Night King from Game of Thrones

Encoding and Decoding Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones DVD Box Art

Warner Home Video released “Game of Thrones: Season 7” on Blu-ray and DVD in December 2017, just in time for Christmas. The television programme chronicles the epic struggle for power and control over the seven kingdoms of Westeros. The fantasy series is full of spectacle, wonderous landscapes and dramatic twists so it is no wonder it achieved critical acclaim and became a global phenomenon.

The box art conforms to many of the format’s codes and conventions, but it is also eye-catching and worth exploring in terms of Stuart Hall’s encoding / decoding model of communication.


Analyse the following DVD cover using ideas from Stuart Hall’s Reception Theory:

  • encoded and decoded messages
  • preferred reading.
Game of Thrones DVD cover
Game of Thrones DVD Box Art

Points to Consider

Your analysis should begin with a comment on the preferred reading of the text. What were the producers hoping to achieve?

Producing a television show, especially one with such ambition and scale as “Game of Thrones”, requires a lot of money and talented people to make it a success. What might appear to be a single vision, or message, to the audience is actually the result of the innumerable decisions made by the set designers, camera operators, lighting teams, editors, stunt coordinator, the ensemble cast, Foley artists and many other teams involved in the production. Of course, each group depends on the other for the final product to be realised. Stuart Hall called this social relationship the relations of production.

For this particular question, it might be useful to acknowledge the make-up artist and costume designer who helped make the actor playing the white walker so monstrous looking. The skill of the artist who created the image of the terrifying dragon is also commendable. Of course, a colourist would then have to make sure the character has the same colour codes as the dragon.

Therefore, when you explaining these important signifiers which encode the message, you could include who might be responsible for the choices by referring to their job title.

Another important aspect of the encoding process is the frameworks of knowledge. What codes and conventions of DVD covers help to deliver the message of the text? Comment on the visual codes used from the show itself.

Finally, since Stuart Hall emphasised the importance of technical infrastructure in his theory, it is worth noting the institution behind this product is HBO, the oldest subscription service in the United States. For their finance model to be successful, they need to deliver eye-catching and large-scale productions to convince the audience to pay an extra fee for the premium channels.

Also, HBO do not broadcast their content over the publicly owned networks so they are not regulated by the FCC. This means they do not have to edit questionable material from their programmes to meet any decency standards or watershed.

Finally, how does the headline provide anchorage for the text?

It is also important to analyse how the message might be decoded. Are there any oppositional or negotiated readings of the text?

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!