Ed Sheeran Didn’t Ruin Anything. Game of Thrones is Rooted in Popular Music

Game of Thrones is Not Sacred. It’s Grateful Dead Fan Fiction

The first episode of the seventh season of HBO’s Game of Thrones sparked a multitude of reactions, but perhaps none more virulent and hysterical than how certain GOT fans responded when Ed Sheeran appeared onscreen. The response was so rabid that some speculated Sheeran had deleted his Twitter account in response to the hatred (Sheeran has since denied it, stating “Why the hell would I worry what people thought about that. It’s clearly fuckin’ awesome.”)

sheeran-game-of-thrones.jpg
This was Sheeran, if you (like me) didn’t recognize him at first.

I made my opinion very clear, via a tweet declaring:

Worth noting that this has been my most popular tweet, aside from one about Burger King one time.

Now, regardless of why Sheeran temporarily deleted his account, it does not change the fact that some Game of Thrones fans really, really hated seeing him on the screen. A top post in the /r/GameofThrones subreddit declared that his cameo had “ruined the Realism (sic).” Others mocked him with YouTube videos, angry tweets, and scornful recaps. Among the responses I received – in response to my “Ed Sheeran isn’t the problem” tweet were people telling me that they “hate him” and that cameos by Beyonce and John Legend would be next.

There are a few good points about why the Ed Sheeran cameo is nothing to be upset about, but I’ve already seen all but one of them already effectively made. These arguments include:

  • Sheeran is recognizable, yes, but aren’t many of the other actors in the show also recognizable? 
  • Sheeran was cast as a singer with a beautiful voice. Doesn’t it make sense to have a singer with a beautiful voice play a singer with a beautiful voice?
  • Why are all of you putting so much energy into hating a complete stranger?

But none of these are the articles I’ve come to write.

Instead, what I’d like you to consider is this: sure, Ed Sheeran is a pop musician playing a bit part in your favorite show. But doesn’t this make perfect sense, when one considers that the entirety of Game of Thrones – and the series of books upon which it is based, A Song of Ice and Fire – is an extended homage to a very popular band? Continue reading “Ed Sheeran Didn’t Ruin Anything. Game of Thrones is Rooted in Popular Music”

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Let Them Eat Freedom Fries, and Ten Other Headlines to Anticipate in 2017

It’s early December, which means two things: time to start recapping 2016 and predicting 2017.

While not as exhaustive as The Economist’s The World in 2017 or as doomsday-esque as some other lists that I won’t link to, this is my list of the headlines and stories I expect in the coming year.

Netflix Starts Original News Programming

I don’t watch Netflix original programming much. I think it is the most lowbrow of available television services, churning out binge-friendly quantity over quality that peddles in nostalgia as Buzzfeed peddles in cuteness. There are exceptions, of course, but the majority of their content is just good enough to keep you watching and just bad enough to end every episode with a cliffhanger.

stranger-things
Obviously, there are exceptions. I loved this show.

That said, there is something I do like about Netflix: it’s a great equalizer. Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats watch MSNBC; young people watch Vice and old people watch 60 Minutes; everyone watches Netflix. You don’t need cable, money, or a confirmation bias. You just need a couple dollars a month and a desire for something to watch.

Which is why it’s time for them to start serving as a news source, and I think 2017 is the year we will see it. It’s not like it would be considered an untrustworthy news source: people are currently getting their news from spam websites shared by strangers on social media. If anything, Netflix becoming a news network could actually bring some reality back to the post-truth America.

Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart to Collaborate

This one was once unthinkable, but now I think it’s months away from happening. Both Stewart and Beck seem to be on introspective vision quests, two of the only American public figures seeking truths beyond the party line.  Continue reading “Let Them Eat Freedom Fries, and Ten Other Headlines to Anticipate in 2017”

Is There a Connection Between Bran Stark and “Uncle John’s Band”?

In a previous blog post, I investigated the possibility that George R.R. Martin took inspiration for Arya Stark’s storyline from the song “Dire Wolf,” by the Grateful Dead. I’m far from the first person to make connections between Martin’s words and the Dead’s lyrics, as this has been a topic of speculation and deduction for years.

But there is one song that I have never seen discussed, despite it having some very Westerosi imagery: “Uncle John’s Band,” the first track on the 1970 album Workingman’s Dead. 

workingman

Now, unlike my theory that Arya’s story is directly lifted from the song “Dire Wolf,” this theory is slightly more half-baked, but not for lack of trying. “Uncle John’s Band” is a beautiful, lyrical song, simple in sound but complex with metaphor and references. As described by David Dodd in the “Greatest Stories Ever Told” series on dead.net, the song “carries within it enough room to consider the universe and our lives in the universe — it seems to be a universe itself.” Continue reading “Is There a Connection Between Bran Stark and “Uncle John’s Band”?”

