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An LG&M podcast about religion in Game of Thrones featuring SEK and Steven Attewell

[ 38 ] May 5, 2013 |

How do y’all feel about pool parties? Not attending them, mind you, but hearing other people having them in the background of a podcast you’re listening to? Because I think they should make you feel better about yourself, because here you are, listening to an intelligent podcast that makes your brain smarter, whereas the people at the pool party are just drinking and laughing in the Southern California sun. They’ll come home drunk, sun-burned and utterly ignorant about what the Talmud has to say about those who collect shit-tons of mitzvot. Enjoy!

That 38 minute jog you’ve been planning for weeks now? Take Steven and I along for company (.mp3).

Our very civilized discussion of the premiere (S03E01).

Fancy-talking about “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S03E02).

Here we are blathering on about “Walk of Punishment” (S03E03).

Don’t watch — because you can’t — us discuss “And Now His Watch Has Ended” (S03E04).

The rudely interrupted first half of our discussion of “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05).

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  • mds

    Take Steven and I along for company (.mp3).

    Just to be clear, the Ph.D is in English, right? :-P

    • SEK

      Can’t a man be folksy?

  • You neglected to edit out the shit, which is how I know you didn’t edit out the shit. Oh, my.

    IMHO, Cersei is [and pretty much always has been] irredeemable. She has exactly one good characteristic, and that is that she truly does love her children. Other than that, she’s sadistic, manipulative, ego-maniacal, power-hungry, and a not particularly bright screw up whose oldest child is a monster.

    Jaime becomes sympathetic, not only because of what he endures, but because he reveals to us aspects of humanity that we can appreciate, which Cersei never does. Contrast Theon, who endures a lot of horrible stuff, but only reveals a little bit of humanity, and that is still far in the future. Jaime becomes a genuinely sympathetic character, while Theon only gets our pity.

    The drowned god does have power over life and death. In that religion, the baptism equivalent is literal drowning, and rising from the dead. The only religion that seems to actually have nothing real going for it is the religion of the 7. I’m quite sure that in the books there is some controversy among the clergy as to whether they are a seven-sided trinity-equivalent, or 7 unique gods.

    All the other religions exhibit either actual reincarnation, a la Beric, or zombifiction a la Drogo or the dead reanimated by the others.

    Arya still identifies with family. Only when that is stripped away can she go to Braavos and transform herself into whatever she becomes.

    Totally unrelated thought on why Ned Stark had to die – other than that he was played by Sean Bean. He had to die for the same reason that Dumbeldore had to die, and Gandolf before him [though he came back.] In each case, that older, respected authority figure had to be disposed of so that the younger, dependent characters were forced into taking control of their own destinies. With the guiding and protective daddy-types around, that would never happen. Is that a common literary trope?

    Cheers!
    JzB

    • James E. Powell

      I’m not so sure that what Cersei feels for her children is love, as most people understand the word. Like everybody else in the world, they are things that she uses. Without her children and their claims derived from her marriage to Robert Baratheon, she is nothing. Her father used her for what he needed and he doesn’t need her anymore. Jaime’s alienation from her is probably permanent. She has to be the king’s mother or she is going to be nothing.

      • I don’t think that’s quite right. If “Without her children and their claims derived from her marriage to Robert Baratheon” was the whole of the thing, she wouldn’t have cuckolded Robert.

        Rather, her fierce protection of her children is a doomed attempt to fight her destiny.

      • I won’t argue regarding her ambition and attempts to control her destiny. But the scene with Tomman when Tywin rescues King’s landing is very telling. And if you take her one good thing away from her, she becomes a one-dimensional villain, which is very un-Martin-like.

        • Yeah, which is kind of what makes it a problematic scene.

          Really good for her character as it’s developed in the series, but it’s going to set up problems for her character down the road. Unless they decide to ditch that prophecy all together, as they have pretty much all the other ones so far.

    • To me, redemption and interestingness don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. Cersei is iredeemable, because she’s a Greek tragic heroine, very similar to her spiritual ancestress – Medea. I’ll go into this more when her POV comes up in my chapter-by-chapter analysis, but basically Cersei’s psyche has been profoundly damaged by the patriarchy on the one hand, which prevented her from ever pursuing those things that make her happy, and prophecy on the other, which prevented her from exploring most adaptation strategies.

      Jaime’s sympatheticness ultimately comes not from suffering, but from the fact that his reaction to suffering is to look outwards and witness the suffering in others – as we’ll see later, maybe even with Theon.

      The Drowned God is a tricky case – how much of the “drowning” is just CPR and how much of it is genuine resurrection? Why is it that his main prophet doesn’t know anything about his religion, while his self-proclaimed prophet can’t hear anything?

      The Seven are pretty clearly labeled as seven faces of the one god, I think.

      Dead parents as a driver for drama is a huge fictional trope.

      • As always, I might be wrong on this. But I recall a passage [but have no idea where or in what book] where the heptanity is a new and quite controversial topic among the clergy. By implication, the traditional view is that the 7 are viewed as 7 individual gods, with different areas of influence. On more than one occasion a character goes to the sept and prays to a specific god, or makes specific prayers to all 7. Catelyn certainly does this. That wouldn’t be necessary if they were one god with 7 faces.

