Game of Thrones. It’s in the title, really. This beloved book and HBO series is for sure representative of imperialist discourse, and here’s why.
Let’s start with the following scene:
In this scene, Cersei, the Queen of Westeros, is counseling her son, Joffrey, on how he plans to act when he becomes king. Joffrey begins the main discussion when he says, “we allow the Northerners too much power. They consider themselves our equals.” This establishes the separation of ultimate power (the throne/King’s Landing) from the controlled (the North and the rest of the kingdoms). It also establishes that Joffrey is grounded in the ideology of this kind of separation, and he also believes in the hierarchy the separation allows for. When his mother asks what, upon becoming king, he would do about “them,” Joffrey explains that he would suck resources out of them, using the North for monetary and economic gain.
It’s also important that he wants to establish a “Royal Army,” arguing: “why should every lord command his own men? It’s primitive, no better than the hill tribes. We should have a standing army of men loyal to the Crown, trained by experienced soldiers, instead of a mob of peasants who have never held pikes in their lives.” In this argument, Joffrey further establishes that he believes in enforcing and even strengthening the hierarchy of power. By calling everyone who is not part of “the Crown” “primitive” and “no better than the hill tribes,” he both belittles them and suggests that there are still those that are below the people he considers “primitive.” In this way, there is the Throne, the Lords, their peasants, and then the hill tribes. The concept of a “Royal Army” is important when relating this to Imperialism because an army, especially in the world of Game of Thrones, is a huge economic and power resource. Having one Royal Army instead of a bunch of armies lead by each individual lord would also transfer all of the military power to the Throne, allowing whoever reigns to have even more control over the seven kingdoms.
From here, though, Cersei points out that Joffrey’s plan is not realistic, because “you invaded their homeland, asked them to kill their brothers… The North cannot be held, not by an outsider. It’s too big and too wild…a good king knows when to save his strength and when to destroy his enemies…everyone who isn’t us is an enemy.” In this bit, Cersei doesn’t necessarily disagree with Joffrey’s attitude towards the people in the North, as she calls them “wild.” She also is continuing their conversation of talking about this group of people as if they’re some kind of object, and this objectification furthers the hierarchy of power enforced by this imperialist ideology. They also both come to the conclusion that the hierarchy of power also means that those who are not on top with the Crown should be seen as less-than and potential threats to that system of power.
I think that Game of Thrones is a good example of different ideologies surrounding conquering
and imperialism because it’s filled with moments like this that delve into and flesh out how this works in their world.