Culture Clips: Thrones and Zombies and Doctors, Oh My!

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones just roared back for its seventh season. And any way you want to slice it, HBO’s graphic fantasy series (based on George R.R. Martin’s books) is bigger than ever.

For starters, this season’s Thrones debut racked up the most viewers ever for the series, a whopping 16.1 million according to HBO (a number which combines live viewing, streaming and same-day DVR watching). That’s almost double Season 6’s finale numbers of 8.89 million. It’s HBO’s biggest debut ever, too. And Thrones‘ popularity isn’t confined to America, with Time magazine dubbing it “the world’s most popular show” and Salon labeling it the “first global blockbluster.”

It’s so popular, in fact, that British singer Ed Sheeran managed to finagle a cameo in the opening episode—a development not everyone was thrilled with. And, as is often the case, the series’ return also marked the return of statistical analyses and think pieces parsing Thrones‘ content and themes. The Washington Post counted up the fairly large number of folks who’ve perished since the show’s inception (1,243, not counting this season’s premier). Another Time article examined how the show is “changing how scholars study the Middle Ages.” Slate’s Rachel Withers looked at the series’ strong female characters, cautioning that the men in the show shouldn’t take them lightly: “The Season 7 opener was full of powerful women taking charge. Westeros—from the newly arrived queen in Dragonstone to the newly crowned queen in King’s Landing—has become a matriarchy. And yet, the world of Game of Thrones is one in which, much like our own, men fail to take women seriously, often at their own peril.”

Elsewhere in entertainment news this week, director George Romero died at the age of 77. Romero might not enjoy the directorial name recognition of, say, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas or Martin Scorsese. That said, his legacy as the originator of the modern zombie-movie genre (starting with his iconic indie effort Night of the Living Dead back in 1968) continues to shamble forward today. Fellow horror director Eli Roth (Hostel) parsed the subtexts in Romero’s films, saying via Twitter, ” Romero used genre to confront racism 50 years ago. He always had diverse casts, with Duane Jones as the heroic star of NOTLD. … You can trace a direct line from NOTLD to Get Out. And … Romero created the modern zombie. The infectious bite. Shoot the head. Everything.”

Another pop culture icon made history this week, too. The next actor to play the title character on BBC’s Doctor Who was announced: Jodie Whittaker. She’ll be the first woman to play the Doctor, a role that stretches all the way back to 1963. Executive producer Chris Chibnall said of the decision, “I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our No. 1 choice. The 13th Doctor is on her way.”

On the subject of sexuality in culture this week, actress Charlize Theron is thrilled with her character’s explicit bisexuality in the forthcoming R-rated actioner Atomic Blonde. “I just loved it,” she told Variety magazine. “For so many reasons: My frustration of how that community is represented in cinema, or lack thereof. And also, it made perfect sense. It just suited her.”

And then there’s rapper R. Kelly. This week, Buzzfeed reported on parents of young women who they say the rapper is allegedly holding against their will in what amounts to a “cult.” Commenting on the article for The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber notes that celebrities—even those with a record as blemished as R. Kelly’s—are often given a pass when it comes to their alleged misdeeds: “Why, then, would any parent let their daughter near him? The answer presented in [Buzzfeed] piece offers a chilling look at the way that fame and the legal system can create a cloak of impunity for men who use their influence to untoward personal ends. A parent might not let their daughter near the guy down the street who’d been repeatedly accused—even if not convicted—of sex crimes. But ongoing superstar status, seemingly, acts as its own kind of character witness.”

Over on the big screen, smoking has been making a comeback over the last seven years. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that depictions of tobacco use—including cigarette smoking, cigars, pipes, hookahs and smokeless tobacco products—has shot up 72% between 2010 and 2016, with the films La La Land and 10 Cloverfield Lane being recent examples called out in the report. That surge of smoking depiction—causally linked to teens taking up the habit, according to the New York Post—has led to renewed calls to give films with smoking an automatic R-rating. Separate research, meanwhile, has again reinforced the apparent connection between teen use of marijuana and vulnerability to psychosis.

Finally this week, there are some new top dogs in several music-related categories. Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s Furious 7 soundtrack song “See You Again” eclipsed South Korean singer PSY’s viral hit “Gangnam Style” as the most-watched video ever on YouTube, with nearly 2.9 billion views. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s smash hit “Despacito” (which is almost entirely in Spanish except for one verse from guest contributor Justin Bieber) became the most-streamed song ever, with 4.6 billion digital spins. Hip-hop has officially eclipsed rock as the most popular musical genre in America. And songs about sex are now more common than songs about love, according to research reported by The Federalist’s G. Shane Morris.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Inkfeather1 . More than 1 year ago
I've never really understood why people like GOT, isn't it just one of those "everybody dies" shows? I like getting attached to characters. If they're all just going to die anyway, what's the point?
Evan Weisensel More than 1 year ago
Me neither, it always felt like an "edgy for the sake of edgy" to me. My friends who like it are fans of how realistically and in depth they portray the political workings in their world. So, I guess there's that.
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
There's really no point in getting attached to anyone in GOT, you are correct. Most if not all of them either have died or will die; for some people, it's just a matter of how / when / why they will "go."

