Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

Power as an Objectifying Force

How does the narrative metaphor contained in Game of Thrones (a television series inspired by the historical events of the 15th century War of the Roses), rooted in the latter half of the twentieth century, contribute to the structural and thematic foundations reflecting our contemporary cultural environment? Despite significantly different from its predecessors, the series emerges as a postmodern tale that rejects traditional storytelling methods such as narrative realism, teleological plot trajectories terminating in definitive conclusions, and the hero’s journey. The essence of Game of Thrones may be found in examining how power acts as an objectifying force. The series distinguishes itself in its postmodern ethos by purposely deviating from established standards. It demonstrates that even people at the top of authority are subject to the influence of powerful and diverse forces beyond their organizations. It calls into question standard narrative aspects that defy expectations and linear and predictable narrative conventions, significantly departing from the elemental hero’s journey pattern.

The intentional retelling and rewriting of historical pieces from the past is also a key feature of Game of Thrones postmodern nature. The series delves into magical realism, weaving them into a mythical tapestry that transcends chronological limits. It uses supernatural elements to accentuate the narrative’s intricacy. Expertly intertwining ethical quandaries and historical characters, it defines itself as a tapestry with numerous moral ambiguities and facets. Varys, a prominent character, engages Tyrion in a philosophical debate about the elusive nature of power in one sequence that exemplifies the complete philosophy inherent in the spirit of the television series. Varys leads Tyrion to consider the locus of power at this point, orchestrating a hypothetical scenario featuring three notable figures: a wealthy individual, a priest, and a monarch. A common swordbearer (armed only with a sword and lacking heavenly favor, material prosperity, and regal insignia) becomes entangled amid these influential figures.

The crucial decision the swordbearer must make in this hypothetical circumstance is deciding which of the three prominent individuals to kill. The swordbearer has complete control over the outcome of this choice, determining who survives and dies. This thought raises important issues about the current power structure: If a swordbearer has the right to decide life and death, why do we believe the monarch has all the power? Varys expands on his thesis by recalling the execution of Ned Stark, posing a thought-provoking question about who is truly to blame for the tragedy—whether it is Joffrey, the executioner, or intangible and unknown forces. The complexities of power dynamics highlighted in this conversation urge an examination of nuanced and diverse facets of authority rather than simplistic responses.

The Philosophical Underpinning

The accompanying remark that “power resides where men believe it resides” provides a philosophical underpinning, demonstrating that perception and belief in the legitimacy of power play an essential part in shaping its influence. Although interrupted by a brief pause followed by resonating musical tones, this revelation emphasizes the enormous consequences of this viewpoint.

Indeed, Game of Thrones delves profoundly into the complex dynamics of power. This conceptual foundation is easily discernible. However, its various examinations of where people perceive the existence of power go beyond simple superficial analysis, giving rise to deep cultural and societal questions. The series turns into a philosophical conversation on the subjective nature of power and its perception in the collective consciousness inside the broad narrative tapestry.

Essentially, Game of Thrones unfolds as a meta-narrative, a story concerned with power in its raw form and storytelling within a larger narrative. It evolves into a complex assessment of the masses’ views in Westeros—loyalty, faith, and the logic behind their support for various factions. The primary characters, struggling to recognize and navigate the underlying stories, masterfully hint at a labyrinth of unsaid storylines as the plot deftly navigates them.

This layer goes beyond information about how influential persons deal with their power and instead leads to a test of their awareness of the pervasive factors that impact and pervade them. The central issue is the individuals’ ability to recognize and move within the intricate network of external powers that shape and determine their fate, not their internal fights for personal authority.

The modern relevance of Game of Thrones stems from a thorough investigation of power relations, particularly in the political world, which is the most explicit and direct locus of power. This investigation becomes quite pertinent as it addresses several critical issues in the political scene. It looks into fundamental problems such as who has the right to articulation and representation, who wields authority and over whom, who defines the moral rules that define good and wrong, and, most crucially, who has the right to violence and property.

