Head of State

Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have now apologized for this:

It emerged on Wednesday that in a DVD commentary for season 1, the show creators said that one of the many decapitated heads that appeared on “Game of Thrones” last season was a prop likeness of Bush.

“The last head on the left is George Bush,” says Benioff, in the DVD commentary.

“George Bush’s head appears in a couple beheading scenes,” adds Weiss.

I mind, though I’d be surprised to hear George R.R. Martin minds.

And by all means hurry if you want an uncut copy of the DVD because HBO, offering profuse apologies of its own, has promised to remove the offending bit from future DVD productions.

12 thoughts on “Head of State

  1. Perhaps the need to find so many decapitated prop heads for the show that the producers needed to resort to such sources is a more fundamental problem than the insult to one particular president. Maybe they should have borrowed from Disney the prop heads from the entire Hall of Presidents and run them up poles. That would have neutralized any political bias.

  2. Well, the overarching problem is that the show’s creators definitely wanted everybody to know they’d done it. How many people recognized that likeness as Bush’s without being prompted? So they found a way to tell that story with an escape clause – this bogus idea that prop heads are in such short supply they had to use a president – in case it became more convenient later to deny the intentionality of what they had done — all the while knowing those who embrace the prank appreciate that phony excuses are merely an extension of the stunt.

  3. Since this appeared last season and we only found out about it now, when somebody got around to noting a casual remark from the DVD commentary, not from a press release from the creators, “definitely wanted everybody to know they’d done it” seems a stretch. Jumping up and down in glee that they’d done Bush in does not emerge from the story; it sounds more like an Easter egg. Sigh and roll your eyes if you want, but rising up in righteous indignation at the insult to a President (someone insulting a U.S. President? Perish the thought!) quickly gets close to Muslim vs. Danish cartoonist territory.

    As for whether prop heads are in short supply, I don’t know if that’s a bogus claim and neither do you. I think the interesting point is that they needed so many of them that they claimed they had to scrounge around like this. If Game of Thrones were not so gruesomely bloody, the point wouldn’t have come up.

  4. It obviously matters to them. If it was not significant to them they wouldn’t have mentioned it. They would have set the props differently in the first place. Let’s not pretend that craft shops in Hollywood can’t whip up as many fake heads as somebody wants anytime they’re needed. And your attempt to wildly exaggerate my respose seems silly. They put the president’s head on a pike. Why am I supposed to be okay with that? When did that become acceptable political discourse? People would have said nothing if it was Obama’s? (Besides me, that is.) As for that Danish cartoonist, wasn’t he threatened with death? I think saying that the creators of Game of Thrones behaved like assholes in this case falls well short of your hyperblic comparison.

  5. The American political tradition is rich with over-the-top ridicule of the President and every other member of government. Was it “nice” to call Lincoln, “The Original Gorilla” and illustrate him to exagerate his imagined simian features? It was only in the 20th. century that the habit of vile personal caricature fell out of fashion… and then only by comparison with what went before. Political cartooning world-wide has been generally disrespectful of the subject, and what other purpose would it serve?

  6. I think you’ve lost the thread, Taral. Lincoln was assassinated. Maybe that should tell you something.

    Sticking a copy of a president’s head on a pike is a depiction of the celebration of the violent death of the man.

  7. Mike, have you ever heard a DVD commentary before? They are filled with whatever random trivia happened to pop into the commentators’ heads while they’re sitting there, passing the time away watching the movie in front of a microphone. And with something as long as “Game of Thrones”, there’s a lot of space to fill. Such things are by no means necessarily significant to the speaker. They may be intended as no more than passingly amusing.

    And let’s not pretend that the producers are going to go to the trouble, time, and expense to order up extra prop heads when there already are perfectly serviceable ones sitting around.

    Nor did I say you were “supposed to be OK with that.” I wrote, “Sigh and roll your eyes if you want.” Sighing and rolling eyes are not an expression of approval. Just don’t mistake a thoughtless piece of bad taste for an elaborate plot festooned with “phony excuses” to provide deniability. Take off the tinfoil hat.

  8. Why don’t you actually go and listen to their commentary before trying to tell me how they sounded or what they meant. I’ll wait. You can make your own arguments but you mustn’t make up your own facts.

    And is it true that the world supply of fake heads has shrunken, so to speak, to such a desperately low level that the only possible choice was George Bush? All the Halloween shops go out of business too?

  9. I didn’t tell you “how they sounded or what they meant.” What I said was that its mere presence on the DVD commentary is no evidence that “If it was not significant to them they wouldn’t have mentioned it.” If you have anything from their tone of voice to indicate they thought it incredibly important, you tell us. You haven’t said anything of the kind so far: this entire discussion, on all sides, has been about context.

    Your claim was that “the show’s creators definitely wanted everybody to know they’d done it.” That was certainly not their motivation. If it were, they could have announced it at the time of the original showing. The DVD has actually been out for over three months now before anybody noticed that the comment was there. Since then it’s been a pure media kerfuffle.

    Your original post on this was reasonable enough. It was when you started attributing Dark Designs to these guys in the comments that the springs started coming loose and the little cuckoos began chirping.

  10. I’m not going to buy the DVD, or even rent it, just to check out the tone of voice of the commentary. But I have just watched about ten YouTube videos that come up under “Game of Thrones George Bush”, most of which are news reports of the controversy, and NOT ONE that I saw actually quotes the commentary. They all talk about it and give their own opinions.

    Some of them point out that 1) you can’t really tell whose head it is unless you already know, which suggests that, if there was a plot to let everybody know, it was incredibly incompetent; 2) that the character who ordered the decapitations is A BAD GUY, and that another character whose decapitated head is seen was THE HERO until he got killed, which more than suggests that, as a subliminal comment about Bush, the message was morally mixed, at the very least.

  11. If we’re returning to square one, I said I minded they had done this, putting a president’s head on a pike. Your response was to approve the idea so long as it was done in a bipartisan way. Two-party wrongs do not make a right.

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