What Game of Thrones Says About Morality And Necessity
Like tens of millions of others, I am a big fan of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”. I love the acting, I think the political intrigue is fascinating, and I find the fantasy world in which it takes place to be incredibly enthralling. As someone who has spent a lot of time reading and analyzing manosphere philosophy, however, there is another aspect of Game of Thrones that pulls me in: its accurate depiction of red pill realities.
A warning to some: there are major spoilers coming if you’ve not reached at least the ninth episode of the current season of Game of Thrones on HBO. If you are still waiting to see Episode 9, haven’t read the books and don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.
Last week saw the depiction of arguably the most emotionally charged scene in all of Martin’s series (and, possibly, on all of TV): the Red Wedding. Robb Stark, “King in the North” and eldest son of Eddard Stark (former Lord of Winterfell), was slaughtered mercilessly alongside his bannermen, his mother, and his pregnant fiancé. This is done at the behest of the powerful and vengeful old Lord Walder Frey, whose daughter Robb Stark had promised to marry earlier in the series. Robb went back on this promise, and Frey went ahead with his revenge.
Before I continue, let me note where I stand sentimentally here: I like the Starks. I think that they actually are “good”, “honourable” and possessing of many admirable traits. I also, however, believe that this is precisely their problem. The Starks provide a valuable illustration of a red pill reality crucial to anyone seeking true self-improvement in an often immoral world: “the right thing” is not always “the necessary thing”. Sometimes, one must put aside old notions of what is “right” or “moral” in order to do what is necessary.
There are several examples within Game of Thrones that show Starks failing to understand this and paying horrible prices as a result. In the midst of the death of King Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark found himself at a crucial juncture: he had the opportunity to use Robert’s children (who he has now discovered are actually the illegitimate products of incest, not of the King) to make peace with his enemies and secure the Iron Throne as well as his family’s wellbeing.
Ned Stark received good advice calling for him to do just this, but chose to ignore it in order to do “the right thing”, the “honourable” thing. He backed the “rightful” claim of another Baratheon, the King’s brother Stannis, to the throne, helping to fuel more conflict and instability while putting himself in great danger. Instead of seizing the Queen and her illegitimate children of incest, he took the time to meet her face to face, let her know that he was aware of everything, and threaten to tell the King all about it.
This had the potential to destroy her family and keep her eldest son off of the throne. Despite that, Ned actually expected her to give up and go away quietly—instead, he merely ensured his eventual imprisonment and murder at the hands of her sociopathic spawn.
Robb Stark is very much his father’s son: consistently giving preference to the “right” over the “necessary”. Rob wanted to do the right thing and trust Theon Greyjoy, who he figured was like a brother. This was somewhat understandable in a moral sense (he grew up with Theon), but foolish in a practical one. Theon was a Greyjoy and the Greyjoys had a bone to pick with the Starks, one that Theon was bound to try and resolve himself at some point if given the chance. Robb, anxious to do the sentimentally good thing for someone he grew up with, ignored these realities, even though he was advised not to do so.
Robb also proved himself easily led astray by notions of love, the downfall of many an “honourable” man. As I mentioned earlier, Robb had made a vow to marry the daughter of the powerful Lord Walder Frey in order to form an alliance that could have proven invaluable. He went back on this promise in order to marry a girl he was “in love” with, Talisa Maegyr. Walder Frey was not pleased—he thought he’d successfully pawned a young daughter off and made her a Queen. Now he had nothing, and he made sure the Starks paid for that.
You may be compelled to ask why it is that Robb did what he did. He probably could have still had Talisa on the side as a mistress following his marriage. Talisa may have understood (prettier women have put up with more from less powerful men), and Robb could have kept his alliance intact and preserved a shot at winning the war. He maybe even could have come to care for Roslin as a wife, the same way Ned and Catelyn’s love grew over time. After all, it can’t be too hard to warm to a woman who looks like this:
But Robb, we must remember, is the son of Ned Stark and possibly the most like him of all the Stark boys. Like most “honourable” men, he wanted to marry for “real love”, even if it meant shunning duty. He was also probably morally opposed to the idea of having a woman he loved as a side piece, even if that was necessary (and quite commonly done by men of his stature) to maintain a crucial alliance. Instead he put himself and his entire clan closer to extinction in the name of “love”. It sounds honourable and romantic, but it was stupid, and it got him killed. Had Robb been able to put the romantic BS aside, he could have survived and left House Stark in a much better position than it is. He let his “honourable”, “romantic” feelings for a pretty woman control and, ultimately, destroy him.
A crucial part of the process associated with digesting the red pill is the acknowledgement of the need to put to bed many of the idealistic moral notions you once held sacred or dear, replacing them with more practical, necessary understandings of the world. For many of us that means accepting hard truths like “nice guys finish last”, even though we’d been taught for most of our lives that being “nice” is the best shot at attaining lasting love with a quality woman. We cannot grow and witness true improvement in ourselves without developing the ability to see and accept these realities, even if they don’t fit in with the moral compasses we were handed.
The two male leaders of House Stark provide us with a potent example of what could happen to those who fail to make this transition. Both men grew into influential, powerful leaders, ascending to positions in which success necessitated the ability to operate according to the laws of reality, not just morality. Both men failed to adapt to this, and both men paid the ultimate price. They stuck rigidly to old notions of “honour”, and died with them.
None of the men reading this are kings and none of us will likely ever face the threat of beheading or violent matrimonial betrayal. Like the Starks, however, all of us can derive value from an ability to prioritize “the necessary” over “the right”.
At the end of the day, Robb’s downfall can be boiled down to mistakes we see destroy many men in real life: he found a pretty girl, he became overwhelmed with “honourable” notions of chivalry and romance, he let these notions cloud his judgment and, finally, he was destroyed by them. The ability to look at things with a slightly more cynical and realistic eye in order to avoid such detachment from reality can be invaluable. It might not be needed to avoid the threat of a “Red Wedding”, but it could certainly help you avoid a lifetime of financial, social, and romantic frustration.