Today’s Outrage Of The Day: “Decapitated” George W. Bush In `Game Of Thrones’

A year old, seconds-long, scene from a show on HBO has apparently become the latest cause for outrage.

The blogosphere is abuzz today with the news that a scene from the Season One finale of HBO’s Game Of Thrones included a scene that briefly depicted a prop designed to resemble the decapitated head of George W. Bush:

In the “Game of Thrones,” you win or you die, and George W. Bush did the latter in the HBO series — by decapitation.

That is, a prop head of the former president appears in the TV show, according to series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in the DVD commentary for season one, the website io9 reports. In a scene in the finale — where the character of Sansa Stark is forced to look at the severed head of her father, Ned Stark — Bush’s head is seen decorating a spike.

The creators insist “it’s not a political statement.”

“The last head on the left is George Bush. George Bush’s head appears in a couple of beheading scenes. It’s not a choice, it’s not a political statement, it’s just we had to use what heads we had around,” Benioff and Weiss say in the DVD commentary.

You can watch the scene in question here:

There are actually two things that are odd about this. First of all, the episode in question, Fire And Blood, aired on June 19, 2011, nearly a year ago, and the DVD for Season One was released three months ago. Given this, one wonders why it happened to be now that this story came out. Second, why didn’t anyone notice this before? The scene is brief, but given the penchant that many have for analyzing these shows scene by scene, one would have thought someone would’ve seen it already.

Once the story came out, the producers came out with the obligatory denial:

HBO responded to CBSNewYork.com’s request for comment on Wednesday night, offering the following statement from Benioff and Weiss:

“What happened was this: we use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush. In the DVD commentary, we mentioned this, though we should not have. We meant no disrespect to the former President and apologize if anything we said or did suggested otherwise.”

Apparently the outrage over this was so immediate, or at least immediate to the extent people started yelling about it when io9 posted the story last night, though, that HBO has now issued an apology. But, really, what’s the point? If nobody noticed this until someone pointed it out, then what’s the point of demanding the apology other than the demonstrate yet again how thin-skinned American politics has become? Yea, there’s something kind of creepy about it, but this is Game of Thrones, a show where gratutious sex and violence are an inherent part of the show. Of all the things they do, this is what you’re going to complain about?

Lighten up, people.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jay says:

    I await the snark from liberals who shit their pants when people dared to make President Obama look like the Joker from ‘The Dark Knight.’




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  2. Franklin says:

    Is the above picture the best shot you see?




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  3. @Franklin:

    If you watch the video, you’ll see the part of the scene they got that still from. That is pretty much all you see of the “decapitated head”




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  4. mattb says:

    It was a tacky move to begin with. It was a far tackier move to then let it get out.

    In the entire history of political attacks, Doug’s right — it shouldn’t really register. And, beyond the tastelessness of it, is it even really a political attack? Hell, it could be spun as an honor, considering that Ned Stark is among the few truly “good” (or at least honorable) men in the first book…

    BTW, I’m still trying to figure out, is it the one in the left or the right? I honestly couldn’t tell.




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  5. jan says:

    Treating any past/present president, republican or democrat, with this kind of macabre-type of bravado, IMO, is disrespectful and out of bounds.




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  6. mantis says:

    the DVD for Season One was released three months ago. Given this, one wonders why it happened to be now that this story came out.

    Because most people don’t watch the commentary tracks, and nobody found that little tidbit interesting enough to put it on the internet for the three months. Why is that surprising?

    Second, why didn’t anyone notice this before?

    Because you can’t tell unless you already know and are looking for it. The head shows about a third of the face for a couple of seconds and is not the focus of the shot.

    What I’m curious about is what was the fake head of GWB created for? It was a leftover prop, but from what?




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  7. mantis,

    That was kind of my point. This is much ado about nothing




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  8. mantis says:

    And, beyond the tastelessness of it, is it even really a political attack?

    No. They needed more heads for the spikes and that one was lying around the prop room.




