A Culture Clips Blog of Fire and Ice

game of thrones culture clips

In the days before the Internet, before television, before most people even knew how to read, there was the church. And Notre Dame, literally and artistically, towered above many.

In his book The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo wrote that the cathedral was a “vast symphony in stone.” But it was more than that. For centuries, churches were the blockbuster movie of the day, illustrations in stone and glass conveying biblical stories and lessons to the largely uneducated masses. Notre Dame’s massive façade is so filled with illustrative statues that some have called it “the poor people’s book.”

So perhaps it’s fitting that when a fire raced through the 850-year-old cathedral on Monday, the moment—and mourning—likewise spread around the world through today’s sprawling, collective “book” of social media. The disaster’s most poignant viral moment might’ve been footage of the faithful gathering at the site to sing Ave Maria as the church burned, raising hymns to the sky for hours as the flames raged on. But a simple, sweet tourist pic of a joyful little girl with her dad in front of the cathedral—taken about an hour before the first smoke started to appear—has been liked to nearly 500,000 times, too.

Now, attention is turning to rebuilding France’s grandest grand old lady. While French President Emmanuel Macron hopes to have Notre Dame restored in five years, experts say it’ll likely take decades. And the restoration cost will likely be astronomical, though nearly $1 billion had already been pledged in the first 36 hours. (The push to rebuild may also be having a positive ancillary effect on three churches in Louisiana, too, torched by an arsonist earlier this year.)

Oddly, a video game may help in Notre Dame’s restoration, too. The makers of Assassin’s Creed: Unity made detailed 3-D renderings of the cathedral—spending “years” recreating the church for the game. Oh, and other, more scientific, folks have used technology to map out Notre Dame, too. And remember, Notre Dame’s seen rocky times before. Hugo’s famed book was written at a time when the cathedral was in a state of massive disrepair: The popularity of Hunchback, in fact, actually inspired a restoration effort. This latest disaster and restoration will, many believe, simply be another landmark in the building’s nearly millennium-long history. Said New Yorker writer Lauren Collins on a recent podcast for Slate: “The way that we think of the Constitution, for instance, as a living document, [Notre Dame is] kind of a living building, that is constantly dying and growing and changing.”

Speaking of constantly growing and changing and, especially, dying, HBO’s Game of Thrones just began its eighth and final season Sunday night. And after one episode, the ratings are just what you’d expect. About 17.4 million watched the Season 8 premiere, breaking HBO’s all-time ratings record. With streaming figures rolled in, those numbers could be even higher.

Obviously, lots of folks are talking about the season and looking back on the series in toto. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times says that it’s the “greatest show of all time.” Slate’s Kyle McAuley says that it might’ve been the last real vestage of our mostly fragmented monoculture—a show that it seemed as if everyone watched—and Time suggests that while it might indeed be the “last true water-cooler show,” it might be nice to talk about something else around the cooler for a while. And even as the show gasps its last, plenty of folks are still trying to make a buck from it, from wine makers to cookie bakers.

But even as the show draws in its millions of viewers, we should remind you that it’s also, like, super-problematic. Need evidence? Someone calculated all the nudity on GoT and found that, through its first 67 episodes, there were 82 nude scenes. (Season 7 was actually the most chaste of them all, with a mere six.) And The Washington Post is offering an “illustrated guide” to all the 2,339 deaths the show’s encompassed. (How more will be added? Some students may have algorithmed an answer.) And it’s not just hard on viewers, either. Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on the show, admitted that she got pretty depressed and even suicidal as she weighed the online crit from “fans.” On Dr. Phil’s podcast Phil in the Blanks, she said:

People used to say, ‘D–n, Sansa gained 10 pounds’ or ‘D–n, Sansa needs to lose 10 pounds’ or ‘Sansa got fat.’ It was just a lot of weight comments, or I would have spotty skin, because I was a teenager, and that’s normal, and I used to get a lot of comments about my skin and my weight and how I wasn’t a good actress … I would just believe it. I would say, ‘Yeah, I am spotty. I am fat. I am a bad actress.’ I would just believe it. I would get [the costume department] to tighten my corset a lot. I just got very, very self-conscious.

Writing for Relevant, Tyler Daswick acknowledged the show’s problems while still acknowledging that it has been “the show of a generation.”

