When HBO's Game of Thrones announces that “Winter is Coming,” fans and critics might connect the threat to climate change in the real world. But despite its complexity and emphasis on world building, the show unmoors the action from material conditions, and is thus not a good model for responding to current debates about climate change, politics, and the ethics of survival. The Game of Thrones universe lacks a sense of ecology: there are no vertical relationships that connect climatic conditions to causality or material context. All conflicts and threats are human-centered, from people's political squabbles, to the whims of the powerful and the suffering of those enslaved by them, and the fallout from processes of succession. And the personification of the threats of Winter into the threat of the White Walkers exacerbates the elision of ecological context, and extends it into the political realm. The climate problem, the ecological problem, only appears in order to disappear.
A Virtual Winter: On the Absence of Ecology in Game of Thrones
Despina Kakoudaki is associate professor of Literature and founding director of the Humanities Lab at American University. She is the author of Anatomy of a Robot: Literature, Cinema, and the Cultural Work of Artificial People (Rutgers, 2014), and co-editor of All About Almodóvar: A Passion for Cinema (with Brad Epps, Minnesota, 2009). Her current research is on questions of global culture and technology in contemporary media.
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Despina Kakoudaki; A Virtual Winter: On the Absence of Ecology in Game of Thrones. Film Quarterly 1 September 2019; 73 (1): 42–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2019.73.1.42
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