In a plot twist worthy of American fantasy writer George R.R. Martin, Turkish politicians and generals are feuding over using “A Game of Thrones” to teach English.
Recently a Turkish military high school showed episodes of HBO’s racy “Game of Thrones,” which adapts Martin’s series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire (because, of course, everyone learns a foreign language better when their attention is fully engaged). The course, open to 16- to 19-year-olds, ran for 10 weeks. At the course’s end — good timing, eh? — someone sent an anonymous letter to academy administration asserting that the show featured “corrupted and perverted” sex and portrayed Turks as “a barbarian tribe with perverted religious rituals,” reported the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
The show is known for its occasional rampant sex scenes. Hurriyet noted that an investigating committee determined that “Game of Thrones” could “damage the evolving individual in ways extremely difficult to amend in the future.”
But apparently the main legal issue was the show’s blatant anti-Turkishness.
A scene from “A Game of Thrones,” (HBO)
You heard right. Hurriyet is reporting that the nine officers who showed the series in class are now facing charges for “insulting Turkishness,” a crime punishable under section 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Never mind that neither HBO’s series nor the fantasy novels it dramatizes make mention of any people that ever populated the Earth, and the plot includes dragons, magic and other elements of the supernatural.
The military prosecutor dismissed all charges against the nine. But the Minister of Defense, perhaps a scheming Lannister-type (a particularly devious clan in Martin’s novels) forced the case to be reopened.
Is this another move by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to curb the power of the military? Perhaps. In April, 30 army officers were detained for their roles in the 1997 military coup that overthrew the government and imprisoned the Mayor of Istanbul. That mayor? Erdogan himself.
For him, at least, winter seems to be over.