The 7 kingdoms in “Game of Thrones” are actually these 5 real-world places


The 7 kingdoms in "Game of Thrones" are actually these 5 real-world placesEmilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in “Game of Thrones” (Credit: HBO)
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global PostNot much in “Game of Thrones” could be described as “true to life.” King Joffrey, for instance? IRL, actually a pretty sweet guy. And the Khaleesi definitely ain’t a natural blonde. (Oh yeah, and to the best of our knowledge she hasn’t fire-hatched any dragons, either.)

Say what you will about the vaguely insane plot and ever more inventive ways of killing off characters, though, there’s one element of the show that’s surprisingly real: the locations. It turns out it takes less post-production tinkering than you’d expect to turn our world into the lands of Ice and Fire.

Whether it’s the steep crags of Winterfell or the stone palaces of King’s Landing, the scorched slave port of Astapor or the frozen whiteness beyond the Wall, the show’s most dramatic landscapes really do exist — in five countries and on two continents.

Hold on to your dragons, it’s time for a tour.

Malta: King’s Landing (season 1), Pentos

Mdina city gate (Alex Murphy/Flickr Commons).

Malta’s stone city of Mdina, with its aptly lion-topped gate, was the original King’s Landing. San Anton Palace, the Maltese president’s residence, stood in for the Red Keep, where kings are murdered and brothers and sisters get way, way too close. Other island fortresses, notably Fort St. Angelo, Fort Ricasoli and Fort Manoel, provided the backdrop for other scenes in and around Westeros’ ruling city.

The Azure Window (Robert Pittman/Flickr Commons).

Daenerys Targaryen and her ill-fated brother Viserys, meanwhile, were supposed to be across the Narrow Sea in Pentos but in fact filmed their early scenes on another corner of the island. One of Malta’s most spectacular natural monuments, the limestone archway known as the Azure Window, loomed over Daenerys’ wedding to beefy horseman Khal Drogo. Maltese officials would later complain that the shoot damaged the protected habitat, which may have been one of the reasons why the GoT crew packed up and found a different location for the following seasons.


Croatia: King’s Landing (season 2 onward), Qarth

If King’s Landing suddenly acquired a lot more red tile roofs between seasons 1 and 2, it’s because it moved to Croatia’s walled city of Dubrovnik. Unlike Mdina, which is inland, Dubrovnik perches right on the coast — fairly important if your boy king’s deranged uncle is going to attack there by sea.

Minceta Tower (Romanceor/Wikimedia Commons).

Daenerys, by now widowed and mother to three dragons, hopped over to the idyllic island of Lokrum, opposite Dubrovnik, where the crew created much of the creepy city of Qarth. The House of The Undying, the site of the season finale, was the mainland’s real-life Minceta Tower. The palace gardens where Sansa has taken to moping in season 4, meanwhile, are the lush grounds of the Trsteno Arboretum, just up the coast from Dubrovnik.

Morocco: Yunkai, Astapor

Ait Benhaddou (Stefan de Vries/Flickr Commons).

The third season ventured to North Africa as the Khaleesi went on her travels in search of an army and those ever elusive ships. Producers selected two of Morocco’s most unique landscapes, Ait Benhaddou and Essaouira, to represent the fictional cities of Yunkai and Astapor respectively. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ait Benhaddou for its red citadel on the foothills of the Atlas mountains, and Essaouira for its stone sea walls topped by bronze cannon. Ait Benhaddou has the added bonus of a nearby studio in the city of Ouarzazate, so popular is the area with directors (Laurence of ArabiaThe Last Temptation of ChristAlexander and Gladiator are among the many movies filmed there).

Essaouira (Mark Fischer/Flickr Commons).

It’s Essaouira’s turn as slave-trading Astapor, however, that remains most memorable to me at least, for reasons that anyone who’s seen the season 3 finale will immediately understand.

Iceland: Beyond the Wall

On the shores of Lake Mývatn (Juergen Adolph/Flickr Commons).

If Morocco’s red plains bring the fire to ‘Game of Thrones,’ Iceland brings, er, the ice. The show’s makers quite logically headed north to shoot the part of the story that unfolds at the northernmost tip of Westeros, preferring Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes to anything CGI could produce. Vatnajökull National Park and the Svínafellsjökull glacier, both in the southwest, were picked for season 2, while most of season 3’s ultra-Wall action was filmed on and around frozen Lake Mývatn further north, littered with clumps of black lava from the active volcanos that dot the region.


Thingvellir (Andreas Tille/Wikimedia Commons).

