The television show “Game of Thrones” is renowned for its unusual combination of epic fantasy with a gritty, cynical, realistic take on political maneuvering. For that reason, some have argued that the show has come to symbolize the increasing disillusionment with the political process which many Americans feel. After all, in Washington, as in the show, honor is seen as a liability, backstabbing and spying are the order of the day, and the stakes can get terrifyingly high. To quote one of the show’s main villains, “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Until now, the connection between American politics and the show was purely metaphorical. However, an admission by the show’s creators has changed all that. io9 caught the story:
There’s one hell of a dragon egg hidden in Game of Thrones season one. Turns out one of the many heads on a spike decorating King’s Landing belonged to ex-president George Bush.
If you keep your eyes peeled when King Joffrey takes Sansa Stark to gaze upon the spiked head of her dead father around 12 minutes in, you’ll notice that one of the heads looks slightly familiar. Show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss explained in their DVD commentary (from Season 1, episode 10) that the decapitated head is actually George Bush.
The creators swear up and down that this wasn’t a political statement. Apparently there was just a shortage of prosthetic severed heads on the set that day, and they had to use the ones that were already available. Why HBO has a prop of George W. Bush’s severed head is anyone’s guess.
However, we think there is an unintentional political statement here, and it’s actually not one that’s unfavorable to Bush. For those who want to avoid spoilers for the show, now would be the time to stop reading.
The scene where Bush’s head is seen takes place after two major deaths in the series: the death of the dull-witted, profligate, battle-obsessed and ineffective former King, Robert Baratheon, who despite his flaws as a ruler is portrayed as an essentially decent person, and the wrongful execution of his taciturn, grim and deeply honorable second-in-command, Eddard Stark, who up until this point has been portrayed as the show’s protagonist.
The new King is Baratheon’s supposed son, Joffrey, whose parentage is a contested subject. Joffrey is a far less than ideal replacement for his father, being young, amateurish, naive and more than a little too pleased with the idea of putting his political opponents to death or cutting out their tongues.
In the scene where Bush’s head appears, Joffrey is showing his intended fiance, who is also the daughter of the dead Eddard Stark, her father’s head, which is sitting next to Bush’s. So at bare minimum, the implication is that Bush was killed by an insane tyrant, through no fault of his own.
However, the parallel goes deeper. Let’s restate what’s happened up to that point. A former ruler seen by his opponents as a useless, dull-witted, big spender with too much of a taste for war, but who is basically a good person…
Now granted, the book the show is based on was written in 1996, so it’s easy to dismiss this as a coincidence. But the inclusion of former President Bush’s head where a less identifiable prosthetic could have been used makes us wonder if maybe the creators spotted this parallel themselves and wanted to push it.