Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Game of Allusions

The cover to Angie's List recent mailer and a pormtoinal poster for season one of the HBO's series.
As I continue my literary journey through the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin, I can't help but have A Game of Thrones on my mind. Especially satisfying is being able to talk with students about the novels and how they relate to our recent study of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. The common archetypes present in both selections as well as in the ever-popular Tolkien novels, have been been gateways to exciting and refreshing class discussion. That talks occur with teens about story lines from the Thrones novels (interestingly, most have enjoyed the books and not yet seen the HBO series) is a tribute to the far reaching appeal of Martin's literary work, and because both fantasy works share such familiar archetypes (patterns and forms) it is not surprising that we find them resurfacing in even more unlikely places. So widely read and appreciated are the Lannisters and Starks, that even organizations and companies that one wouldn't necessarily associate with the fantasy genre can't help but make a healthy, if somewhat obvious, attempt at appealing to the audience through their promotional materials. One such allusion turned up in my mailbox earlier this month, care of Angie's List.

A concept building off a common euphemism for a toilet, Angie's List's recent mailer featured the headline, "Change of Thrones." The visual accompanying the title utilized a variation on one of the series' strongest iconographic visuals, Eddard "Ned" Stark sitting upon the Iron Throne of Westeros. The combination of both title and visual completes the allusion which at first glance is literary in nature, but given the success of the show, can properly be identified as a cultural allusion, too.

The only aspect that draws me outside the intended reference is the costumed(?) character standing in for Ned. I wonder what someone who has had no prior engagement with the Game of Thrones phenomenon would make of a superhero sitting upon a throne of plungers with toilet paper piled in the background?

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