Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Complaining about the race and gender politics of Game of Thrones

Victoria and I just finished the first season of Game of Thrones. I know, I know, it's shameful - we should've been watching a long time ago. (Though, I'll admit, we were even later in catching on to Mad Men and The Wire. The Wire had already ended by the time we started watching it!)

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?


Greg Dubé said...

I largely agree with you on the race issue, but I'm not so sure about the gender issue.

It might have been somewhat interesting if setting was some kind of genderless (BSG-esque?) reimagining of medieval Europe.

But I think the hyper-patriarchal setting actually provides MORE interesting possibilities to explore gender in a way that good, complex television hasn't in the past. Where else on TV have we seen fully-realized female characters negotiate a world where rape, incest, sex work, forced marriage, etc. are a normal part of everyday life?

None of the argument would hold up if GofT was like most fantasy, where women are largely absent or serve only as backdrop. In GofT, they're complete, complex characters driving their own storylines and just as engaged in the power struggles that define the show.

I think the way the women negotiate their roles within the medieval patriarchal social context ends up being one of the most interesting themes of the series (maybe emerging somewhat more evidently in the second season).

Catch up!

Nathan Plastic said...

I agree almost entirely with Greg (although he's said it more eloquently than I could have). The second season, in particular, does deal more specifically with the struggles of the female characters in that respect. Cersei had a great monologue (more or less) in the most recent episode on how her upbringing differed from Jaime's.

Anyways, I don't have an issue with the portrayal of a clearly sexist society, as I don't remotely get the impression that Martin (or the showrunners) actually endorse that sort of society. Martin seems to comment on it, often, through the objections of his characters. This is in pretty stark contrast to, say, Tokien, who really does seem to buy into notions of racial guilt and who constructed a fantasy world in which virtue and intrinsic "goodness" are objectively tied to the skin colour/height of the members of a society. I *do* have an issue with the use of lingering/panning nude shots of female characters. Often the characters in question are non-speaking roles so they're reduced to gratuitous (sexy!) furniture; there's one particularly egregious scene in S01 featuring Littlefinger and two of his 'emloyees' that comes to mind. Of course if they just added some exploitative male nudity I wouldn't have an issue with this at all...

On the race front, I think the series is clearly Euro-centric, and that can't really be defended. In the books, the Dothraki were apparently pretty straightforward analogues to the Mongols. I've read online that the producers wanted to make them ethnically ambiguous in order to avoid seeming as though they were stereotyping a specific real-world group. But the end effect is that the only clearly non-European-like society on the show are savage barbarians, so I don't know if that was a smart choice.

neilshyminsky said...

But the trope of the strong woman in a hyper-patriarchal world is actually a pretty prevalent one in fantasy and sci-fi. (Not, obviously, in the most famous and conservative series, like a Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Sword of Shannara. But every fantasy series looks feminist and anti-racist in comparison to LotR.) And they're always framed as exceptions that prove the rule: Danaerys isn't evidence that women are strong enough to lead, she's a superhuman and, thus, not really a woman at all. The women who work in brothels look worse by comparison - think of the 'model minority' or exceptional other, who's used to punish people who can't live up to the model that they prescribe - not better.

All that said, I'm totally in agreement that the women we follow are interesting, intelligent, and complex. But would it kill someone to give us a matriarchal - or at least gender-fucked - system every once in a while?

neilshyminsky said...

And in response to Nathan... the problem is that it doesn't matter, ultimately, whether George R.R. Martin endorses the type of society that he's representing. The fact that it has representation lends it some implicit legitimacy - it's familiar, and familiarity breeds acceptance. (Conversely, I think we'd all agree that unfamiliarity breeds contempt, or at least mistrust.)

The problem is that the audience 'misunderstands' the message all the time. For example, Alan Moore has said numerous times that the fan reception to Rorschach in The Watchmen has horrified him, because he was supposed to be the perverted end-result of the 80s anti-hero trend. But it turned out that people looked past the critique (either ignored it or didn't see it) and loved him, and now some of Rorschach's descendants make him look tame by comparison.

So, you can make the TV series and you can criticize patriarchy and you can include powerful women. But you run the risk that people will only notice that patriarchy, at least as it appears in the patriarchal world that you've created, is sexy.

