Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.

It's been a busy week for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The presidential hopeful recently announced a bold plan to make college tuition free and cancel existing student loan debt, a plan that would affect more than 30 million Americans. Now, Warren's weighing in on another subject that's been laying heavily on Americans' minds: Game of Thrones.

In an article for The Cut, Warren breaks down why the famously violent HBO series has captured her attention: "For me, it's not about the death count […] It's about women."

It's certainly a viable take on the show. Many of the shows' subplots are focused on women of power behaving far more capably than their male predecessors. Warren talks about Daenerys Targaryen, who succeeded in bringing an army to Westeros where her brother failed (after having molten gold poured on his head). Daenerys's success and personal force seem to have at least made an impression on the many new parents who opted to name their babies Khaleesi, after Daenerys's Dothraki title.

Warren also talks about Cersei Lannister, another woman proving to be far more efficacious than her lush of a husband from way back when in season one. Where Daenerys rules through love, however, Cersei rules through fear.

Although Warren frames her article as being focused on the women in Game of Thrones, she doesn't wind up discussing them all that much. Rather, she uses them as a lens for other issues that Americans and Westerosi alike are obsessed with; politicians who serve the people rather than the wealthy, elite, and themselves; revolutionary leaders upsetting the standard quo; and the power of money in our world.

To Warren, Daenerys's commitment to fighting the white walkers for the sake of the people rather than fighting her personal enemies to the South is a revolutionary idea:

"A queen who declares that she doesn't serve the interests of the rich and powerful? A ruler who doesn't want to control the political system but to break the system as it is known? It's no wonder that the people she meets in Westeros are skeptical. Skeptical, because they've seen another kind of woman on the Iron Throne: the villain we love to hate, Queen Cersei of Casterly Rock."

Little needs to be said about Cersei Lannister's leadership style, but Warren does a good job of summing it up: "Cersei doesn't expect to win with the people — she expects to win in spite of them."

The Game of Game of Thrones analogies

While it's not a bad take on the show, Warren's review was clearly intended to garner support for her political platform by not-so-subtly connecting her campaign to that of the good guys from Game of Thrones (inasmuch as Game of Thrones has "good" guys). It's an easy and tempting bandwagon to jump onto. Game of Thrones is a story about politics, and it's immensely successful. For many people, it serves as a great window into understanding what's happening in modern politics.

Warren isn't the first to seize this connection, either. Donald Trump has been fond of tweeting images of himself surrounded by Game of Thrones branding (much to the ire of HBO), like this one he tweeted in response to Attorney General Barr's summary of the Mueller report:

In the context of Donald Trump's prior usage of Game of Thrones, Warren's review seems like her trying to shape how we use Game of Thrones as an analogy for our real-world politics. Warren is trying to declare who the Daenerys Targaryens and who the Cersei Lannisters are in American politics.

While Warren may very well be a Game of Thrones fan, her review is more likely to be an attempt to boost her name recognition and jump up in the polls in order to become a Democratic frontrunner. Warren's not exactly polling in the middle of the pack, but FiveThirtyEight polls show that she's not yet a serious threat to Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, who, depending on the pollster, regularly switch between frontrunner and runner-up. The 2020 presidential election is still a long way away. By that time, Game of Thrones will be over, but for many Americans, the real game will have just begun.

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Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
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