For centuries, the historical narrative has firmly established the traditional belief that the political arena is the core of power dynamics. In political history, attention has always focused on central figures—mighty kings, essential leaders, presidents, prime ministers, and prominent individuals whose names are in the annals of history as great people. Even in modern times, while considering the historical landscape, society’s collective memory naturally moves toward figures such as Caesar, Napoleon, and Churchill.

Undermining the Old Paradigm

Game of Thrones, on the other hand, undermines this old paradigm by expanding its monitoring beyond the customary reach that solely concerns essential figures. This approach delves into the complexities of power dynamics, not just those in positions of power but also those on the fringes and hidden factors influencing a more extensive socio-political system. In doing so, the series deconstructs the framework of traditional narratives, encouraging viewers to reconsider and widen their knowledge of history, power, and influence.

The evolution of historical study has seen a shift in assumptions regarding the foci of investigation. Contemporary bookstores increasingly feature a wide range of historical topics, indicating a shift away from the once-dominant emphasis on traditional political narratives. In academia, students in university history departments engage in analyses that go beyond the scope of political history, reflecting this trend. Instead, contemporary historians are concerned with the complex interplay of economic, social, and cultural elements that affect the course of history.

However, political history is in crisis, as it has been for more than a half-century. This problem originated in the post-World War II era, which saw enormous cultural, linguistic, and social changes in academia. This transformational movement has redirected researchers’ attention away from a sole concentration on high-level politics and power corridors. Instead, current historians are more interested in finding more considerable tendencies that precede and motivate these historical people.

The conversation between Varys and Tyrion in Game of Thrones exemplifies this paradigm shift. The story encourages viewers to recognize that central figures—kings, emperors, priests, or contemporary politicians and leaders—are not isolated entities but products of their cultural environments, social dynamics, contextual conditions, institutional rules and norms, and the linguistic possibilities they inhabit. These characters are fundamentally affected by their surroundings.

Comprehending the Intricate Social Network

The essential consequence is that comprehending the intricate social network in which these figures operate is critical. In this changing historical landscape, the study of individuals such as Napoleon is no longer limited to a single assessment of their actions and judgments. Instead, the emphasis switches to a broader understanding of Napoleon’s sociocultural context, which forms and influences him. Recognizing that historical actors have a close connection to the social institutions of their era takes precedence over a narrow focus on the individuals themselves, illuminating the complexity of the social world they inhabit.

The challenge of integrating high-level politics with societal dynamics creates a knotty puzzle. The interaction of culture, economics, sociology, power structures, and persons involved in legislative processes necessitates a new viewpoint on signing legislation, lawmaking, and election triumphs. In response to these complex issues, forming a new political history aims to bridge the gap between these seemingly distinct domains. Historically, political historians have relied heavily on autobiographies, personal letters, and witness testimony to understand the motivations behind political figures’ acts. However, this sub-discipline is changing as scholars try incorporating broader analytical frameworks. It includes investigating the physical environment, contextual constraints, and culture of historical players.

Zayn Aptepheki contends in a comprehensive analysis published in Scientific America that Game of Thrones, notably in the seasons adapted from George R.R. Martin’s source material, symbolizes a shift toward a more sociological narrative. The show deftly goes beyond the typical character-centered focus, allowing for the departure of essential characters without reducing viewer attention. For example, the narrative portrays the deaths of Ned and the subsequent rise of Robb Stark as a continuum of the Stark family lineage rather than as separate personalities. Robb’s goals, challenges, and worldview intertwine inextricably with his predecessor, Ned. Characters are not just individuals in this setting; they are embodiments of the Stark family, the cultural ethos of the North, the protective walls of Winterfell, the innate Northern ignorance of Southern politics, their dedication to honor, and the struggles that follow.

