This shouldn’t even have to be said, but: spoilers below through S8E5.
Since I currently only barely have the attention span to compose a coherent tweet, let alone a proper blog post…
On that note: Spoilers for Game of Thrones and the most recent Captain America movie below the fold.
So I broke down and watched Game of Thrones after the latest gratuitous rape scene in S5E6. The show is, and always has been, well done when the showrunners can concentrate on the macho “when men were men” high fantasy aspect and aren’t distracted with what they find to be the delightful thought of punishing women with rape and/or death.
First of all, no, this post will not allege that GoT or the Song of Ice and Fire books are anything like, say, Narnia with its explicit Christian allegory. It’s hard to call any show that made “sexposition” a word, a Christian work.
Season 5 does have a conflict brewing between the fundamentalist, Protestant-ish Sparrows versus the corrupted, Catholic-seeming Sept church. The whoremongering High Sept is an obvious medieval-era papal figure, whereas the High Sparrow’s refutation of the church’s worldly excess immediately brought to mind a certain German monk who said the same about the Church of his time.
Besides that, though, there is no denying that both GRR Martin and many sects of Christianity hold to a vision of a world that is irredemably fallen and corrupt, and it is a rare episode of GoT that does not remind us what a crapsack world Westeros is. (I’ve opined before that it’s so bad, I’m actually rooting for the White Walkers.)
The characters who wind up with a positive moral balance-sheet tend to meet fates ranging from exile at best (Arya, Tyrion, Barristan, Rickon and Bran Stark, Hodor, Sam, the self-exile of Jon Snow) all the way to, shall we say, a more typical GoT character’s ending. (Most of the Starks and their retainers, Renly, Syrio Forel, Talisa, Oberyn, even Ros, the hooker with a heart of gold).
The bad guys, on the other hand, do relatively well in the utterly fallen and base lands of Westeros and Braavos. Sure, a few of them do get their tickets punched, this being GoT and all… but even then, they experience very little suffering in their benighted lives up until their death scene. There is no arguing that the horrible little shit known as Joffrey lived without any punishment, restraint or pain in his life despite (or perhaps, because of) his depredations, up until the last five seconds or so of his screen time. Same with Tywin and the Mountain, the latter of whom appears set for an undead reawakening.
Meanwhile, the monstrous Bolton clan, including the guy who spent an entire season of the show torturing someone and the other guy who set up the Red Wedding, representing a clan that proudly displays a flayed man as their official banner, are doing quite well for themselves. They own Winterfell and are on the way to solidify their holdings by marrying none other than the (increasingly corrupted) Sansa Stark into their clan. They have experienced hardly any blowback from their crimes. The evil Lannisters, meanwhile, have seen better days overall, it is true. But Cersei is simply being replaced by another wicked woman just like herself, and King’s Landing overall is no less corrupt than it ever has been. Walder Frey will probably never receive comeuppance for his part in the Red Wedding. Et cetera, et cetera.
The debased world of man, where true justice exist only in the world of God, is an essential part of Christian theology. But don’t take it from me: take it from Christian ultraconservative writer David French, who instead of reviling the show as expected, admits to being a fan, partly because of its depiction of fallen Man. He quotes Mark 7:
What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.
That’s a good working summary of your average Westeros nobleman. Or as a Christian educator quoted in USA Today put it,
Thus far (Martin has) been fairly scornful of the idea that the end result of the political struggle is the establishment of social justice, and seems to be suggesting that, in the end, all succumbs to dust and entropy, or that on the whole those willing to give themselves wholly over to their will to power will ultimately prevail.
He may as well be talking about the Book of Revelations. You know, right before the part where Jesus wins.
Speaking of: as for whether the show or the books will deal with the most important part of the Christian worldview — salvation — remains to be seen. If the wicked get purged at the end by the White Walkers before Dany then swoops down on her dragons to establish a new paradise on Westeros, then you know Martin is secretly ducking into the local pews every Sunday before sneaking out the back. Just saying.
But either way, Martin’s very dark take on the nature of humans has a long history in Christianity, and it’s safe to say that consciously or not, Christianity influenced him just as it did Frank Miller and Christopher Nolan.
Disclaimer: I am an agnostic and don’t see Christian themes as either inherently good or bad.