Season 4 moved on to Thingvellir National Park, a protected area of exceptional natural beauty and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Aptly enough for the Wildlings and their proto-democracy (sort of), Thingvellir’s plains are where Iceland’s parliament was first founded and continued to assemble, under the open sky, for almost nine centuries.

Northern Ireland, UK: Winterfell, Vaes Dothrak, Kings Road, Storm’s End, Castle Black, the Iron Islands…

The Dark Hedges of Armoy (horslips5/Flickr Commons).

Northern Ireland is to ‘Game of Thrones’ what New Zealand was to ‘Lord of the Rings.’ No other country has provided so many locations for the show, from the towers of Winterfell (Castle Ward) to the shore of the Iron Islands (Ballintoy Harbour), the rocky beach where the sorceress Melisandre gives birth (Cushendun Caves) to the interlacing beech trees of Kings Road (the Dark Hedges of Armoy). If you’re watching a scene set anywhere near woods, chances are it was filmed in Tollymore Forest. Entering or exiting Castle Black? That’ll be the vast outdoor set constructed in the disused limestone quarry of Magheramorne. And the number of interiors shot at the Paint Hall studio in Belfast — where the shipyard that built the Titanic has been turned into one of the biggest studio complexes in Europe — are too many to mention.

County Antrim coastline (Paolo Trabattoni/Flickr Commons).

So keen are the regional authorities to keep the crew filming there, in fact, that Northern Ireland’s national screen agency, economic development body and the European Regional Development Fund have between them stumped up the equivalent of $15.5 million in grantsto the show’s makers. In return, the Northern Irish government estimates that the productions has boosted the region’s struggling economy by some $109 million — not least by attracting globetrotting GoT fans to themed tours of filming locations and nerd-fest exhibitions of official memorabilia. Don’t tell anyone, but we sort of want to go.


“Game of Thrones” glamorizes rape: That was not consent, and rape is not a narrative device

There was no consent in a brutal “Game of Thrones” scene. It’s time for rape to stop being cable’s narrative device

"Game of Thrones" glamorizes rape: That was not consent, and rape is not a narrative device

Last night’s “Game of Thrones” episode “Breaker of Chains” was shocking, which is saying something in a show that has consistently expanded the threshold for shocking us. Sure, some of the show’s most perverse scenes come from George R.R. Martin’s brain. But the show runners continue to take strange liberties with the source material, particularly when it comes to sexual violence.

At this point, audiences have come to expect that there are no limits to the brutality these characters will be forced to endure. At its best, “Game of Thrones” tempers this brutality by embroiling its very compelling characters in all manners of intrigue. At its worst, “Game of Thrones” makes brutality seem gratuitous, unremarkable and, at least within this fictional world, inevitable.

In last night’s episode, Cersei was raped by her brother and lover Jaime, next to the corpse of their son Joffrey. Jaime was enraged because Cersei had asked him to kill Tyrion Lannister, their brother, whom she blames for the murder of Joffrey. There was no ambiguity to the scene. Cersei repeatedly said no. She said, “Stop.” She said, “Not here.” She said, “This is not right.” She resisted Jaime’s efforts, to no avail. The scene was unequivocally a rape scene and it was not merely shocking. It was thoroughly senseless. The episode’s director, Alex Graves, said, of the scene, “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” He goes on to add, “That’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done.”

Whatever Graves’ artistic intentions may have been, something went terribly wrong here. What ended up on the screen was sensationalized rape. In the books, Cersei and Jaime do, indeed, have a sexual encounter as Joffrey’s corpse lies in repose, and that scene is rough — but Cersei’s consent is clear. It is curious that the show once again decided to take a consensual sexual encounter, as written in the books, and turn it into rape for the television audience. It’s a shame that they knew they could take this liberty without consequence.

Plenty of smart people are talking about the episode and the show’s overall treatment of women as disposable objects onto whom physical and emotional violence are relentlessly enacted. Sexual violence is so pervasive on the show that nearly every woman on the show has been raped or threatened with rape. The show, and the books, reveal the disturbing and cavalier facility with which rape becomes a narrative device. Rape is used to punish. Rape is used to make a woman more sympathetic or to explicate their anger or other unlikable qualities. Rape is used to put women in their place.