Nathan Plastic said...

Well I'll have to disagree, then: I don't see why an artist's intention isn't crucial to appreciating/understanding the art. "Ultimately" all that matters about a piece of art is how it is received by the audience? I'll agree that people can misunderstand things. What of it? Is Watchmen invalidated because the lesson comic companies took away from it was "vigilantes are awesome" and it led to years of comics with scowling Liefeld anti-heroes?

People can misunderstand. That being said, I think that it would take an awfully obstuse viewer to miss the fact that so many women and girl characters rail against the unfairness of their situation. This is the case especially in season 2, which introduces Yara Greyjoy, Ygritte, and Brienne of Tarth and expands Osha's role (she has a particularly good scene challenging Theon Greyjoy as to why she should address him as 'Lord'). There *is* sexism in this show, but the portrayal of a patriarchal word is not, in and of itself, sexist. At least I would think not. But you seem to be asserting that it is?

PS. I think that in your response to Greg, you've cherry-picked the character who is the most poorly-realized in all of season one and who is literally magic. (I've just finished a second viewing of the season and she's utterly unbelievable in so many ways).

Malty Tasker said...

There are lots of intelligent comments in the posts. I mostly agree with Greg and Nathan, though Neil's question of "would it kill someone to give us a matriarchal - or at least gender-fucked - system every once in a while?" is entirely valid. However what makes this GoT's job? I maintain that the portrayal of the extreme violences of/through/enacted by the use of gendered norms and bodies is not necessarily negative. It is difficult, uncomfortable, and ambiguous. That ambiguity can facilitate reinscribing these norms, but I feel that this show (books I haven't read) mainly seeks to make this gendering offensive to the audience.

On the race front, it is difficult to maintain the same and is, obviously, more egregious and troublesome. However, I would venture to say that the "Europeans," on the show come off as pretty fucking savage as well and perhaps more so, if however more in line with our cultural norms and the cultural references of the author. This isn't to say there aren't problematic racializations on the show, but rather to say they too are nuanced, if less extremely so than the more problematized gender roles.

Jen said...

I tend to agree that having heavily patriarchal settings can create interesting possibilities for female characters. I very much enjoy Game of Thrones and have particularly enjoyed the parallels between Arya and Sansa Stark's stories. However, I am often a little bit bothered by the over the top brothel scenes. When it comes to female characters the story is meant to be invested in telling a fairly realistic account of how women negotiate living and gaining power in a sexist society. Yet when it comes to telling the story of prostitutes this authenticity is thrown out the window in favour of brazilian waxes, hairless armpits, glossy hair and happy hookers. At that point it feels like the show isn't particularly interested in exploring the reality of women in a hyper-patriarchal society but rather aiming to titillate the straight male audience. The meta-message that sends is that it's always more important to sexualise a woman than it is to hear her story or know who she is.

I think you are right though and that the great shame of high fantasy is that it so often cannot imagine a world that isn't infected with sexism and racism. Game of Thrones is one of my favourite shows on tv at the moment but it definitely has its flaws.

neilshyminsky said...

I'm going to have to get very selective with what I respond to, or else I'll write a couple thousand words:

Nathan wrote: "Well I'll have to disagree, then: I don't see why an artist's intention isn't crucial to appreciating/understanding the art. 'Ultimately' all that matters about a piece of art is how it is received by the audience?"

Ultimately, yes. Because once the artist has made their piece, the artist is just another member of the audience. One with a unique perspective and expertise, but still just a viewer.

And I think this makes more sense if you think about artists whose art clearly says something *other* than what they intended - because the artist can't anticipate everything that their art will say - or whose message is simply poorly made or too difficult to understand. (But I would differentiate, here, between art that says more than intended and an audience who sees something that isn't there. There's a difference, even if it's sometimes unclear.)

So, yes, in some small way it *is* Alan Moore's fault that Rob Liefeld had so much success, because Rorschach was saying something more than Moore thought he was. Moore misunderstood his own character.

* * *

Derek wrote: "However what makes this GoT's job?"