Did a Grateful Dead Song Inspire Arya Stark and Her Story?

It’s no secret that the Grateful Dead’s music has influenced George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. He first acknowledged it during a 2014 interview with 927 Plus, including directly admitting that the spiritual Weirwoods in the world of Westeros are named after Bobby Weir.

A number of listicles, various reddit threads, and blog posts have been written about connections between Martin’s books and the Dead’s songs, including the Weirwoods, The Mountains of the Moon, and Gerold “Darkstar” Dayne.

martin
It’s not hard to believe this guy is a Grateful Dead fan.

And of course, the wolf. Yes, the Grateful Dead has a song called “Dire Wolf,” the same beast that serves as the Stark sigil. We know that connection. But is this where the connection ends? Or is there something more linking the Grateful Dead song and the Starks of Winterfell?

“Please Don’t Murder Me”

Listening to the song “Dire Wolf” while contemplating the Stark family, the lyrics initially don’t seem very relevant to Ned Stark and his offspring. While the setting seems Winterfell-esque—the winter was so hard and cold, froze ten feet neath the ground—it’s hard to view the Starks as resembling the wolves of the song, as the song consists of the narrator repeatedly pleading “don’t murder me” to the dire wolf.

dead
“Dire Wolf” is the third song on this album.

Murder is not a crime committed by the honorable Starks. They execute. They kill in war. But they do not murder. Ned, Robb, and Jon Snow each execute criminals and kill enemies in battle.  Rickon, Bran, and Sansa never kill at all (at least, not yet).

And then there is Arya.

arya-stark
Arya Stark, as portrayed by Maisie Williams in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Continue reading “Did a Grateful Dead Song Inspire Arya Stark and Her Story?”

Is Bernie Sanders the Ned Stark of the 2016 Election?

In a post published on this blog earlier today, I discussed why I “stopped feeling the Bern,” i.e. why Bernie Sanders is a troubling, disappointed candidate, in my opinion. This is a follow-up, companion to that article.

As I pondered Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders, he began to remind me of another disappointing character: Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark of Game of Thrones. Let’s look at how these two resemble one another.

This guy
This guy

Idealism

It’s what draws you to Sanders. This idea that he is speaking for noble truths that others will not. The idea that he’s above the politicking, the games, the money. That he cannot be bought. That he has honor.

Ned and his sword, Ice.
Ned and his sword, Ice.

Ned Stark has that same sense of honor. But what one has to ask is, is this honor or is this delusion? Is he a good example, or is he an example of misplaced self-importance, of smug piety?

Irrelevance

When one looks closely at Bernie Sanders, some of his arguments that seem so persuasive out of his mouth begin to weaken. He’s an isolationist, and has some bizarre history with guns, including odd, questionable statements very recently. Bernie believes that violent television is to blame for mass shootings; Ned believes that children should watch beheadings, and that all beheadings should be performed by the lord who passed the sentence.

He won’t win.

Cersei Lannister is one of the many people who try to get real with Ned Stark, telling him “when you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.” In Ned’s case, he dies.

"I've made a huge mistake."
“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

This isn’t to say that Bernie’s run will have a fatal end. But he certainly won’t win. It’s a winless war, being waged by a naive man living to his own sense of honor, fighting for ideals from ages past.

He’s a hero…

It’s worth noting that Ned Stark is a man worth admiring. Bernie Sanders is too. But neither belongs on the throne.

This guy.
This guy.

The question is whether Bernie can inspire a generation of politicians and citizens and leaders with more honor, through his gestures and efforts. In his failure, Ned inspired people to do better. Perhaps Bernie will do the same.

Is Jeb Bush Becoming the Stannis Baratheon of the 2016 Election?

You should avoid reading this unless you’ve seen seasons one through five of Game of Thrones

It’s obvious. I know. It’s cheap and easy. It’s the cheapest joke this blog has ever made. It’s so obvious that when you google “Jeb Bush Stannis Baratheon,” the first thing you see are articles like this and this and this and each of them even apologize for how cheap and obvious this joke is.

Jeb definitely has a better hair line.
Jeb definitely has a better hair line.

But here’s the thing: Jeb Bush is becoming Stannis Baratheon, and it’s looking to be painfully accurate. In two distinct ways.

Continue reading “Is Jeb Bush Becoming the Stannis Baratheon of the 2016 Election?”

