It’s strange times when a President of the United States is all but given a cease and desist letter from a cable network. But when said POTUS is himself a former B-list celebrity entertainer from reality TV, it’s perhaps par for the course. Such is the fallout when Donald Trump alluded to Game of Thrones, the most popular television series of at least this decade, while threatening new sanctions against Iran.
The surreality began when President Trump tweeted this morning a graphic of himself in an ostensibly masculine pose with text modeled after Game of Thrones marketing that read, “Sanctions are Coming. November 5.” This is obviously a play on Game of Thrones’ iconic marketing which goes back to the very first season in 2011 with the tagline “Winter is Coming.” It’s the family motto of House Stark on the series. Likely no one bothered to tell the president that the Starks’ house words were in reference to hard times for the family, including the inescapable existential dread of death. Hence why later seasons were marketed with “War is Coming.”
HBO was quick to respond. In a statement given to EW, the premium cable giant said, “We were not aware of this messaging and would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes.”
The irony of all this is it’s unlikely that Trump has ever seriously watched Game of Thrones, almost as much as it is unlikely he has paid much attention to the finer details of the Iran Nuclear Deal that President Barack Obama secured in 2015 before pulling out of it—and which he is now poised to completely disintegrate with sanctions designed to put the West on the road to greater conflict in the Middle East.
It is this type of perpetual shortsightedness that led George R.R. Martin, author of “A Song of Ice and Fire” upon which Game of Thrones is based, to compare the president unfavorably to Joffrey Baratheon, the petulant Boy-King (played by Jack Gleeson on the TV show) who’s vanity and ignorance damns his realm to a generational war and leads to the destruction of much of his family’s power and standing.
In 2016, Martin wrote on his blog, “In my lifetime, there has never been a presidential candidate more unfit to lead this nation.” He elaborated in an interview with Esquire last year, “I think Joffrey is now the king in America. And he’s grown up as petulant and irrational as he was when he was 13 in the books.”
This echoes sentiments of Game of Thrones stars Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams who both reacted with disgust at President Trump appropriating Game of Thrones iconography while stoking his own ego online.
Meanwhile, Qassem Soleimany, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has literally responded to Donald Trump with his own Game of Thrones inspired imagery. Let that sink in, global politics is devolving into a contest of Game of Thrones memes between the United States and Iran…
On a certain level this is amusing, as there’s something Kubrickian in the absurdity of a president becoming embroiled with the disapproval of a TV show. Granted Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss enthusiastically would send episode screeners early to President Obama during his tenure in the White House. But Obama is a well-documented fan and is even alleged to have made allusions to the power plays on Thrones, just as he was known to reference literature, history, and even Christopher Nolan movies in meetings… Trump just borrows slogans and robs them of their context. There is something fitting about that.
Game of Thrones Season 8 returns early next year for its final season. President Trump is currently campaigning for fellow Republicans prior to next week’s midterms by claiming he can govern by edict, like a king, and remove birthright citizenship. (He can’t.)