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But ‘Game Of Thrones’ Still Has Porn In It


Thursday
Apr 24, 2014

covers_agameofthronesseriesGame of Thrones. Game of Thrones. I’m already a little tired of hearing about Game of Thrones. But I must also ask this, and alas, I include Christians who read the George R. R. Martin books or view the HBO series: in all the memes, reviews, discussions, tweets, products, TV news, jokes, etc. — why does none of them give any content disclaimer?

Do we just pretend the TV series doesn’t have live, actual naked porn? Is that how it is?

Torture porn?

This critic at The Federalist focuses on another concern about the GoT series’ “realism”:

[… T]he creator of “Game of Thrones”—George R.R. Martin, who wrote the series of five massive novels (so far) on which the series is based—describes being conscientious objector during the Vietnam War who says he is opposed to war and wrote this story to show how ugly it is.

Izzat so? Then why does he feel compelled to write about war and killing and murder and blood, in hundreds of intricate varieties, for ten thousand pages? This is a bit like E.L. James saying she wrote the 50 Shades books as a warning against unbridled sexuality.

No, I’m afraid that the opposite is true. “Game of Thrones” is torture porn dressed up as pseudo-historical drama.1

Tracinski challenges the “torture porn,” and yes, this by itself is questionable enough, not only for moral reasons but creative ones. Do most readers/viewers need that to get the story’s point? Some may suspect the only correct answer is yes, but often it’s actually the least-creative artist who claims that the most effective way to show sin is with torture porn.

At this point folks may call me a legalist. They may say: “There’s all kinds of Gritty Truth in the stories and this is how the world really is, outside your comfortable sheltered bubble.” Some Christians do need “gritty” truth. Yes, evangelical sentimentality does exist. It can be annoying and is often un-Biblical. But other Christians may have overreacted and crossed into a mirror universe, a “comfortable sheltered bubble” that only allows exposure to exaggerated and imaginary depravity and brokenness. C.S. Lewis, no stranger to seeing nasty stuff, severely rebuked this notion by placing it in the mouths of demons:

Nasty = “realistic”; joyful = “escapist.”

Depravity = “realistic”; joy = “escapist”?

The general rule which we [demons] have now pretty well established among them is that in all experiences which can make them happier or better only the physical facts are “Real” while the spiritual elements are “subjective”; in all experiences which can discourage or corrupt them the spiritual elements are the main reality and to ignore them is to be an escapist.2

I ask: are you in Screwtape’s “real” bubble? Don’t be guilted by such “authentic” pragmatic, legalistic emphasis only on the fictional consequences of Hell. Try first following Jesus and setting your heart on Heaven — that is, the New Heavens and New Earth, this groaning world finally set free for joyful singing, and without a hint of saccharine sentimentality.

Actual porn

But far more concerning about GoT is the sex-scene issue. Here I enter some treacherous territory because some Christians have a habit of making strongly worded observations about things they know nothing about or have never seen (cf. the recent Noah film). In this case I believe I have the words of trusted friends and writers who do know what they’re talking about. For instance, Christ and Pop Culture writers in 2012 touched on this topic with four different perspectives, all negative. Co-founder Alan Noble concludes with this:

[…] Even if the explicit sex scenes do contribute to the themes of the series, that still doesn’t make them less tedious or explicit. For me, this means that I’ll be skipping as many of these passages as I can, since I think I’ve already gotten the message. And since I am more affected by visual images than written ones, I don’t plan to watch the HBO series.3

Yes, the Game of Thrones game by all accounts includes real actual porn. Naked people (most often women, of course) are being objectified and doing nakedy things. And that is wrong. Filmmakers and actors can simulate violence, simulate language, simulate other sinful behaviors. But to show nakedness and sex you can only actually 1) be naked and 2) feign to have sex. And let’s spare only a few details here: Unless the actor is himself/herself a goodness-of-the-body-denying, emotionless Gnostic Platonic ideal-person rather than a live human being, he/she will have physical and emotional responses to that “acting.” To do it “right,” you can’t simply do acting proper. There’s an F-word for that: fornication.