That's a fair question. But any book/show could play that card. And if any one can, then EVERY one can. So we can't really look at it on an individual basis - everyone has to feel that they have some small responsibility.

And maybe GoT does accomplish that by making violence ugly and offensive. But I think it's telling that when GoT pops up in casual conversation or jokes, it's about slapping Joffrey (which smacks vaguely of homophobia and/or disciplining him for being feminine) or making fun of all the grizzled old men. And not about their powerful women.

* * *

Jen wrote: "The meta-message that sends is that it's always more important to sexualise a woman than it is to hear her story or know who she is."

Or, at least, that their stories aren't worth listening to unless there's also plenty of tits and asses. (That is, we're happy to watch smart/clothed/unattractive women, as long as there's some naked ones to balance it.)

The show has a problem with cognitive dissonance, at the very least. They clearly want to push the idea that women are smart and strong, but they also feel the need to sex it up as much as possible - they're disrupting and reassuring heteromasculinity simultaneously.

Nathan Plastic said...

Maybe we should just let the conversation die at this point, but I feel like you've misunderstood me.

I wouldn't argue that Moore isn't responsible (along with, say, Miller) for the 'grim n' gritty' era of comics. He has an indirect hand in making some really shitty art.

Nonetheless, you - personally - can still enjoy Watchmen, right?

I'm having a lot of trouble differentiating between your apparent stance (as I understand it, that GoT isn't worth your time since you think that some part of the audience will understand it as supporting misogyny because of the hyper-patriarchial setting) and the arguments made by concerned parent groups who want to remove 'To Kill a Mockingbird' from school libraries on the grounds that it is 'racist'.

neilshyminsky said...

Of course, I can still personally enjoy it - and I do. That's why I said, originally, that being problematic doesn't make it bad.

So, I'm not saying it "isn't worth my time" - I wouldn't say that whether I liked it or not, because I even feel that bad stuff is sometimes worth my time - I'm saying that it's a shame that such an entertaining, well-made, well-written story has taken so few risks.

Madeleine said...

Well I'm a bit late here, but since I'm reading the books currently, I felt I had to jump in. On the one hand, I can see how Game of Thrones (well the book series is "A Song of Ice and Fire" but anyways) is a lot like other fantasy series, and doesn't break the mold and do something different, such as portraying a matriarchal society. That's frustrating in some ways, but in other ways, not really. Judging from my own experience as a writer, Martin is writing a story he wants to tell, and that happens to be this story. I really don't agree that an author/creator's intention is not important. People will interpret books and movies anyway they like, but ultimately I think the artist's intent for their characters and creation IS important. Some people are going to watch Game of Thrones and think "geee, patriarchy seems kind of awesome". But I don't think Martin or the show creators are responsible for that. It seems very obvious to me reading the book that Martin is offering a real, brutal depiction of what life can be, and I see in his books criticisms of class, patriarchy, sexism and racism. His best and most loveable characters break the mold. To me the central concept of the story is ethics and morality, and how good people die just like bad people, and not everything is simple black and white. I think he's created an imperfect world (one that seems to mirror medieval Europe), and if some people take that as saying "the world should work like this", well, I'm sorry they missed the point. I guess what's really the problem is a TV show can never have the depth and description that a book has, so my thoughts on this might change once I start watching the show. I'm ranting and probably not making much sense so I'll leave it at that.

neilshyminsky said...

Hi Madeleine - I'll just respond to a couple of your comments:

-It's not that the author's intention DOESN'T matter. It's that I don't think the author necessarily knows the TRUE or ONLY meaning of their work. (In part, because the art is always saying things that they didn't intend; in part, because the art is external to the artist once it's been created and they're just another viewer.) He or she is "only" a really good reader of their own work. Maybe even the BEST reader, but still just a reader.

-He's certainly welcome to tell the story that he wants to tell, too. Just like anyone is welcome to be feminist, racist, homophobic, or socialist. But you still have to take responsibility for your choices.

