On Fictional Violence and Naming Children

Note: Contains Game of Thrones Season 8 spoilers

(Note 2: I never thought I would be doing a post on Game of Thrones, but here I am.  Never say never.)

When I first heard about this book/TV franchise, it was years ago, still in the early days of the TV series.  At first I was interested, because a lot of people were comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, and aesthetically there is some similarity.  I read some Amazon reviews of the books (as I usually do) and was a bit disturbed to hear the series is full of heinous, macabre scenes, including frequent sexual violence.  I always pass on that kind of content and decided not to read it.  Frankly, I also expected the hype would fizzle out sooner rather than later.

Well, hindsight being 20/20, I was completely wrong, and enthusiasm for the series catapulted into eight TV seasons.  I’ve been observing the franchise’s progress from afar and, thanks to the media, wasn’t allowed to not know the fact that it finally reached its last season this year.

I wouldn’t have given it much further thought, if I hadn’t stumbled across this story: Latest Game of Thrones episode sends curveball to children named Khaleesi

“Khaleesi” basically means “queen” in this story, and by association refers to Daenerys, one of the female characters and arguably the poster child for the series.  Many viewers had perceived her as a strong heroine, and sure enough, her name and title made it on to baby names lists.

In season 8, the show writers threw in a plot twist in which Daenerys decides to bomb a conquered city with dragon fire, mass murdering innocent civilians.  This may not be shocking material for the series as such, but it poses a real problem for parents who had envisioned the character as a role model, or at least a namesake, for their daughter.

I’m no fan of Bustle, but they followed up on the topic with a fascinating article which suggests Daenerys was always a villain, just not as blatantly.  If that’s so, it could be argued the writers were taking this aspect of the character to the next level, rather than reinventing her.

Not being a fan of the show, the whole outrage doesn’t affect me, but I do find it interesting that:

  1. there is such a high tolerance of evil (yes, let’s call it that) depicted in fictional form, justified in the name of fiction.  And that’s not one or two isolated episodes; it’s a steady diet throughout eight seasons.
  2. anyone would name their child after a fictional character which is still a work in progress
  3. anyone would associate their child with a TV show famous for its violence

It’s hard enough finding a common name without connotations (Twilight managed to taint “Edward”), but naming your child after a fictional character is quite risk.  If the character is new, their legacy is still to be established.  If the character is old, even a classic, they may have a fairly solid legacy, but perceptions can still change rapidly.  Take Atticus Finch, for example (not that anyone’s naming their boy Atticus… or are they?).

As for the violence, I wonder how many people are actually desensitized to it now.  It also begs the question, how much violence is excessive, in fiction?

I’m completely against sugarcoating non-fiction.  Some terrible, despicable things have occurred in history and in recent events – things as bad or worse than are shown in Game of Thrones.  We shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

When it comes to fiction, however, I’m always more skeptical.  As a writer, I can’t help but feel that much fictional violence is really gratuitous.  How do you justify graphically depicting something awful, except to illustrate a historical fact?  And if you’re illustrating those particular segments of history, why are you using fiction as the outlet?  (It’s a question for myself as much as anyone else.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these topics…

5 thoughts on “On Fictional Violence and Naming Children

  1. i've been, when i've thought about it, concerned about the increasing levels of depicted violence in the culture as a whole… i wonder if the population is subconsciously preparing itself for a major holocaust… sometimes i think humans are a pretty sick species…

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  2. It's a strange trend, for sure. What is especially troubling is when moral relativism is worked into it, so that you have the \”good guys\” doing bad things.

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  3. We did take our daughters' names from fiction, but they're also meaningful, classic names that aren't necessarily going to be associated with one particular thing (their middle names are Anne and Jane, for instance). To me, they represent joyful fictional heroines, but… they're not going to be just associated with one character ever. As for violence in pop culture, I feel like it's sort of a cyclical, tidal thing where there's a lot for a while, people get riled about it, it subsides, then it surges up again, people get riled, etc.

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