Grooming, Creeping and Chipping Away: The Supreme Court and Game of Thrones





Challenges to Net Neutrality, McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (University of Michigan), attacks on Birth Control – not the always controversial and polarizing issue of abortion  – but birth control.

And smug defenders everywhere daring us to ignore facts 

How did we get here? 

Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker notes that some of the more “outre” decisions of the Supreme Court are first mentioned in the notes and dissents of relatively minor or peripherally related cases. I imagine them to be little trial balloons flying beside canaries to see if they encounter any resistance. And meeting none…

We got here by creeping, grooming and chipping away. 

Chipping Away

Here you don’t attempt to take things on directly. You don’t try to overturn net neutrality. It’s too scary to go head to head. One might lose. You relentlessly weaken the practice and its theoretical foundation, chipping away until they are impotent and effectively marginalized. From there, they can be allowed to limp along forever. (e.g., Head Start, National Endowment for the Arts, United Nations’ dues.)

In the Michigan case, the justices were quick to say that they weren’t ruling on affirmative action, itself, only a state’s right to impose a ban.  I call dog whistle. They’ve been chipping away at it for years. They don’t need to rule against it. For good or for ill, it’s effectively dead.


“Grooming is a tactic of overcoming the survivor’s defenses by slowly desensitizing his or her natural reaction to abusive behaviors. The most commonly recognized context is when pedophiles use it on children and their parents, but the technique is also used in other contexts, such as confidence scams or commercial sex work. Grooming works by mixing positive behaviors with elements of abuse. At the beginning, all behaviors are positive. Slowly, abusive elements are added in amounts that surprise the survivor to an extent, but do not push alarm to a high level. Over time, the inappropriate comes to feel normal.

There’s an important lesson to be learned from Game of Thrones as well. The popular HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s series’ A Song of Ice and Fire stirred controversy in its April 20 episode sparked by changing the novel’s admittedly violent, incestuous yet consensual sex into a rape scene. 

Jezebel notes:

“Sure, it’s still period sex between brother and sister, but at least it’s consensual. Apparently, that wasn’t graphic or disturbing enough for showrunners, though. They’d rather have Jaime push Cersei to the floor and force himself inside her, all while she attempts to fight him off and and cries for him to stop.

As a reminder, this is not the first time that the show has just thrown in a rape for no apparent reason. As Sonia Saraiya at The AV Club points out, they also turned Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding night to Khal Drogo from a consensual sex scene on the page to a horrible rape scene on screen.”

The response from the Executive Producer was predictably lame. 

It is unwise to be shocked by any of this. Game of Thrones was grooming viewers all along. 


Not in one fell swoop but drop by drip, the facades of mighty mountains are sheared into the sea. 

If we don’t stay present and alert to grooming, chipping away and creeping, some mighty drastic changes may catch us completely unaware and unprepared with our own complicity the mortar that binds the brick.


About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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