I am a user of Reddit. As a subscriber to the fantasy sub-Reddit "GameofThrones," and "A Song of Ice and Fire" (the name of the book series the HBO show is based on) channels on Reddit, it is safe to say that I'm an obsessed fan, and highly informed on the going-ons in this particular corner of cyberspace. When a new cast member is added or a new theory about the future of the characters is proposed, or a funny screenshot is turned into an image macro, it appears right at the top of my homepage.
So you can imagine my surprise when this picture showed up. I didn't recognize it myself, at first, but the comments informed me that it was the head of George W. Bush, mounted on a pike on the walls of King's Landing so the Kingdom would know he was a traitor.
It didn't take long for all media outlets to run with it and for HBO to apologize profusely. The producers of Game of Thrones are sticking to a story that they rented body parts in bulk from suppliers to populate scenes like this and other assorted battle scenes where they need lots of dead bodies and parts as extras.
They say the former president's head was among many others, and that no one realized his had been selected to be mounted on stick to be displayed as an extra with the other traitors. (Though the "traitors" in this show were the good guys, so he was honored, in a way.)
It is entirely possible that a prop head of George Bush showed up in a box of other prop heads. I don't believe they intentionally ordered one from the prop head store. However, someone had to put a wig on that head, someone spent hours staring at the face as they painted on blood, gore, and dirt, someone had to climb a ladder with it and place it, and angle it so that it wouldn't draw attention from the Septa's head in the foreground.
Only way it was an accident was if the people preparing the head to look dead didn't recognize the face. Since they were rentals, its unlikely they arrived from a sweatshop in East Asia pre-painted. The only other possibility is the people who handled the head were locals in Malta (where the scene was filmed) who didn't know who George Bush was, but a cursory glance at the credits for that episode show that not to be the case.
As edgy as the show is, it is a show meant for broad based appeal. Regardless of the producers' political persuasions they likely had no idea. It was probably a private joke between the prop guys who unpacked the box of heads, saw Bush's, and thought it would be funny to include it with the others?
I am not planning on joining the growing boycott of the show ... it would be like someone who was fluent in Elvish skipping the premier of The Lord of the Rings, and I don't think a boycott is necessary anyway. I'm all for goofy easter eggs in tv shows and games, and for poking fun at sensitive issues, but there are some things that are simply not proper. While more subtle than tearing up a photo of the Pope on stage, this was completely unnecessary and shows a startling lack of maturity that reflects poorly among the entire crew.
But in the current president's words, this is a teachable moment.
The media is playing this off as shocking and distasteful, but meekly accepting the apology from HBO and the producers and giving them the benefit of the doubt. (Though we'll see what happens on talk radio and FNC in a few hours.) It is possible the prop people responsible for this may get fired from the show, but unlikely they'll have trouble finding work in tinsel town. This whole thing will blow over and fade into obscurity over the next few days.
However, imagine if that had been Obama's head. Do you think the media would be as accommodating?