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Why We Need “Game of Thrones”

Television series like “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey” increasingly play the role that, say, Balzac or Dickens did in the nineteenth century, serving as both a source of entertainment and fodder for debate. In this sense, our television screenplays have emerged as key tools of social and political analysis.

PARIS – Today’s popular television programs have become the equivalent of the feuilletons that began appearing in newspapers in the nineteenth century. Series like “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey,” like Balzac and Dickens before them, serve as a source of entertainment and fodder for debate. In this sense, our television screenplays have emerged as key tools of social and political analysis.

Such tools can be used to comprehend, for example, the difference between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama. Netanyahu is still stuck in the third season of “Homeland” – that is, obsessed with Iran – whereas Obama, having begun to include the renewed Russian threat in his strategic calculus, has already moved into the third season of “House of Cards.”

Of course, the availability of such comparisons is rooted in what often drives a TV series’ popularity: its ability to hold up a mirror to a society – to reflect its anxieties and longings – and create a window through which outsiders can peer in.

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