“Game of Thrones” may be uniquely extreme, but it is far from the only recent TV show to use rape to prop up narrative. We saw rape used as an explicatory plot device in ABC’s “Scandal” when we learned that Mellie was raped by Big Jerry, her husband Fitz’s father. This trauma, the show made it seem, explained why Mellie was so hardened, so craven in her ambitions, so impenetrable to her husband. Shonda Rhimes, whose work I largely admire, is no stranger to this narrative tactic. She introduced a rape story line to “Private Practice,” in which confident and hard-edged Charlotte King was brutally raped in her office and then several episodes were given over to King’s attempts to overcome her trauma. This device has also been used in “Mad Men,” “House of Cards,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos” and “Downton Abbey.” There is no end in sight.

In some ways, it’s useful for television shows to acknowledge the extent of sexual violence in our culture. These narratives allow necessary stories to be told. But the execution is too easy. From daytime soap operas to prestige cable shows, rape is all too often used to place the degradation of the female body and a woman’s vulnerability at the center of the narrative. Rape is used to create drama and ratchet up ratings. And it’s rare to see the brutality and complexity of a rape accurately conveyed on-screen. Instead, we are treated to an endless parade of women being forced into submission as the delicate and wilting flowers television writers and producers seem to want them to be.


Roxane GayRoxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Oxford American, the Rumpus, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications

“Game of Thrones ” : Como Westeros é uma fantasia de extrema-direita

"Game of Thrones": How Westeros is a right-wing fantasyland

Fãs da HBO hit ” Game of Thrones ” pode finalmente escapar de volta ao mundo de George RR Martin de dragões, espadas e nudez gratuita quando quarta temporada da série começa no domingo. No entanto, os contos épicos de guerra e traição não são tão grandes como uma fantasia que pode parecer à primeira vista. Telespectadores americanos que querem viver em uma terra como Westeros tem uma opção fácil à sua disposição : Apenas votar nos republicanos . O , mundo violento TV altamente sexualizada tem uma série de paralelos perturbadores para onde a política do Partido Republicano está dirigindo o país :

Desigualdades de classe enormes: “Game of Thrones ” segue as histórias de senhores e cavaleiros, mas a maioria da população vive na pobreza anônimo , como as massas miseráveis ​​lutando para sobreviver na favela Flea inferior subsistindo em ” bowls o ‘ marrom . ” A elite viver no luxo opulento, conquistada através do trabalho de pessoas que trabalham , a maioria dos quais não têm nenhuma esperança de escapar a sua sorte fétido .

Não estamos longe de um cenário como esse na América, onde algumas famílias possuem a maior parte da riqueza, enquanto o resto de nós é dito que se contentar com empregos no Wal -Mart e McDonald. Nós já vimos o top 1 por cento double sua parte da renda nacional desde 1980, a partir de 10 por cento para quase 20 por cento , e eles devorado quase todo o crescimento econômico desde a Grande Recessão . Políticas republicanas que enfraquecem as leis trabalhistas , aleijado sindicatos e manter o salário mínimo deprimido, tudo ao mesmo tempo reduzir os impostos para os ricos , só vai acelerar a nossa descida para plutocracia .

Dito isto, é possível subir a partir do fundo para o mais talentoso : Graças à sua imensa velocidade e habilidade , Bronn subiu do nada para se tornar uma espada contratado para Senhor Tyrion e Davos Seaworth escapou de Flea inferior , tornando-se o contrabandista mais inteligente na terra . É o ideal conservador de puxar a si mesmo pelos cadarços – apenas não importa as lutas dos outros 99 por cento de vida nos campos e favelas , que nunca fazem isso.

Armas em todos os lugares : Fale sobre o seu pé chão. Na guerra – rasgado Westeros todo mundo está armado , e os viajantes precisam estar preparados para uma luta em todos os momentos . Apenas sobre cada encontro casual nos resultados de estrada em uma luta de espadas , alguém ser capturado sob ameaça de violência , ou de ambos. Ferreiros deve estar fazendo uma fortuna. É como mundo de fantasia da ARN .

n o mundo real , o lobby das armas em aliança com o Partido Republicano conseguiu anular praticamente qualquer legislação que em tudo restringir o acesso de armas, e passou Esteja sua terra ou ” atirar primeiro ” as leis em vários estados, resultando em várias instâncias onde homens brancos assassinados adolescentes negros desarmados , sem repercussão. Os republicanos dão a impressão de que não vai descansar até que cada homem, mulher e criança se recusa a sair de casa sem ser armado com uma pistola, ou talvez um AR-15 . Basta ligar HBO para ver o que vem a seguir. Matar ou ser morto.

