The blockbuster fantasy TV drama Game of Thrones with all of its violence and sex, may be based in part on Taiwan and the nation’s political and military struggles with China.
According to the Washington Post, the fictional island of Dragonstone — a centerpiece in the story — may in fact be a metaphor for Taiwan. The TV series created for HBO is sometimes drawn from “real historical events, and suffused with real lessons for nations and governments,” the Post said, and it does not take a tremendous leap of imagination to see a parallel with Taiwan and China.
Now commanding a worldwide audience — including HBO broadcasts in Taiwan — US President Barack Obama is among the production’s biggest fans and gets advance copies of each show.
Under the subheading “Dragonstone or Taiwan?” the Post said that the most storied house in Game of Thrones is that of the Targaryens, the silver-haired, dragon-riding family that begin the show in exile.
“We learn that the Targaryens once ruled all of Westeros until a rebellion, punctuated by a few hideous slaughters, chased them to a small, craggy isle off the coast called Dragonstone,” Post foreign affairs correspondent Ishaan Tharoor wrote. “Dragonstone exists in the series as a permanent reminder of dissent, brooding sullenly off the shores of the realm. In 1949, Mao Zedong’s [毛澤東] communists defeated the nationalist forces, the remnants of which fled en masse to the island of Taiwan. To this day, Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province, while Taiwan — the Republic of China — in theory claims suzerainty over all of the Chinese mainland.”
“The story of Game of Thrones makes one thing clear, though: It’s the dissidents from the renegade island who will ultimately reshape the balance of power on the mainland,” the Post concluded.
According to the newspaper, beyond its ice zombies and shrieking dragons, the show offers an engrossing meditation on political power and personal loyalties. The TV show compels viewers to root for separatists, who are trying to split away from the tyranny of the capital.
“Moreover, the show reinforces over and over in the viewer’s mind just how unnatural and manufactured the centralized authority of a high king is,” the Post said.
That is not quite the message China’s authoritarian leadership — beset by its own palace feuds, and tales of vice and corruption — would want internalized through its own realm, the newspaper said.
Based on the novels of George R.R. Martin, the series has an international viewership of millions and is said to be the most talked-about show since The Sopranos.
As the Post published its article, the magazine National Interest carried a feature story on Taiwan. Written by Robert Hathaway, director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the article said that Taiwan lives in a “rough neighborhood” and in many respects had been dealt a “tough hand.”
“A senior Taiwanese politician warned a visiting American delegation a few days ago not to underestimate Taiwan. ‘We may be small,’ he conceded, ‘but we are not insignificant.’ These are words worth recalling as the United States continues to look for friends in the world,” Hathaway wrote.