Oh, for ....
In the first three books of “A Song of Ice and Fire” (and four seasons of the show),
Tyrion has a trajectory that might sound awfully familiar to Obama: He’s a bright and charming man who is nonetheless looked down upon by people who are a lot stupider than he is because they are prejudiced against people who look like him. Despite these obstacles, Tyrion rises high in government, taking on the highest executive office in Westeros, with the title of the Hand of the King. His job as the executive is to rein in an economic crisis as well as deal with an unnecessary war, all while trying to manage a bratty king named Joffrey.
Tyrion does an excellent, if imperfect job, despite these overwhelming circumstances, helping stave off an invasion and deal with other political crises. Despite his hard work and many successes, many in the kingdom continue to hate Tyrion irrationally, calling him a “demon monkey” and blaming him for catastrophes brought on by the king, catastrophes that Tyrion has actually gone out of his way to fix. In the end, this public’s desire to scapegoat him leads to Tyrion’s downfall, as he is blamed for the king’s murder, which he didn’t commit, and has to escape unjust execution under the cover of darkness.
If you substitute “the president” for “Hand of the King,” “the Republicans” for “King Joffrey,” and “secretly born in Kenya” for “demon monkey,” the parallels between Tyrion and Obama are downright startling. Like Tyrion, Obama walked into office with a military crisis and an economic disaster on his hands. Like Tyrion, his efforts to fix things get stymied at every turn by forces that oppose him for political reasons. Like Tyrion, he had a major military victory (killing Osama bin Laden) and domestic victories that prevented suffering, but many refuse to give him credit. Like Tyrion, Obama gets blamed by huge numbers of people who have preexisting prejudices about him, who would rather blame someone they irrationally hate than the truly guilty parties.
It is not so much a question of whether Amanda Marcotte is right or wrong; rather, it is simply a matter of, “Oh, come on!”
And it is true that societies witness and take part in transformations of myth, occasionally retiring one here or there while scrabbling perpetually to create new ones. As Barkerα reminds, nothing ever begins. History, meanwhile, will eventually show this particular mythopoeic play more a question of waterskiing in a leather jacket.
Well, you know, if history bothers noticing this one at all.
This is an important question: If life imitates art so much that we shape our decisions in order to create and align mythopoeia that, circularly, it reflects and reinforces itself, at what point have leapt the carcharodon?
Here, let us try a joke: What if the real lesson of Tyrion that President Obama must learn is that there really is nothing to be done to help a bunch of mostly white people fighting about stupid shit?
It’s not that Marcotte cannot be correct. Rather, it’s just that if she is, then our society is in really bad shape.
Image note: Credit: Reuters/Junko Kimura-Matsumoto/HBO/Salon
α Clive Barker, in Weaveworld, offers one of the greatest openings in modern literature:
Nothing ever begins.
There is no first moment; no single word or place from which this or any other story springs.
The threads can always be traced back to some earlier tale, and to the tales that preceded that; though as the narrator’s voice recedes the connections will seem to grow more tenuous, for each age will want the tale told as if it were of its own making.
Thus the pagan will be sanctified, the tragic become laughable; great lovers will stoop to sentiment, and demons dwindle to clockwork toys.
Nothing is fixed. In and out the shuttle goes, fact and fiction, mind and matter woven into patterns that may have only this in common: that hidden among them is a filigree that will, with time, become a world.
Barker, Clive. Weaveworld. New York: Poseidon, 1987.
Marcotte, Amanda. “Barack Obama is Tyrion Lannister: The ‘Game of Thrones’ theory that explains eight years of demented dysfunction”. Salon. 17 November 2015.