Sucessão legítima ignorado : Quando o rei Robert Baratheon morreu, o direito sucessório era clara: Seu irmão Stannis era para subir ao trono. Ned Stark tentou insistir que a sucessão ser seguido, e perdeu a cabeça para seus problemas . Vários pretensos reis ignorou a lei em favor de suas próprias ambições eo resultado foi uma guerra civil na qual incontáveis ​​vidas foram perdidas. O que importa é a aquisição de poder, e não os meios de adquiri-lo .

Nos Estados Unidos , nós ostensivamente aderir a eleições livres e justas , com um padrão de uma pessoa, um voto. Em vez disso , os republicanos fazem tudo ao seu alcance para manter as pessoas que eles acham que vai votar Democrata longe das urnas . Isso significa destruindo a Lei dos Direitos de Voto e implementação de leis de supressão de eleitores em todo o país , incluindo purga rolos de voto , limitando os dias de votação antecipada e exigindo eleitores para apresentar uma identificação com foto antes de lançar uma cédula. A lei não importa; princípios democráticos , não importa ; tudo o que importa é o aparelhamento voto para obter republicanos no escritório .

Ameaças existenciais ignorado também : No primeiro episódio da série, Ned Stark, geralmente um dos personagens mais razoáveis ​​, ignora relatos de zumbis de gelo quando ele executa uma solda por deserção . Não importa que os zumbis de gelo vai se transformar em uma ameaça existencial contra o reino . ” Os caminhantes brancos foram desaparecido há milhares de anos”, Stark diz a seu filho depois. ” Um louco vê o que vê . “

Na terceira temporada , os rumores atingiram o continente que Daenerys Targaryen é a construção de um exército , que inclui três dragões. Tywin Lannister , até então o governante de facto do continente, rejeita os relatórios. ” Curiosidades do outro lado do mundo não são ameaça para nós”, ele prega .

A esse respeito , ele se parece muito com os republicanos nos Estados Unidos, que construíram toda uma indústria em torno de negar a ciência do clima e da ameaça do aquecimento global, afirmando que é uma farsa liberal , quando na verdade esmagador consenso científico concorda que as atividades humanas estão esquentando o globo.

Pervasive estupro e violência contra as mulheres : Quando Brienne de Tarth é capturado pelo bando de caçadores de Locke , ele deixa claro que ela vai ser estuprada por seus homens para o esporte e lazer. Ela é salva, no momento, pela intervenção oportuna de Jaime Lannister , embora não até depois que ele zomba dela, ” Nenhum desses homens que já esteve com um nobres . Você deseja ser sábio para não resistir. “

Outras mulheres no show não são tão afortunados . Kal Drogo estupra Daenerys Targaryen repetidamente após o casamento até que ela aprende a assumir o controle do ato sexual e, finalmente, se apaixona por ele ( cue republicanos : ela realmente gostava dele o tempo todo ) . E algumas das exposições mais terríveis de crueldade vêm do Rei Joffrey , que tem duas prostitutas vencer uns aos outros com um cetro de chifre de veado e depois enche um com setas de besta .

Ao todo , a mostra dá Todd ” estupro legítimo” Akin , Richard ” algo que Deus planejou ” Mourdock e outros membros do Partido Republicano pró- estupro asa abundância de forragem se masturbar mais . Já para não falar de todos os republicanos que atrasaram reautorização da Violência Contra a Mulher por um ano .

Gays são demonizados : Dois nobres gays , Renly Baratheon e Loras Tyrell , são objecto de farpas constantes por parte dos outros personagens . “Que bom que ele [ Ser Loras ] poderia ser? Ele foi esfaquear Renly Baratheon durante anos, e Renly não está morto ! ” Um Lannister solda rachaduras. Própria tia Mesmo Loras ‘refere-se a ele como ” A- engolidor de espadas , de ponta a ponta . “

Mas as pessoas gays em Westeros têm mais com que se preocupar do que insultos, como o Rei Joffrey comenta que ele pode implementar a pena de morte para o ” perversão “.

As atitudes da população do show de encaixar muito bem com o da vida real republicanos, que têm consistentemente opõem direitos civis das pessoas LGBT , incluindo a igualdade no casamento e proteções de emprego. Loons como Jerry Fallwell culpar regularmente desastres como 9-11 sobre as pessoas homossexuais , e é grupos fundamentalistas norte-americanos que estão apoiando leis draconianas como Uganda do que pedem prisão de gays e inicialmente incluía a ameaça de punição capital.

