Buried deep within this fascinating post about how TV episode recaps changed the way we think about both TV and our lives is a bold assertion:
Our real-life ethical debates tend to bottom out at this point – the point at which, despite living in the information age, we can claim in Facebook threads that the truth is fundamentally unknowable. We no longer believe that we as a society share a common text. There was a time when we all read more or less the same news. That’s no longer the case; newspapers are dying, media diets differ radically depending on political affiliation, and the 24-hour news cycle has eroded journalistic filters and the public trust. There’s deep scepticism about what “the media” tells us, or doesn’t. Reality doesn’t bite anymore, it bends; this makes ethical debates based on real-life events so unstable that they’re almost meaningless. With a camera absent, we can’t even agree on the basics: was Michael Brown shot from 35 feet away or next to the police car?
Television, by contrast, is refreshingly concrete. We all have direct access to the same information, and so we can discuss what constitutes consent untroubled by hypotheticals about whether Cersei was drinking or changed her mind the next day. The fact that Game of Thrones is fiction means, ironically enough, that it feels unmediated. We aren’t reliant on a mythical agenda-wielding intermediary (a journalist, say, or a woman) and can instead witness the event in question “directly”.
If this turn away from real events toward story in the pursuit of ethical truth sounds almost religious, it should. It’s peculiarly Protestant and American. The Reformation was also a turn away from the meddling and potentially corrupt intermediary that stood between believers and the truth: no more priests! No more filters. The believer’s relationship to scripture should be direct. Read the text yourself, listen to the minister, then decide together, as a community, what it all means.