Game of Thrones is a television show that is set in an alternate universe. This universal seems mediaeval and at times downright barbaric. Throughout the five seasons of this show, there is, as the title suggests, an ongoing fight over who should sit on the iron throne and rule over the continent of Westeros. This fight is not just limited to those who reside in Westeros, but also to those who live in Essos. There are many, many characters who vie to sit on the throne such as Joffrey Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Margaery Tyrell and Daenerys Targaryen. They will go through any means necessary to claim what they believe rightfully belongs to them.
This differs from the idea of a stereotypical dystopia. Whereas the idea of a dystopia usually stems from a utopia turning into an undesirable place, the world in which Game of Thrones is set is not a place that one would have ever classified as a utopia. Since the death of the king Robert Baratheon in season one, the continent was in turmoil. The king that sat upon the throne thereafter, Joffrey, was cruel and corrupt. He ruled without a care in the world. What makes this show dystopian is the unhappiness and poverty of the peasants, the rise of extremism to take down the established monarchy (as shown by the rise of the High Sparrow), and the murder of anyone who opposes the regime.
This work is similar to 1984 in a number of ways. Those who hold or want to hold power want to do so just to have it. Nearly no one contending for the iron throne wants to be king or queen because they think they can make life better for the peasants or houses that are not as highly held such as House Umber or House Tarth. Being that 1984 is set in the future (though it is our past), the technology shown in the novel is not akin to what is available in the mediaeval realm of Westeros. There are no cameras or thought police to watch them, but there are still spies. These spies come in a number of forms. Varys, the eunuch who works for the crown, spies on peasants as well as “frenemies” of the throne. His network of spies are known as "little birds." There are others who spy such as Jorah Mormont who was sent to Essos to spy of Daenerys. One other similarity between this world and 1984 is the idea of reprogramming. Winston, the protagonist in 1984, is sent to room 101 to be reprogrammed into loving big brother. There is no room 101 in Westeros, but there is a character, Ramsey Bolton, née Snow, who was able to reprogram another character, Theon Greyjoy, into believing that he was subservient to Ramsey. The government of Big Brother and Ramsey Bolton tortured their victims, just for the sake of keeping power and letting the victim know who is boss. It would seem unlikely that these two works have a lot in common but they do!
George R.R. Martin wrote the series A Song of Fire and Ice, which is what Game of Thrones is based upon. He has also been a script writer for the show itself. He wrote these books as a sci-fi and fantasy rather than in the vein of a dystopia. This is because he grew up dreaming of far off places and writing more in the style of fantasy. In an interview, Mr. Martin made it known that he is against the idea of glorying war. This can be seen within the show as all the battle scenes are gruesome and those who try to glorify war end up dead such as The Mountain and Mance Rayder. It is different than a lot of other dystopian films or literature because many other works include war and fighting as a focal point. But Game of Thrones manages to rope viewers in regardless.
Being that this is a television show, the main point of this is to entertain its viewers. But that is not all that it is about. As there are so many different storylines going on in this show at any given moment, there are many important things that they are trying to point out. One major theme that Game of Thrones advocates is the luxury that we live in. Even if we are not driving Lamborghinis and do not all own Xboxes, we are still living in a comfortable place. In Game of Thrones, there is no such sense of security. They must ride by horse to get around and are in constant fear of being stabbed to death or beheaded by an enemy. I do not think the show runners set out to critique the way Westerners tend to be spoiled and ungrateful for what we have, but by comparing our society to that of the society in Westeros, they have managed to do so.
Why should we care? So many of us sit down Sunday nights with our friends and loved ones to watch Game of Thrones. We’re enthralled by the story lines and addicted to the characters. We view it as mindless entertainment. The majority of viewers just sit back an enjoy it. I agree, it can be mindless entertainment. But with a critical and analytical eye, it can be so much more. When you think about a dystopia, Game of Thrones is most likely not the first to pop into one’s head. But does have many qualities of a dystopia! And as can be seen, it does mirror a lot of ideas from what can be considered a classic- if not the most classic- dystopia of all time: 1984. That is why we should care. If we open our eyes and mind we will be able to see some things in a new light.