O caos é uma escada : Lord Petyr ” Mindinho ” Baelish resume a filosofia do show muito bem com seu ” caos é uma escada ” discurso , ressaltando que o ambicioso pode usar confusão e destruição a sua vantagem para tomar o poder. “Somente a escada é real”, Mindinho diz Lord Varys . ” A subida é tudo que existe . “

Republicanos no Congresso têm certamente tomado a idéia de coração , atrasando judiciais e executivos de agências de nomeações por rote , fechando o governo no ano passado e criar repetidas crises de dívida – teto , porque eles esperam usar o caos, o que tem consequências reais para pessoas reais , a sua vantagem política.

Para ambos os personagens de “Game of Thrones ” disputando a coroa e para os republicanos que disputam cargos eletivos , o poder é um jogo, procurou para seu próprio bem e para enriquecer aqueles que segurá-lo, nunca exercido para o bem real das pessoas. É francamente medieval.

Aaron Kase é um escritor freelance de Filadélfia . Siga-o no Twitter em @ Aaron_Kase .

Texto em português by Uncle G.

Texto Original

“Game of Thrones”: How Westeros is a right-wing fantasyland

Fans of the HBO hit “Game of Thrones” can finally escape back to George R.R. Martin’s world of dragons, swordplay and gratuitous nudity when the show’s fourth season kicks off on Sunday. However, the epic tales of war and betrayal are not as big a fantasy as they might appear at first glance. American viewers who want to live in a land just like Westeros have an easy option at their disposal: Just vote Republican. The violent, highly sexualized TV world has a number of disturbing parallels to where GOP policy is steering the country:

Enormous class inequities: ”Game of Thrones” follows the stories of lords and knights, but most of the population lives in anonymous poverty, like the wretched masses struggling to survive in the Flea Bottom slum subsisting on “bowls o’ brown.” The elite live in opulent luxury, earned through the toil of the working people, most of whom have no hope of escaping their fetid lot.

We aren’t far from such a scenario in America, where a few families own most of the wealth while the rest of us are told to be content with jobs at Wal-Mart and McDonald’s. We’ve already seen the top 1 percent double their share of the national income since 1980, from 10 percent to nearly 20 percent, and they’ve gobbled up almost all the economic growth since the Great Recession. Republican policies that weaken labor laws, cripple unions and keep the minimum wage depressed, all while cutting taxes for the rich, will only hasten our descent into plutocracy.

That said, it is possible to climb up from the bottom for the most talented: Thanks to his immense speed and skill, Bronn rose from nothing to become a hired sword to Lord Tyrion, and Davos Seaworth escaped from Flea Bottom by becoming the smartest smuggler in the land. It’s the conservative ideal of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps — just never mind the struggles of the other 99 percent living in the fields and slums who never make it.

Weapons everywhere: Talk about standing your ground. In war-torn Westeros everybody’s armed, and travelers need to be prepared for a fight at all times. Just about every chance encounter on the road results in a swordfight, someone being captured under threat of violence, or both. Blacksmiths must be making a fortune. It’s like the NRA’s fantasy world.

n the real world, the gun lobby in alliance with the Republican party has managed to quash just about any legislation that would at all restrict gun access, and has passed Stand Your Ground or “shoot first” laws in numerous states, resulting in multiple instances where white men murdered unarmed black teenagers without repercussion. The Republicans give the impression they won’t rest until every man, woman and child refuses to leave the house without being armed with a handgun, or maybe an AR-15. Just turn on HBO to see what comes next. Kill, or be killed.

Lawful succession ignored: When King Robert Baratheon died, the law of succession was clear: His brother Stannis was to ascend to the throne. Ned Stark tried to insist that succession be followed, and lost his head for his troubles. Several would-be kings ignored the law in favor of their own ambitions and the result was a civil war in which untold lives were lost. What matters is the acquisition of power, not the means of acquiring it.

In the United States, we ostensibly adhere to free and fair elections, with a standard of one person, one vote. Instead, Republicans do everything in their power to keep people they think will vote Democrat away from the polls. That means trashing the Voting Rights Act and implementing voter suppression laws across the nation, including purging voting rolls, limiting early voting days and requiring voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot. The law doesn’t matter; democratic principles don’t matter; all that matters is rigging the vote to get Republicans into office.

Existential threats ignored too: In the show’s very first episode, Ned Stark, usually one of the more reasonable characters, ignores reports of ice zombies as he executes a solder for desertion. Never mind that those ice zombies will grow into an existential threat against the kingdom. “The white walkers have been gone for thousands of years,” Stark tells his son afterward. “A madman sees what he sees.”

In the third season, rumors have reached the continent that Daenerys Targaryen is building an army, which includes three dragons. Tywin Lannister, by then the de facto ruler of the continent, dismisses the reports. “Curiosities on the far side of the world are no threat to us,” he preaches.