Six Months of Search Terms: Wolverine, His Beard, and The Strange Searches That Lead People Here

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Maramduke Fart Paradox, in which I discussed the strange search engine terms that lead people to this website. Among them was “keanu reeves girlfriend 2011,” “mob bosses with sunglasses,” and a wide variety of questions about the ’90s film Blank Check.

Well, the search terms have never stopped being strange. Here are some of the more interesting ones that have lead people to this site.  Presumably some of them left satisfied, some left immediately, and others left far more confused than they were before they visited.

I’ve also decided to do this in the form of a top ten list, because everyone likes top ten lists. But with 14 because I couldn’t narrow it down to 10.

14. skyfall proof that james bond isnt a codename

Whoever ended up here was certainly disappointed, as I consider Skyfall to be proof that James is definitely a codename. Other 007-specific search terms include james bond is a codename, james bond fight, james bond theory, and is james bonds codename 007? (The answer to the last one is undebatebly yes.)

13. matthew mcconaughey as jake in the sun also rises

Wow.  That’s a really cool idea. Not sure if it would work, but yeah, cool idea.

The lone star also rises.
The lone star also rises.

Continue reading “Six Months of Search Terms: Wolverine, His Beard, and The Strange Searches That Lead People Here”

Dead Men of Westeros and The Stringer Bell Paradox

Note: The following contains aggressive spoilers for both the first three seasons of The Wire, and for the five existing seasons of Game of Thrones.

You remember when Omar Little and Brother Mouzone teamed up to take down Stringer Bell.  For each of them, it was an act of retribution.  Stringer had first murdered Omar’s boyfriend Brandon in Season One, and had, in Season Two, manipulated Omar into attempting to murder Brother Mouzone.  They eventually teamed up and killed him, quickly but violently, during the penultimate episode of the third season.

Just as important as their quest to kill him was Stringer’s quest to become a new man.  This included community college courses, reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, buying property, bribing congressmen, and ultimately informing on his best friend and business partner, Avon Barksdale.  He was on a path toward redemption, or at least toward his own vision of it.  And just as he found himself on the cusp of success, his past caught up with him, in the form of a shotgun and a bowtie.

Stringer is, without a doubt, one of the greatest characters on The Wire.  He’s arguably one of the greatest characters in television’s history.  The only solace that one could take seeing him gunned down was “at least it was Omar who killed him.”  Which has lead me to create what I refer to as The Stinger Bell Paradox (SBP), which is when one of your favorite characters kills another of your favorites. Continue reading “Dead Men of Westeros and The Stringer Bell Paradox”

Why All the Bad News About True Detective is Actually Good News

Like all television shows that appeal to the intellectual and the obsessive, True Detective has gathered itself a menagerie of obsessive fans, the sort that remind you that fan is derived from the word fanatic.  I’m not referring to the people who are excited for another season, or the ones who have watched the first season and liked it a lot, or even the ones who watched the first season two or three times already.  I’m referring to the wild ones, the ones who argue in internet forums, who watch for any hints at what the next season will be of their favorite thing, and then proceed to panic and criticize every piece of news they get.

These kinds of fans aren’t unique to True Detective.  They’re the same kinds of fans who lose their minds every time Game of Thrones deviates from its source material.  They’re the ones who are going crazy over Jared Leto’s Joker (based on one photograph), who went crazy over Heath Ledger’s Joker (before they had seen or heard anything), and who are still upset over the idea of Ben Affleck as Batman.

But, yes, the upcoming season of True Detective is at the receiving end of endless angst, concern, and advanced criticism from the same people who loved the first season.  And those obsessive fans are quite likely wrong about everything.   Continue reading “Why All the Bad News About True Detective is Actually Good News”

Brief Interviews of Ice and Fire: The Sand Snake Seven

The following is a conversation regarding both the A Song of Ice and Fire books and the Game of Thrones television show.  It contains spoilers for the five ASOIAF books and the show through Season Five, Episode Four.

DF: Did you watch last night?

TEB:  I did.  It felt like it was just a murder montage.

DF: Bronn and Jaime were fun

TEB: They were.  And I’m totally fine with the book and show being different.  They are separate in my mind.  And maybe there is no way to make the Sand Snakes not suck, but do they have to suck that much?

DF: I’ve always considered the sand snakes to be the worst plotline in the novels.

TEB: It was just: “Here we are.   In our desert tent.  With, uh, a carpet.  And no shovels.  But we buried this guy up to his head.  And apparently we don’t need food or anything?  Do we live here?  How did our step-mother find us?”

Welcome to our torture interrogation tent.
Welcome to our torture interrogation tent.

DF: In the books, they’re nonsense.  They watered them down for the show, but they’re still nonsense. Continue reading “Brief Interviews of Ice and Fire: The Sand Snake Seven”