Paulo Freire and Game of Thrones

      I am a writer, and I currently have two major interests when it comes to what I read and watch for writing inspiration: educational theory and fantasy stories.  The two genres are completely different from each other, but since I’m a Ph.D. student in Language and Literacy Education (Children’s Literature and Digital Literacies focus), and I love to read and watch fantasy, I’m going to draw parallels between two seemingly very different worlds.  Specifically, while I was reading Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed for my Critical Theory 8200 class at UGA, I thought of my favorite scene from Game of Thrones, specifically Season 3 Episode 10: 

    Disclaimer: Do not read ahead or watch the video if you are trying to catch up on the series because there is a small spoiler in it. 

      In this scene, Daenerys a.k.a. Khaleesi gives power to a group of people who have previously been oppressed, which Freire encourages in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  This scene is more compelling if you know Khaleesi’s full story, so I’m going to summarize it.  At the beginning of the show, Khaleesi is sold to a tribe by her brother for his economic and political gain.  She might not technically be a slave, but her brother treated her like one for her whole life.  However, Khaleesi eventually learns now to empower herself, and long story short, she slowly but surely rises to more power, forms political alliances, and gets a strong army for herself.  In other words, she’s an attractive, shy young female who people initially don’t take seriously and who they even mistreat, but she gets tougher and smarter and learns how to not only take care of herself, but also help people who are in a bad situation she was once in herself.  (Can you see why I love this woman?  You do if you know me fairly well).  

     What I love most in this scene is that Khaleesi refuses to take credit for freeing the slaves.  She tells them that they must earn and keep their freedom for themselves, and it is not hers to give them.  She tries to empower the people to make the changes they want in their lives instead of dictating over them, a concept of which Freire would approve.  Throughout the show, Khaleesi makes it clear to the people she commands (as much as possible) that ultimately, it’s their choice to follow her.  I think it’s because she never had a choice in her early life.  Parallel to Freire’s theories, Khaleesi had to realize the reality of her situation (i.e. being oppressed by her brother and initially by her husband) in order to change it.  Once she realized she could change her situation, she convinced her husband to treat her more like an equal and also learned how to teach people to respect her more.  As the show goes on, she becomes more empowered and assertive, and it’s cool to watch.  The part at the end of the video where they call her “Mhysa” meaning “mother” is especially compelling, to the point where I can’t watch it even now without tearing up.  Not only does this woman go from zero to hero, but she helps others to do the same. As Freire would encourage, she establishes a personal connection to those she wants to lead in a revolution. Hopefully, one day, I can be more like her. 🙂  

    Part of why I love Game of Thrones is because it features strong female characters.  I haven’t read the books yet, but I’m told that the writer loved the Lord of the Rings and other traditional high fantasy stories, but wished they had more female characters.  The show definitely shows that hundreds of years ago, women had less power than they do now.  However, many of the female characters in the show empower themselves as much as they can and become at leaders or advisors to those in power.  I look forward to seeing where the show goes in Season 4 and hope Khaleesi becomes even more strong and charismatic.

Being a (Young) Adult in a College Town

       As I’ve discussed with some of my friends, being a young adult (roughly ages 23 to 35) can be an awkward period in life.  You’re not a college student any more, and you’re paying your own bills, but chances are some of your superiors at work are about the same age as your parents.  Particularly if you are not married and/or don’t have kids yet, it’s sometimes hard to relate to some of your colleagues at work, simply because you’re not in the same phase at life.  But, then again, when you’re around college students, you think to yourself, “Yeah, I remember when I did that.  Not anymore.”  It’s a transitional period in life, maybe even more so than college, because you’re not a kid anymore, but…well, you’re not an “established” middle aged person either.  And some of us are crazy enough to go back to school around 2 to 10 years after college because we either want to change careers or further our careers, or perhaps a combination of the two.  As someone who’s currently in this situation, I’ve found that living in a college town as a young professional has its perks and its jerks (a.k.a. not so great things or awkward things).  I’ll start with the jerks because I always like to end on a positive note. 🙂 

1. You’re ready to call it a night at around midnight when you’re out in Athens (or, insert name of another college town).  When you’re headed back to your car to cash it in, the 19 -year-olds are just heading out.  You wondered why the town seemed so dead at 10:30 p.m.  And then, you realized: yes, when I was their age, instead of going home at 11 or midnight, I was just leaving my dorm to go out.  Therefore, you feel old, unlike in the big city, where you still felt like a young’n.  

2. It is harder to eat healthy, and now, it matters.  When I was an undergraduate, I could eat pokey sticks at midnight and still stay relatively fit, so long as I was working out and walking everywhere on campus.  Alas, now, I can’t get away with that anymore.  I no longer have a 19-year-old metabolism, even though I live in a town where that’s the prevalent population.  Therefore, I have to find places with healthy food, and EarthFare is just too expensive when on a Graduate Assistant’s budget (except for an occasional smoothie at the coffee shop).  The solution: Trader Joe’s. 🙂 

3. It’s harder to make friends.  When I was a freshman in college, I lived in the dorm and was on the meal plan.  Those were my main two ways of making new friends.  Now, I live in a condo and buy groceries.  Therefore, making friends is harder.  Fortunately, I already know a few people here, and my program is a nice community of people.  If it weren’t for those two things, I think I’d be in trouble.  

4. People need to re-take driver’s ed.  I think I’ll just say that and leave it there.  

5. You don’t make as much money as you did in the big city, either because you are a G.A. or have a low-level University job (most likely).  Therefore, you have to find creative ways to have fun.  

6. There’s less options for things to do and people to see.  I think I was spoiled after seven years in a big city, but by comparison, my college town can feel sleepy. Sometimes, I feel like I’m in a Vortex that has a way of sucking people in and out, but is also kind of isolating. Hopefully, there’s more of a world in “little A” that I have yet to discover.  

And now……ladies and gentlemen…..for the perks 🙂 

1. Places and things are inexpensive, much more so than in the big city. 

2. In my case, the big city is only an hour and a half away.  Honestly, that’s further than I would like it to be, especially since many of my faves are still in the big A.  But, at least it’s close enough for a weekend trip.  

3. People are friendly and willing to help when you go to stores, restaurants, etc. 

4. The atmosphere is safer.  I was working in a coffee shop today and needed to take a quick restroom break.  I took my purse, but I left my laptop at the table.  It was of course still there when I got out.  I never would have done that in Atlanta.  

5. I don’t have to commute, and there is NO TRAFFIC as compared to Atlanta. 🙂 

6. People see college towns as cool places and as places to go back for football games, at least, if you live below the Mason-Dixon line.  Therefore, come football season, I’ll have more visitors.  Plus I have friends who love music, and Athens is a great music city.

7. There are cool restaurants, indie book stores, and indie stores in general.  Visit them!!   They are a lot of fun, I promise.

So, really, there are still more perks than jerks, if you look at the situation in the right way.  I suppose the solution for now is to grow to love my college town while still making occasional weekend trips to the big city, and continuing to beg people to come visit me. 🙂 And who knows, maybe a few of my friends who are contemplating grad school will come here, which would make me even happier. When it’s all said and done, it’s about what you make of the situation.  And I hope I can make mine into a new adventure.