In that respect he sounds a lot like Republicans in America, who have built up an entire industry around denying climate science and the threat of global warming, claiming that it is a liberal hoax when in fact overwhelming scientific consensus agrees that human activities are heating up the globe.

Pervasive rape and violence against women: When Brienne of Tarth is captured by Locke’s band of hunters, he makes it clear that she will be raped by his men for sport and pleasure. She is saved, for the moment, by the timely intervention of Jaime Lannister, though not until after he mocks her, “None of these men have ever been with a noblewomen. You’d be wise not to resist.”

Other women in the show aren’t so fortunate. Kal Drogo rapes Daenerys Targaryen repeatedly after their marriage until she learns to take control of the sex act and ultimately falls in love with him (cue Republicans: she really liked it all along). And some of the most horrific displays of cruelty come from King Joffrey, who has two prostitutes beat each other with a stag-horn scepter and later fills one with crossbow arrows.

All told, the show gives Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, Richard “something that God intended” Mourdock and other members of the GOP’s pro-rape wing plenty of fodder to masturbate over. Not to mention all the Republicans who delayed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act for a year.

Gays are demonized: Two gay nobles, Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell, are the subject of constant barbs by the other characters. “How good could he [Ser Loras] be? He’s been stabbing Renly Baratheon for years, and Renly ain’t dead!” a Lannister solder cracks. Even Loras’ own aunt refers to him as “A sword-swallower, through and through.”

But gay people in Westeros have more to worry about than insults, as King Joffrey muses that he might implement the death penalty for the “perversion.”

The attitudes of the show’s population fit nicely with real-life Republicans, who have consistently opposed civil rights for LGBT people, including marriage equality and employment protections. Loons like Jerry Fallwell regularly blame disasters like 9-11 on gay people, and it’s American fundamentalist groups that are backing draconian laws like Uganda’s, which call for imprisonment of gays and initially included the threat of capital punishment.

Chaos is a ladder: Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish sums up the show’s philosophy nicely with his “chaos is a ladder” speech, pointing out that the ambitious can use confusion and destruction to their advantage to seize power. “Only the ladder is real,” Littlefinger tells Lord Varys. “The climb is all there is.”

Republicans in Congress have surely taken the idea to heart, delaying judicial and executive agency appointments by rote, shutting down the government last fall and creating repeated debt-ceiling crises because they hope to use the chaos, which has real consequences for real people, to their political advantage.

For both the characters in “Game of Thrones” vying for the crown and for Republicans vying for elected office, power is a game, sought for its own sake and to enrich those who hold it, never exercised for the actual good of the people. It’s downright medieval.

Aaron Kase is a freelance writer from Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter at @Aaron_Kase.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s utterly obnoxious “conscious uncoupling” letter proves she’s the last great star

Gwyneth Paltrow's utterly obnoxious

The movie star uses the opportunity of her divorce to enlighten us all. She should never change

Gwyneth Paltrow’s announcement on her website Goop that she and husband Chris Martin are divorcing may be one of the all-time Gwynethiest things of all time. While it’s reasonable and humane to feel badly for Paltrow, Martin and their two young children, it’s also of a piece with the entertainment Paltrow has provided for the better part of the past decade in its pretension and manic flightiness. In an era of stars taking a backseat, on-screen, to the CGI robots and aliens they’re fighting, Paltrow has proven yet again that she’s one of our great stars, a worthy heiress to the legacy of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

Paltrow consistently comes in for criticism for the lifestyle she promotes in Goop — recommending elite fishmongers and three-figure tank-tops as a means of making life simpler. She consistently fulfills the ideal of what a Hollywood star might act like if she opened up to the public, providing a gratuitously satisfying look inside the delusions of Hollywood. That she thinks she has the common touch despite being born into Hollywood royalty and having the time and means to spend all day focusing on her appearance and personal comfort is by far the funniest thing about Paltrow.

And her tips about divorce are as cluelessly airheaded in exactly the same way. The headline of her announcement, “Conscious Uncoupling,” is as woo-woo Eastern-ish philosophical as are much of Paltrow’s post-Oprah-and-Chopra pronouncements, but the text is reasonably normal, describing the couple’s desire for privacy and their year-long separation. (Finally, an explanation to why Paltrow, who’s made it a marriage-long fetish to avoid walking red carpets with Martin,looked so peeved at the Golden Globes!) Good for Paltrow and Martin, if this is what they want. (My colleague Mary Elizabeth Williams feels empathy for Paltrow that I do not, personally, share, but I respect their right to do whatever they want in their marriage — the divorce itself isn’t worth mocking.)

