The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Head of State

June 15, 2012

As if controversies over graphic sex, gratuitous nudity and rat torture weren’t enough, now this. Yep, that’s George W. Bush’s head on a spike, in the Game of Thrones Season 1 scene where Joffrey torments his fiance Sansa by forcing her to view various decapitated heads.

Fans didn’t actually catch this, until producers pointed it out on the DVD commentary. The news was popularized on a Reddit thread, picked up by  IO9 and quickly caused a stir. According to the producers, this “wasn’t a political statement… we just had to use whatever head we had lying around…”

At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Scott Eric Kaufman isn’t buying it:

The scenes in King’s Landing were filmed in Malta, so I find it difficult to believe they happened to have a plastic replica of W.’s head just lying around. Unless there’s a booming Maltese trade in eerily life-like effigies of which I’m unaware, that Easter egg was planted there purposely.

I must agree: while it’s conceivable that such a prop could have been used capriciously, bragging about it on the commentary was obviously intentional and it is hard to imagine why they were surprised that it came off in such bad taste. It leads me to wonder about the desensitizing effect on artists of being immersed in the imaginary worlds they create, and how this reconstitutes their perceptions of the real-world social mores in which they are embedded. HBO has quite rightly issued an apology for the incident. 

Meanwhile, in a grand show of respect for democracy and freedom of expression, President Obama has made no indication that Benioff or Weiss are in danger of losing their tongues. Instead, some citizens are reconstituting this sick joke into an opportunity to honor our 43rd President: Game of Thrones-related Bushisms are now proliferating on the Internets. 

“A Lannister always remembers what they owe somebody, and then they pay them back.”

“It is known, unless it is unknown. It is known unknowns, and sometimes it is unknown knowns.”

“There’s a old saying in kings landing… I think it’s in kings landing… but it goes ‘when you play the game of thrones… you win or… um… you play again.”

I urge readers of this blog to join this transformative rhetorical effort by adding your own GoT Bushisms in comments. 

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.