The internet loves a good fan theory. The trouble is, the phrase “fan theory” has started to go the way of words like content or hipster or artisan or any of the other words whose definitions are so vague, so all encompassing, that they have very little meaning at this point.
“Fan theory” is currently used as a descriptor for the following things:
A prediction for an upcoming storyline
Analysis of a character’s motivations
Analysis of a storyline
The dissection of a trailer and conclusions drawn from moments in said trailer
Explanation of subtext, predicated on the explainer failing to recognize subtext.
Recognition of dramatic irony or a plot turn before the reveal
None of the above should be considered fan theories, in the opinion of this blogger.
So then, you may ask, what the heck qualifies as a fan theory?
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.”)
I made my opinion very clear, via a tweet declaring:
If Ed Sheeran's cameo on Game of Thrones upset you, then you are the problem. Not him.
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.
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.
Exploring the connections between the Grateful Dead and A Song of Ice and Fire
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 indirectly admitting that the spiritual Weirwoods in the world of Westeros are named after Bobby Weir. (update: it’s worth noting that he didn’t confirm it quite as much as the conversation goes – there will be more about this in the future.)
A number of listicles, variousreddit 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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
It’s been no secret that Bernie Sanders has an unusual history (for an independent / socialist / Democrat/ whatever he is) when it comes to gun control. And people are starting to talk about it, including articles such as “The Last Thing Bernie Sanders Needs it a Conversation About Guns” on NPR, which does a good job summarizing the situation so far.
To briefly give an overview of Sanders’s strange history with guns and politics: at one point, he voted against the option for victims of shootings to sue the manufacturers of assault rifles. He has tried to frame the gun control argument as if it’s about hunting, even when discussing assault rifles and mass shootings. Despite being someone who thinks we need more federal laws and regulations when it comes to anything related to economics, he thinks that states should make their own decisions about whether purchasing a handgun should require a waiting period.
But what is really troubling me is this: Bernie Sanders took to one of his two official Facebook pages on Friday (less than 24 hours after the most recent mass shooting) and posted a preachy, idealist monologue. In it, he said we need to be “comprehensive” and “sensible.” His next sentence is some mild vagaries about mental health, the kind of thing that people on both sides are saying as a way to avoid having to do anything more concrete. (You can read the statement, along with some other coverage on his stances on gun control, here.)
And then we have the kicker: “We also have to tone down the incredibly high level of gratuitous violence which permeates our media.”
This is such a shocking, disappointing, empty politician’s promise. And as someone who like violent movies and television and books, I’ve decided to respond about why he’s wrong.
Let’s break down all the problems with it with a few questions for Senator Sanders:
a) Is there any suggestion, any evidence, that consuming violent fiction (regardless of its medium) results in violent acts? Specifically, is there any kind of link between violent media and mass shootings?
b) Are you advocating for mass censorship? If our television, music, movies, video games and books are to have less violence, how is this to be accomplished? More petitions from family groups? A stronger, tougher FCC? The elimination of premium cable as an option? Doesn’t all of this reek of the banning of books and constraint of freedom of speech? Do you want to bring back the V-chip?
c) The most popular drama in the United States is NCIS. It’s a cop show, in which protagonists are cops and the cops carry guns and sometimes have to shoot people. Should the cops in this show stop carrying guns? Should they stop shooting people? Is this show an example of the violence you’re discussing?
d) The most discussed show in the United States media is Game of Thrones, in which the characters carry swords and sometimes chop off the heads of other characters. Does this promote mass shootings?
e) Isn’t this argument very ’90s? Do you also want to ban Power Rangers?
f) In your opinion, what makes violence “gratuitous”?
g) Finally, I think it’s worth noting exactly what you said, Senator Sanders. The six questions so far have been responding to the idea that there is too much violence in our fiction. But that’s not actually what you said. You said media. Which includes news. And yes, you’re correct, there is too much violence in the news media. You know why? Because the United States is too violent. Because there are too many shootings. Too many mass shootings. So here’s the question: what will you do to have less mass shootings in our media, by having less mass shootings in our news, by having less mass shootings in our reality? You say we have to “stop shouting at each other.” I agree. If you think you can be President of the United States, what are you going to do?
These are the questions I want answers to. This is what worries me about Bernie Sanders. This is why I’m not “feeling the Bern” as so many other people my age are. The answer to mass shootings is not censorship. It’s not banned media. But yes, I do want less violence in the media, by having less violence in the news. Let’s hope Senator Sanders can help provide some genuine comprehensive sensible reform to the issues of guns, like he has promised.
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.
But here’s the thing: Jeb Bush is becoming Stannis Baratheon, and it’s looking to be painfully accurate. In two distinct ways.
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.
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”→
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?”