It’s official. We have reached the end of Game of Thrones season. From April until June every year it is no longer Spring – this is common knowledge – and as we stare into the abyss of 10 dragonless, swordless and skinless months of television, there is one upside. It seemed for the entirety of the sixth season’s run we couldn’t go without stumbling across a major spoiler on social media. Not least for *SPOILER ALERT* Jon Snow’s miraculous awakening from the dead.
The betrayal, dread and anger expressed by many GoT fans who didn’t manage to catch an episode at the first time of showing before falling into the ambush of spoilers was palpable. Not only that, but the sheer scale of social media spoiler casualties projected an air of inevitability about them. It doesn’t matter how hard you tried not to look – odds are you were caught out. This says a lot about our dependence on social media and how it can dictate our lives.
It also made us ask this: how would social media alter the events and behaviour of characters throughout all the war and bloodshed in Westeros and Essos? In an age in which footballers can’t get away with smoking a shisha pipe at 9pm, would King Joffrey feasibly get away with his sadistic past times? When good public image is key to attaining the support of the masses would Eddard Stark have garnered any with his dour Northern persona?
How would social media alter the events and behaviour of characters throughout all the war and bloodshed in Westeros and Essos?
Clearly it’s nearly impossible to cover every facet of how different GoT would be with social media involved, but let’s start from the beginning. The first season’s primary purpose was to lay the foundations for things to come – but would social media have nipped various events in the bud? Would it have exacerbated things to new levels? Or would social media have prevented many of the events in the first place?
By no means did the series take long to shock us. Who can forget the instance of extreme sibling love between Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime in the first episode? Poor Bran Stark was witness to this and nearly paid the ultimate price. But in an age of social media and mobile phones would Bran’s near fatal fall out the window have been too late for the scheming couple?
You could argue that the damage would already have been done. In the time between Bran witnessing Cersei and Jaime’s romp and the Lannister twins noticing Bran, the young Stark boy would have had ample time to send an explicit Snapchat or two to his circle of friends. The resulting screenshots might have been posted on Twitter, causing massive uproar and subsequent damnation of both the Queen and the Kingslayer – or worse.
How different might things have been if Ned Stark wasn’t betrayed by the Lannisters upon his proclamation as King Regent in the wake of King Robert’s impending death? Surely it’s not too farfetched to assume that along with a royal decree King Robert would have posted an announcement on the official royal Instagram page about his plans for Ned Stark. You can rip up a royal decree, Cersei, but Instagram posts are forever.
It’s probably fair to say that pretty much every single event in GoT history would have taken a different course thanks to social media and if we were to cover all those instances, the likelihood is we would be re-writing the entire series. So, outside of the hypothetical situations social media would create there is also the question of how each character would use it to boost their own profile.
You might be surprised to hear that David Cameron has an Instagram account. You might not be surprised to hear that despite ruling a country of around 65 million people he only has around 7,000 followers. Regardless, it’s probably not unfeasible that, as a younger ruler, King Joffrey would have had his own Instagram page to keep the population up to date with his royal doings.
But how would he use it? How honest could he be? Would his Instagram page be a work of propaganda or would it project his true self? Despite the infighting and treachery of British politics in the wake of Brexit, generally it can be said that the level of tyranny, bloodshed and cruelty witnessed in the kingdom of Westeros is a million miles away from our universe. So while David Cameron keeps his Instagram page relatively vanilla (thus explaining his lack of followers) Joffrey might not be the same for a multitude of reasons.
Firstly, let’s look at it from the perspective that Westeros is a dictatorship and Joffrey is the ruthless dictator. It must be said that this summation of Joffrey is rather kind. Joffrey might well be able to have his own unfiltered Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts and have nobody dare question him – it would be brave to do that. One day he might be posting a smiling, bloody crossbow selfie with the hashtag #RIPROS, the next day it might be a family photo of himself, Sansa and Ned’s head on a stick. Life in Westeros goes on as normal. The only difference is people have a better idea of Joffrey’s hobbies.
Here’s the caveat though. The primary reason Westeros is a dictatorship is because it would be more than a little risky for ordinary people to stage a revolt. You can’t stand up to a crown on your own, people are less connected and gathering like-minded people would be difficult to achieve. Social media, however, changes that. In 21st Century Britain, Twitter users have no problem scalding Cameron with every kind of foul language and insults you can imagine in response to the most bland, innocuous sentence. It wouldn’t be unimaginable for a social media dominated Westeros to breed a boldness amongst its population which would be aghast at Joffrey’s misdemeanours. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Westeros would cease to be a dictatorship, but Joffrey would likely have to either a) change his sadistic habits or b) at least not broadcast them on social media.
Since Joffrey is undoubtedly a sociopath, it is very unlikely he would change his behaviour. In fact, it is probably a certainty he wouldn’t. However, even with a management team behind his social media it’s also likely that a more open, educated society would be wise to his misdoings regardless of whether he boasted about them or not. Quite simply, in spite of what #Joffrey posted on his social media accounts he would be met with a barrage of abuse referring to his treatment of his future father-in-law and Kings Landing’s favourite mistress among countless other things. News travels fast in a connected society, and if some of today’s politicians can’t get away with some shady games they played in an elitist club in their 20s, you can’t expect Joffrey to get away with much either.
Also, let’s face it – people are superficial. The masses love a photogenic figure. Look at Justin Trudeau. His mix of boyish charm and progressive liberalism have made him a popular figure in the Western world. But who actually knows any of his policies? In this sense you can imagine that Khaleesi and to some extent Khal Drogo would be the ultimate Insta power-couple. Who cares if Khaleesi developed a slightly merciless streak as the series progressed? Who cares that, before he died, Khal Drogo and his barbarian horde killed and burned entire villages? THEY LOOK GOOD.
Tyrian Lannister would be the ultimate social media commentator one would imagine. Perhaps akin to David Mitchell or Frankie Boyle – except a hundred times more eloquent and popular.
If the ruler of the throne was based on a popularity contest on social media, you can bet that Khaleesi would be the Queen. You can envisage her taking the ultimate throne selfie. Jon Snow, if he used social media would also be in with a shout. But since he spent most of his time with the Night’s Watch he probably wouldn’t have had the time Khaleesi did early on in the series to perfect his social media game.
Tyrian Lannister would be the ultimate social media commentator one would imagine. Perhaps akin to David Mitchell or Frankie Boyle – except a hundred times more eloquent and popular. In between photos of wine tankards you could expect a swipe at the establishment worthy of being retweeted by most of Westeros. Social media would fundamentally change the pecking order of the entire cast. Can you imagine what Stannis Baratheon would post on social media? The real life parody Twitter account Boring James Milner comes to mind. Why would the masses support a character as banal as Stannis when they have a dreamboat like Khal Drogo or a witty, wine-fuelled, anti-establishment dwarf?
Social media helps amplify one’s personality if used correctly and more importantly to a huge audience. If social media was introduced from season 1 of Game of Thrones, the entire landscape and politics would be altered to an unrecognisable state. If social media preceded events in Game of Thrones we would probably be watching something more similar to The Thick Of It. With Tyrion, Littlefinger and Varys acting as the Malcolm Tuckers and the contenders to the throne as the hapless politicians.
That’s not to say that The Thick Of It isn’t wonderful television – it is. Social media too can be a great thing and allows the world to be more connected and open than ever before. But so much of what makes Game Of Thrones great would be lost with the introduction of social media in its world. After all, we don’t watch Game of Thrones for its subtlety.