June 08, 2013

A thought on Game of Thrones

You all know that I've been a fan of professional wrestling ever since I was a little kid. And what most don't realize is that, beyond the violence and the spectacle, pro-wrestling is serialized storytelling broken down to its most basic elements. For a time, in the 80's, in the midst of Bruno Sammartino and Hulkamania, you had these long stretches of good guys, or, as they call them "babyfaces" or just "faces", holding the world championship and vanquishing bad guys (aka "heels").

But the usual trajectory of wrestling story lines have always been much more subversive. Historically, the heels have held the championships and constantly thwart the efforts of the faces to unseat them - partially through skill in the ring, but more often through cheating and the manipulation of the rules and incompetent refs.

See, the problem with most faces is that they think the most talented grapplers should be champion. But championships are won in multiple dimensions, where pure wrestling skill is only one, and possibly the least important.

Which is why Ric Flair is able to call himself a 16 time world champion. He mastered all aspects of the game. Not just in ring skill, but a mastery of ref manipulation, psychological warfare, timely alliances, and just straight up cheating.

Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen bragging, before getting called out

The storytelling genius of Ric Flair is that he was so arrogant and smug, audiences hated him so much because if it. They would pay over and over again on the hope that this time he might lose.

The very definition of the man you live to hate.

Which brings me to Game of Thrones, and, more specifically, the ruling family.

The Lannisters are The Four Horseman of Westeros.

They play the game better than anyone else. We admire and loathe them. And, as noble as the Starks are, they are overmatched. In this world, their very nobility is a liability. And the Lannisters are the real stars.

The Starks played a great game of checkers. But Tywin Lannister is playing 3D chess.

That said, having not read the books, I think this next generation of Starks have learned the hard lessons that can make them competitive. But I think it shows the genius of George R. R. Martin that he's made the world so karmically unfair so far because our hearts keep hoping against hope for at least a just ending, if not a happy one.

But I would say don't count on it.