Posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2012 by Angie Han
There’s a pivotal scene in the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones in which the spiteful royal Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) orders his traumatized betrothed to get an eyeful of the decapitated heads he’s used to decorate the castle walls. A couple of the faces are ones familiar to poor Sansa (Sophie Turner). But one of the others is more likely to have been recognized by viewers watching at home, because it looks an awful lot like former president George W. Bush — as producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss themselves pointed out in a DVD commentary.
While the pair have insisted that the model’s likeness to Bush is “not a political statement,” unsurprisingly, the choice to use a Bush lookalike rubbed some folks the wrong way. HBO and the producers have since issued apologies, promising to scrub the head from future DVDs. Read their comments after the jump.
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. We just had to use whatever head we had around.
Hours later, HBO quickly released a statement apologizing profusely for the distasteful bit of trivia:
We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste. We made this clear to the executive producers of the series, who apologized immediately for this inadvertent, careless mistake. We are sorry this happened and will have it removed from any future DVD production.
For their part, Weiss and Benioff issued their own statement:
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.
It’s unclear whether the head was actually one designed to look like the former president, or just a random one that happened to look like him. Either way, the link between Bush and decapitation has pissed off a lot of people. But what did Weiss and Benioff expect?
I’m sure that they meant no harm, and that they only wanted to share an amusing bit of trivia about how a Bush-lookalike randomly ended up in their show. However, there’s a vast difference between an anecdote that gets laughs at parties in closed company and one that plays well to a mass audience, particularly when real-world politics are involved.
The producers may not have intended to make a statement, but it’s so easy to understand how it comes across as one that it’s surprising they didn’t think of that before they spoke. Especially considering how insightful their own series is about political power and the many ways, both subtle and grand, that it’s gained, lost, used, and abused.