Significant Motifs in a Contemporary Television Series




TV series, sign, motif, meaning, “Game of Thrones”


In this article, we concentrate our attention around some topics which are intrinsically contingent to the state of mind of the contemporary TV series production consumer. Here we try to comprehend some common features, motifs, signs, the meaning of which is not certain; nevertheless, they are present in almost every TV series of our times. We attempt at tracing some significant motifs in the final seasons of such different TV series products as the “Game of Thrones”, “Vikings”, and Norwegian “Okkupert”. The first of them belongs to the genre of fantasy, the second to the historical reconstruction, and the third one is a spurious attempt at modelling the near future where Russia occupies Norway. Nevertheless, we see some motifs, both visual and verbal, permeating all the three TV series worlds.
Let us enumerate some of them. Their range extends from the maxims of political wisdom to simple heathen mythological symbols (e.g. ravens). In our humble opinion, those signs are almost indexal. Their meaning is void of deepness; signs simply refer to other signs of the outer reality, so we have a reference point to start with. So we have some grounds to believe their message.
First of all, their range comprises basic fears of contemporary reality. It does not matter in what imaginary world we find them. Fantasy, as well as pseudo-history, refers to the actual challenges of today as effectively as the TV series situated in. We have political fears, such as Russian invasion, and the TV series “Vikings” reflects it as well as the Norwegian “Okkupert”. We have ecological fears, and the “Game of Thrones” reflects them as well. We have epidemiological fears, but the “Game of Thrones” copes with them easily.
We regard this type of signs or motifs as necessary points of attraction, hints of reality, which make identification possible.
The TV series analyzed here were heavily criticized by Facebook users, especially the 8th season of the “Game of Thrones”. Nevertheless, we can make precisely these Facebook activities a criterion of taking a TV series into account as important. They produce memes and give people useful opportunities to comment such actual events as elections or other political activities through them. Significant motifs which are recognizable in many contemporary contexts facilitate this use of TV series as a comment to reality.

Manuscript received 01.05.2020

Author Biography

Mykhailo Sobutsky, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Dr. habil. (Philology), Professor; Head of the Department of Cultural Studies of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA). Main research fields: psychoanalysis, semiotics of TV series, sign systems


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