This isn’t a review of Game of Thrones, although I’ll say that overall I thought it was pretty dumb. Unlike the TV dramas I have gotten, and do get, caught up in, starting with The Sopranos, there is no depth of character in Game of Thrones. You know right off who the goodies and the baddies are and there is nothing likeable about the baddies and nothing unlikeable about the goodies. I will probably watch another episode or two or more. The computer-generated scenery was kind of nice; it was fun trying to match the ethnography and geography of its fantasy world with those of the real world; and one of the main female characters whom the script strips of their clothes at every opportunity has an absolutely marvelous ass, of a rotundity and heft I’ve never before seen on naked TV and cinematic lovelies. (I feel that I should be able to say this without incurring anyone’s political wrath because I have noticed lately, in personal memoirs and other writings by women, a tendency to express an appreciation of men’s butts.)
But, as I say, this post is not about Game of Thrones. It is sort of about our President, but really about me – which is, after all, the fashionable thing for it to be about.
This is from an article from The Huffington Post entitled “Which TV Shows does Obama Binge Watch”: Obvious choices like "House of Cards" and "Homeland" made the cut, but also some other cable favorites like "Breaking Bad" and "Game of Thrones" were at the top of Obama's list.
And this is from a website called The Wrap: It turns out President Barack Obama is a TV fanboy.
We already knew that Pennsylvania Avenue's most famous resident is a “Homeland” fanatic, but that's not the only small screen favorite that sets his pulse racing.
The president asked HBO Chief Executive Officer Richard Plepler at last week's state dinner for French President Francois Hollande if he could score him advance copies of “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones,” according to the New York Times.
Even before Obama became President, I’d said that of all politicians, he is the only one that I could imagine at a dinner party – meaning a dinner party in our community of aging liberal East Coast intellectuals. Well, I could imagine Bill Clinton at one of those dinner parties, but he would dominate it and it would not be a successful evening. Obama would fit right in. He’d get the jokes, get the cultural references, discuss politics within the same left wing parameters, and know enough not to take anything too seriously. And his taste in television shows would accord with that many others at the party.
I was an avid Breaking Bad fan (until the middle of the penultimate season, when it lost its sense of humor). I watched Homeland assiduously, although I knew it was just as ridiculous as MI-5. I haven’t watched House of Cards – yet – because the original British series of some years ago was so good, and I’m not interested in what I expect is a watered-down half-as-clever American version. True Detective was (or is, if there is going to be a second season) a who-done-it with a plot so gratuitous and uncompelling that if I somehow had never learned how it ended it wouldn’t have mattered a bit; the images of the maniacally displayed corpses of tortured women also were gratuitous, so the show merited being called, as it has been in some quarters, mysogynistic.
When the subject of dramatic television series comes up – they’re really nothing but high-class soap operas, as everyone around the dinner table chucklingly agrees (which is part of not taking anything too seriously) – there are, of course, differences of opinion. I do not think less of my friends Tom and Geri because they liked True Detective and hated Breaking Bad; it certainly doesn’t disturb me. But I am disturbed that President Obama is an avid watcher of the same shows.
Take Homeland, for example. It’s a show with a Manchurian Candidate plot, in which the CIA seems at least as evil as the troubled traitor who is what you might call the show’s anti-villain. It is complex, unreal and silly, with its primary trope being that the hot-shot but psychologically disturbed CIA agent who is set on revealing the traitor’s perfidy falls in love with him. I can watch it and variously be absorbed, outraged and amused by its soap-operatic turns. But if I were Commander in Chief, in intimate touch with the CIA, privy to all its intelligence, signing off on whom to or whom not to assassinate with drone strikes, while incidentally having to take into account the possibility of the collateral deaths of innocent people, I do not think that I would be at all interested in Homeland. It would be as if a post-pubescent teen-ager still watched Sesame Street. It is disturbing that Obama can be absorbed by Homeland; it’s almost as if he is disconnected from the reality of his power.
I wonder how he can be absorbed in any of this stuff? As the leader of the country with the largest, or second largest – I forget – incarceration rate in the world, how can he be absorbed in cop shows? With Russia poised at the border of Ukraine, with the nutty Israelis and their endless occupation, with a nuclear-armed totalitarian state about which we know almost nothing except that its ruler is inadvertently comical, how can he be absorbed in Game of Thrones? Oh, I forgot, there’s that incredible rump.
I know that presidents – and dictators, prime ministers, even, for all I know, Popes – have watched movies in order to take their minds off things since the beginning of Time/Life. But a movie is over in two hours. It is resolved, the mind is at ease, and then it’s back to work. These TV series embed themselves in your brain and are carried around, day after day, week after week. The cliff-hanger that ended the last episode occupies a few of your neurons and can intrude its unresolved, problematical, exciting question at the damnedest moments. It disturbs me that Obama, with everything else on his plate, involves himself with these soap operas. It accords with the disassociation of which some people accuse him.
But, as I said at the beginning, I guess that’s my problem. It obviously doesn’t disturb Obama and that’s what’s important.