Funny! But Inexcusably Incompetent : “Game Of Thrones” Ethics

Yes, somebody left a Starbucks cup on the set of last night’s much ballyhooed “Game of Thrones” episode on HBO.

It would be a good exercise to list all the rationalizations one could access to try to minimize such a massive botch, and avoid the likely consequences of making it. Without breaking an ethics sweat, I came up with…

  • 6. The Biblical Rationalizations, “Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
  • 8. The Trivial Trap (“No harm no foul!”)
  • 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
  • 20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy
  • 22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
  • 38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”
  • 50. The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
  • 64A. Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”

As silly as that “one mistake” seems, a head, or many heads, should roll. This tweet from an annoyed fan nicely sums the situation up: “You’re telling me they had TWO YEARS to put together a decent show and they couldn’t even spot the goddamn Starbucks cup in Winterfell??!”

On a major production like “Game of Thrones,” at least one production staff member, sometimes more, has no other duties but to make sure such things do not happen, not even once. Usually the kind of errors you see involve missed continuity, like Judy Garland’s braids getting longer and shorter throughout the “Wizard of Oz.”  Those are bad, but the Starbucks cup is infinitely worse. Moreover, there were probably dozens of people on the set and in the editing process that should have caught that one. They weren’t paying attention, and it is their job to pay attention. In other fields, mass carelessness, incompetence and negligence like that can and do get people killed.

The “Game of Thrones” scandal—yes, the production should be ashamed —struck me particularly hard because a similar experience occurred in a production by my now defunct theater company. We were presenting “MacBird!”, the 1967 political satire on “MacBeth” that is a true period piece. Here I am sitting in the audience, and one of the “witches” (they were hippies in “MacBird!”) walks on stage with a Diet Coke in his hand!

I nearly fired him after the show. I should have. I  nearly fired the director and stage manager who defended him too. (“He was dehydrated!”) The other actors and everyone who saw him with that bottle also got hell from me. They had a duty to stop him, or blow the whistle. Professionals must always be professional, and when they are not, those who rely on them lose trust, and ought to.

I don’t give a dragon’s ass about “Game of Thrones,” but if I did, I wouldn’t put any more energy or commitment into the show after the Starbucks cup cameo. If the artists creating the show don’t care any more than that about what they give the public, then the whole enterprise is tainted and cynical.

That was a demonstration of inexcusable disrespect towards the show’s audience.

But funny!


Source: Decider

43 thoughts on “Funny! But Inexcusably Incompetent : “Game Of Thrones” Ethics

  1. I mean, if you made it to the Starbucks cup cameo in episode 71 of 73…I don’t think you’re going to quit.

    But aside from that, you missed the relevant part of this story. The show runners were in the scene with the coffee cup. Granted, they weren’t the directors of the episode, so it’s probably not their oversight, but obviously they were distracted and perhaps others were too, rather than devoting their full undivided efforts.

    Regardless, given the spectacle of the show, it seems to be a bunch of good ribbing for an otherwise “Job well done.” I’ll use the “king’s pass” excuse mixed with “Who’s really to blame here for such a trivial gaffe that can be digitally removed for a dvd release.”

  2. Are you sure all the young people that work on this show know there weren’t Starbucks in the Middle Ages?

  3. 1) Given that the season 7 ended with a minimum of 2 seasons worth of story lines to wrap up in 6 episodes…HBO stopped caring about attention to detail.

    2) To add a rationalization, the Coffee Cup isn’t the worst part of Season 8…perhaps not even in the top 20 worst parts of season 8.

  4. Jack wrote, “Here I am sitting in the audience, and one of the “witches” (they were hippies in “MacBird!”) walks on stage with a Diet Coke in his hand!”, “I nearly fired the director and stage manager who defended him too. (“He was dehydrated!”)”

    1. Standard rules for consumables while in costume, absolutely nothing but plain water.

    2. If he was dehydrated he should have been drinking water NOT Diet Coke.

    People that intentionally bring things onto a set that are not period should be fired, maintaining the illusion of the period is absolutely crucial to the production. Nothing on a set that doesn’t belong there for the scene. Something as small as a feather falling out of a hat in one scene and left there for a different scene is a complete distraction for the audience, they won’t be able to take their eyes off of it wondering how they are going to deal with it, the scene and the illusion is destroyed.

