Game of Thrones Meets International Relations: A Match Made In Heaven?

Matthew Reisener

Matthew Reisener

Security, Americas

Game of Thrones has been rightfully celebrated as a triumph of cinematic television, but it also deserves recognition for its ability to vividly portray the complexities of international politics in ways seldom seen in mainstream productions.

Game of Thrones Meets International Relations: A Match Made In Heaven?

George R. R. Martin, author of the acclaimed A Song of Ice and Fire book series which has been brilliantly adapted for television as HBO’s Game of Thrones, is fond of invoking a quote by William Faulkner that, “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.” While both Thrones and its literary inspiration have done a masterful job portraying such conflict, fans of the series have been equally if not more transfixed by the external conflicts erupting around Martin’s characters. Game of Thrones’ depiction of a sprawling and intricate multiparty struggle for political and military control of the continent of Westeros has produced a depiction of war, diplomacy, and political intrigue that is as compelling as it is brutal.

While Thrones’ violence, sex, witty banter, and ice zombies have proven more than sufficient to capture the imagination of the casual television viewer, it is the show’s rich portrayal of complex political questions that has helped attract many students and practitioners of foreign policy to the series. Despite its fictional medieval setting, Game of Thrones has provided an excellent lens through which to examine theoretical debates and global problems facing contemporary international relations scholars. With Thrones about to begin its eighth and final season this Sunday, it seems fitting to look back and appreciate the series’ deft handling of the very debates that regularly play out in the pages of publications like the National Interest.

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