Last night, yet another episode of Game of Thrones ended with a wedding gone horribly wrong. If you’re not caught up, yet have chosen to read this article anyway, here are those two words that you were looking for to convince you to click on something else: SPOILER WARNING. (If I could make this neon to appease you, I would, but now you’ve been warned.)
Season 3 of Game of Thrones built to the infamous Red Wedding, where almost the entire Stark family was murdered after Robb Stark’s uncle married one of the daughters of Walder Frey. The internet exploded with the requisite amount of shock and disgust that would be produced by such an audacious plot twist.
The hysteria died down after about a month of memes, reaction videos, and snarky tweets. It looks like we’re about to do it all over again with what has been dubbed the Purple Wedding. King Joffrey Baratheon — easily the most pure, unfiltered villain on the whole show — was poisoned during his wedding feast. Once again, Game of Thrones reminds its audience that getting hitched may not be the wisest decision for someone with aspirations of living past the next 20 minutes.
The two downbeat, gruesome incidents above are merely the most obvious examples of a television show (and book series) with a rather grim appraisal of monogamy. More often than not, marriages are arranged. Attractive, young, guileless royals are bludgeoned into submission by crotchety, cynical elders. Tywin Lannister seemed to take a perverse pleasure in forcing two of his three children into marrying people they have no interest in, purely for the sake of more power and more money. Infidelity is commonplace, and often the only reward for sticking with such a union is death by foul play. The only couple that seems to have any actual love for each other just happens to be comprised of a guy missing a hand and his sociopathic sister.
This wouldn’t bother me nearly as much as it does if I weren’t in the midst of planning my own wedding. I shouldn’t let television (especially television where dragons exist and women give birth to smoke monsters) sneak into my real-life concerns, but it does tend to give you cause to reflect when people older than you paint such a dire picture of an institution like marriage. Do I really want to risk getting my throat slit and a wolf’s head sewed onto my lifeless body… metaphorically speaking?
Yesterday, a few hours before the Purple Wedding episode aired, I was trying a variety of menu options for my own personal blessed event. If you’ve ever been to a food tasting at a wedding venue, it’s kind of like being famous for a day and getting to try on a bunch of expensive shoes. Everyone is incredibly accommodating, smiles broadly at all your jokes, and just wants you to be happy doing something that’s by definition already pretty fun. I get to eat food and honestly appraise the taste without fear of reprisal from the chef? How does that not sound amazing? It could only be better if I was getting a back rub from a supermodel while yet another, prettier supermodel spit beer into my mouth like a human water fountain. By the way, asking the wedding planner if they can get a supermodel to spit beer into your guests’ mouths is a surefire way to get your fiancé to yell at you.
Of course, the downside to enjoying the pleasure of eating a bunch of weird, fancy food all day while people wait on your every need is having to actually agree with your fiancé. She’s got more than a few opinions on everything, which is a trait we happen to share. Our very own Red Wedding almost broke out a few times, mainly over the relative merits of pesto. I think it should be on everything and she doesn’t. It’s an uncomplicated disagreement with a pretty simple solution: I shut up and try to compromise. Giving in is, of course, much less gratifying than a supermodel spitting beer in your mouth, but it’s a lot more rewarding in the long term.
One of the reasons why absolutely nothing works in the Game of Thrones universe is that hardly anyone is comfortable giving in. Compromise and pragmatism are not popular pastimes in this made-up world. All the characters live on the extremes, and have almost no interest in surrendering to the fact that they won’t always get what they want. I can only imagine Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell arguing over the menu. How did they decide on the exact number of doves that would be hidden inside their pie? Should the leftovers go to the homeless or to a bunch of mangy dogs? Buffet style or family style? I bet the only thing they could come to terms on is that all the food should be poison-free, and that didn’t even work out. Weddings are hard.
Real life marriages also can end in death or other forms of tragedy. After 24 years of mostly unhappy marriage, my father died and left my mother to fend for herself. That could happen to me and my future wife too, or to anyone. We could also just drift apart emotionally and want to get divorced. There’s a whole number of calamities that could befall us between now and the end of time. I suppose instead of worrying if I’m going to expire at my enemy’s hand, I should spend more time doing all the things the characters in Game of Thrones don’t do. I should listen. I should be humble. I should be generous and kind. I should also have someone taste my food before every meal.