Game of Thrones: Swords! Swords! Swords! in “Baelor”

Earlier in the quarter, I introduced my students to the anything-that’s-longer-than-it-is-wide mode of psychoanalytic criticism. Not very sophisticated, I know, but it helps explain the historical context of certain rhetorical tropes.* Given that this class is based on Game of Thrones, the discussion inevitably landed on the subject of swords as phallic symbols, and I noted that while there’s nothing necessary or natural about that connection, it is one of long-standing and therefore might have influenced how George R.R. Martin employed them in his narrative. Which the students took to mean “SWORDS EQUAL PENISES,” a not altogether unfortunate development given how the Arya and Needle string undermines conventional gender assumptions. It did, however, make teaching the ninth episode, “Baelor,” a little difficult. The episode opens with Lord Commander Mormont gifting a sword, Longclaw, meant for his son, Jorah Mormont, to Jon Snow. Snow proceeds down the stairs and is immediately accosted by his Wall-fellows:

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Keeping in mind what my students think swords equal, consider the eyeline match in this shot. Not explicit enough? Fine:

Game of thrones - baelor00007

That man seems a little too excited to see Jon’s sword.

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They all seem a little too excited to see Jon’s sword.

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And Jon seems a little too happy at how excited they all are to see his sword. But he obliges:

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If you think I’m being juvenile and sword-blinkered, consider this scene in which a captured Jaime Lannister throws himself before the mercy of Lady Stark:

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