Should we take the creators at their word when they say they weren't making a political statement?
Should we believe the creators of HBO's "Game of Thrones" when they say their inclusion of George W. Bush's prosthetic head on a spike wasn't meant as a political statement?
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss explained in a DVD commentary — and a statement late Wednesday after the commentary came to light — that they used a prosthetic head of the ex-president because they need lots of heads for the decapitation-filled show. (They didn't explain why they happened to have a fake presidential head on hand.)
But the better case for why it wasn't a political statement?
Because that would be hacky. And Benioff and Weiss aren't hacks.
When your humble correspondent interviewed Benioff and Weiss about the show in April, I asked whether they ever inserted modern-day politics into the show. (I didn't ask specifically about Bush, because no one had noticed the head-spike yet.)
They brushed off the idea, as if injecting current events into their show would be amateurish. They made it sound like that would be such hokey storytelling that I felt a little dumb for even asking about it.
"We're definitely not tempted to do anything consciously," Weiss said. "Of course we're voracious news readers and we live in the world and are very influenced by the world that we live in, so I think enough finds it's way in that way – probably more than enough finds it's way in that way. To try to do it on purpose seems like it would be a mistake."
Added Benioff: "I'm always kind of irritated when I'm watching some period story where it's very obviously trying to make some kind of allegorical statement. It feels like a falsehood. I know that sounds kind of funny when you're talking about the world of fiction. But it doesn't feel like it's coming from the world itself, but like it's trying to be commentary. Like the writer's trying to be clever and teach a lesson."
Weiss concluded, "It means the story isn't about what the story's really about anymore. Which means what it's really about starts to get flat and two-dimensional. I love it when 'South Park' does it though."
Yes, I know how it looks: Hollywood elites disrespect former president. But judging from the rest of their work, Benioff and Weiss are too gifted as writers to think that putting an ex-president's head on a spike would be a smart political statement.
If they really wanted to impale someone, satirically, you would think they would find a sharper way to do it.
You would also be hard-pressed to find any consistent political philosophy throughout "Game of Thrones." And as unpleasant an image as a decapitated head on a spike may be, there is no greater mark of character on the show than being despised by little tyrant Joffrey, the boy-king to blame for the beheadings. Perhaps being portrayed as one of his opponents is more of a compliment than an insult.