Friday, 13 January 2017

Game of... Wine? (spoiler alert)

I, like millions out there in the world, love Game of Thrones. Unlike millions out there, I do not drink (for no particular reason, before you ask!) so this blog will be like the blind leading the blind drunk!

Game of Thrones (GoT) has a huge fan following and there is so much to enjoy including:

  • The socio-political feuds between families who may or may not be related to one another
  • The acting, music, setting of the fantastical world of Westeros
  • The witty, sassy and intensely clever dialogue that leaves everybody on the edge of their seat. 
  • The inventive, albeit totally unnecessary sheer violence that viewers are subjected to and we almost crave.

Crave is an operative word. It is a show that wants an audience hooked, hungry for more. It is far too easy to become susceptible to the grip and binge on seasons at a time without any concept of time. I'm pretty sure I watched all of the second season within the space of 4hrs... Not sure how that is possible as each episode is about an hour but it happened.

I suppose in some sense I get hooked, enter the 'meta' of the GoT universe and lose control of my normal inhibitions. Sounds a little like an addiction of sorts right?
I happened to come across this video a little while ago and it really does hit home how prevalent wine is in the show.

A tally is created each time someone takes a tipple and the score is marked against their respective family crest. It really isn't much of a spoiler to see the Lannister family topping the charts.

It seems that in the first 4 seasons alone there are around 176 instances of wine/another alcoholic drink being consumed. That works out to be 44 instances per season, or 4.4 instances per episode. This may not sound like a lot from the show that has shown rape, beheadings, shadow spectral/astral projection births, incest, massacres and many burnings... but in actual fact it kind of is a lot.

An audience witnesses somebody drinking just over once every 15mins. As an audience we are saturated with wine. Now one logical reason for the dependance on alcohol may well be that the water supply may not be considered safe and the processing of alcohol makes the drink safe for consumption. To me the most obvious link is Victorian London, where Cholera was just as common as murder in Game of Thrones.

One huge flaw in this line of thought is that beer exists in the GoT world. Generally speaking, beer has anywhere between 3-6% alcohol content but can be made weaker or stronger dependant on the brand. I can only hope the children in the image below were not absolutely trollied by lunchtime!

Wine, on the other hand, is usually at least 10% alcohol though more often around 12-14% mark. So if you wanted a 'safe' drink in King's Landing, beer should probably the drink of choice over wine... right?

Wrong. I think that is precisely the point that wine is consumed. Wine is intended both represent and undermine the pomp and power of those who consume it.

According to the 'Wine Mix' - the first character to drink wine is a Lannister. Audiences are constantly reminded about the wealth Lannister's have. With this in mind, wine is therefore not only infused with whatever fruit or additional flavours, but status. A lot of the wine consumed is accompanied with a meal, denoting civility and wealth in order to afford the seemingly bottomless bottle to top up the glass. However, a lot of wine is just casually drunk regardless of food and it is in these moments that we see the darker suggestions of wine.

In the clip below, wine is clearly used as a weapon. The final clause of Margaery's sweet and polite offering of food or drink to Cersei Lannister is laced with a shady undertone, as the final clause in her "I wish we had some wine for you, it's a bit early in the day for us" is laced with a shady undertone. The newly appointed queen's use of language is incredibly telling, establishing a clear divide through the use of pronouns as "you" (Cersei) is made distinctly different or other to "us" (Margaery and the other women at the table). This is emphasised even more by the reaction of silence and a glazed glare. This is one of many moments where wine no longer has the splendour or glamour associated with a Lannister. Instead wine is part of the core implication that Cersei is an alcoholic.

Another clip, another Lannister. This time an interesting quote that frames the perils of wine:
"It's not easy being drunk all the time. Everyone would do if it was easy".

It begs the question what makes it difficult, or at the very least not "easy"? The unsustainable health issues of being drunk all the time maybe? Perhaps the high chances of being impaled by a someone in the violent continent? Could it be the cost of affording the endless fountain of wine. Sure, the Lannister's have the wealth for a great deal of wine - but all the elegance associated with wine is immediately lost when those who consume it succumb to the effects of alcohol: slurred speech, loss of inhibitions, generally being a sloppy mess.

I think it would do the livers of Westeros good to have a brief prohibition, or maybe we should just show Cersei the 'wine mom' meme for jokes - what are your thoughts?


Prohibition image: accessed 13/1/17
Tyrion drinking clip: accessed 13/1/17
Cersei and Margaery clip: accessed 13/1/17
Wine mix: accessed 13/1/17
Pinot Grigio gif: accessed 13/1/17