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‘Jon Snow is our Guaidó’: Venezuelan fans see country’s plight play out on Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones - Season 8 (Official Trailer)

The final season of Game of Thrones begins April 14 on HBO.
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The final season of Game of Thrones begins April 14 on HBO.

“The night is dark and full of terrors.”

This recurring line from the hit show “Game of Thrones” serves from early on as a sinister premonition about the arrival of the Night King — who is to bring a frosty winter filled with darkness and potentially lasting centuries.

This line invoking darkness and terror goes right to the fears of many Venezuelans who live in a country ravaged by an extreme economic and political crisis. Stunned by massive power outages that have repeatedly left them without electricity for days on end, many fans of “Game of Thrones” see themselves in this television fantasy series.

And they find it riveting.

“It is as if [Nicolás] Maduro and his people are the Night King and his fellow White Walkers who want to turn all of us Venezuelans into their wights,” said “Game of Thrones” fan Paola Grateol, 22, from the city of Maracay in the north-central region of the country.

In the “Game of Thrones” universe, the Night King is what is known as a White Walker, a malevolent and unstoppable being. The silent, piercing-blue-eyed villain, along with other fellow White Walkers, leads a so-called army of the dead, a band of zombies called wights. These obedient creatures are the dead reanimated by the magical powers of the Night King.

“Game of Thrones” just started its final season this past Sunday and throngs of fans all around the world gathered in their living rooms and bars to watch the long-anticipated concluding episodes of the iconic show.

In the La Quinta Bar in the Caracas neighborhood of Las Mercedes, around 70 fans sat down in front of a big TV screen to cheer, gasp and let out sighs of discomfort as they tried to decipher the end-game of their beloved characters.

En el Bar de Omar viendo la última temporada 2.jpg
Venezuelans gather at a bar in Caracas to watch Game of Thrones. Humberto Duarte/ Special to the Miami Herald

Donning a “wolf shirt” that is the sigil of one noble family, the Starks, Omar Bartolozzi, 44, also put forward the White Walker allegory: “Just like all the noble Houses in the series are uniting against the White Walkers, we, in Venezuela, are doing the same. We are getting together to beat the dictatorship,” Bartolozzi, who owns the bar, said before the screening, which had subtitles.

Not all agreed.

Bar manager María Ortega, 25, believes that the noble Houses actually conspire against each other just like, she observes, the factions of the Venezuelan opposition do. The result is that the Maduro regime comes out on top, she said.

“There are too many Houses fighting for the Throne in the show. In Venezuela, the opposition is also divided while the government keeps being strong. Just like the Lannisters,” María Ortega said referring to the reigning House in “Game of Thrones.”

For many Venezuelans, the show is much more than a form of escapism. Some fans see the fantasy tale as a disturbing reflection of everyday life in today’s Venezuela. Others cannot help but see in their political leaders the various characters’ behaviors, inclinations and sets of principles — or, lack thereof.

“The Venezuelan state is like King’s Landing under the reign of King Joffrey. Just like Venezuela, his seven kingdoms are a world of looting, death, destruction and chaos,” noted Diosmer Vera, 19, from Puerto Ordaz, referring to Joffrey Baratheon.

This cruel, sadistic king who died of poisoning in the fourth season sat on the so-called Iron Throne in King’s Landing, the capital of the fictional land of Westeros. In the eyes of many fans, the Iron Throne is like the presidential seat in the Venezuelan palace known as Miraflores.

Professor Rogelio Altez, who teaches history at Central University of Venezuela (UCV), argues that Venezuelan culture has been particularly influenced by images. In comparison, in other South American countries like Argentina, Uruguay or Chile, the symbols and metaphors have been taken mostly from literature, he adds.

“In Venezuela, the people on television, such as news anchors, actors or fashion models, are perceived as iconic presenters of the social trends and culture. This society, molded by the television screen, takes refuge in using metaphors in daily life through the television or movie images.”

Professor Altez argues that it is this visual medium that plays into the Messiah-like figures in Venezuelan public life. He is not surprised that Jon Snow, one of the most popular “Game of Thrones” characters, is often compared to the interim president, Juan Guaidó.

“It goes to the phenomenon of Messiah. The Venezuelan society demands it. That is why the anti-Chávez figure must be a sort of savior just like Chávez was for his supporters,” asserted professor Altez, mentioning the late president, Hugo Chávez.

Several “Game of Thrones” memes circulate among Venezuelans. One photo shows the hero Jon Snow facing an enemy cavalry in the epic “Battle of the Bastards” episode.

In the social media meme, the horses symbolize the dozens of calamities that are about to swallow ordinary Venezuelans. Galloping toward Snow to crush him are hyperinflation, hunger, blackouts, lack of water or abductions.

Against great odds, Jon Snow pulls out his sword and is ready to engage the charging horde of enemies. Eventually, he survives and even defeats his enemies. Juan Guaidó, according to many “Game of Thrones” fans here, has found himself in a similar situation in his battle over the presidency with Maduro.

Like Snow, Guaidó is also badly outnumbered. It is Maduro who has the army, paramilitary units and the militia at his disposal — at least for now.

“We can say that Jon Snow is our Guaidó. They are both very popular,” said Bartolozzi, the bar owner. Then he ambiguously added: “Jon Snow should win the Iron Throne. It is his time.”

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