Wow. Apparently Daenerys Stormborn’s other title is Mother of Fandoms, since angry nerds across the world are telling me to STFU like I just insulted their mum. Here’s a Top 10 list of the things angry GoT fans have said to me about my first post (http://aamerrahman.tumblr.com/post/52770211665/game-of-tropes-racefail-spoilers), and my responses:
1. YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOKS!
You’re right. I have other stuff to do.
2. BUT IT’S DIFFERENT IN THE BOOKS!
Good. I watched the TV show and my comments are about the TV show.
3. BUT IT DOESN’T WORK OUT FOR DANY, YOU’LL SEE!! THEY’RE SUBVERTING THE TROPE!!
It doesn’t matter if it works out for Dany or not. This is not about whether she ultimately wins or loses (we know this show loves setting people up for a downfall) – it’s about the foreign cultures she encounters and her relationship to them.
If she learns a harsh lesson about how she can’t win by liberating people it doesn’t change the fact that the show clearly presents a central West and a foreign, exotic East with savage practices like slavery - clearly outlawed in Westeros. Once again, the Other serves as a convenient prop piece for the journey and development of a white character, and we read and approve/disprove of their culture and practices through her eyes.
Failing to liberate/ unite/ save/ the Other in the East might be a harsh lesson in realism for Dany, but will not undo the fundamental dichotomy presented in GOT – a West that is roughly grounded in a culture and history we recognise, versus the savage, exotic Prince of Persia/ Aladdin fantasy theme park of the East.
Plot developments like that might question whether it’s possible to tame ‘savage’ and ‘dangerous’ cultures – but not why people should be presented as ‘savage’ or ‘backwards’ in the first place - why there are such ‘civilised’ vs ‘uncivilised’ worlds in this universe to begin with. Just like the material failure to ‘liberate’ Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of a growing ‘insurgency’ have not proven to the West that its notions of cultural supremacy are fundamentally flawed and racist from the outset.
Below: (1) Ain’t no party like a Dothraki wedding, AMIRITE? (2) some good old-fashioned arm-swinging, fire-dancing (3) NOM NOM NOM! Finger lickin’ good - personally, I prefer my stallion hearts medium rare (4) “I WILL RAPE THEIR WOMEN!” What’s not to love about this dude? Such a romantic.
4. WHY DON’T YOU TALK ABOUT SEXISM? GAME OF THRONES IS SUPER MISOGYNIST!
Really? The show where women get sold and hired and raped all the time? And when people aren’t being raped, people are trying to rape them or threatening to rape them or talking about how they will probably be raped? This show has more rape references per episode than an average season of Law and Order: SVU. Pretty sure people have mentioned that already. Still, GoT’s approach to gender figures into its premises about race.
Despite the show basically celebrating rape through its casual, graphic fetishism, GoT attempts to construct a certain moral code around its characters’ attitudes towards sexual violence. Dany’s evil brother touches her. Joffrey, a villain, brutalises prostitutes, publicly has Sansa sexually humiliated, and threatens to rape her. Tyrion demonstrates his nobility when he rescues Sansa from Joffrey, outright refuses his father’s orders to rape Sansa for the sake of an heir, and falls in love with Shae despite her being a prostitute and off limits to someone of his standing. Brienne takes her revenge on three Stark soldiers who admit to raping a girl, and even Jaime Lannister gets a redemption story when he saves Brienne from getting raped by Locke and his men, at the cost of losing his hand.
Khal Drogo, on the other hand, casually rapes his wife on their wedding night and makes an epic speech pacing around a fire where he proudly claims that he will rape the women of Westeros while his troops cheer him on. Rape is simply presented as an inherent, celebrated element of Dothraki culture.
5. IF YOU GO LOOKING FOR RACISM, YOU WILL FIND IT.
I have never gone looking for racism, racism finds me and slaps me in the face. HOW DOES IT ALWAYS KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME?
6. ARE YOU CALLING ME RACIST FOR LIKING GAME OF THRONES?
I have no idea whether you are racist or not. But your violent reaction to me calling out some pretty obvious points about imaginary people on a FANTASY TV SHOW makes me wonder.
7. IN GAME OF THRONES, ALL CULTURES ARE SAVAGE AND EVERYONE’S A BARBARIAN.
It’s true, in GoT almost all cultures go to war, everyone fights and people from all cultures are shown doing unsavoury things. But not all barbarians are created equal. Only certain cultures demand that a woman eat a raw stallion heart in front of people wailing in a made up language. Only certain cultures allow and exist entirely on slave trading and slave-based economies. Only certain cultures have violent sex orgies at their weddings, and only certain cultures sell armies of castrated brown warrior-eunuchs (the Unsullied). And none of these things happen to be in Eurocentric Westeros.
8. WHAT ABOUT THE WILDLINGS? AREN’T THEY ALSO PORTRAYED AS BARBARIC?
The Wildlings are interesting. Throughout the show we hear about them being everything from savages to bestiality loving cannibals, but when we finally meet them they turn out to be, well…regular white people in matching furry parkas.
White culture exists as a spectrum in the GOT universe; the Lannisters are the rich, entitled, aristocratic upper-class toffs, the Starks are the honest, hard-working aspiratonal middle class, and the Wildlings (and Hilltribes) are the working class. The whole Jon Snow/ Ygritte storyline is as Disney as GoT gets with its nobleman-in-love-with-the-common-girl dynamic. At one point they agree that they even come from the same ancestors, and question why they are fighting at all.
White people in GoT have an array of competing desires, internal conflict, and interesting moral issues to grapple with. They come from different classes and backgrounds which inform their view of the world, creating believable relationships and interactions between characters. You know, like real people.
9. IT’S JUST FANTASY!!
Fantasy reflects your subconscious desires.
10. ARE YOU CALLING ME RACIST?
Whoa, I just realized the implications of GoT having white people as the “first men.” White Male Fantasy indeed… .