So what? We see people sin all the time. But my worst objection is actually that very few Christians could see this sinful behavior and not be tempted to indulge in that particular temptation of lust. Is Game of Thrones with straight-up porn something that Christians should watch, or at best watch while fast-forwarding the nasty bits but not admit it, perhaps because such admissions sound uncool or “fundamentalist”?

If you’re a Christian and Game of Thrones TV fan, unless you can prove:

  1. Live people don’t actually get naked in the show; those who say otherwise are lying or spreading rumors4;
  2. They do get naked, but that does not tempt me;
  3. They do get naked, and it does tempt me, so I always skip the naughty bits by some crazy self-censorship means;

Then I can’t help but doubt the “gritty realism” or artsy reasons for enjoying the show. I only think: “I’m sorry, this sounds like an artsy postmodern justification to enjoy a series partly because of its plain pornography cutscenes that are higher-budget than usual.”

At the same time, there is plenty of porn in the world already. Maybe you have grown in holiness to the point where it doesn’t tempt you as it does others. Maybe you’re one of those “super-Christians” who could walk straight into a strip club and ignore the naked folks and preach the Gospel (I am not being sarcastic; I’ve truly heard of such people, sort of like the chaps who can supposedly stick spoons and paper clips to their magnetized skin). So maybe you can enjoy/subvert Game of Thrones for God’s glory, and think I’ve gone too far with my criticisms and challenges. Or maybe you agree that some have gone too far in their fandom of the books or television adaptation. Either way, what do you think?

  1. Our Sick National Obsession with Game of Thrones, Robert Tracinski, The Federalist, April 11, 2014.
  2. Excerpt from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Read more from the book and further thoughts at Screwtape on Redefining ‘Realism,’ E. Stephen Burnett, SpecFaith, Jan. 27, 2013.
  3. Sex & Thrones: Four Christian Views on Sex in “Game of Thrones,” Alan Noble, et. al., Christ and Pop Culture, June 27, 2012.
  4. Unfortunately, Christians have been known to do this about some scary media franchises; but in this case I first heard from secular critics about the Game of Thrones objectification and nudity.
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68 comments on "But ‘Game Of Thrones’ Still Has Porn In It"

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Austin Gunderson
Editor

Amen! Preach it!

After hearing from many sources that A Song of Ice and Fire (which people seem to have forgotten is the actual name of the novel series) was the best thing to happen to fantasy since Tolkien, I gave A Game of Thrones a try. And I really did try; I made it through a full fifty pages of that moral wasteland before throwing in the blood-and-other-substance-stained towel.

I can tolerate a sex scene here and there on the page, or even on the screen (yes, I know it’s sin for the actors, but as a viewer I believe a film’s positive qualities often outweigh its sins, at least for me). But when, after a mere fifty pages, there wasn’t a single main character who hadn’t gotten naked in front of me — whether willingly or no — I realized this wasn’t some temporary trend meant to be endured; it was a central tenant meant to be celebrated. It’s what the book was about. And it wasn’t about to stop.

So I put down the book.

George R.R. Martin is no Tolkien. He’s just a dirty old man with a knack for cultivating empathy and tension. And his stories aren’t worth my soul.

Austin Gunderson
Editor

For those who may doubt my credibility because of that “fifty pages” attestation, I’m probably misremembering the number. It was likely more like 150 pages. I think I tapped out right after Daenerys’ intricately-explicit wedding night extravaganza, whenever it was that that took place.

Laura
Guest

“And his stories aren’t worth my soul.”
AMEN. Amen amen amen a thousand times amen! There are so many other things more worthy of our attention.

Tim Frankovich
Guest

Some Christians about the Noah movie: “But… but… they’re making a movie based off the Bible! We should support it so they’ll make more! Be happy with what we’re getting!”

Some fantasy fans about GoT on HBO: “But… but… they’re making high fantasy on TV! We should support it so they’ll make more! Be happy with what we’re getting!”