As Tafaki correctly points out, comprehending the personalities of historical people such as Hitler affords only a limited comprehension of the more significant phenomenon of fascism. Instead, the emphasis should shift to investigating economic conditions, the historical foundations of anti-Semitism, and the political obstacles that institutions such as the Weimar Republic confronted. In the meantime, Game of Thrones has evolved into an intriguing case study, encouraging fans and specialists to look beyond individual character analysis and into the sociopolitical, economic, and cultural factors underlying the greater narrative.

Comparative Analysis

A comparison of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, both created in the 1940s and representative of the modernist literary tradition, reveals various narrative paradigms reflecting their respective temporal contexts and styles. Lord of the Rings, with its modernist tendencies, revolves closely around character development, probing the characters’ internal struggles and insecurities as they grapple with and overcome tremendous hurdles. Its story evolves as an investigation of the heroes’ journey, driving them to confront and finally resolve their inner issues, allowing them to realize their hidden potential.

In sharp contrast to the sociopolitical complexities of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings focuses more on larger-than-life individuals, emphasizing the story of heroic heroes who play pivotal parts in the unfolding epic. The Lord of the Rings narrative trajectory is teleological, following a progressive linear framework with a predetermined conclusion. The underlying tale is purposeful, guided by a clear ultimate objective, coinciding with the modernist trend toward unified and conclusive storytelling.

In addition, Lord of the Rings conforms to a dichotomous investigation of morality, wrapped in the classic fight between good and evil. This moral duality pervades the story, with the heroes framed as unwavering exemplars of virtue engaged in a Manichean fight against unredeemable forces of evil. A feature of modernist storytelling is the vivid portrayal of morality, distinguishing between protagonist and antagonist characters.

In contrast, Game of Thrones, emerging as a postmodern story, challenges existing norms. It thrives on moral ambiguity, rejecting simplistic ideas of ultimate good and evil. The series avoids teleological tendencies, providing a non-linear narrative trajectory characterized by uncertainty and deviations from typical storytelling rules. Game of Thrones captures the complexities of power dynamics, abandoning hero-centered cliches to study varied personalities enmeshed in a morally ambiguous and politically complex environment.

Character Relationships

The sharp contrast between the first season of Game of Thrones and its character relationships suggests a departure from traditional hero-centered storytelling. Ned is portrayed as a classical hero in the early season, possessing virtues traditionally associated with heroism. On the other hand, a deeper examination of Ned’s character reveals a sophisticated narrative shift that deconstructs his heroism, highlighting his struggle with an inherent inability to comprehend the complex structures surrounding him—namely, the intricate political landscape, cultural intricacies, and normative framework prevalent in King’s Landing.

While Ned retains the essence of his courage, the emphasis changes to his troubles traversing the new landscape of King’s Landing, located in the south. Focusing on familial relationships, honor, and ethical ideals, the Stark family, long anchored in the North as Wardens, has fostered a sense of security and stability. Their Northern worldview, expressed in a resolve to be moral persons proficient in hunting and keeping promises, acts as a guiding ethos in their distant territory.

However, when applied to the politically complex setting of King’s Landing, the effectiveness of this perspective could be more robust. Ned’s uncompromising adherence to honor becomes a problem rather than a benefit in the capital, where individuals constantly fight for power, participate in intricate plots, and turn to deception to survive. The clash between Northern virtues and Machiavellian dynamics in King’s Landing highlights the absence of conventional heroism in the larger sociopolitical setting.

This conceptual framework’s particularly Borgesian nature corresponds with the intellectual legacy of Pierre Bourdieu, a renowned French thinker of the twentieth century whose work occupies a unique junction between the realms of modernity and postmodernity. Bourdieu went on a comprehensive examination of the implicit and unwritten principles that pervade society, essentially determining human conduct, drawing on Borges’ numerous influences. Bourdieu’s scholarly research focuses on the complex interplay between social structures and human agents, with a particular emphasis on demonstrating how society’s unspoken rules substantially influence our actions.

