That said, Victoria had some perfectly reasonable, and very much political, arguments for why it wasn't worth our time. A lot of them have to do with problems that seem to be endemic to the fantasy genre itself, though it's not really clear why. And all of them question why it is that Game of Thrones, while set in some other fantasy world where magic is real and monsters exist, nonetheless makes use of some painfully familiar oppressions and prejudices.
Take, for instance, race. (I realize, of course, that I'm not the first person to write about GoT and race...) Fantasy, in general, gets a lot of criticism for its race politics; those criticisms also get angrily rebuked and denied by a mostly white audience that doesn't want to see them. The Seven Kingdoms, which appear to be rather technologically advanced, as well as politically and economically complex - that is, they bear the most obvious marks of "progress" - are entirely white. And, what's more, the class lines - with the notable exception of Robert Baratheon, at least - seem to follow some tacit racialized hierarchy, where the fairest characters are nearly all aristocrats and the darker ones tend to be grunts, servants, and peasants.
|Jaime Lannister and Drogo. I probably don't need to tell you|
which is the knight, and which is the horse king.
And the Dothraki "savages" across the sea who ride horses and live in tents? They are, of course, racialized in obvious and stereotypical ways - dark-haired, hairy, half-naked, violent, and really fond of their animals. Hilariously, of course, the actors have been chosen because they represent something non-white, rather than a coherent or consistent racial group - Khal Drogo is played by Jason Momoa, who is Hawaiian; the actor who plays Mago is Bulgarian; the guy who played Qotho is a Danish Arab. This is pretty sloppy stuff.
The same kinds of criticism can be made of the gender relations on the show, too. Every level of government - from kings, to lordships, to families - in every community or kingdom - Westeros, Essos, and even north of the wall - is intensely patriarchal, and male characters repeatedly demonstrate their total disdain for women. And unless a woman is married or going to be married to a powerful male character, it seems that the only way for her to gain a modicum of power is through sex work.
So, what's the point of this incredibly obvious summary? The point is that for all its cleverness and surprisingly rich characters, the show's politics are painfully unoriginal and its societies are, while seemingly exotic, are actually quite familiar. That's not to say that it's a bad show, of course - it's not - but to say that it's probably plays it too safe. Martin, like nearly every fantasy writer before him, is unable to imagine a world in which men don't rule women, and in which white people don't think themselves better than non-white people. And is that level of novelty just too much to ask?