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HBO’s Game Of Thrones And Assumptions Of Racism

Like many other fans I’m looking forward to viewing more episodes in the eight and final season of the Games of Thrones, HBO’s popular dramatisation of George RR Martin’s multivolume A Song of Ice and Fire, a decidedly gritty fantasy series partly inspired by the works of JRR Tolkien and the history of Plantagenet England and France. However, I could do without the moronic observations of some television reviewers. Here is the editorial assistant Rachelle Hampton and the staff writer Inkoo Kang from the online liberal magazine Slate discussing the latest instalment of the show:

Kang: While everyone willing to fight for Team Human gathered at Winterfell and tried to get over their individual, familial, and tribal resentments to work together at a group, there were two conspicuous exceptions to that project in this episode. What was up with the two little girls who wouldn’t talk to Missandei because of her skin color, and are you also hoping that they end up with a fate similar to Lord Umber’s as a fucked-up 3D Magic Eye art installation?

Hampton: The show’s writers have gone out of their way to spin the Northern resentment toward Dany and her army as justified fear of another Targaryen ruler, though Tyrion assures us that she’s not like other girls Targaryens. And still, despite the hedging that it’s really a dislike for Dany and not just garden-variety xenophobia, the racism leapt out, ruining what otherwise would’ve been a sweet scene between Grey Worm and Missandei.

…Even in the face of an army of dead people, those two little girls—and by extension the North—still found time to be bigoted toward the people defending them. For that, I think that they deserve to be crowned this week’s worst people in Westeros.

Even in a world of casual twincest and undead armies, it’s comforting to know that good old-fashioned racism still makes you the worst.

Give me strength. The Game of Thrones is set in a quasi-Medieval world where the “North” and its inhabitants are separated from the rest of the fantasy continent of Westeros by a vast expanse of wilderness territory. Unless the writers of the show were making a similarly idiotic point, surely it’s far more reasonable to assume that the two young girls were frightened and overawed by the appearance of an unfamiliar and exotic-looking woman and her fearsome companions in their backwater region. And were not motivated by notions of “old fashioned racism”. And why would a pair of television reviewers want “two little girls” to be done to death in a TV drama (the horrific fate of the character of Lord Umber, a mere boy in the series)? It’s reflex virtue-signalling commentary like this, wilfully ignorant of the complex social, economic and political forces which create and sustain racism, that is eroding the standing of progressive opinion in the West. And surely reviewers should be far more animated by the lack of leading black or non-white characters in a contemporary television series, a glaring omission in the Game of Thrones? Which is a facet of real and culturally institutionalised racism.

5 comments on “HBO’s Game Of Thrones And Assumptions Of Racism

  1. Why is the “lack of leading black or non-white characters … a glaring omission in the Game of Thrones”? The continent the series is primarily focused on is mostly white. Inventing a leading token to please people with real-world agendas would be absurd.

    • Well, because it is an entirely fantasy series set in an entirely fantasy universe, and given that considerable liberties have already been taken with the source materials, a few more people of colour in leading positions would have been a welcome thing.

      I’m not talking about tokenism or historical anachronisms, such as in the British ITV series “Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands” which featured a number of ethnicities that were extremely unlikely to have been knocking around a village in post-Roman Scandinavia. Stuff like that is just ridiculous (modern “Doctor Who” is the chief offender in that area).

      But I think they could have stretched things in the case of the “GoT”.

      My ire was more directed towards the lack of thought behind the virtue-signalling in the “Slate” review. I’ve grown increasingly intolerant of people who identify with the political left dragging it down with their grandstanding opinions.

      • Well I heartily agree with your last paragraph and that part of your original piece but I feel you might be straying slightly into it yourself! It really is a vile creeping sort of censorship.
        Do you mean something like ‘The Moor’ in Robin Hood (I forget which version)?! Because frankly that was stretching things a bit!

        • I’d be far more forgiving of having a “Moor” in a Hollywood or fantasied version of the Robin Hood legends. They were, after all, legends and were constantly reinterpreted over the last several centuries. So you have Azeem (Morgan Freeman) in 1991’s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”. And before that, Nasir (Mark Ryan) in ITV’s brilliant “Robin of Sherwood”. Adding some modern interpretations isn’t so bad. In the case of the 1991 film, probably not so much, but it worked with the TV series.

          If one were trying to create a “historical” Robin Hood tale, then I would be more critical of having people of colour in it if primary sources were being used (such as exists).

          Other stuff, like a Victorian London being filled with Afro-Caribbean people is pretty risible. And it takes away from the real drama of being a minority figure in that historical period and what can be explored through that situation. It’s just lazy writing and pandering to shallow notions of modernity. And it avoids addressing the hard questions of race and racism in Victorian England in favour of playing lets pretend multiculturalism. Which is cowardly.

          I’ve just found out that the actor who played Nasir was a white dude from Yorkshire. And a talented guy by the looks of it. You wouldn’t get away with that now!

  2. While I have never watched a single Episode of “Game of Thrones”, I blame Critical Race Theory for a lot of the more, well strange, read of racism.

    Partly what it has done is created a mentality when evil can stem always and only from racism. Or the dictum “Unless you can prove that it’s all about race, nobody ever has a case.” People who think that way will assume that if some Trump voters weren’t motivated by racism, that it would logically follow that there could be no other grounds for finding fault with their decision. If somebody isn’t a racist that automatically rules out the possibility they could be authoritarian, cruel, misogynistic, or simply a destructive nihilist.

    Also under this reasoning of a historical argument trying to prove that racism was behind a lower minimum wage fails to hold up to scrutiny, that keeping the lower minimum wage or eliminating the law entirely would be just fine!!! As long as racism isn’t the motive nothing else could possibly be wrong with it.

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