And so I snarked on Twitter that “the porn-y side of Game of Thrones helps keeps liberals deluded about why they like the show,” letting them tell themselves, “Oh, I like it because it’s deconstructing this patriarchal pre-modern world and showing how it’s sex and power all the way down.” But not so, liberals: “You like it because it lets you escape the flat dreariness of liberalism for a little while. Because deep down you want a king or queen.”
.. I think that dystopian exaggeration is in fact key to the show’s appeal to liberals in many ways. It lets you fantasize about the negation of your principles while simultaneously confirming their rightness. GoT presents a vision of a world in which illiberal instincts can be freely indulged, in which the id is constrained only by physical power. All the violent, nasty stuff liberal society (thankfully) won’t let us do, but that’s still seething in our lizard brains, gets acted out. And not just acted out — violence and brutality are the organizing principles on which the world is based.
.. the show chides you for harboring the very fantasies it helps you gratify. It wallows in their destructive consequences — makes that wallowing, in fact, simultaneous with the fulfillment of the fantasies. Will to power leads to suffering and chaos, which lead to more opportunities for the will to power to be acted upon, etc. This is a vastly more complex and interesting emotional appeal than “people secretly want kings.”
.. These shows invite liberal viewers into various illiberal or pre-liberal or just, I suppose, red-state worlds, which are more violent and sexist and id-driven than polite prestige-TV-viewing liberal society, and which offer viewers the kind of escapism that Phillips describes … in which there is a temporary attraction to being a mobster or hanging out with glamorous chainsmoking ’50s admen or leaving your put-upon suburban life behind and becoming Heisenberg the drug lord.
.. But then ultimately because these worlds are clearly wicked, dystopic or just reactionary white-male-bastions you can return in relief to the end of history, making Phillips’ “reconciliation with the existing order” after sojourning for a while in a more inegalitarian or will-to-power world.
.. But what the shows properly understood are doing isn’t a celebration of illiberalism; it’s an exploration of its attractions that ultimately confirms the liberal world and all its norms.
.. fundamentally “The Sopranos” was a story without any heroes, a tragedy in which the only moral compass (uncertain as Dr. Melfi’s arrow sometimes was) was supplied by an outsider
.. fantasy from Tolkien to the present (in both its fictional forms and role-playing varietals) partakes by its nature of romantic and reactionary themes, often scratching the same anti-modern itch as certain forms of far-right and New Age lefty politics — and perhaps the same monarchical itch as certain forms of Macron-esque centrism as well.
.. it’s a world in which the fabric of a feudal society gets rent and you root for a very particular set of noble families to regain their rightful place and help weave it back together
.. whatever their politics in this world, both the show’s bad fans and its good fans are rooting a queen or for a king.
Donald J. Trump began his first day as president listening to a favorite Baptist preacher, Robert Jeffress, who has suggested that the Catholic Church was led astray by Satan, that Mormonism and Islam both “came from the pit of hell,” that gay people lead a “miserable” and “filthy” lifestyle, that Mr. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, was “paving the way” for the Antichrist — and that God Himself made Mr. Trump president.
.. a day in which our new vice president, Mike Pence, refused to even shake the hand of the defeated presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
.. For Mr. Trump, there are no real American friends in the world, just countries that steal our jobs and our money, while letting us dangerously deplete our military and leave our borders undefended. (He did, ominously, promise us “new” alliances.)
.. Here at home, we are no longer the active and able citizens of a proud democracy at its zenith, but a collection of miserable victims, beleaguered by an “American carnage” of poverty, welfare, “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” crime, drug addiction and the appeasers of those evil foreigners.
.. The commentators just kept talking about how at least this was “a peaceful transfer of power.” How low our expectations have become.