But then Paltrow shares the thoughts of Dr. Habib Sadeghi & Dr. Sherry Sami, apparently experts on what it means to divorce. Sadeghi is “the director of Be Hive of Healing, an integrative health center based in Los Angeles.” Sami is “founder of Happy Kids Dental Planet Homeopathic Dentistry and Orthodontics in Los Angeles.” Credentials (or lack thereof?) when it comes to marriage counseling aside, Sadeghi and Sami’s thoughts are treated as gospel here: The pair draw in evolutionary biology and the structure of the human skeleton (“Life is a spiritual exercise in evolving from an exoskeleton for support and survival to an endoskeleton”) in order to explain why a divorce might happen.

This is so classic it hurts. Paltrow can’t just announce a divorce via press release or in a Vanity Fair story — after all, she’s feuding with the publication ever since it launched and subsequently killed an investigation into why she was so annoying, or something yet more personal. In order to explain to her public why she and her husband might be divorcing, Paltrow had to trot out a phrase invoking mindfulness (she even does divorce better than the plebes do!) and then explain to her public, via the teachings of an integrative health professional and a homeopathic orthodontist, why adults might get divorced. Gwyneth … we already know why.

But she should never, never change. Paltrow has managed to make even the splashiest Hollywood divorces look both bitter and basic. There appears to be little acrimony between her and Martin (they’re reportedly on vacation now) — bravo! And bravo, too, for a star so devoted to her persona as the font of human wisdom that she can turn her divorce into an opportunity to enlighten us all.

One would think this is the best Goop will ever get, that it’s all downhill from here. That may be true, but consider. Paltrow’s about to start dating again, and enlightening us on what the modern dating scene is for single folks, both those with access to the finest things on earth and those who can’t afford much more than beer and pizza. I’m already refreshing once an hour.

Daniel D’Addario is a staff reporter for Salon’s entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_

The disturbing message of “Her”: Empathy for white guys only

The disturbing message of

“Her” has a lot in common with “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” But its takeaway is in some ways darker

Philip K. Dick saw the future. At least, he saw the future of high-concept Hollywood sci-fi. Many of Dick’s novels and stories have been adapted into films, like “Blade Runner,” “Total Recall” and “The Adjustment Bureau.” But his influence is much broader than that, as his characteristic concerns (what is reality? what does it mean to be human?) and his pomo, busted puzzle-box approach have served as the basic blueprint for everything from the super-successful “Matrix” series to the instantly and justly forgotten “Source Code.”

Spike Jonze’s “Her” is the latest variation on the Philip K. Dick theme. In particular, it evokes Dick’s classic 1968 “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” a book very loosely adapted for the film “Blade Runner.” Like “Androids,” “Her” is built around the question of whether androids, or AI, can be human, and whether, in particular, they can feel empathy.

It’s easy, in fact, to see “Her” as an almost direct response to “Androids.” That book, like all of Dick’s novels, is suffused with anxiety, in this case linked to paranoid technophobia. The main character, Rick Deckard, is a bounty hunter charged with “retiring” (that is, killing) a new kind of smarter android, which is almost indistinguishable from humans. The one difference between humans and androids is empathy; androids don’t have it. Perhaps the most horrifying passage in the book involves an android, Pris, carefully pulling the legs off a spider to see if it can still walk.

“With the scissors Pris snipped off another of the spider’s legs. ‘Four now,’ she said. She nudged the spider. ‘He won’t go. But he can.’”

The scene (not reproduced in “Blade Runner”) has the quiet, bleak force of nightmare. It’s anuncanny-valley vision of a thing that looks human, and acts human, but isn’t quite — of a techno-future in which, by implication, humanity itself becomes a remorseless, uncaring machine.

Forty-five years after “Androids” was published, “Her” is here to tell us that those worries were way, way overblown. Jonze’s future is not a hell; on the contrary, it extrapolates our present omni-wired society into a kind of techno-utopia, where mediated digital connection expands upon and enables ever more empathic humanness.  The main character, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), works at a dot-com composing meaningful, beautiful letters for others on commission, encapsulating the essential feelings of a relationship for those too tongue-tied to do it themselves. Even more to the point, Theodore falls in love with an AI operating system named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), who is characterized specifically by her intuition and consequent talent for emotional intimacy. Technology is not dehumanizing, but rather ultra-humanizing.