-You're certainly right when you say that Martin's decidedly NOT saying 'this is how the world should be' but saying 'this is how the world is, and bad things happen to good people'. It's a decidedly amoral world, which is actually pretty cool. And I think you're right - not just because Martin says it, but because the story supports it - when you say that people who think he's endorsing the world he's created are wrong. And yet, we know that people misunderstand and misinterpret all the time, and the TV producers need to take some responsibility for maybe making this world a little too appealing (that is, patriarchal-sexy) for an uncritical audience.

Unknown said...

This is a very interesting thread, which I picked up after a good friend of mine used most of our expensive, time-limited international phone call to rant about the gender politics of GoT.

I pretty much agree with Neil (quoting Victoria)'s comments about how crudely the series appears to reproduce medieval politics of gender, race, and I would add, sexuality as well.

However, I'm totally with Greg in suggesting we suspend critical judgement until we can see how what might appear to be fairly standard archetypes play out over the longer story arcs of the series. For example, whether these archetypes are so very hyper-patriarchal for a more subtle reason, perhaps to be reacted against.

I for one was a bit miffed to see the queer storyline between Renly and the Knight of the Flower literally explode in front of our eyes. However, I can see the beginnings of what might turn out to be more subtle adjustments to standard gender archetypes, with Lady Brienne swearing fealty to Lady Stark (troubling though it is to reflect on her butch-ness/hypermasculinity and its relation to her prowess in battle, defeating the Knight of the Flower, and the implications of this for the relative status of gay men and fighting women in the series).

I also think there's a really interesting parallel Martin is setting up between the magical/mythical politics in his fictional world, and quite literally, climate change in ours. This touches on some of the fault lines in the so-called 'culture wars' between scientific rationalists and religious fundamentalists.

Having said all this, I'm kind of worried now about my "let's see how this goes" stance, because the aforementioned friend also hasn't seen Season 2 of the TV series, but has read all the books, so technically has more information to go on than I.

I didn't get time to read the whole thread, so apologies if I've repeated points that someone else has already made. :)

Eleanor said...

Your argument about race kind of falls down when you compare the white Wildlings (including the incestuous Craster - now that's savagery) with the complex, advanced cities in Essos.

Point: there are savages, white and otherwise, in the "extreme" areas of the world, and there are "civilised" cities in the less extreme areas.

The story happens to take place in Westeros, not Essos.
But if it HAD done, and some Volantene princess had been married off to Mance Rayder beyond the Wall... well, it's the exact same story as Daenerys and Drogo, but the other way round.

Sigh. Don't be so quick to see prejudice everywhere...

neilshyminsky said...

Thanks for dropping by, Eleanor.

First things first - the blog post was written a year ago, and only about the first season of the show. I didn't read the books and we hadn't yet seen the Wildlings. And I think that the subsequent seasons have done a lot to redress the gender problem that I (and pretty much everyone) saw back them. That said...

The savage white Wildlings aren't actually all that problematic. They're intensely independent but also show a pretty exceptional willingness to band together in a crisis. Apart from Craster, it actually seems like the "savage" label is unearned, more a stereotype than a reality. The Dothraki, by comparison, seem to have lived down to the stereotype. Anyway...

The bigger problem here is your gently patronizing dismissal of any effort to "see prejudice everywhere". If you're predisposed to refuse to see something that's right in front of you, a long response probably isn't going to be a particularly effective use of my time, is it?

Eleanor said...

No, no, do please bless me with your long response. But before you do (and since you seem to need it) here’s my own little long response:

The problem is, your analysis is fundamentally flawed – not your fault: we live with a discursive paradigm that says that any hint of otherness or savagery has to be confined to white people because otherwise that’s somehow racist. This even extends to genetic homogeneity, apparently – one of your complaints about the Dothraki casting is that the actors don’t represent a “coherent or consistent racial group”. I’d love it if you could explain why this is a problem for the Dothraki but not for, say, the Lannisters: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime) is Danish, Lena Headey (Cersei) is British and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion) is American. This is one family. But it’s OK, because they’re white? Wrong. It’s OK, full stop. It’s OK if they’re white, it’s OK if they’re not white – it’s OK because they’re actors and actors playing a closely related group have to look like they come from that group. Which they do. But rather than see a casting choice for what it is, you’ve constructed this idea that it’s somehow wrong to do for the Dothraki what you happily accepted that they did for the Lannisters – like I said, it’s not your fault exactly: there’s a hyper-sensitivity surrounding non-whites that encourages a mentality that refuses to treat them as normal human beings. You refuse to see the Dothraki through the same eyes as you see the Lannisters, and that’s sad. Sad and insulting.

