Game of Thrones

Late Capitalism or Latest Capitalism: Game of Thrones Edition

Ads for sandwiches, toilet paper, condoms, and more riffing off Game of Thrones show how market culture is a glorious "perpetual meaning machine."


So Game of Thrones is finis. This seems like a good time to recount how various consumer brands riffed off the show, even episodes depicting what were essentially war crimes. (In the second-to-last episode of the series, Daenerys Targaryen kills thousands of innocent city dwellers with the help of her fire-breathing dragon. As the official Snickers Twitter feed puts it, "Not smooth.")

Indeed, the speed with which brands hitched their wagon to the show demonstrates what the German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger bemoaned as "the capacity of the capitalist society to reabsorb, suck up, swallow, 'cultural goods' of widely varying digestibility" (so too does the rise of Che Guevara t-shirts and t-shirts satirizing those shirts). Joseph Schumpeter famously identified "the perennial gale of creative destruction" as the "essential fact about capitalism." In response to ever-shifting demands from consumers, producer are "incessantly revolutioniz[ing] the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one."

So it is also with cultural expression, especially in an age of meme-ing, deep fakes, and nearly frictionless reproduction. Now more than ever, pop culture (including advertising) is a perpetual meaning machine in which appropriation, reappropriation, and misappropriation are ubiquitous and inevitable. Because of the rise of empowering technology and the related breakdown of gatekeepers, more of us than ever before are joining a conversation once restricted to the high priests of politics, the academy, or the corporate suite.

Folks who believe we are in the days of "late capitalism"—the period in which the internal contradictions outlined by Marx and Engels are becoming visible, suggesting we are only days, months, or years from a proletarian revolution—might want to chomp on a Snickers themselves. In the past couple of decades, increases in international trade have helped to lift billions out of poverty and, even more amazingly, deliver middle-class standards of living to a majority of the planet's population. T

he internet is awash in user-generated content, and whatever you can say about social media, it's made more of us participants rather than mere observers in our culture. That's all very smooth.

Here are some Twitter ads featuring Game of Thrones (courtesy of Lexy Garcia). Enjoy them before we all move on the next thing.

(Lexy Garcia, Twitter)