Recently, Matt Walsh told Christians that now is probably a good time to stop watching Game of Thrones. http://themattwalshblog.com And he may be right. But I still disagree with him.
I’m not a prude when it comes to books, movies, and TV shows. But there comes a time when I feel like the producers, writers, and directors are making things as graphic as possible just because they can. I gave up on American Horror Story, because the sex and violence was gratuitous, sensationalist, and the story appeared to be centered around characters who were devoid of a moral compass of any kind. It started to feel unhealthy and salty (as addictive and empty as Cheese Puffs) and I couldn’t find a single thing pointing to God. In other words, the show was going to starve me spiritually. And, as a wise woman once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
The reason Matt Walsh may be right is because Game of Thrones has gotten lazy about throwing in the perfunctory nudity/sex scene, and it has nothing to do with story development. However, it’s not titillating to someone like me. It feels more like the show has paused to show a commercial on how nameless, faceless men and women living in the gritty reality of something like the middle ages can still have flawless skin, flat stomachs, and no hair below the neck. It takes away from the fictional realism and removes the audience from the show. In other words, it’s bad art.
The reason I (somewhat) disagree with Matt Walsh is because the scene in question, the rape of Sansa Stark, was not in any way gratuitous. Only her bare back from the waist up is exposed (she’s fully clothed otherwise), and the act takes place off screen. It was not pointless sensationalism, either. In fact, it was the exact opposite. For the first time–after watching women raped and brutalized through five seasons–the woman/girl in question is humanized so much that seeing her humiliated and reduced to nothing but a vehicle for pleasure by the villainous Ramsey Bolton struck a chord with many. But this is exactly how rape works. It’s the reality of rape, and it’s about time someone has the guts to show it in front of such a large audience.
It’s telling, however, that our culture is more horrified that it’s made to feel horrified, because it’s harrowing to see the daughter of the beloved Eddard Stark abused in such a way. But that same culture is unconcerned with all the other young women treated as slabs of meat in pornography, magazines, music videos, and Game of Thrones itself. It’s not a big deal, though, because…well, we didn’t watch them grow up. We can’t see them as their fathers’ daughters. And….so….it doesn’t matter.
But isn’t that the definition of “gratuitous?”
I still love Game of Thrones, because I believe that all art, all good art, all art that simply strives–not to push an agenda–but to be excellent, points to God, no matter how gritty it gets. (The honest frustration expressed in A Perfect Circle’s “Judith” has more richness than the fluffy generic references to the joy of Christian-hood churned out by some Contemporary Christian artists.) Likewise, in Game of Thrones, every time a man believed to be hopelessly wicked starts on a path to redemption, it points to God. Redemption, after all, is a story only Christianity can tell. Those who tell it while rejecting Christianity are quoting a Master without referencing the source, but the Master’s work is still evident. (God always wins.)
Every time a man lays down his life for the sake of others in Game of Thrones, it’s retelling the story of love, the story of Christ. Every time the lofty goals of the heroic are cut short by treachery, it reminds us of how confusing and hopeless life can seem at times, that all our aims and expectations can be cut short by unforeseen circumstances. It reminds me of my own smallness, how I am just a grain of sand in the vast ocean, in a world that is merely a dot in the galaxy, which is merely a speck in the universe.
It reminds me of the immensity of God and his creation and how much of it I don’t understand.
So, no, I won’t stop watching Game of Thrones. But I respect the warning that Matt Walsh gives. It reminds me to slow down and consider what I’m consuming, what I’m putting into my head. I have stumbled many times in this area. The concern of fellow Christians, even if the initial sting of criticism is always unpleasant, has helped me say goodbye to several less-than-savory movies and TV shows, even books.
My advice to other Christians who are also Game of Thrones fans is to take Walsh’s warnings to heart, and with a grain of salt. Evaluate why you are watching the show. Is it enhancing your life, your walk with Christ? Or is it hampering it?
Then, if you will, remind yourself that criticism, something this culture fears and rejects beyond anything else, is actually a useful societal tool, something we all sorely need now and then.