Editor's note: Spoiler warning (duh).
On last Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, entitled, Dark Wings, Dark Words¸ the writers of the show decided that they would use the episode as a platform for their political beliefs.
The scene takes place in the forest. A large female knight, Brienne of Tarth, is leading her prisoner, Jaime Lannister, on foot and the two are filling the endless tedium with banter. Specifically, Jaime is asking Brienne to talk about herself, both giving him more ammo to torment her with later and giving us the viewers more back story about one of the series' most interesting characters.
The subject of the late King Renly, whom Brienne had served previously comes up. For those who don't watch the show, Renly was the youngest brother of King Robert and upon the King's death, raised an army to take the throne for himself. Renly, who was murdered in season 2, is also gay and his love affair with another knight (and incidentally, brother of the new queen-to-be) was a minor, but important element to the story through the first two seasons.
The specific line comes up when Jaime jokes, "If the throne was made of cocks, we'd have never gotten him off of it." Brienne, who had been in love with Renly (and refuses to believe he was gay), shoves Jaime hard and raises her arm to strike him when Jaime, in a rare moment of empathy backpedals, saying, "I don't hold it against him, we don't get to choose who we love."
The line immediately caught my attention. Even though I whole-heartedly support gay marriage and agree with Jaime's statement, as a Republican I'm always sensitive to liberals plugging their agenda, out of context, into television and movies.
Game of Thrones is MY show. I have read those books, cover to cover, again and again. I know all the characters, all the back stories, all the history of that world. It is one of my favorite book series, and incidentally one of my favorite television shows of all time. For the writers to inject their politics into it, and by extension attack people like me, whose politics are different than theirs is offensive.
But, after about 30 seconds, a revelation struck me ... Jaime's line isn't out of context at all. In fact, Jaime Lannister is the ONLY character on the show who could make that statement and have it actually be relevant to the show's plot. Why? Because almost all of the events of Game of Thrones are sparked by Jaime being caught in an incestuous relationship with his twin sister.
It's even more directly addressed in the books, but Jaime and his twin sister are truly in love. It isn't merely sexual for them. In that 30 seconds I spent fuming about the unwanted injection of liberalism in my weekly dose of sex and brutality, I realized that Jaime was showing empathy for Renly's situation of forbidden love, because he identified with him, having a forbidden love of his own.
There is no doubt the writers were thinking of this when they wrote that line for him. They are extremely detail oriented, and there are constantly instances of small snippets of conversation from previous seasons subtly reemerging in later episodes.
However, in attempting to show solidarity and acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage, while also advancing the story and giving Jaime more dimension, the writers have inadvertently strengthened a very conservative argument against gay marriage.
One of the main cases conservatives make against gay marriage is the "slippery slope" argument: "If we redefine marriage to include two people of the same gender, what's stopping us from redefining it as a man and his dog?" (Or a father and son to dodge estate taxes, a point actor Jeremy Irons made the other day.)
Well, now I have to ask, "Why not a brother and sister?" We have incest laws that make such a thing illegal, so it's safe to say we won't need to worry about that anytime soon, if ever, but Jaime makes an interesting point. Is he no less in love with his sister? Did he choose to love her while Renly didn't choose to love another man?
It brings up an interesting moral dilemma. If we make that case that homosexual love is no different than straight love, and therefore shouldn't be treated any differently, what does that mean for other kinds of love?
It also brings up the kind of dilemma pro-gay marriage activists want to avoid, because they are trying to make the case that the line conservatives have drawn in the sand on what love is and isn't worth: because that line is completely arbitrary, there is no reason it can't be changed (and many moral reasons why it should).
However the writers of Game of Thrones have inadvertently created a powerful hypothetical story that demonstrates that the cornerstone of the gay marriage argument, that "the line between straight and gay is arbitrary and thus should be invalid," is really no different than the line gay people themselves are drawing between themselves and other kinds of love that are still considered "deviant" by society.
Therefore, the conservative argument, by accident, is successfully made. If we change to accommodate gay people, then by what rationale do we not accommodate people who want to marry their siblings, or children?
The answer to this question is simple. Remove marriage from the sphere of government entirely. Let anyone go through whatever kinds of ceremonies they want. If the point is hospital visitation, etc. ... well, family members can already do that anyway, and we can create civil unions for couples (of any gender composition) who want to get those next of kin rights.
If the point is tax breaks to encourage stable families, we'll create a registry for families, rather than marriages, instead. Whenever a couple births a child, or adopts one, a paper trail is already made and a social security number is generated. Rather than creating incentives for people to get married, create incentives for people to get married and start a family.
Now you don't have the problem of an arbitrary line, because there is no line required. A civil union is merely registering a name (or why not a list of names, for the polyamorous types who are wondering when we'll recognize their form of love too) of people who you feel should be entitled to your estate if you die, or you want visiting you in the hospital, etc.
As for the state and federal benefits, which were put in place to encourage stable, multi-parent homes for the purposes of raising children in a healthy environment, they should only be available to the people who are actually following through on their part of the deal and starting a stable family unit.
A straight couple has to have a child, a gay couple will need to adopt one or get a surrogate, and if a single mother and her child move in with her brother who then gives her financial and parental support in raising the child, don't they need more help than a pair of "dinks" (double-income, no kids)? Why couldn't they register as a two-parent family unit too?
This is the most fair and equitable way to handle the "marriage" question, while not revoking the incentives to encourage two parent house-holds. All the logical games we're trying to play with the definition of marriage today become irrelevant, and the laws we've already written for the purpose of creating and protecting families can finally work as intended.