As for the Wildlings not being savages, well… that’s your interpretation (which seems, reading the comments, to be the only valid interpretation as far as you’re concerned) but given that Mance Rayder himself said the only thing stopping the Wildlings from tearing each other to pieces was the fact that they’d all die if they stayed North of the Wall, that’s a pretty clear indication of the kind of people they are. The fact that they’ve “banded together in a crisis” is testament to the crisis, not the people. This isn’t a spirit-of-the-Blitz, let’s-all-stick-together situation: this is a fragile alliance built on a catastrophe that even they could recognise was bigger than themselves. The Dothraki were lucky enough not to have to face that kind of threat. If they had, it’s likely that even their Khalasars would have united together. People want to live.

But sticking with the first series (since one of your objections was that you wrote that article some time ago) I like the way you neatly glossed over the Hill Tribes of the Vale… you remember the Hill Tribes of the Vale, don’t you, Neil? Can I call you Neil? Anyway, the Hill Tribes. Those big, fierce, hairy, savage warriors, who kill each other over trifles, and are constantly threatening to slice of people’s manhoods and feed them to the goats. If I could just quote Tyrion (the American with a Danish brother and a British sister): “Last night, a Moon Brother stabbed a Stone Crow over a sausage. Three Stone Crows seized the Moon Brother and opened his throat. Bronn managed to keep Shagga from chopping off the dead man's cock, which was fortunate but even still, Olf is demanding blood money. Which Shagga and Gunther refuse to pay.”
Savages, indeed. And here’s the thing: they’re white. All of them. And they’re from Westeros, that supposed haven of civility (and since when has pushing small boys out of windows, burning people alive, cutting out a man’s tongue because you don’t like his song, fathering three children by your own sister, killing children and then burning their bodies, or killing a man by force-feeding him wine been considered as markers of civility?). One of them (Chella) is even blonde. Filthy, as savages are wont to be, but blonde nonetheless.

Continued below...

Eleanor said...

...continued from above:

And I see you haven’t discussed the Free Cities of Essos. Now why is that? This is a rich, multifaceted continent, culturally rich and as advanced as Westeros. Although the action doesn’t primarily take place there, when we’ve seen the cities of Essos they are more than a match for the civilisations of the Seven Kingdoms (Pentos and Qarth, for example) with beautiful buildings, exceptionally fine craftsmanship and complex political systems. And they’re non-whites.

To your point that “the fairest characters are nearly all aristocrats and the darker ones tend to be grunts, servants, and peasants.”
This is simply not true. Not at all. Your exception to this rule was Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon. Mark Addy’s got blue eyes. Dark hair, but blue eyes. So if dark hair is all you’re looking for, what about: Robb Stark, Jon Snow, Bran Stark, Arya Stark, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen wears a wig so his hair is dark – he’s naturally blonde), Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Talisa Maegyr (a noblewoman from Essos, by the way, lovely RP accent she’s got, don’t know if you noticed) Benjen Stark, Petyr Baelish, Sam Tarly, Gendry Waters, Robin Arryn… the list goes on and on and on. By your own rules, you’re completely wrong on that score.

The thing is, writers write about what they know, what they’re familiar with. That’s why both Tolkien and Martin (white writers of European descent) tend to write about European-inspired societies. It’s the history they learned, it’s the myths they were told as children, it’s their culture and their heritage. It’s the same reason House of Flying Daggers and Hero (and almost every other Asian produced fantasy-style wuxia) feature Asian-only casts – that’s their history, their culture, their heritage. There’s nothing wrong with that. You won’t find some white guy thrown in there for reasons of inclusion – and thank god! I don’t want to be tokened – I get enough of that as a woman, being told by men (including you) what a woman has to be to be considered “strong” (but that’s another, essay-length point, and frankly I don’t have the time).
But I don’t think I ever had my viewing experience ruined (or even interrupted – in fact, until now, I can’t say I ever even noticed) in any Asian film just because there weren’t any Europeans. And do you know why? Because the colour of someone’s skin shouldn’t matter to tell a good story.