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  9. And if someone had not bothered to listen to the commentary track on the DVD and alert io9 to it, you never would’ve known about it.

    So, what’s the big deal?




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  10. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    Don’t ask me, mattb, I’m still trying to figure out how James T. Kirk became Michael Myers.




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  11. Tom Hilton says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yup…and the reason it’s much ado is that for the right, every single (perceived) grievance goes to 11.

    The irony here being that in general Republicans would just as soon have Bush safely down the memory hole.




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  12. Eric says:

    I thought the whole reaction is ill-fated as well. But you have to realize that Game of Thrones does feature a whole lot of head chopping. So much that HBO and the producers would just order a big order of all different available heads, instead of making the heads themselves. Even if this was intentional, why would the only scene featuring GWB’s head is barely a small glimpse and no one noticed until the creator commented on it in the commentary?




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  13. Rob in CT says:

    If nobody had told me that was his head, I’d never have known.

    This is just… wierd, really. There’s never really a good reason to do this… especially if, as HBO claims, there was no political intent, it’s just asking for trouble. Game of Thrones isn’t on a shoestring budget. The whole “well, that’s all we had in the prop room” line is pretty silly. Get some more generic heads.




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  14. WR says:

    I demand that Eric Holder resign over this!




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  15. mantis says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Or, they used that head in such a way that nobody could tell anyway, so it didn’t seem like any risk to them. Seems to me that is the most likely explanation, considering nobody noticed and, as Doug notes, there are some very obsessive fans out there. If they didn’t catch it, nobody intended for it to be noticed.

    Until some dumbass decided to tell everyone about it on the commentary track…




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  16. Sirkowski says:

    I thought it was Moon Boy.




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  17. Rob,

    I can’t say I noticed it when the scene aired nearly 365 days ago. It’s one of those things you aren’t going to see unless you know to look for it, then you can’t miss it.




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  18. rodney dill says:

    It’s not a choice, it’s not a political statement, it’s just we had to use what heads we had around,”

    Why didn’t they use Cheney’s head? At HBO they apparently have no shortage of dickheads.




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  19. Rob in CT says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I didn’t actually watch that episode. I’ve read the books, and am in kind of a “meh” place with them (downhill pretty quickly after a strong opening). Plus my wife watched an episode or two with me and hates the show (for the same reason she hated the Sorpranos: she finds all of the characters unlikeable. I tried to talk up Tyrion, but that just wasn’t enough).

    Anyway, it’s clearly an “easter egg” that you find out about because somebody associated with the production TELLS you about it. Which is the wierdest part for me.




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  20. Mikey says:

    Two thoughts come to mind:

    1. Probably a bit of an inside joke by whoever put the props together, figuring nobody’d ever notice it, but spoiled by the DVD commentary. (Or maybe they thought people would notice but didn’t care.)

    2. I know W. was a bit of a partier in his younger days, but somehow I don’t see him ever having hair like that.




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  21. Dave Schuler says:

    I really don’t see this one.




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  22. @Dave Schuler:

    The resemblance you mean? Yea, it’s not readily apparent is it?




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  23. Rob in CT says:

    Mikey’s got it: it’s the hair that really makes it hard to see it as Bush.




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  24. Dave Schuler says:

    No, I mean the outrage. So a prop was re-used. Big deal.




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  25. Rob in CT says:

    Now, about more important things…

    Doug, how ’bout them Yankees, eh? Not a bad little run they’re on. The pitching has really rounded into form. CC is actually not even firing on all cylinders, but it’s been ok. Kuroda looks like the guy we hoped he’d be, after doing Jekyll & Hyde at first. Pettitte looks freaking vintage. Nova is developing nicely. Even Hughes has been good of late, though I refuse to get excited about him. I’ve been down that road too many times.

    The series against the Nats should be fun. You going?




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  26. rodney dill says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The lower head on the left, I can see the resemblance, though some is probably due to the power of suggestion.




