Well, a character in a novel saying that something is a metaphor is not the same thing as the author of the novel saying that it’s a metaphor. Gus’s intellectual grasp often exceeds his reach (he calls a monologue a soliloquy, and misuses quite a few of the bigger words in his vocabulary). But I do think the cigarette is a metaphor, albeit a different one for us than it is for him.
Gus’s idea is that the cigarette is a metaphor for illness, and he keeps it unlit and in his mouth as an expression of his power over illness. “You put the killing thing between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” Gus’s thinking here is that HE has the power. This is why he tends to use the cigarette when he’s feeling nervous or powerless. (He’s also using the most famous commercially available carcinogen to make this statement, so obviously there’s a connection there in his mind: Humans can prevent cancer by not smoking; cancer is something we can have power over; your job is not to give cancer the power to kill you; etc.)
But of course Gus is wrong about all of this, or at least almost all of it. You may have SOME control over whether you die of cancer (you can choose not to smoke), but in most cases humans don’t have control over illness. “You don’t give it the power to do its killing” imagines more agency over illness than we actually have, because in the end much of the fault is in the stars, not in ourselves. So to us, the unlit cigarette is a metaphor for our false perception of control, and our urgent need to feel in control. It’s no coincidence, then, that when Gus’s life is spiraling out of control and he finds himself powerless before fate, he tries (and fails) to buy cigarettes.
Four seasons in, most of the surviving women in Game of Thrones have been raped (Cersei, Gilly, a great many background characters), constantly live with the threat of rape (Arya, Sansa, Brienne), or are sex workers.
Intentionally or not, GoT has created an insidious kind of rape culture for its female characters to inhabit. And while it’s exciting to worry about whether Tyrion or Jon Snow will survive to the end of the episode, the fear that Sansa or Arya could be raped is a different matter entirely. After all, no one watching the show has ever had their head chopped off or been forced to fight a horde of ice zombies. Sexual violence, on the other hand, is all too real.
The typical explanation is that GoT is a realistic depiction of a world inspired by medieval Europe, when life was cheap and rape was supposedly everywhere. However, the way women’s bodies are filmed is another issue altogether.
We all know that GoT includes plenty of unnecessary female nudity and sex scenes. Why? Well, the show’s job is to entertain people, so why not make use of that adult rating?
Except this poses the question of which genre GoT is meant to be. Is it a medieval grindhouse series that capitalizes on the desire to see hot naked girls amid all the assassinations and intrigue? Or is it a sweeping epic that delves deep into the horror of the human spirit? The latter has an excuse to include sexual violence on a regular basis; the former does not. Not unless you’re saying that rape is entertainment.
There’s no point to a guy yelling, “Hey sexy baby” at me out of the passenger window of a car as it speeds past. Even if I was into creepy misogynists and wanted to give him my number, I couldn’t. The car didn’t even slow down. But that’s okay, because he wasn’t actually hitting on me. The point wasn’t to proposition me or chat me up. The only point was to remind me, and all women, that our bodies are his to stare at, assess, comment on, even touch. “Hey sexy baby” is the first part of a sentence that finishes, “this is your daily message from the patriarchy, reminding you that your body is public property”.