voters. Though American politicians already seem to have forgotten it, its effects have been long-lasting. Not only did it steal precious time and resources from issues that really mattered, it also publicly gave voice to xenophobic ideals.
Just like in Westeros, we may have to come up with a solution to the quest for control – or perhaps, we already know one. Limiting elected officials to one term could allow our governments to focus on their real job: protecting their people.