Game of Thrones’ morality is twisted by any standard—not just Christians’—but its popularity proves a wide cultural tolerance for the story despite (or because of, if you’re pessimistic) its despicability. You might protest to Thrones’ excessiveness and explicitness, but most people don’t, and whether that’s due to evolving TV standards or greater exposure to antiheroes or some psychological sugar/medicine cocktail that sees the fantasy stuff wash down the vulgarity is beside the point. It’s instructive to recognize that general tolerance exists. This is the last massively popular TV show.

We’re running out of space (the internet is only so big, you know), so a quick scattershot of other stories and links for you this week.

A college student apparently fell to her death while taking a selfie, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping folks in swimming suits from taking some seriously dangerous-looking pictures.  Disneyland’s Star Wars-themed land, Galaxy Edge, will be so busy that the park will be handing out bathroom passes so visitors don’t lose their places in line. A good thing, given that they’ll also be offering super-cool-looking droid-shaped drink bottles. (Any Disneyland visitors out there are free to send one to me.) Disney has also unveiled some of what will be included in its upcoming streaming service, including a series based on the gay teen romcom Love, Simon.

But finally, as we anticipate Notre Dame’s ability to rise from its own ashes, let’s close with another comeback tale: that of Tiger Woods. He won The Masters this weekend after an 11-year major title drought, a drought fueled by physical ailments and personal scandals. And while his victory was significant for lots of folks (CBS’ coverage of him added $22 million to Nike’s bottom line, for instance), it held more spiritual significance for Helen Raleigh. Writing for The Federalist, she said, “We should also remember that this week is the holiest week for Christians. Wood’s redemption on Palm Sunday serves as a good reminder for all of us that no matter how far we fall—or how flawed we are—we can all be redeemed.”

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

charitysplace More than 1 year ago
I was horrified by the Notre Dame fire, but relieved when they managed to save most of the stone structure and a lot of the interior treasures / artwork. The loss of that incredible ceiling is terrible -- but it could have been so much worse.

Calling "Game of Thrones" the greatest show in history is a bit premature, IMO. I have a feeling once it's over and done with, and the world moves on, like most shows it will fall by the wayside. But I could be wrong. Of course this season is getting high ratings -- for once and for all, we get to see who wins the Iron Throne! Will it be the White Walkers? ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with you. It is way overrated. It is nowhere near being the "greatest show of all time." My favorite shows are The Flash (actually I really like all of the arrowverse shows, except arrow which I haven't even started) and Monk (most of you probably don't know what Monk is. Look it up. It's on Prime Video.)

Game of Thrones plot is pretty interesting. But the LOTR TV show that is rumored to follow stories in the Silmirillion and other not as well know Tolkien works, will probably better. Sadly, it is being made by Amazon, which means that they probably won't make it as kid friendly. As long as they don't overload it with gore, sex, and language like GOT I'll watch it. 

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Karl The Klown More than 1 year ago
How can you say its overrated when you haven't watched it?

Yeah, I've been watching Monk for years. Its a pretty good show. But I would have to say that The Office is my favorite 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Remember what I said previously about knowing the story and all?

Yes! Monk is amazing! The last two seasons aren't really that good IMO. Even the series finale wasn't how I wanted it to end. It just didn't feel fitting to all the set up.

This is so funny. I can easily see you as really liking The Office. It is really funny. Do you have a favorite episode or season?

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Karl The Klown More than 1 year ago
True. But I don't think you can correctly claim that something is overrated if you haven't directly experienced it yourself.

I don't have a particular favorite. I just finished watching all the eps late last year, so I'd have to re-watch them again to figure out which was my favorite. I did really dislike the season with Robert California. 

I was particular disappointed with how Andy turned out in the end. They didn't do him justice in my opinion.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would definitely agree with you about Andy. I feel like the seasons with Michael were the best ones. And once Jim and Pam figured it out and started dating in (Season 4?) I felt like the show hit its stride. They should have ended it when Steve Carrel left IMO.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
charitysplace More than 1 year ago

I had to quit watching MONK. Toomuch secondhand embarrasment.


Amazon has some good clean stuffthey have produced, so hopefully LotR will be the same. :)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
@Charitysplace: Hopefully, But I doubt it.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
B Evans More than 1 year ago
To be part of restoring and repairing Notre Dame de Paris would be a tremendous honor. Praise God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for such unprecedented generosity in the cathedral ' s time of need.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

So Ubisoft spent years making a detailed version of the Notre Dame cathedral for their game but didn't take the time to make sure that people's faces in the game stayed on.

That's good ol Ubisoft for you right there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Behold! The only good thing to come out of Assassin's Creed Unity!

(Really tho, that is actually pretty cool in regards to Notre Dame.)