    Nothing non-period should have ever been allowed on set of Game of Thrones, heads should roll especially actor/crew that put it there, but the person that is supposed to inspect the set and approve it for filming to begin, that person failed and should also be fired, the film editors should have scrapped the scene, someone there should be fired.

    Don’t ever break character and don’t ever bring anything on a set that doesn’t belong there!

    P.S. I’ve never seen any of the Game of Thrones and likely never will.

    • Does that apply to modern underwear? Bras? Feminine hygiene products? Deodorant, which might be seen? (It could happen…)

      Straightened, even teeth? Seems to me the oral care of these characters is not period.

      Sorry, Z: this could get stupid quick…

      • Once, I played a supporting role in “Anastasia”. The ‘Colonel” was supposed to open the third act coming on stage and seeing a Throne I had supposedly acquired from a rental agency and ask “Where did you find that?” The third performance, he was VERY late in his entrance, and had a large chunk of his white shirt sticking out of his fly. Then, he asked “What is that?”, which he continued to do throughout the run. I have to admit that more then once, I considered saying “It’s a throne.” and just leaving it at that. Let HIM figure out how to salvage the botched line. Alas, I never did, and covered for him through most of the play. Would have been fun, but not fair to the paying audience.

      • That’s why you get the big bucks, Slick. 🙂

        For the record, this is the second time this week we have had a program, show in the spotlight that I am not “into”. The other is Star Wars; I thought the movie was great as were the first two sequels… but I base that on the entertainment received, not the “inside baseball” stuff. I’m not complaining– the ethics evaluations are worthwhile and the comment section (peanut gallery) discussions are enlightening.

  5. I am going to posit an alternative view:

    I haven’t watched much of “Game of Thrones”, so this is a shot in the dark, but I wonder if the cup was placed on the set intentionally, kind of an “Easter Egg”, testing if the audience was/is paying attention to detail. Disney is famous for doing it in its animation. Alfred Hitchcock made cameo appearances in his movies, and in “Catch Me if you Can”, Ralph Abernathy (the real one) actually arrests Di Caprio’s Frank Abagnale. So, why is it hard to believe that the cup was left there on purpose? I would bet there are tons of things in the show.

    Anachronisms happen all the time in movies, as noted above. For instance, in “Back to the Future”, Michael J. Fox is transported to the future back to the 1955s. He was supposedly a teenager living in the 1980s. In one scene, Fox plays “Johnnie B. Goode”, a Chuck Berry song, using a Gibson ES 345 semi-hollow electric guitar. That guitar, though, was not released by Gibson until 1958. The premise is that Fox plays a song before Chuck Berry did, thereby insinuating that Berry created that iconic guitar sound, and rock and roll, from hearing Fox play it.


  6. Or…. it could simply the most masterfully cynical episode of cinematic product placement on record.

    I mean, Hanlon’s Razor SHOULD apply here, but… consider 1) the dozens of people on set, 2) the hundreds of people involved in post-production, and 3) the fact that G.O.T. superfans scour every frame for easter eggs and clues.

    Call me paranoid. I smell a rat.

  7. I watched GOT last night and didn’t spot that. However, about 10 years ago (10/18/2009), I saw an episode of Mad Men in which a W. E. B. Griffin book on the bookshelf. Don’t know how I spotted it, but there you go.

  8. I watched Iron Man 3 with my 8-year-old on Sunday night. If anybody has a copy, check out what happens at about the 50-minute mark. Somebody (or maybe just his shadow) accidentally walks in front of the camera, and for some reason, this was not edited out. This was even more disruptive to the movie’s illusion than the Starbucks cup, because when I saw it, I thought it was a new character entering the scene, and I kept waiting for the character to do something. When nothing happened, I backed up the movie to see if maybe it hadn’t really been a person, but there he was, clear as day. And Iron Man 3 had a $200 million budget to avoid screw-ups like that.

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