ThinkProgress Complains That 'Game of Thrones' 'Shattered' the Climate Change Metaphor
Liberals have long seized on the zombie threat in HBO's hit television show Game of Thrones as a metaphor for climate change. One of the show's key villain groups is the White Walkers, blue undead leaders who command tens of thousands of zombie wights. As White Walkers approach, the air grows cold, and they seem emboldened as the season of winter approaches. Yet something happened in one of the show's most climactic battles, and liberals aren't happy.
Warning: Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3, "The Long Night."
In "The Long Night," which aired on Sunday, April 28, the show's heroes finally defeated the White Walkers, with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) plunging the dragon glass "catspaw" dagger — once used to threaten Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) in the first season — into the Night King and causing him to shatter into pieces. This made the entire zombie army collapse in one powerful moment of triumph.
This great victory left many fans unsatisfied, but none more so than the writers at ThinkProgress. On Monday afternoon, the liberal website's Joe Romm attacked HBO for "wimping out" on the potential climate change plot line.
Romm focused on the climate change metaphor, noting that George R.R. Martin, the author of the books on which the TV show is based, has called his story "a great parallel" to climate change. The liberal writer lamented that "one of the show's heroes single-handedly ended the existential climate threat with a clever knife trick — abruptly returning the storyline to a conventional tale of humans fighting among themselves for political power."
"In the real world, climate change is far too challenging a threat to be ended by one person — or even one battle that doesn’t include all of the major powers," Romm piously preached. "In fact, the reason so many articles have been written about whether the show is about 'the global debate on climate change' (as a Reuters headline put it back in 2015) is that its central theme has long been that the climate is about to change for the worse in a way that poses an existential threat for everyone."
Indeed, Game of Thrones has a strong climate theme. The first episode was entitled "Winter is Coming," which are the house words of House Stark, the heroic family at the center of the drama. In the fictional world of Westeros, seasons can last years — even decades. Summers and autumns may be long, but winter is always coming.
With winter comes the ominous threat of the White Walkers.
Yet the parallel with climate change has always been rather tenuous. In the show, White Walkers were created by the Children of the Forest (the sentient beings in Westeros before humans arrived), in order to wipe out the human threat. Ironically, the White Walkers are more like the radical environmentalist policies which would make life more difficult for people in the name of saving the environment. After all, the First Men (early humans) were wiping out the Children's forests. The Children wanted to erase humankind, so they created zombies.
Throughout the show, it often seemed that the political squabbles between main characters — "the game of thrones" — were a sideshow to the real drama, the battle between the living and the dead. The White Walkers were the real threat, and in Season 7, the heroes tried to team up with their human foes to combat the zombies.
As Romm noted, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) asks Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), "How do I convince people who don't know me that an enemy they don't believe in is coming to kill them all?" Tyrion Lannister responds, "People's minds aren't made for problems that large. White Walkers, the Night King, Army of the Dead, it's almost a relief to confront a comfortable, familiar monster like my sister," their human foe Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).
"And that is a direct analogy to the skepticism with which many people view the threat of climate change," Romm argued. "The existential threat is so large to grasp. And most did not see the evidence right in front of them, at least until recently, when the accumulation of devastating wildfires, super-hurricanes, droughts, and floods has boosted concern about climate change in this country to its highest level ever."
Similarly, it could be argued that many do not see the threat of big government socialism that could destroy the free market engine of growth and prosperity. Such a threat is too much to comprehend because it would undermine the many benefits Americans take for granted.
As for climate change, the dire models have failed to accurately predict temperatures, much less the disasters alarmists constantly warn about. In one of the most embarrassing recent examples, the Maldives islands were supposed to sink beneath the waves last year, but they are still above water now. There is no concrete evidence that the burning of fossil fuels is worsening global climate, but the evidence of socialism's destruction on an economy can be seen in Venezuela.
Regardless of how conservative fans may interpret the story, Martin did say his story is "a perfect metaphor for understanding climate change." He told The New York Times that his character "are fighting their individual battles over power and status and wealth. And those are so distracting [for] them that they’re ignoring the threat of 'winter is coming,' which has the potential to destroy all of them and to destroy their world."
Indeed, the official poster for Season 8 of Game of Thrones suggested that the ultimate threat was the White Walkers, even though they were defeated in episode 3. The poster shows main characters frozen to death in ice, as if defeated by the White Walkers.
Romm complained that "whereas climate change does require the whole world to set aside their animosities to stop catastrophic climate change, in the third episode... the climate threat faced by Westeros is eliminated in a single fight, one that does not require the involvement of all the world's major powers."
"Ultimately, HBO wimped out, and left us with a simple, fantastical solution to their existential climate threat. Our climate crisis, however, will not be defeated anywhere near as easily," the ThinkProgress author warned.
In his article, Romm made light of the real sacrifices the heroes made — and the fact that armies from disparate parts of the world all died in the climactic battle. It took a great deal to defeat the White Walkers.
More importantly, even if the White Walkers are a metaphor for climate change, they're an element in a fictional story, and a fictional fantasy story no less. It is acceptable for them to be defeated in a climactic battle, and it need not say anything specific about the alarmists' worries about climate change.
Ultimately, the ThinkProgress article boils down to this: We want this popular fictional story to be about climate change, and we've even convinced the author to agree with us. But if it is about climate change, then the victory of the heroes makes climate change seem less like a threat! Oh no, what do we do now?
Perhaps liberals shouldn't have tried to make Game of Thrones about climate change in the first place.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.