A Game of Thrones is one of the most popular series on TV right now, but my review is more specifically about the books by George R. R. Martin on which the series is based.
A Game of Thrones is by genre a fantasy series, though I might consider it more apt to classify it as a porn drama. Yes, I confess to thoroughly disapproving of A Game of Thrones. Yes, there are moments of surprising heroism by the few characters the reader can root for, notably the dwarf Tyrion and the young princess Arya. Yes, there is excitement and adventure and fast-paced action. But overall, there are so many negatives that I can not recommend these books for a child of any age, or even for adults. I’ll bring you up to speed on the plot briefly, then jump right into the reasons to say “NO” when your teenager asks to read (or watch) this series.
The plot is epic in sweep and far too complicated to break down here in detail, but in broad brushstrokes, you are dealing with a fantasy country called Westeros, where several noble families vie for the “Iron Throne” of the country. The Baratheons, the Starks, the Lannisters, and the Targaryens all think they have a claim to the throne, and the series is a convoluted knot of plots, intrigues, treachery, betrayal, and love triangle, all recounted from a constantly shifting third person viewpoint of various family members. However, the real evil is to north over “The Wall,” where snow zombies walk and the Winter King prepares to invade. A final plot arc involves the young Targaryen claimant’s journey across the sea to raise an army and bring dragons back to conquer Westeros.
Now, a first reason to avoid this series is the deplorable language. Crass, lewd, sexually graphic language is the norm for many of the male characters. The repetition of this sort of language over the course of book after book in the series creates a refrain that you will not want your teenagers having drummed into their brains.
Another reason to avoid the series is the violence. Of course, the “bad”
characters are cruel and sadistic. But even the “good” characters choose inordinately violent actions as the series progresses. For example, one of the teenage girls chooses to feed her husband to his dogs in revenge for his abuse. Another teenage girl has her brother killed by pouring molten gold on his head. It’s not just some characters occasionally using violence. The entire series is primarily about either violence or sex.
And here we come to one of the biggest problems with A Game of Thrones. The series is absolutely saturated with sex. We’re not even talking simple, old fashioned romantic sex. One of the primary “love” arcs is the incestuous relationship between twins Jamie and Cersei Lannister. Princess Daenerys Targaryen first grows to like a rather abusive husband, then after his death engages in a sexual relationship with one of her maids. And of course, there is rape. All described graphically. This series is a form of soft porn, completely inappropriate for any Catholic to read.
Moving onto more subtle concerns, let’s look at the messages Martin sends about religion, God, and human nature in his books. There are several different religious sects and “gods” in A Game of Thrones, but despite their plurality Martin does not seem to ascribe any real weight or truth to any religion. The only cult that seems to have real power are the worshipers of the “Lord of Light.” The “Lord of Light” is some sort of powerful “god” who demands human sacrifice and whose priestess births “dark shadows.” Does anyone else sniff a demonic element here? I find Martin’s choice of the title “Lord of Light” particularly disturbing, given its obvious parallel to Christianity and Jesus.
In addition to no significant religion, in A Game of Thrones there is no objective morality, no meaningful moral code, in a sense no natural law written on his characters’ hearts. Despite some hints at certain characters, notably Tyrion, Arya, and Daenerys, sometimes attempting to follow some sort of vague honor code, overall no one seems to know how to act like a decent human being with any consistency. When it is convenient, characters adhere to family loyalty, but generally their actions are motivated by their desires: avarice, lust, but most of all power-hunger. Every. single. character. seems to be blundering in the dark morally speaking, and you find yourself questioning each chapter: when will the good guy show up?
In essence, A Game of Thrones has an alarming lack of just plain good characters. In fact, this is part of the series’ success: it’s “fresh” way of turning typical fantasy conventions upside down by doing away with knights in shining armor, pure maidens, and good conquering evil. As enticing as something new is, I see no good coming for us Catholics in filling our imaginations with a fantasy world where there is no Supreme Being, no heaven to strive for, and only earthly pleasures to console one. Skip A Game of Thrones. Your soul will thank you.