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08 August 2014

Game of Thrones and the search for meaning

Game of Thrones and the search for meaning

My local beach has been closed off for the last few days to allow for the filming of Game of Thrones. Locals and tourists alike have been banned from the beach causing some consternation.

Game of Thrones has become a huge TV hit;a fantasy medieval drama with plenty of sex and violence. My wife and I had watched the first 15 minutes of the first episode but turned it off as it was too dark for our liking. I thought nothing more of it until I was asked to debate the appropriateness of the head of the Church of England visiting the set, as the Queen did on a recent visit to Northern Ireland.

The show is said to have brought millions into the local economy and has been endorsed by politicians of all colours. But the show is dark, overly sexualised and littered with scenes of rape, mutilation, torture, incest and extreme sexual violence. Should the head of the church be appearing on the set and should we be investing £9 million of taxpayers money into such a show?

Danielle Henderson wrote in the Guardian: "I am exhausted by the triumph of men at the expense of women as a narrative device. . . . I do need to trust that the direction of a TV show isn't rooted in a violence or misogyny that seems excessive."

Saturday Night Live produced a sketch in which the co-writer is a 13-year-old boy who just wants more nudity in every scene. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious. John Piper took issue with the nudity in his critique of the show and Christians who watched it.

During the debate on the show others argued that Game of Thrones was no worse than the Bible. My response was that rape and sexual violence in the Bible are in the context of a redeeming story were they are portrayed negatively. Ultimately the biblical story is one of hope, which appears in stark contrast to Game of Thrones.

I was struck as I watched snippets of the show while researching for the debate about the level of interest in the supernatural in an increasingly secular and apparently atheist age. Witchcraft and menacing spirits are an important part of the storyline. There is a desire for transcendence, something more.

CS Lewis said: "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight."

The show reminded me that we are all looking for answers - searching for meaning outside of ourselves. G K Chesterton said that every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is searching for God. Viewers of Game of Thrones are rejecting secularism and looking for answers in the supernatural, but, sadly, they are looking in the wrong place.