Why Time magazine’s Game of Thrones cover is brilliant


For its feature article on the HBO show, Time magazine staged a glamorous, eye-popping Game of Thrones photoshoot and we’re kind of in love with it.

It has been a year since Game of Thrones aired a new episode. But that won’t prevent fans from arguing, speculating, and generally obsessing about the show. Every image, trailer, and rumor undergoes meticulous scrutiny, including by Culturess. And with the season 7 premiere coming up soon, the hype is only going to grow louder.

On Thursday, Time provided its own contribution. The magazine made its upcoming cover story on Game of Thrones available online, including interviews with actors Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington. However, as much as I look forward to diving into the article, what really excites me is the accompanying photo.

Just look at it:

At first glance, the gaudy colors and haute couture clothing might seem incongruous with the primal, pseudo-medieval setting of HBO’s fantasy series. It’s hardly surprising that photographer Miles Aldridge has built his career on fashion shoots and advertisements.

But, as Aldridge explains, the image reflects the show’s larger-than-life scope, with its Renaissance-inspired aesthetic. In addition to riffing off fantasy works such as The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones has a tragic quality reminiscent of Shakespeare. Existential anxieties about power, fate, and God(s) suffuse the magic. So, Harington holds a skull like Hamlet (should we be worried about Jon?). A knife lies between Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey (it’s only a matter of time before Jaime and Cersei turn against each other, right?).

Above all, it’s candid. Deep down, underneath the “prestige” label and impeccable production value, Game of Thrones is a soap opera. As critic Margaret Lyons has noted, its political intrigue has always had lurid undertones, entangled with incest, murder, and betrayal. It’s provocative and grand and just a little trashy, and that’s why it’s a legitimate cultural phenomenon. Sure, you appreciate the nuanced acting and thorny politics, but you enjoy the shock and awe – the twists, the deaths, the monologues, the hook-ups. Aldridge’s cover perfectly captures that theatricality, down to the red-curtain backdrop.

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Game of Thrones returns to HBO on July 16.