The title highlights two developments with origins in the wreckage of the Great Recession. Game of Thrones and Uber prefigured the rise of Donald Trump. The touchstone cultural phenomenon of Game of Thrones explores new ways to express old ideas about blood and soil, power and authority, within a terrifying world that appears on the brink of collapse. GOT affirms the central role of nationalism in containing the threat of a world outside of capitalist market relations. Remember, it’s only the zombies who exist outside the ‘throne system’. And we are those zombies.
Uber, the corporate economic juggernaut is the tip of the spear of the Gig economy, always and everywhere a dissolving of the bonds of solidarity between workers and a rejection of whatever remains of a social contract represented by the so-called welfare state. Uber is making America move again, if only on a digital treadmill.
In approaching Game of Thrones it is useful to start at the beginning. Lest we forget, the opening scene is set at the base of the giant wall that is meant to keep out all those who refuse to accept the authority of the Throne System–most pointedly wildlings and the white walkers with their army of the dead. So there is, from the opening seconds, the wall and a zombie attack on the defenders of the wall. Together with the Throne System, this is all you need to understand in order to get caught up with the past seven years of the series. Nothing else matters.
The MacGuffin in GOT is not the throne, nor the ceaseless struggle between houses and realms for control of the throne, nor the ‘Revolution’ initiated by Denerys Stormborn and her dragons, nor the secret primeval magic hidden in the forest, nor the assassination fetishists in the money temple, nor the inter-generational conflict within houses. What moves the plot forward is the threat the dead pose to the power of the Throne System by breach of the wall. What I will argue is that we are the army of the dead; they are the overlords who rule principally because they have always ruled, by right of ancestry, family, blood, and thereby ‘race’. Don’t bother pointing out that GOT takes place in a fictional world of feudal relations–what’s important is that it recycles the ‘ancient prejudices’ of that era for modern tastes and serves as an allegory for the imperative of crushing everything outside of our modern throne system.
But what is the throne, other than the power to rule? It is control of the magic associated with blood, and bloodlines; it is the pseudoscience of ‘race’ projected forward in faux medieval terms in the only dramatic sense that has any power left: the zombie sub genre of horror.
This is why GOT should properly be classified as a blood and soil zombie soap opera that utilizes medieval fantasy conventions.
The creators of GOT know what the MacGuffin of their creation is: its resolution will come about through its diametric opposite: the super hero or the only collective action allowed by this structure, a fascist mobilization of humunculi.
GOT is a zombie series that utilizes medieval fantasy conventions. The immense popularity of the zombie horror genre is a reflection of fears about the people rebelling–when there was little chance of this, the fetid imagination of ‘a man and his castle’ could turn elsewhere–aliens, environmental apocalypse, plagues… But in a sense the fears of the ruling class always settle on zombies, because this fear represents the only real, and entirely possible, end of their world–the end of capitalism and capitalists that can only come about through a social revolution led by and composed of zombies. The only apocalypse that threatens elite rule is us; we are their end. “Everything I want is in the end of you”.
The explosion of super heroes throughout popular culture is the perfect analog to zombie fears: you know that the possibility of a mass uprising is increasing not least because the political hegemony that has been the basis for their rule is strained to the breaking point, and there is as yet no alternative in sight. But each and every infantile expression of this conundrum issued forth from the DC or Marvel ‘universe’ is a signal of weakness and anxiety, rather than a celebration of strength and assurance. It is also an expression of fears on the part of elites of an excess of democracy, of any form of collective action.
The film World War Z is the most complete and sophisticated contemporary expression of this current to date.
No surprise that the next project of the GOT creators is a fantasy where the Confederacy won the civil war, a riff on Birth Of A Nation. Fucking repugnant. More drenching in blood and race, war and nationalism. Look at the nexus of race and blood in GOT–an unleashing of reactionary themes in a war of all against all until the specter of the army of the dead appears. A thousand years in this soft porn of fascism is clearly the analog of thirty years to an amnesiac and presentist culture.
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
Central take away is a racism so pathological it would rather be consumed by cannibals than saved by black people. Effective use of irony. Assault on the bourgeois family.
The zombies are us.
Allegory or parable of the Cold War. Threat of the masses.
World War Z
Shambling and running zombies.
Neo-liberalism. Liberal super hero in Brad Pitt.
The Wall. Zombies as the masses.
Twin totalitarian threats.
Camouflage is social democracy, liberalism. Genocide is the final solution.
Man In the High Castle–unwatchable train wreck on the question of what is fascism.
Drenched in blood; and there is no substance known to human beings that denotes ‘race’ quite like ‘blood’.
Blood and family
Blood for Blood
By right of birth and blood
Low born, high born
Rightful King by blood
Wildling blood in my veins
Lord of Light magic requires a King’s blood
There is power in a king’s blood
To defend my blood
Blood right to the throne
In season five, the opening scene has a witch taste a young Cersei’s blood to tell her future.
Season 4, episode 6 “the laws of god and men.” A representative from the Iron Bank says, “across the narrow sea your books are filled with words like ‘usurper’ and ‘madman’ and ‘blood right’. Here our books are filled with numbers. We prefer the stories they tell.”
This book, that book, they all work together.
Soap operas are structured as a form of voyeurism wherein we watch the naval gazing of the ruling class and derive a guilty pleasure when they act badly. What’s important is that they act, we passively watch.