Bourdieu’s philosophical tapestry depicts human existence as a complicated mixture of historical traces and the palpable physical environment surrounding us. Like a labyrinth of labyrinths, our psyche is a constructed thing formed by external factors. The metaphorical walls of this labyrinth represent various aspects of our life experiences—the routines we follow, the norms that govern our behavior, the rules that define societal boundaries, the physical obstacles we face daily, and the difficulties that come with navigating the natural and social world.

The concept of habitus, a complex storehouse within our consciousness where the blueprint of our existence is encoded, is central to Bourdieu’s theoretical framework. Habit(us) embodies the cumulative impact of our socialization, encapsulating remnants of a more considerable sociocultural background. It includes the layout of the city where we live, the language we speak, and the particulars of our education. According to Bourdieu, our habits function as a dynamic interface between individual subjectivity and the external world, acting as a lens through which we understand, react to, and negotiate the complexities of our surroundings.

External Elements Shaping Decision-Making Processes

The shapes of our decision-making processes are slightly altered and frequently driven by external elements such as bus schedules and railway network complexities. These seemingly insignificant factors control our decisions about when and where to embark on various adventures. Furthermore, cultural norms, such as expectations in the job interview process, tightly link our clothing choices and impact our fashion preferences.

Borges frequently employs the idea of life as a game in his profound examination of existence. Life is viewed as an intricate interaction of strategies within this conceptual framework, highlighting the significance of intuitive awareness of the game’s dynamics. This metaphorical game encapsulates the multifaceted aspect of existence, in which individuals, like players in a strategic game, manage the difficulties and possibilities given by their surroundings.

In contrast, Frodo’s story in Lord of the Rings does not explicitly demand changes to social, cultural, or political games. Frodo’s path is mainly distinguished by internal exploration as he struggles to uncover inner strength and resilience in the face of enormous hardships. His mission resembles a hero’s journey, emphasizing personal growth and perseverance above explicit participation in the external dynamics of sociocultural or political games.

On the other hand, Robb’s trajectory in Game of Thrones displays a noticeable shift. Robb sets out on a voyage to comprehend the complexities of social and political games in the backdrop of Westeros. A watershed event happens when he cleverly pledges to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters, paving the way for his troops to cross the Frey Bridge. However, Robb’s later inability to respect this pledge led to a significant loss of social capital with the Frey family, as defined by Bourdieu. The emergence of this narrative reinforces Bourdieu’s theory that individuals accumulate or drain social capital based on their compliance or deviation from existing norms and expectations when navigating the games of society.

R.G. Collingwood’s Perspective

R.G. Collingwood, a historian, offered a profound perspective on the freedom of choice in the complexities of social life. Collingwood’s point of view is established based on the notion that individuals must negotiate a densely populated environment where everyone is busy pursuing their objectives. In this complex context, the individual must chart their trajectory in a way that corresponds with the collective desires of others around them. Collingwood sees the environment as more than simply a backdrop; it is a dynamic stage on which individuals must intricately craft their actions to align with prevalent wants within the larger context of society.

Collingwood’s understanding of human agency extends to the argument that, for a person on the verge of action, the situation serves as a master, oracle, or divinity. The idea that the situation becomes the determiner of one’s fate, a decisive factor where knowing it is essential, emphasizes the significance of this perspective. The ability of an individual to fully perceive the subtleties of the circumstance determines success or failure. The scenario emerges as a complex interplay of contextual elements, societal expectations, and community collective will under this paradigm.

A person poised to act within this complex web of events must master the intricacies of the scenario. Collingwood underlines that the effectiveness of the upcoming action is dependent on the individual’s ability to comprehend the complexities of the issue. The individual’s understanding of the unfolding dynamics determines whether the activity is effective or unsuccessful, putting the situation as a deciding factor in the evolution of human endeavors.

When J.R.R. Tolkien was weaving the narrative tapestry of Lord of the Rings, the dominant concept of high politics was defined by a closed worldview, seemingly disconnected from ordinary people’s everyday lives and agrarian tasks such as shepherding. In this paradigm, sophisticated political intrigues played out in locations disconnected from societal issues.

