by Joanie Butman
Before I left for the summer, I went out for ice cream with some friends - including my little buddies, Grace and Sam. We discussed our goals for the summer. Grace was determined to learn to swim. Sam’s was to organize the Lego table. His grandfather set his sights on getting a particular person to church. Others had dietary goals. Thinking I should choose something meaningful, I decided on studying the book of Psalms. Regrettably, I never even started. I’m embarrassed to admit this publicly, but I got hooked on Game of Thrones and spent the rest of the summer watching all seven seasons! Crazy I know, but I’ve done worse I suppose. I just had to see what all the hype was about. After one episode, there was no turning back. I had the same reaction to the Bible when I first started reading. In fact, I saw a lot of biblical themes woven throughout the show.
Game of Thrones has been criticized because of its sex and violence. True enough, but I don’t think that is what’s drawing record-breaking numbers of viewers. Sex and violence are too readily available elsewhere. No, I think the familiar formula of good vs. evil is always a favorite. Why? Because it’s a war that started in the Garden of Eden which continues to this day, and we’re all part of it.
Any saga of the human condition includes sex, violence, murder, greed, envy, deceit, lust, rejection, betrayal, revenge, corruption, strength, weakness, good, evil, power struggles, ruthless kings, good kings doing bad things, bad kings doing good things – all kinds of human depravity. Left to our own devices, we are a decadent lot. That’s no fantasy. The Bible illustrates quite graphically everything noted above precisely to reveal our sinful nature and our desperate need of a Savior – then and now. Human beings haven’t changed all that much. GOT portrays the worst and the best of humanity with the possibility of redemption for even the most wicked.
The quest of the Night King in GOT is eerily similar to Satan (AKA Prince of Darkness). For the uninitiated, the Night King wants to conquer the world. He personifies evil and reigns over an army of demons. Sound familiar yet? Furthermore, there are prophecies and a ‘promised prince.’ It is up to that man to convince an unbelieving audience that the Night King is a very real threat to their survival. Not only that, the ‘promised prince’ just happens to be resurrected to accomplish this task.
The most popular stories are ones that strike a chord with our shared humanity. Think of C.S Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Of course, GOT isn’t in the same league as those classics, but it’s certainly the current pop culture’s version of the age-old tale of good vs. evil. Why does it resonate so strongly with its audience? Because it’s an internal war raging inside of us daily. The battles play out in the choices we make every day. We may not be fighting over kingdoms, but we all struggle to maintain control over our own little fiefdoms.
The character development is masterful – at least for those who manage to survive through the seasons. True to life, their growth always happens through suffering and sacrifice – another reality most of us can relate to. In addition, many are faced with difficult choices where they are forced to do bad things for good reasons – a grey area that challenges even the best of us.
Good fiction prompts the viewer or reader to think deeper about the human condition. For me Game of Thrones provokes questions such as “Who is on the throne of my life? Who do I serve? What’s my purpose?” Given the fact that everyone dies in the series, two characters who survive against all odds are haunted by the question, “Why am I still here?” I can totally relate as I ask myself that question all the time. In regard to moral decisions, Thronies have even adopted a new acronym: WWJSD (What Would John Snow Do)? Could the reference be any more blatant? John Snow is the ‘promised prince’ – the arbiter of all that is good.
Granted, sitting through seven seasons of Game of Thrones is not a lofty goal, and some will argue that it definitely wasn’t a wise choice. I can’t deny that given its crudity. I wish they had made it without the sex and foul language, as the story didn’t need it. Even so, the series did bring up plenty of biblical themes to ponder and discuss with others who are enamored with the show but not necessarily with the Bible. God can use anything for His purposes. The conclusion of Game of Thrones airs in 2019 when the one true king will finally assume his position on the iron throne. I don’t know who will be left standing by the finale, but I do know who my One True King is and how my story ends. Christ will have the last word – of that there is no doubt. No spoilers there.
If you enjoy the Game of Thrones, then you'll adore the original and ultimate story of love and redemption found in the Bible. Game of Thrones may be popular, but the Bible still holds the record for the best-selling book of all time. No wonder authors choose to use it as inspiration. It’s the greatest story ever told, and it’s our reality.