Game of Thrones.
The new season of the show that has taken the world by storm enters its seventh season. The Mother of Dragons has returned, winter sweeps farther and farther south, and the dead are coming.
But dragons, wights, eastern invaders, and White Walkers aside, one of the critical themes of this show is a fight for freedom. This fight weaves itself through multiple plot lines, both living and dead. It’s the fight for self-determination. The characters struggle to rid themselves of distant rulers, distant laws, and violent, arbitrary rule.
Fighting against unjust or unwanted authority forms the basic backdrop of the show–from Robert’s Rebellion 17 years before the events in the show, up through Jon Snow being declared the new King in the North. From the Greyjoy Rebellion nine years before the events of the show, to Robb Stark marching south to rescue his father and throwing off the yoke of the South, to the Greyjoys yet again.
House Tully of the Riverlands joins the Starks in open rebellion. The the lords and knights of the Vale treasonously stay out of the fray. The Free Folk north of The Wall form their own political bonds and fiercely attempt to remain free of others. These families and the people who follow them–whole countries even–fight endlessly to break the political shackles that displease them.
And we support them. We feel that support deep down.
I can’t speak for certain for everyone, but I’ll venture to say that the majority of viewers have a soft spot for the Starks of Winterfell (The North), The Tullys of Riverrun (The Riverlands), and the Martells of Sunspear (Dorne). Perhaps even the Greyjoys of Pyke (The Iron Islands).
And why do we feel this soft spot? This instinctual feeling of who is right in their struggle?
The North is the best example.
The Northmen are fighting to be rid of a king and capital that are thousands of miles away. In a different world with different customs and different traditions. They are fighting to live by their own way. To defend their hearth and home.
That strikes a cord with most people.
But also for most people, that cord seems to be silenced when they encounter similar ideas or situations in the real world. Americans will look back fondly and with pride at the American War for Independence, and the various Native American tribes who fought a gallant but losing battle against the crushing steam roller of progressive state power.
But the buck seems to stop there.
That same progressive steam roller gets a free pass in its murderous destruction of the South during the War Between the States. And it seems that after that, the valiant battles that raged as the Indians defended their freedom on the Plains notwithstanding, our hearts and minds seem to always fall on the side of the oppressive state, rather than the individuals and groups battling against it.
Talk of secession, self-determination, or even an armed defense of one’s home and community is met with dismissive laughter or exaggerated anger. The same person who cheered for Robb Stark when he defeated Jaime and his Lannister army in the Riverlands as fighting for honor and dignity, will scoff at someone who suggests secession or nullification as a solution to political ills.
We immediately jump to defend the current political bonds, against those whose ideas would truly break them.
Personally, I think the former feeling is the more genuine. The initial, subconscious feelings of pride and excitement at the righteous victories of the characters. The feeling that comes later, the one that is a programmed response to logical and credible ideas; that is not real.
The same lack of creativity that inhibits one from seeing how the world could operate differently is also what inhibits one from connecting the dots between the battles of the heroes in Game of Thrones, and our real world.
In the real world, would you defend those who would fight to live life as they themselves see fit, or those who fight to maintain that others live as others see fit?
Are you a Stark or a Lannister?
Long live the King in the North.