I AM a 48-year-old man. I am the father of three children. I have a full-time job. I pay taxes. In every respect, I am a grown-up.
Why, then, am I so inordinately excited about the start of the final season of Game Of Thrones, a television show where one of the principal characters walked into fire and gave birth to dragons?
When you put it like that, it’s difficult to explain. I should have grown out of this kind of fantasy genre stuff by now. Surely.
I was a bookish kid but I was never one of those boys who regarded The Lord Of The Rings as a sort of bible. I don’t think I even made it through The Hobbit.
Yet, here I am, within touching distance of 50, getting myself all agog about the first episode of the last go-round with the characters from Winterfell, Westeros and King’s Landing.
If you are into it, those places will mean something to you. If you aren’t into it, you may think I sound a little bit pathetic. Guilty as charged.
One of the perils of teaching history is you must make every attempt to try keep the students interested in the materials. To this end, you plunder snippets of video where you can. If I’m teaching Christianity, I’ll break up the monotony of my voice with a couple of minutes from The Life Of Brian. If I’m in World War I, I can’t resist giving them the full 25 minutes of the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, when the cast finally goes over the top at the Somme.
The problem with teaching history and loving Game Of Thrones is that it’s too easy to incorporate the latter into the former.
See, George RR Martin, the bearded genius, who wrote the books, is himself a history buff, and many of the characters, storylines and events are loosely based on real people and incidents. His use of history as inspiration can even be problematic. Witness Snoop Dogg explaining why he watches the show: “I watch it for historic reasons, to try to understand what this world was based on before I got here,” said the rapper. “I like to know how we got from there, to here, and the similarities between then and now.”
That troubling take aside, it’s useful to the likes of me.
The other week, I was teaching about the Roman Emperor Hadrian building a wall across northern England’s border with Scotland. As I flashed up photos of what’s left of the structure today, I mentioned that Martin once stood on the wall and imagined what it was like to be a young Roman soldier defending that territory from the wild Scots. That cameo inspired him to create The Wall that is a central character in Game Of Thrones.
Of course, not everybody in the lecture seemed impressed by this. So I asked how many of these college freshmen had seen some or all of Game Of Thrones. Three out of the 35 in the room put up their hands. Three!
I was shocked. I thought all the cool kids, like me, must surely be into the hottest programme on the planet. Recognising my surprise, one guy made a very valid point.
“Sir,” he said, “I was ten when it started so my parents didn’t allow me watch it!”
It was a valid point, except, I told him, he’s 18 now and surely has 80 hours or so to catch up on all the previous series before the new one begins.