The Grim Image of Game of Thrones
Image: Helen Sloan / HBO
The Grim Image of Game of Thrones

On Sunday, while much of the world celebrated Easter, HBO launched the third season of Game of Thrones, based on the best selling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. His detailed fantasy world has become a pop-culture phenomenon, complete with toys and comic books. It's also reached pinnacle of pop cultural relevance: the Saturday Night Live skit, in which Andy Sandberg accounted for Thrones' crazy amount of nudity and sex by suggesting it had been directed by a teenage boy.

Martin's tale centers on the struggle for the throne of Westeros, beset by a kingdom-wide civil war that brings wave after wave of massacres, betrayals, and clandestine affairs. Then there are the menacing "White Walkers" who threaten the kingdom from the frozen north—a horde of half-zombie, half-vampire creatures intent on destroying all living beings.

Game of Thrones demonstrates Martin's skill at world-building. Indeed, his talent at creating a world that feels like a medieval history book naturally brings to mind the grandfather of mythological fantasy worlds, J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien's legacy is now in the hands of director Peter Jackson—but Martin, as one of the executive producers of Game of Thrones, has a more direct hand in bringing the world he first described in his books to the screen.

Yet the visually stunning alternative worlds can be a distraction from a deeper issue: the way Martin and Tolkien use their characters to explore the mysteries of what it means to be human.

Martin, a confessed agnostic who nonetheless uses religion as a central plot element throughout his books, asserts he holds a "realistic" view of human beings. For Martin, realistic means ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Current IssueA Shoplifter’s Search for God
A Shoplifter’s Search for God Subscriber Access Only
I equated material possessions with happiness, until a high-school mission trip changed my thinking.
RecommendedPete Holmes: Believing in God Gave Me Hope as Comic
Pete Holmes: Believing in God Gave Me Hope as Comic
In his new HBO show 'Crashing,' the former evangelical winks to Christian fans.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickTogether for the Gospels
Together for the Gospels: Unprecedented Unity Among Bible Translators Transforms Giving
Lessons learned from illumiNations initiative could help other causes.
Christianity Today
The Grim Image of Game of Thrones
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.