Fantasy and Politics: The International Relations of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2021)
Title: Fantasy and Politics: The International Relations of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones
Stream: Film Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Joel Campbell, Troy University, United States


Fantasy is not a film and television genre that usually has been associated with politics and international relations. The breakthrough small screen success of Game of Thrones brought a full-throated, politically themed franchise to television viewers, as nearly every episode took on issues of leadership, governance, alliances and coalitions, human rights issues, and conduct of war. Virtually every episode was a primer on political power, decision making, and international relations. Other fantasy properties, such as Lord of the Rings, approach politics more indirectly, but clear political themes emerge. Each of the major LOR characters can represent a particular political and international relations approach, such as realism, liberalism, feminism, and the English School. Even such adolescent-oriented or child-friendly fare as the Harry Potter stories, The Golden Compass, and A Wrinkle in Time incorporate political and social themes. This paper examines the characters and events of fantasy series in terms of IR theory. It then uses constructivist theory to suggest that fantasy movies’ and television series’ approach to politics has changed over time, as social norms, values, identities, and institutions have altered. Finally, it puts forward a general guide for examining fantasy properties for their political and IR themes and messages.

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