      • Medrawt

        I think you’re right about how Cersei became Cersei – although of course, other than the prophecy, what “happened” to her is basically what happens to noblewomen in Westeros, and most of them don’t turn out to be sociopaths. It’s still the case that whereas the introduction of Jaime as a POV character in the books was a mechanism for eliciting more sympathy and understanding from the audience, my reaction to encountering the Cersei POV characters was, if anything, more repulsion towards her than I felt before; her state of mind is revealed as even more unlikeable than I would have guessed, because she is in fact a 24/7 machine of contempt towards EVERYONE. I wonder if that’s the effect GRRM had in mind.

        • True. Cersei is a messed-up person. I think the main issue with Cersei is that, unlike Jaime post-mutilation, she turns her grievances inwards until they curdle into a toxic brew of internalized misogyny, misandry, paranoia, and wounded pride.

          And that last part is important – as we’ve seen (Arya, Brienne, Asha, etc.), it’s possible for women to take on men’s roles in Westeros, but it requires giving up a modicum of class privilege. Cersei could have chosen to learn to fight like Jaime, but that would have meant choosing to stop being a Lannister, and that she won’t do. She wants to have the rights and access afforded to men, but as a Lannister – and she’ll chew off her own arm before she lets go of that status.

      • Lurker

        In my opinion, the whole series is about changing laws of nature. In the beginning, no one has supernatural abilities. There are no dragons, maesters study arcane arts only for historical reasons and to learn humility, weirwood trees don’t do anything.

        In a few years, white walkers roam abroad, Bran becomes a greenseer, dragons fly, maesters start using actual magic, and priests of all faiths make miracles. Even the cult of the Seven undergoes a strong revival, and while no miracles are recounted, I would not find them unlikely. There may well be something else than just social unrest that is propelling the resurgence of the orders militant of the Church of the Seven.

        The fun thing here is that supernaturalism is still limited. On each scene, there is usually a single emerging supernatural element and natural means of war work still very effectively. What I wait for is what happens when these conflicting supernatural elements of different mythologies collide: dragons against the Drowned God. Red priests’ magic against the White Walkers. Maester’s arcana against the orders militant etc.

        • Not exactly. The weirwood trees could always do what they do, the Red Priests were always there in Essos, there have always been giants North of the Wall – it’s more that the protagonists have never known that to be true, and now their understanding of the world is expanding.

      • Dead parents as a driver for drama is a huge fictional trope.

        Right – but I think it’s a bit different with Dumbeldore, et al. Harry’s parents, are dead at the outset, and this – or a demise early on – fits the trope. Dumbledore as surrogate parent checks out quite late in the story, and thus enables Harry’s coming of age. Ditto Ned, who stays with us for about 800 pages.

        One thing that’s a bit mysterious in the book is the duration of Ned’s time as hand. Is it weeks? Months? Martin is quite vague about the passage of time. Dany’s wanderings would have to take quite a bit of time, and the temporal parallelism isn’t well defined, but I assume it’s implied.

        • Right, but that trope is also old – it goes all the way back to Merlin and Arthur if not before.

          The best timeline I’ve seen yet says Ned’s in office from the 2nd of September 298, AL (when he arrives in KL and is given his badge of office) until November 15th of that same year, so a bit more than two months. That feels a bit short to me.

    • SEK

      You neglected to edit out the shit, which is how I know you didn’t edit out the shit.

      It was taking 3 hours to recalibrate the audio every time I made an adjustment that made it more intelligible. It would’ve taken 11 hours for the edited video to process, so I decided just to leave it in, as I didn’t want to post this after tonight’s episode.

      Anyway, I thought people liked it when they saw other people’s flaws?

      • I was just making light of it. ‘Cuz the dark is full of terrors.

  • Ronan

    I greatly appreciated the bit when SEK asked Steve to begin then immediately got up and left.

    • Which is about when my train of thought started to lurch around.

      • SEK

        Again, sorry about that. Those headphones shut out the world, and I usually use them when I do housework/pace manically, so when I saw a cat in the room, I deposited him elsewhere. It never even occurred to me that it might seem rude because I could hear Steven the whole time! If it’s any consolation, Steven, I did something very similar to Gay Talese.

        • No problem. I think if I had closed my eyes and just kept going as in a phone call it would have been fine, but my eyes were confusing me.

  • Ronan

    .left my f us broken .. S

    • Ronan

      ..is..my u is next to my i

      • SEK

        Wait, did it break up? I thought it’d be fine with the headphones on! The alternative was that we’d be accompanied by a howling coon for the duration of the podcast.

        • SEK

          Damn it, I take it back. I totally did that on purpose.

  • rw970

    I thought the connection between Beric’s rebirth and decay and Arya’s rebirth and decay was well done. Each time Beric is reborn, he loses a part of himself – a personal part of himself, as he continues as a killing machine. Each time Arya assumes a new identity, she loses a part of herself as well, as she continues on her ultimate killing machine quest. What she retains is her mission – killing the people on her list.

  • rw970

    Why don’t you guys have an open thread on the Monday following an episode, so the community could comment while it’s still fresh in our minds, instead of waiting for Thursday when you guys upload the podcast? That way, if you guys need material (not that you need material) you might find something interesting in the discussion.

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