UC Berkeley Department of Film and Media

Department of Film & Media UC Berkeley

Courses / Undergraduate

Summer 2015

Film 108 | Session D | CCN: 48255

Film Genre: Game of Thrones

Justin Vaccaro

TuWTh 3-530P, 188 DWINELLE

4 Units

Game of Thrones is a worldwide phenomenon. Derived from a series of bestselling novels, it is one of the most popular shows on television, the most pirated show on the web, and a critical darling, courting both a wide demographic of fans and more than its fair share of controversy. This course will examine how and why Game of Thrones achieved such notoriety and popularity. Its success was not so much a fluke but a perfect storm of influences and circumstances on the one hand and a fully realized aesthetic and thematic vision on the other. We will start by looking at genre and the genre history out of which the show appears. Game of Thrones is an instance of Fantasy but unlike the classics of that genre – such as The Legends of King Arthur or The Lord of the Rings – which are in the modes of Romance, Tragedy, and the Mythic, Game of Thrones turns to Realism and the Ironic. We will examine the history and nature of these modes. We will pay particular attention to how fantasy has used them in order to better understand why Game of Thrones’ shift in tone is one of the defining qualities of the series and a source of its success.

Yet, while Game of Thrones may be fantasy it is not simply (or only) escapism. With that in mind, we will investigate the sometimes contradictory but always complex and interesting politics of the show. The show is in many ways a discourse on power and the relationship between ruler and ruled. It asks what is a just and moral form of government and what does it take to make that a reality? But the series is also concerned with power and status in the personal sphere. How is power manifested in and through bodies, especially those of women, children, persons with disabilities, and the poor, or those of different ethnicities, religions, and sexualities? Game of Thrones’ notorious amounts of sex and violence can then be seen as an important way in which the show highlights the human as embodied. We all have bodies subject to pain and pleasure it seems to say. And thus all bodies are subject to power. We will discover what responses the show offers to this claim, what hopes and fears it articulates, and how its pursuit of the answer to the body/power problem might be the real source of the series’ appeal.