AFTER six years, winter is finally here, brought by the seventh season of global phenomenon, the most viewed TV series in history, Game of Thrones (GoT).
An unprecedented 16.1 million viewers tuned in for the Season 7 premiere last month.
Since GoT began its run on April 17, 2011, the lives of fans and followers worldwide have not been the same.
Every spare minute is spent analysing the goings-on in Westeros and Essos, continents in the beloved series’ imaginary world of medieval lords, grassland barbarians and fire-breathing dragons.
Fans are obsessed and there is nothing else they talk about, except for which family will get to occupy the most powerful seat in the Seven Kingdoms; and whether brooding male protagonist Jon Snow will team up with, or worse, fall in love with his aunt, Daenerys Targaryen, the face who launched a thousand cosplayers.
So besotted are fans that they, inspired by the fictional “direwolves” of the series, are buying huskies they are ill-prepared to care for. These dogs are then abandoned, to the consternation of animal activists.
Others name their children after GoT characters, causing Khaleesi, Daenerys, Arya and Tyrion to be recently introduced into baby name lists.
So, why has this tale that depicts the struggle among noble families for the coveted Iron Throne garnered such a tremendous following?
There are many reasons behind its acclaim, aside from the catchy theme song and salacious scenes.
People can relate to what’s happening in this mythical land as they are witnessing the same thing in the real world — the divide between the rich and poor, the titled and common folk, and the struggle for control through manipulation and backstabbing. GoT mirrors real life and offers many realistic and important lessons for everyone. Through its many episodes, we are shown how:
BAD things can happen to good people
In GoT, honourable men and women die unexpectedly, wantonly and cruelly; their throats slit while attending wedding feasts, and heads lopped off or crushed like overripe plums. Much like real life, the good do not necessarily get what they deserve, while the evil and corrupt lead happy lives steeped in good fortune;
WOMEN make excellent leaders
In the series, the women are rarely damsels in distress. They are mothers of dragons, who lead hordes of barbarians and fierce soldiers into battle, acid-tongued protectors of their families, and wily assassins capable of wiping out clans. In the real world, the abilities of women have been acknowledged, too. They can strategise, manage and lead as well, if not better, than men. But sadly, their representation remains low at decision-making levels;
PHYSICAL handicaps are not obstacles to great achievements
This has been amply demonstrated, not just in GoT, but by our Paralympians, for example. The most talented characters in GoT are those who are physically challenged. Dwarfism has not impeded Tyrion Lannister’s performance as a political strategist, while his one-handed brother, Jaime, remains adept in the battlefield, and elsewhere;
INCEST is a heinous act not to be condoned anywhere, not in Westeros and Essos (except by the Lannister twins, Cersei and Jaime), and especially in the real world
The recent case where a father was charged in Putrajaya with raping and sodomising his daughter over 600 times rightfully elicited a storm of recrimination from Malaysians;
CHILDREN should not be made to pay for the sins of their parents
This is a prevailing theme through the series, which touches quite a bit on illegitimate offspring, although it uses a more unsavoury name to describe them.
This topic was coincidentally in the spotlight in Malaysia recently when the Court of Appeal ruled that for Muslims, a child who is conceived by parents out of wedlock can bear his or her father’s name;
LOVE need not necessarily be returned despite our most valiant efforts
This is called being put in the “friendzone”, a state of being friends with someone when you would prefer a romantic relationship. Nothing is quite as terrifying as being “friendzoned”, not even Bran Stark’s odd transformation into the telepathic Three-Eyed Raven. Many can relate to the unfortunate Ser Jorah Mormont, whose love for Daenerys remains unrequited, and the scheming Petyr Baelish’s one-sided affections for Catelyn Stark.
ALL men must die or “Valar Morghulis”
It is a common greeting in the series, and demonstrates that death comes for everyone, in time. No one is exempted from its clutches. “Valar Dohaeris” is the reply to the greeting. It means “all men must serve”, a term that should be dutifully followed in real life, too, but isn’t. Unfortunately.
GoT’s single most relatable truth, however, is this:
Men and women are willing to go to great lengths, carry out terrible deeds, lie, cheat, steal, maim, and even kill, for power, position and money
We see this happening around us every day. Just like in the Seven Kingdoms.
This award-winning columnist takes a light and breezy look at hot, everyday topics. A law grad turned journalist, CHOK SUAT LING is now NST Associate Editor News.