Power Dynamics

In contrast to Tolkien’s portrayal, Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones takes a very different stance on power dynamics. Tywin strives to impart in his son, Jaime, the fundamental notion that a complete and sensitive awareness of the needs and sentiments of ordinary people is an essential component of mastering the delicate game of politics. Despite being a Lannister with significant status differences, Tywin emphasizes the need to identify commonality with the populace. He stresses upon Jaime that with each day he remains imprisoned, the public’s esteem for the Lannister name dwindles, supporting the impression that the lion must pay attention to public opinion.

Tywin stresses in his categorical assertion that this is not a matter of subjective opinion but rather an incontrovertible fact. The efficacy of this statement resides in encapsulating an indisputable truth. If competing houses can brazenly arrest and keep members of House Lannister without consequences, House Lannister’s once-strong reputation will erode. According to Tywin, House Lannister, which was previously famed for its strength and domination, undergoes a metamorphosis into an entity that loses its feeling of dread and respect if it fails to protect itself from external interruptions.

Michel Foucault’s understanding of power aligns with a view that extends beyond local manifestations, seeing power as an omnipresent force deeply woven into the fabric of society. According to Foucault, power is not a commodity that can be purchased, taken, or distributed; instead, it pervades every element of life, creating and arranging the universe so that humans become products of its influence rather than creators. He said that the complex and decentralized nature of power processes reflected the interaction of non-egalitarian and mobile relations, where they exercise power from various points.

According to Foucault, the narrative mechanics of Game of Thrones demonstrate that power is not limited to high-level politicians. Instead, networks of relationships, opportunities, constraints, and resources derive power, each intricate molding and directing individuals within the complex sociopolitical landscape with multiple dimensions. While high-level politicians wield considerable power, the intricate web of non-egalitarian interactions that define the milieu in which they live also impacts them.

Power Rooted in Various Factors

Joffrey, who represents a false idea of ultimate authority, is a painful illustration throughout the story. Joffrey incorrectly believes that Tywin’s military forces hold the ultimate authority. However, the narrative explains that a proper knowledge of power necessitates a distinct understanding of the intricate game’s workings. Power, as depicted by figures such as Littlefinger and Varys through their complex informant networks, colloquially known as “little birds,” is rooted not only in military might but also in the balance between significant houses, strategic marriages, geographical considerations, and the cultivation of respect.

Max Weber, a well-known German sociologist, established a thorough framework for political analysis, claiming that a genuine comprehension of the political environment necessitates an in-depth examination of three critical dimensions. First, Weber underlined the importance of scrutinizing political leadership and digging into the characteristics and roles of political figures. Second, he emphasized the need to investigate how political figures claim legitimacy through ethical principles, political philosophy, electoral processes, or education. However, modern scholars, including historians, are only now beginning to grasp the complexities of this third world.

According to Weber, the third dimension focuses on the structure and breadth of the state apparatus within which political figures function. Exploration of this arena has grown in prominence in recent years, changing the landscape of historical inquiry. Understanding the interplay of state structures, culture, and political economy enables scholars to demonstrate how these components influence individuals, form subjects, and exert coercive control. This growing understanding has practical consequences for history, signaling a divergence from old approaches.

Examining issues like early modern Italian diplomacy, akin to the complicated political dynamics shown in Game of Thrones, demonstrates emerging techniques in historical scholarship. Communication and Conflict: Italian Diplomacy in the Early Renaissance 1350-1520, by Isabella Lazarini, released in 2015, is an example of this paradigm change. Lazarini’s research broadens the usual model of diplomatic history, which focuses on ambassadors. In her in-depth examination, she proposes focusing on four previously disregarded but critical areas: negotiations, information collection, representation, and communication. Above all, she pushes for an analytical perspective based on culture and society.