Yes, we are hungry for seeing high fantasy on the screen… but this nihilistic Game of Porn is not worth it.

Joanna
Guest

Dear world,

I wish one day you would discover the “Lymond Chronicles” by Dorothy Dunnett. They are, from all accounts, like “A Song of Ice and Fire” in quality of character development and tension. In complexity and depth of story and breadth of characters. They chronicle a gritty time of history (1500s Scottland) with heart-rending realism mixed with a sense of fantasy and larger than life characters.

BUT these books rise above the gritty and become a legend. They counteract the dark with an unstoppable light that always rises from the shadows. The author revels not in the pain, but in the healing. In restored relationships and in peace. Power is really found in integrity and compassion. In acts of selfless bravery.

And no matter how dark the sky grows, you know that you can trust that the sun still shines above, and the storm will pass.

Also, no one can write a sword fight like Dunnett. No one.

So yeah, that’s my response to ASoIaF — there’s just better stuff out there. Read that. Who cares what is supposed to be popular right now? 😀

(public service announcement — the last book does end happily. Really. You’ll want to know this as you read the last book.)

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

That was quite a recommendation! I think I now need to check out this story …

Robert Mullin
Member

I’m not really a fan of historical fiction, but this sounds worth checking out.

Joanna
Guest

It definitely feels more like epic fantasy than historical fiction, even though Dunnett has done extensive research into the history. Which, as I too am not huge on historical fiction, think that just makes it more awesome, because now I know about a period of history I knew nothing about before thrown in for free. 😀

R. J. Anderson
Member

The Lymond Chronicles are incredibly well written (if you can get through the first book, which is a bit of a hard slog at times), and they are by no means anywhere near as graphic as ASOIAF, but they do contain a fair bit of sexual, violent and/or disturbing content, even if most of it is more implicit than explicit. (On the other hand, these aspects of the story are seldom if ever taken lightly, and often have far-reaching consequences.)

But if you enjoy being blindsided by incredibly clever plot and character twists, and having your emotions ripped out of you with fishhooks and repeatedly trampled upon in a narratively satisfying way (as opposed to merely being bludgeoned by the gruesome, gratuitous and narratively unsatisfying deaths of everyone you ever cared about, a la Martin), Dunnett is the writer you are looking for.

(Personally, I couldn’t care less about the House of Niccolo series, because I’ve been told it contains none of the things I loved about Lymond and all of the things I didn’t, but I’m forever sad that Dunnett never got to write the final Johnson Johnson book.)

Suzan
Guest

I’d like to view the saga, but I won’t. I doubt I’ll read the novels.

I’m put off by the explicitness of it. It’s not so much that I’m concerned that it will tempt me to commit violence or sexual sin.

It’s that I don’t feel I’m honoring God by burning extreme images like that into my brain. I tend to turn away from viewing explicit, gratuitous violence and sex because I know that those images really don’t go away.

At least with a book, you can skip over them. But still, if an author can’t get his point across without them, then he’s a lazy writer. I have no time for lazy writers.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

It’s not just game of thrones. Secular science fiction and fantasy novels have been sexually transgressive for quite some time., ever since the New Wave of SF started with the anthology “Dangerous Visions.” Maybe even before: Robert Heinlein especially was known for some deviant ideas about sex. Modern books haven’t escaped it; one could argue the paranormal boom was started by Lauren Hamilton’s Anita Blake books, which descended into bizarre sex so rapidly even her fans were bewildered by it. Paolo Bagiculppi (spelling) and The Wind-up Girl has some nasty scenes that would make GoT seem tame, and good luck with books like Storm Constantine’s Wraethethu’s series or a lot of feminist SF. A lot of the bad societal ideas about sex probably appeared in SF literature first.

I can’t help but think a lot of Christian geeks came to geekdom late via the mainstreaming of a certain kind of geek culture, and then suddenly found out it wasn’t all roses and bunnies.

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