Appropriating stories from fiction to make a political point is nothing new. It’s certainly not new for the Trump administation, which posted an Instagram image of himself above the phrase “The Wall Is Coming” written in a Game of Thrones-esque font on Thursday: Donald Trump tweeted a similar meme in November (“Sanctions Are Coming”), and he has a history of circulating memes from the darkest corners of internet troll caves.
The response to Trump’s “Wall Is Coming” meme went as you’d expect, too, with many people retorting that the Game of Thrones comparison is absurd, because, on the show, the Wall is a failure. On the surface, it looks like a prime example of Trump owning himself, but you don’t have to look much further to see that a GOT metaphor is just as ridiculous from the liberal position. Who’d ever guess that stitching together a 21st-century immigration policy out of memes from a popular fantasy series is … bad?
Of course, dignifying any of this with more attention is silly. But I am like Don Quixote chasing windmills, and so here I go, running after the futile cause of explaining why “The Wall Is Coming” is a meme that makes no dang sense for Republicans or Democrats.
From Trump’s perspective, I have to believe the phrase “The Wall Is Coming” is meant in the most literal possible way — “There is going to be a wall, and therefore The Wall Is Coming” — since the image also features the latest imagined incarnation of Trump’s border wall, basically an enormous comb sticking out of the ground. But much like “witch hunt,” a term he’s used in a nonsensical, inconsistent, and meaningless way since the 2016 election, his appropriation of the GOT meme isn’t about logic. It’s a meme meant to suggest strength and inevitability, and given that Trump seems to neither watch nor read any fictional content and seems happy to retweet anything vaguely flattering, I have to believe that the existence of an actual wall in Game of Thrones is a happy coincidence for him.
Let’s pretend the comparison with the Game of Thrones wall is on purpose, though, and just spin out the metaphor a little more. If Trump is making an actual effort to use GOT’s wall as a metaphor for his own border policy, the idea would be that, as is the case in Westeros, there is a violent threat lurking in foreign lands (“They’re bringing drugs! They’re bringing crime! They’re rapists!”), and a wall is necessary to keep them away from civilized society. Except that, as many liberals immediately suggested, the entire point of the wall in GOT is that it does not work. So from a conservative standpoint, the “Wall is Coming” meme is stupid because the wall is insufficient as a solution to Westeros’s dangerous immigration problem.
But if you put any pressure on that metaphor, it’s also silly from the liberal point of view. Unlike the desperate asylum seekers and families with young children attempting to emigrate to America to find a better life, in Game of Thrones, the threat across the border is real. They’re zombies! And dragons! The show hasn’t spent much time digging into the Night King’s motivations, but all evidence suggests he is a bad dude with giant ice chains who could inflict some major damage. The wall in Westeros’s North ended up being useless, but it was an attempt to stop an actual existential threat.
The whole thing is a ridiculous misreading, fueled and short-circuited by how pithy the phrase “[Noun] Is Coming” can be. It’s a bad metaphor! It makes no sense for anyone to use in this context. If only there were a good way to get the Reddit meme-makers to do a little close reading before churning out #content, but whoops, there I go again, quixotically tilting at windmills.