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  27. Rob,

    A six-game winning streak is quite nice indeed




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  28. Rodney,

    That’s the thing. Once you know what to look for it is a power of suggestion thing. If someone had shown me that still at the top of the post before this story came out, I have a feeling I wouldn’t have had “George Bush” pop into my head




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  29. Andy says:

    I’ve looked at it twice and I still don’t see it. Is the guy on the left or right supposed to be GWB? The one on the right doesn’t look like him to me and you can’t really see the face for the one on the left.




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  30. Rob in CT says:

    The guy on the left.

    Nobody would ever have made the connection but for the DVD commentary.




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  31. Andy says:

    Thanks Rob.




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  32. walt moffett says:

    @Rufus T. Firefly:

    Easy enough, Kirk and Myers both had piercing personalities.




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  33. brad hamilton says:

    I know that George Bush may have lost his head in this episode, but its good to see that Doug has got “his”head on straight after that detour to crazy he took in defending Florida’s stand your ground law the other day.

    Welcome back to sanity doug.




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  34. Nikki says:

    @Dave Schuler: DING DING DING! Did none of you read the entire article? It was one of a bunch of heads that they rented for the scene. Who among us would stop to think “Omigawd…partisans might take this as a dig at Bush!”?




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  35. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Actually, considering that it was Ned Stark and others who were seen as “enemies” of Joffrey, the little shit, who were beheaded, it could be seen as a compliment to Bush…




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  36. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I wish HBO would bring back “Tales From the Crypt.”




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  37. Dazedandconfused says:

    Looks more like Dick Cheney to me.




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  38. al-Ameda says:

    I’ve got to admit, I have a hard time seeing the resemblance.

    That said, it appears that nobody in entertainment read the memo – the one that says that it is somewhat offensive to depict an ex-president (of any political party) as decapitated.

    Consider however the target demographic for Game of Thrones – probably males between the age of 16 and 55, right? They’re not offended by anything except a lack of nudity in the programming.




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  39. Ron Beasley says:

    I give up – which one is GWB?




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  40. Ken says:

    You know, I told George W. Bush not to trust Littlefinger.




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  41. rodney dill says:

    Here someone did a side by side comparison. I don’t think the whole decapitated head thing is such a big deal, but I do question the observation abilities of those that can’t see any resemblance.




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  42. Just Me says:

    Anyway, it’s clearly an “easter egg” that you find out about because somebody associated with the production TELLS you about it. Which is the wierdest part for me.

    I don’t find it all that weird-I am pretty sure the DVD commentary was intentional. What better way to increase sales of the DVD set than to stir up some controversy and get some hard news coverage out of it.

    I think the outrage is dumb, but I also think using the head was dumb and not very funny and I have a hard time believing the prop and set crews didn’t get a kick out of the joke when the head was used. I also am pretty certain that if a head resembled Obama they wouldn’t have used it and if they had we would see screeching liberals over the use.




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  43. mantis says:

    @Just Me:

    I don’t find it all that weird-I am pretty sure the DVD commentary was intentional. What better way to increase sales of the DVD set than to stir up some controversy and get some hard news coverage out of it.

    Do you really believe that HBO’s strategy for “stirring up some controversy” is to toss in a throwaway line in the DVD commentary that people rarely listen to and hope that several months later somebody might post a comment about it on the Web? They have much better marketing ideas than that. Also, who the hell is going to buy the DVDs because of this?

    I have a hard time believing the prop and set crews didn’t get a kick out of the joke when the head was used.

    Well, sure, but it was set in such a way that it was not at all apparent that was Bush, so they were obviously not trying to make a statement with it either.

    I also am pretty certain that if a head resembled Obama they wouldn’t have used it…

    Of course they wouldn’t have. The Starks are white.




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  44. BobfromCalifornia says:

    @Franklin: Yes




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  45. Eric Florack says:

    It may be much ADO about nothing, but I can’t help but think that were bill Clinton’s head on the post, that the left wouldn’t be screaming bloody murder right now.




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