George R.R. Martin Explains the Real Political Message of Game of Thrones
People often try to hunt for political messages in Game of Thrones that mirror our own IRL. Bernie Sanders is the High Sparrow! Tyrion and Daenerys are coastal elites! The Wall! But, the truth is, while the politics in Game of Thrones are complex and interesting, they're only slightly more fucked up than our own here in Trump's America.
Many of these comparisons are often a bit of a stretch—projecting our own political anxieties on a world of White Walkers and dragons that was published two decades before the 2016 election.
But there is one popular political theme found in Game of Thrones that George R.R. Martin absolutely intended.
A Song of Ice and Fire is often read as an allegory for the threat of climate change. "Winter Is Coming" is a very obvious nod to a looming natural threat. And in a new interview, Martin explains how the series can be taken as an analog for the peril of global warming.
“There is—in a very broad sense—a certain parallel there,” Martin told the New York Times. “The people in Westeros are fighting their individual battles over power and status and wealth. And those are so distracting them that they’re ignoring the threat of ‘winter is coming,’ which has the potential to destroy all of them and to destroy their world.”
The people in Westeros are fighting their individual battles over power and status and wealth. And those are so distracting them that they’re ignoring the threat of “winter is coming,” which has the potential to destroy all of them and to destroy their world. And there is a great parallel there to, I think, what I see this planet doing here, where we’re fighting our own battles. We’re fighting over issues, important issues, mind you — foreign policy, domestic policy, civil rights, social responsibility, social justice. All of these things are important. But while we’re tearing ourselves apart over this and expending so much energy, there exists this threat of climate change, which, to my mind, is conclusively proved by most of the data and 99.9 percent of the scientific community. And it really has the potential to destroy our world. And we’re ignoring that while we worry about the next election and issues that people are concerned about, like jobs. Jobs are a very important issue, of course. All of these things are important issues. But none of them are important if, like, we’re dead and our cities are under the ocean. So really, climate change should be the number one priority for any politician who is capable of looking past the next election. But unfortunately, there are only a handful of those. We spend 10 times as much energy and thought and debate in the media discussing whether or not N.F.L. players should stand for the national anthem than this threat that’s going to destroy our world.
This book was written at a time when climate change research was expanding rapidly and becoming a real concern outside of the scientific community. The clear theme of climate change only becomes more powerful as it becomes a more serious threat in the real world. And it's interesting that Martin saw this as an important theme so early, long before the expanding sub-genre of climate science fiction.
Although his books aren't direct parallels to modern politics, Martin did tell the New York Times that the Game of Thrones character most like Trump is Joffrey.
They have the same level of emotional maturity. And Joffrey likes to remind everyone that he’s king. And he thinks that gives him the ability to do anything. And we’re not an absolute monarchy, like Westeros is. We’re a constitutional republic. And yet, Trump doesn’t seem to know what that means. He thinks the presidency gives him the power to do anything.
And that's only a little less depressing than a global apocalypse.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.