Blog Entry #8: Racism in Game of Thrones

In the #RaceFail article written by Nathan Rambukanna, a tweet was shared including Game of Thrones in a list of the article’s #RaceFails.



I was taken aback when I read the tweet because Game of Thrones is easily my favorite show.  I consider myself to be fairly aware of when things are whitewashed on TV, but GoT had never registered as such to me, so I did some research to see what other people are saying about it.

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/apr/29/game-of-thrones-racism-sexism-rape

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lev-raphael/is-game-of-thrones-sexist_b_5240290.html

https://smokeandstir.org/2013/06/22/game-of-thrones-racism-and-white-saviors/



It appears that each of the articles was written right around the end of the third season of the show, which was in 2014, so perhaps the writers would feel differently if they were to update the articles now that we are approaching the show’s seventh season.

Pictured above is Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons (or more commonly referred to as Dany) surrounded by slaves she has freed with the help of her three dragons.

Apparently, the main controversy outlined in the articles is the “white savior” narrative depicted at the end of season 3.  The season ends with a view of Dany (who is obviously fair-haired and white-skinned) being lifted up and carried by the slaves she has freed (which happen to be dark-skinned).  The author of the first article cites this depiction as the reason why she stopped watching the show; essentially, some viewers found it to be insensitive because, historically, slavery in America has been based on skin color and because racism is such a hot topic in our culture.

I hadn’t viewed the scene from this perspective (perhaps I’m blinded because I’m such a huge fan of the show and of Dany-- she IS the true heir to the Iron Throne and rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, in my opinion) and while I fully believe that people are entitled to their own opinions, I can’t help but feel that the offense from this scene comes from a place of ignorance.  While I can definitely understand why the imagery could be considered offensive and poorly done, it appears to me that the author a) did not read the books on which the TV series is based, b) did not appreciate Dany’s arc, and c) jumped the gun a bit with her opinion.

Game of Thrones is a very complex and well-thought out series.  If the author had waited it out and given the series a chance or had read the books, she might have seen that things didn’t work out for Dany when she overthrew the slavers.  And her council is most definitely NOT comprised of only fair-skinned characters of privilege; it is a rather diverse council compared to any throughout the rest we see in the series.  Dany fights for freedom and equality of many different kinds of people.  I think it’s unfair to paint this as a typical “white savior” narrative simply because Dany happens to be white and blonde.  George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones book series, writes slavery in the series from a more ancient Roman perspective; it is NOT race-based and is far more complex (as are many of the plot lines in the books) than what producers are able to show in the given time that the show allows.

Comments

  1. I love GoT! I agree with your assessment of the show and the writers intentions. I think you have provided insights into an important question. Should popular films/shows be evaluated as reflections of mainstream values or is it just "entertainment?" Thanks!

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    1. Jimmie, I think the best shows do a bit of both-- they give us thought-provoking content and entertain us at the same time. I definitely think GoT accomplishes that. Valar morghulis! :)

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  2. I haven't watched Game of Thrones, though I'm sure I would love it. However, based on how you described the scene in question, it sounds like people are looking for racism where there is none. While I can certainly understand why a bunch of dark-skinned slaves being saved by a white girl can give the wrong impression, I just don't feel like that's what the writers had in mind. While it could be looked at as as racist, it could also be looked at as a WOMAN saving a lot of people, something that we don't get to hear about too often. We need to spend more time looking at the positives rather than trying to pick everything apart to find its flaws.

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    1. 10/10 recommend GoT, Jackie! You should make it your summer project to watch-- you won't regret it! And you hit the nail right on the head with your comment about Dany's womanhood being a huge plus. Women have had it pretty tough in the world of GoT, historically, but we are finally getting to a place in the series where women are empowered. I hope that empowerment continues and I get to see Dany re-conquer Westeros and claim the Iron Throne!! :)

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