According to Lazarini, ambassadors’ effectiveness extends beyond personal charm; it is dependent on ambassadors’ interactions with other powerful groups such as intellectuals, artists, merchants, and community leaders. Their awareness of the rituals and hierarchies involved, as well as their expertise in negotiating the physical venues where these exchanges occur, determines the efficacy of ambassadors.

Massimo Rospo’s scholarly contributions provide a fresh viewpoint on communication and political rhetoric in early modern periods, questioning the belief that these characteristics are solely confined to the power elite and are isolated from interactions with ordinary people. Rospo’s investigation delves into instances demonstrating the complexities of language and cultural flows in many communities, influencing high- and low-level politics.

Critical Instance

One of the critical instances studied by Rospo relates to a song sung by an official during a meeting focusing on the pope. This seemingly innocuous act triggers events that impact the social order. The echoes of this music travel beyond the meeting’s limits, infiltrating the city and eliciting palpable responses. The discovery of graffiti on city walls commenting on the song is a critical motivator for future developments.

The complicated dynamics that emerged after the discovery of the graffiti demonstrate the immense power of language and culture on the sociopolitical landscape. The discovery of the graffiti initiates an investigation, highlighting the societal interplay between high and low politics. The arrest of a shoemaker marks the culmination of the sequence of events, leading to their subsequent torture and imprisonment.

Given our current knowledge of power as a diffuse force that pervades communities, objects, and language, numerous academic fields have developed theories to explain the complicated processes that exhibit power in these diverse domains. This interdisciplinary effort recognizes that power does not come from centralized structures but from various sources.

While it is unclear if these theoretical foundations consciously influenced Martin, his observation on the distinctions between Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings corresponds with this conceptual framework. In an interview, Martin discussed the two epic fantasy series’ opposing philosophical perspectives. He remarked that Lord of the Rings follows a medieval worldview in which the flourishing of the realm depends on the king’s virtues. Using a unique perspective based on historical research, Martin contends that simplicity needs improvement in the complexity of actual government.

Martin’s critical assessment of Lord of the Rings raises questions about the complexities of political governance. He questions conventional narratives by delving into governance’s practicalities, such as tax policies, the maintenance of standing armies, reactions to natural calamities such as floods and famines, and even considerations for the well-being of entities such as Orcs. Martin’s approach marks a shift away from medieval philosophy’s idealized representation of government and toward a more pragmatic examination of the different obstacles inherent in exercising and maintaining power.

Martin’s literary works reveal signs of various influences, most notably Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. In turn, postmodern figures such as Georges Louis Borges and Thomas Pynchon influenced Williams, and their collective echo exists in the varying degrees of narrative complexity present in Martin’s works. While there is no clear evidence to substantiate Martin’s explicit engagement with postmodern theorists such as Borges or Foucault, the tangible impact of their ideas, combined with a deeper examination of broader academic theories, has gently entered public conversation.

Impact on Cultural and Intellectual Frameworks

The impact of pervasive postmodern ideas extends beyond the academic realm, penetrating sectors such as books, journalism, news media, and television. This process explains the steady shift of the narrative landscape, which reflects the incorporation of postmodern ideals into more extensive cultural and intellectual frameworks. The complexities in Martin’s work represent the obstacles a postmodern narrative offers. The traits of postmodern storytelling that avoid clear ends correspond to the complexities of real-life events, where ambiguity and continuing narratives are inherent. The narrative structure of Game of Thrones, by refusing to conform to traditional hero-villain dichotomies, mimics the postmodern ethos in which characters demonstrate moments of heroism and villainy. As a result, the difficulty in finishing Game of Thrones stems from the postmodern narrative paradigm, which contradicts conventional stories. In contrast to traditional narratives that neatly tie up loose ends, postmodern stories refuse finality, reflecting the ebb and flow of life’s ongoing complexities. Martin’s work, influenced by postmodern thought’s shifting currents, becomes a symbol of this paradigm shift, demanding reflection on the idea of conclusively closing a tale that naturally embraces the openness of postmodern storytelling.


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