So should there be more non-whites in Game of Thrones? Well the answer isn’t automatically yes, despite what you seem to think. And even assuming the answer was yes, how many non-whites should there be? One? Three? Seventeen? What number is your quota, and what’s it based on? Because that’s the point: if you have to force the inclusion of someone or something, it renders its inclusion entirely meaningless. Not including someone or something doesn’t make it prejudiced. Including someone or something (be it women, different races, disabled people, alternative sexualities, whatever) because you “should” is nothing more than cloying tokenism: it’s disgusting and wrong. Include something because it furthers the story, not because it’s politically correct to do so.

neilshyminsky said...

I don't know if you're being obtuse with the reference to Essos, but I'll remind you, again, that when I first wrote this, my entire exposure to the story consisted of its first season. So, the exposure to Essos was basically *only* the Dothraki. And I wrote about what I saw.

Eventually, I'm sure, I'll write about how the second and third seasons addressed these concerns, mostly for the better but sometimes also for the worse.

Other responses:

You wrote: "we live with a discursive paradigm that says that any hint of otherness or savagery has to be confined to white people because otherwise that’s somehow racist."
Well, it's certainly not your fault, either, that you have such a reductionist view of progressive race politics. I bet you would call this 'reverse racism', right? Right. The problem was not that non-white people were made to look savage. It's that, in the first season, EVERY non-white person was made to look savage.

You wrote: "I’d love it if you could explain why this is a problem for the Dothraki but not for, say, the Lannisters: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime) is Danish, Lena Headey (Cersei) is British and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion) is American. This is one family. But it’s OK, because they’re white? Wrong."
Nope, that's more or less right. In the Dothraki examples that I noted, we were looking at three men of three different races, clearly cast because they each embodied some Orientalist notion of exoticism or savageness. The Lannisters, on the other hand, are all of Western European descent and actually look alike.

You wrote: "Can I call you Neil?"
Um, what else would you call me?

You wrote: "Savages, indeed. And here’s the thing: [The Hill Tribes]’re white. All of them."
Sure. There's a much subtler conversation that we can have, here. The Hill Tribes share a lot with the stereotype of white trash, of a white race that has become degraded in some way (similar to what we see in, say, The Hills Have Eyes, the Crazies, or Deliverance). But speaking to my point, above, about the non-white characters being fairly uniform, problematic - the white characters are much more diverse. So, sure, you have a point. But it doesn't invalidate anything I wrote.

neilshyminsky said...

You wrote: "Mark Addy’s got blue eyes. Dark hair, but blue eyes. So if dark hair is all you’re looking for..."
It wasn't, and I wrote that badly. Sorry, I usually don't proof-read anything that I write, here. Robert was depicted as something of a boor, so I was thinking about his unkempt appearance, his language, his behaviour, all of which were inconsistent with the racial logic of the show. I didn't say any of that, mind you, but I was thinking it.

You wrote: "The thing is, writers write about what they know, what they’re familiar with."
That's a boring excuse. And it might not be a problem, except that that white men have a lot of privilege and opportunity to tell these same stories, over and over again.

You wrote: "But I don’t think I ever had my viewing experience ruined (or even interrupted – in fact, until now, I can’t say I ever even noticed) in any Asian film just because there weren’t any Europeans. And do you know why? Because the colour of someone’s skin shouldn’t matter to tell a good story."
Oh, please. That's such post-race claptrap. It shouldn't matter, right, but IT DOES. If you didn't notice, that's because you had the PRIVILEGE to not notice. Because people who aren't white, living in a society dominated by white representations? They notice all the time.

You wrote: "So should there be more non-whites in Game of Thrones? Well the answer isn’t automatically yes, despite what you seem to think."
No, I don't think the answer is automatically yes. (But thanks for knowing me so well.) The problem is systemic, and not restricted to GoT itself. The genre needs more non-white people, yes. And it would be nice if a prominent series within that genre could do something to address the systemic problem. But is it solely the responsibility of GoT? No, it's not.