The problem is, once you get started, you can't stop because you have to know who is going to win the dang war! Will Daenarys sit on the Iron Throne?! (Probably.)

There's also the historical element, which intrigues me; Martin draws a lot of inspiration from Tudors History / The War of the Roses and then kind of meshes it into a new world. (Daenarys / Elizabeth I; Littlefinger - the Earl of Warwick; Cersei - Margaret of Anjou; Jeoffrey - her son; the Mad King Targaryen - Henry VI; etc).
Inkfeather1 . More than 1 year ago
Well, I won't get started then xD I'll just wait until it's all over and find out who won in a single sentence on wikipedia :3 A historical element is cool, but not enough for me. The Witcher series has detailed politics, history, and racial interactions in a medieval fantasy world. And my favorite characters managed to stay alive until the final book :D So I'll keep reading/watching that instead.

No hate for anyone who likes GOT though. I just get too attached to characters to be able to stomach it.
charitysplace 12 months ago
Martin said his goal was to turn tropes on their head; so the good guys sometimes die, the bad guys sometimes win, the children are forced into hardship, etc., but in my opinion it's become more of a literary bloodbath in which some people might just watch / read it to find out the excruciating way this or that character is going to die.

One of my favorite characters is Littlefinger, and I'm pretty sure he's going to die this season. :P
B Evans 12 months ago
I believe Isabelle of France  (the one depicted as wholesome in the woefully historically inaccurate Braveheart) was another inspiration for Cersei - Isabelle had her three sisters-in-law accused of adultery and even imprisoned two of them, had her husband killed with her lover's help and was called the She -Wolf of France.
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
And egads, isn't it a mess trying to discuss the new Doctor with anyone; it has almost instantly joined the list of social topics where everyone is too touchy about the baggage involved to have a good discussion.

Meanwhile... more songs about sex than about love. That's not surprising, considering our culture, but that has to be one of the most depressing things I've ever read. :-(
Inkfeather1 . More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, in recent years companies seem to be throwing out "strong female characters" just to get views, but without developing them to anything more complex than "can kick butt". Usually when they do something like this, the character is flat, boring, and gender is just a gimmick, which would be a terrible thing to happen to the Doctor. Not saying that that's how it will be in this case, but I think people are understandably concerned about it. I'm more than open to there being a female Doctor as long as she can capture the spirit that makes the show and character so great.
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
I think there's a lot of risk involved.

See, when a male Time Lord acts like a total lunatic / rude / dismissive / lets people die while he saves his Sonic Screwdriver, audiences call that "eccentric." They even like it.

They have a bunch of DIFFERENT words for women who act like that.
Inkfeather1 . More than 1 year ago
Yes, that's true. And it will be made so much worse because people are already complaining. I don't think a female doctor will work out. But it's a step in the right direction. Fifty years from now when they try again, it won't seem like such a sudden shift, and maybe that female doctor will be better received. 
charitysplace 12 months ago
To me, it feels like a gimmick when they really could have just rejuvenated / brought back a Time Lady to travel with him for awhile. I'm not sure how it will work out in the ratings, either. I know some people are all "I'm going to watch it now!!" and some people are all "I quit!!" but most people are all talk and no do, so... we'll see. I'll give her one or two episodes, unless I just can't stomach it.
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
I'm sure I'll be over it by December, but I was not particularly thrilled about my time-traveling space boyfriend Time Lord regenerating as a woman. ;)
Martinned81 More than 1 year ago


Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

Inkfeather1 . More than 1 year ago
Wait. What does that have to do with what she was talking about?
bobed More than 1 year ago
There appears to be a "gay" suggestion in the original post.
Inkfeather1 . More than 1 year ago
Uh, no there isn't. She had a "crush" on a character who up until now has been male, so now she has to adjust her "relationship" with the character to something different. Nowhere does she say she is bisexual -_-
bobed 12 months ago
The suggestion seems to be there. You didn't notice it, but I and at least one other person certainly did. The OP hasn't come around to defend herself (himself?), so I guess we'll never know for sure.
charitysplace 12 months ago
Thank you for translating for me. I had no idea I was speaking Klingon. ;)
charitysplace 12 months ago
Some people may want to not leap to such quick conclusions in the future; they can be wrong.
Inkfeather1 . 12 months ago
They're actually almost always wrong, so don't take it personally :) Most everyone understood perfectly what you were saying in your post.