Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Game of Thrones" is super racist

Also, super sexist, but not quite in the same terribly, risibly visible way.

Mind you, I'm not talking about "A Game of Thrones," which, along with the rest of "A Song of Ice and Fire," I haven't read. I'm talking about the television series. I'm sure there are correlations; I mean, most of the racism and sexism in the series in embedded in the narrative. But, visually, the series is especially racist.

I'm thinking specifically of the portrayal of the Dothraki, and especially in contradistinction to the people of Westeros. Fair enough that the people of Westeros are totally white: ethnic homogeneity is a thing that has really happened in the real world. What makes me ill is that the Dothraki are not ethnically homogeneous, that they are quite literally a grab-bag of ethnicities. In one scene, I distinctly saw an African, an Asian, and a Hispanic person side by side being called, uniformly, Dothraki. Uh... did the executive producers not catch this horrible, horrible misstep? Or did they think all their viewers are whites who view all people of colour--even that oh-so-modest Mediterranean bronzing--as the same?

Because of course then there's the fact that, visuo-culturally, Westeros is not actually some sort of mytho-England as had at least been suggested to me by various promo-copy, but actually snaffles Mediterranean culture into the bargain. It is, in short, the Northern world posing as a representation of the Western world. There's the curious fact that King's Landing looks like some kind of half-Spanish, half-Greek, half-Arab (that's right, too many halves) mishmash (palm trees, Byzantion helmets, adobe, etc.)--and that it's populated with, and ruled by, strangely porcelain-skinned people (the Lannisters, the Starks, the Baratheons, all of them totally, totally white). Indeed, the real Arabs, Greeks, and Spaniards are relegated to the Dothraki (excepting the Braavosian fencing teacher).

So, yeah, the show is also terribly colonialist. I actually can't believe it's 2012 and these kind of visual metaphors are being put together and people are accepting it. I mean, it's a really great show. Great story. So I guess that's why. But, man... can you not... be so obviously racist?

This isn't even getting into the story of Daenerys Targaryen and her marriage to Khal Drogo--you know, the "marital rape is good for you" thread. Oh, man. I mean, I actually really liked both Daenerys and Drogo as characters, and their love story (or the kidnap/rape complex that is presented as their love story) actually had me going. But even the singlest moment's reflection reveals how utterly disingenuous and disgusting a narrative like this is--the moral being, effectively, "Ladies, give yourselves up sexually and you will be rewarded with a man's pleasure... and some, like, magical dragons." Ugh.

I mean... I really, really enjoyed watching this. I watched eight episodes on Sunday. There are some really fantastic moments and it's very entertaining. But, wow. So, so, so, so racist, colonialist, and sexist. It literally boggles the mind. And I haven't even discussed the Othering of the wildlings and the north beyond the Wall, the moral world of the Night's Watch in contradistinction to the amorality of the "game of thrones" that occurs in the south and what I suspect this will lead to mean (namely: more morality, namely in face of the Other). The unfortunate thing seems to be that our natures--heteronormative male natures, anyway--become easily enraptured by these kinds of utterly conservative and even backwards stories. I suppose it's why, in 2012, we can still go to war, why we can propose to abolish women's reproductive rights, and why we can do many other kinds of dumb stuff.

Please don't be a dummy. You probably shouldn't watch this show or support this series in any way. Read or watch something progressive instead. Just because it is entirely possible that I will keep watching is no refutation.

-bn