“Two dangers constantly threaten the world: order and disorder.”—Paul Valéry
Google News. The usual carnage in Syria. The usual carnage in America. North Korea is being a nuisance. Turkey, just over the horizon, is being a nuisance.
I scroll down to “Entertainment” to see what the rabblement are watching and am again annoyed by headlines about something called Game of Thrones. What the hell is Game of Thrones? Enough’s enough—I decide to find out for myself, click links and read up.
|Gazing out to sea|
Apparently it’s a television series. Remember television? It's a medium my snobbery prevents me from enjoying. I haven’t seen a TV commercial for decades, which does wonders for one's quality of life. I tap to YouTube and turn the tablet landscape-wise to watch some excerpts.
My waitress, barefoot and bikini-bottomed in deference to the heat, hovers. Her thighs, at eye-level, draw my glance, but now she leans over and peers at the little screen, imposing her upper chest into my personal space, her shoulders ignoring me, to shade the iPad with her hand.
It seems to be a fantasy about our murderous and warlike Nordic past (I’m glad that's over)—everybody’s white, and cold—aimed at post-pubescent girls. The only character who lasts longer than a season is a teenager with a rather dangerous, not entirely reliable dragon, which nevertheless rescues the kid when she’s about to be tortured or flayed.
My waitress abandons all semblance of professional neutrality, gets on the cot with me and steadies the hand in which I hold the device.
But fantasy on TV? Television, as Warhol said, is reality. Movies are fantasy. People in movies live in the present tense, as in dreams. People in reality live in the past and the future—we have no contact with the present.
Game of Thrones, however, does combine the classic TV genres of soap opera, game show—guess who survives this week!—and news report: coups, court intrigues, hostages, beheadings. There are lots of beheadings; it’s very topical—and a good way to teach the young. For what is TV but a babysitter? “The young,” as Salvador Dalí said, “are completely stupid.”
My waitress thumps on my sternum with her fist to apprise me that I am zipping too quickly past the zombie warriors. But I have now discovered that this spectacle is based on a series of books, and disoblige her by clicking to Amazon to read a little of the text:
“You could taste it; a nervous tension that came perilously close to fear.” Of course the great Russians weren’t prose stylists either, and that didn’t vitiate their impact.
But here we have the supernatural—it goes with this kind of writing—sort of thing you get with J.K. Rowling and company. One senses what they’re trying for but the language closes it off. It’s because you don’t know what they’re talking about that there’s a feeling of comfort. Nothing can happen to you. Sort of a safe-space. Busloads of Brits ride around London with the book in their hands, condescending connoisseurs of the cute.
I actually read in the New York Times a public official’s opinion that the State Department should have a blueprint for “nation-building,” handy to superimpose on whatever country they happen to be destroying. You too can be an obese red-neck evangelist with Disney-World culture and a concealed weapon. Sign here.
Returning to Google News I read about a guy in Argentina who shot his parents in the head, had sex with the corpses, cut them into pieces—I’m not making this up—and fed them to the dog. Which is more amusing than the dragon.
From this distraction I raise my head at the sound of shouts. A rubber raft full of refugees is approaching the beach! I wade in, drink in hand, to greet them but they file past, barely looking at me. “Where’s Germany?” they say. I can only wave vaguely toward it and watch them head off, craning as if to see it.
In such a light the phrase “game of thrones” acquires richer meaning, n’est-ce pas? As with the Chicanos in the US, so with the Arabs in Europe: they’ve been here before, and they’re back.
I trudge ashore to my chaise and, as they disappear into the distance, recline next to my waitress, who has taken charge of the iPad. To forestall my interference she slides her hand under my waistband while she watches Game of Thrones.