How To Look At Shield Walls

Where we came from, on the wrong side of the suburb, it wasn’t cool to read. But we were both cool and popular and we did, and it was one of the ways we found each other. That and the fact that I plopped my drunk ass down on his lap at a party and flirted shamelessly with him, the oldest and coolest guy at the party, also very drunk. I was a wildling, for sure. We talked about books and basketball and baseball and blowjobs and then I gave him one right before he gave me the first orgasm I'd ever had from intercourse. At least that was what I thought it was from back then. He told me to read American Psycho and I did and I also ignored my bar customers in the two days it took me to read it while I texted him on a flip phone to talk about it, making sure what we were doing would continue. My thumbs stumbling over the S every time because 7 had four letters instead of three and it just didn’t make sense to me for it to be there, unbalanced. His thumbs stretching for my clit every time to make sure I continued to have that orgasm from intercourse, making sure what we were doing would continue. 

 

Mass media also consists of various layers of meanings superimposed on one another, all of which contribute to their effect.… the hidden message may be more important than the overt, since the hidden message will escape the controls of consciousness…but is likely to sink into the spectator’s mind. 

 

  Lavender Mist , Jackson Pollock. 

Lavender Mist, Jackson Pollock. 

He tried and tried to convince me to read Game of Thrones and I tried to 3 times even though it was only for nerdy fantasy readers that literally collected trading cards and played a game with them back then. But each time, no matter how bad I wanted his thumbs to keep doing what they were doing, I couldn’t get into it. American Psycho at least could be real, I insisted, people get sick in the head. I could handle that violence. I could handle Patrick Bateman torturing women by getting mice to enter their vaginas. But Game of Thrones is so far-fetched, I insisted, what is the point with all of those wolves and stupid rulers and battles and beheadings—that is just an excuse to be violent and its stupid. Sometimes he’d put my ankles on his shoulder and I’d catch him watching himself in the mirror. And I liked watching him watch himself in the mirror. The mirror showed us we were real. 

 

This is in accordance with the assumption shared by social scientists that certain political and social trends of our time, particularly those of a totalitarian nature, feed to a considerable extent on irrational and frequently unconscious motivations.  

 

“Shield Wall!,” he screams, mid-raid in season 1, 2013. Sure, those piercing blue eyes and the tan muscles I could mount, all I’d need was his shoulder to ride on. But that blood. Beautifully splattered. Splayed. Blood like a Pollock painting. I wasn’t supposed to get off on blood and violence. Yet, there I was, off. The layers and messages various, indeed. The Vikings, men mostly, but sometimes the femme wife who could cut it, lined up tightly together, two deep. Holding their round shields, decorated with various marks and colors, out in front of them before taking a knee. All of the arrows flying toward them, taking root in the wood of their shields. While their attackers are reloading their bows they charge. Now in a pile up of enemies someone bellows SHEILD WALL! and again it is perfect. Slashing their spears out from behind their wall, they kill all that is right in front of them. Impressive, these shield walls. Sophisticated. Strategic. Cooperative, requiring the quick action of many in order for it to hold, defend, protect. Protect until the end of four seasons, when a new ruler takes power. A ruler who sees they have become the largest, richest trading center that others will soon be envious of. A new ruler who orders trenches to be dug and a wall to go up to fortify. A new ruler who is a she. With a lover who is also a she. Even hotter than mountable shoulders and impressive shield walls and artistic blood splatter. I didn’t even notice the implications of that wall. But it surely sunk in because these connections came to me in a dream. 

 

This falls in line with the suspicion wildly shared, though hard to corroborate by exact date, that the majority of television shows today aim at producing, or at least reproducing, the very smugness intellectual passivity and gullibility that seem to fit in with totalitarian creeds even if the explicit surface message of the shows may be antitotalitarian. 

 

“And I imagine your offer is free of any marriage demands?” the badass slave-freeing femme queen mother of dragons asks Yara. Yara and her lips that are plump, but without color, and her femme enough hair, but without braids, and her ass, but without a short skirt or a skirt at all, and her smirk that makes me wish she were saying this to me responds: “I never demand, but I’m up for anything, really.” Season 6, 2016. When the camera cuts and I can objectify Yara no longer, I celebrate the strong female characters who are busting up patriarchy and slavery and racism to rule, yes, but differently. Together, in collaboration. Soon after, hundreds of men are marching with identically painted shields across my screen. Not round, but long and narrow, like a full body skateboard. Not taking a knee, but marching. Toward. Not defending and protecting, but attacking. It is not impressive or sophisticated. It is familiar. I’ve seen this on T.V. before, but different. Not just because round shields for protecting are different, but because the shields I remember aren't colored at all but are clear. And the shields were making a wall in the street right outside of the coffee shop my partner and I drank bottomless cups in while negotiating our future parenting philosophies. Different because I saw this in the national news, 2014. And then it went on and on in the news for years as if it were seasons of the same show. Different because this story, the one on the television that is the one I’m living, does not turn me on. 

 

In the example here selected…the dictator is nothing but a bad, pompous and cowardly man. He seems to act with extreme stupidity; nothing of the objective dynamics of the dictatorship comes out.

 

yet. But we have those who are meant to serve and protect us walking the streets with shields, forming walls in the streets where the people, practicing a fundamental patriotic act, protest. And we have threats of a wall, only this one won’t be made of magic and ice. While we don’t have houses or lords or kings or royal families to preserve, we do go on plenty of raids for treasure. We used to have a melting pot of safe haven, and now we have money. Business is our ruler, patriotism our shield. This is not television. We have that cowardly man and his shields and his walls and his need to protect what we hold dear doesn’t actually sound that far fetched to a great many of us: “All over the world, I do business. I make great deals. I've made hundreds of millions of dollars against China. All over the world I make money and I build great things. Who's going to build a wall like me on the southern border? I built a great company.” How to look at television,* seems to be lost on a great many of us who secretly desire to rise from the ranks of poor or boring and march on the wall to protect our honor which has been deemed as pure as Snow. You know nothing, Snow. 

 

(* All italic passages are taken from an essay by Adorno titled How To Look At Television.)


In 1944 Theodor Adorno warned of the “International threat of Fascism: progress is reverting to regression.” By the end of the first month of 2017, most would not deny regression’s occupation of the States. Fragmenting Fascisms, part battle cry, part homage to Adorno, will refuse ‘rational’ connections on the fourth Friday of the month. Zinn has an interdisciplinary background in Philosophy, Women's Studies & Literary Theory and works full time for Corporeal Writing. Find more of her writing at zinnadeline.com