At a screening of the final episode of Game of Thrones in Moscow, Russia, May 2019
Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

The eight-year-long cultural phenomenon of HBO’s Game of Thrones culminated on May 18 with the fiery destruction of the Iron Throne and the death of the formerly beloved Queen Daenerys. The show’s final season has produced an explosion of commentary on what it all means. What is the appropriate basis for political authority? Can Daenerys be both a feminist hero and a war criminal? Does might make right? Should it, in a time of war?

Among the foreign-policy intelligentsia, and society broadly, interpreting Game of Thrones (and the book series by George R. R. Martin that the show is based on) has become a cottage industry. Every political analyst, historian, or theorist has his or her take on what lessons can be drawn from the story for real-world foreign policy. This enthusiasm tells us something about the show’s political implications: fans and writers argue over Game of Thrones

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  • CHARLI CARPENTER is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and the author of three books on how cultural beliefs shape human security and global politics.
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