This humanization, or extension of empathy, isn’t just about accepting robots as human; it’s about accepting, and embracing, all kinds of difference. As such, it can be seen as demonstrating, and celebrating, the social progress made since Dick’s downbeat novel. In “Androids,” the human-like robots are figured in part as marginalized minorities, marked as different, the better to despise them, loathe them and hunt them down with the sanction of the government and, to a large extent, of the novel itself. The fear and hatred of the other is mixed up, too, with Dick’s complicated, but definite, misogyny. Rachael Rosen, an android, sleeps with Deckard to manipulate him, her calculation and emotional remoteness fitting neatly into noir cold bitch stereotypes. Seeing androids as truly different and inhuman, then, becomes a way for the novel to process difference — whether of race, class or gender — as evil or dangerous.

In “Her,” on the other hand, Samantha is accepted not just by Theodore, but by nearly all his friends and family. Dating an operating system is normal and accepted — the link to gay rights is surely intentional. Those who insist on seeing Theodore and Samantha’s relationship as aberrant or lesser — as do both Theodore’s estranged wife and to some extent Theodore himself — are presented as clearly in the wrong. Nor is Samantha an occasion for misogyny; rather, she’s the voice of the film’s enthusiastic pro-feminine vision. Emotion, empathy, sentiment — all are associated with Samantha’s female voice, and enthusiastically embraced. When one of his co-workers tells Theodore he’s part woman, it is meant, by the co-worker and by the film, as a good thing.

As a compliment to women, though, Theodore’s femaleness is double-edged, since it serves, in large part, to eclipse any actual women in the story. The relationship with Samantha is presented, rhetorically and insistently, as a full-fledged romance between equals. But the fact remains that we never see Samantha, and only hear her voice when she’s talking to Theodore. The initial image of the film — an extreme close-up of Theodore’s head — is indicative; he takes up all the space. It’s true that Samantha does have an arc of growth and change, but that arc is all processed through and observed from Theodore’s perspective, and so is almost entirely experienced as part of his story, his healing and his growth experience. The movie tells us that Samantha is a person, but it treats her as little more than an app for overcoming Theodore’s midlife crisis — a way to move him from his wife to, at the end of the film, another conventional relationship with a woman we hardly know because, hey, who cares, she’s a woman, right? The assertion that difference doesn’t matter becomes a means, or an excuse, to erase difference altogether. Samantha is gone; Theodore remains, homogenous and unitary, the only story that ever mattered in the first place.

In “Androids,” on the other hand, the anxiety about difference opens up a space in which difference can be seen as, actually, different. This is certainly true for class issues. In “Androids,” money and social status are a constant, nagging worry for everybody, while in “Her,” Theodore’s job as mid-level cubicle slogger somehow pays for a spacious apartment, unlimited techno-toys and lavish vacations — middle-class existence appears to be as much a universal default as Theodore’s own gigantic head.

In addition, though Deckard is the main character in “Androids,” we also spend a good bit of time in the consciousness of J.R. Isidore, a truck driver for an artificial animal repair shop who has been classified as a “special” because of his low IQ.  Isidore’s marginal status is linked repeatedly to that of the androids; he lives in the same abandoned building they do, and he’s treated as different and lesser, as they are. He’s set apart from them by his ability to empathize — but that ability is in no small part an ability to empathize with them. By the same token, another bounty hunter, Phil Resch, is marked as an android because he doesn’t empathize with other androids — and then revealed to actually be a human who doesn’t empathize with androids. Deckard’s humanity too is occasionally questioned, both because various people wonder whether he’s an android, and because he turns out to be able to kill an android that looks exactly like Rachael, the android he slept with.

In “Her,” difference is simply subsumed into a single narrative of midlife crisis and romance — everybody’s the same at heart, which means everybody is accepted as long as their stories can be all about that white male middle-age middle-class guy we’re always hearing stories about. In “Androids,” on the other hand, different people, and different machines, are actually different. That’s frightening in many ways — both because difference itself can be frightening, and because difference seems to excuse and even encourage violence and alienness in “us,” whether we empathize (like Isidore) or joyfully murder (like Resch).

Which is to say, Dick is willing to see empathy not just as a way to treat the other as the self, but as a way to view the self from the perspective of the other as android, alien, inhuman. Thus the middle-class dude doing his job can be seen, not as a dispenser of greeting-card good cheer, but as a murdering borderline psychopath.  Looking forward from Dick’s past, Theodore’s soulfully empathic gaze starts to look less like a comforting promise, and more like a threat — a future in which we are all accepted because we are all buried in that one guy’s mildly quirky, eminently predictable dream.


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