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Racism and Sexism in 'Game of Thrones'

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According to Ella Shohat, culturally and geographically colonialism effected the way different genders and ethnicities are portrayed in media. Historically colonialism invaded other cultures and brought with them their ideologies and views. Views that were in example depicting women and the world, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer. Also, the views of the different natives that they encountered. The historical forms of media created by these Western-centric figures now still effect the way many view the world. The Western gender view comes from this ideology of straight white men who are in power. Western popular culture is so prominently pushed it creates the gaze that effects even majorly popular fantasy television shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ can’t escape the criticism.

It is clear that television shows that have superficial escapism also have cultural products that represent political ideas and ideologies, and do so in ways that may matter more than what we receive through the news. HBO’s ‘Game of Throne’ is full of desires and fantasies that refract and reflect real politics. Just remember you can criticize the thematic of a show without hating the show. Moreover, that as great as comparisons with the source text can be, a TV series is a different kind of beast and is entitled to judgement on its own merits. Objections that ‘it’s just a show’ don’t wash because many should have some sense that there are ways of understanding and being embodied in even the lowest of cultural objects. That doesn’t mean that the substance of the relationship between media and politics is simple or settled, but it’s there.

To criticize the racism of ‘Game of Thrones’, I may point out that the only two main-cast characters of color portrayed as incredibly subservient zealots who fall in love with one another, and that those few white characters from the novels who were portrayed by actors of color in the show. On a more subtle level, it’s been dismaying to see the only two main-cast characters of color portrayed as incredibly subservient zealots who fall in love with one another, and that those few white characters from the novels who were portrayed by actors of color in the show. The idea that ‘Game of Thrones’ and its original books ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is based off of, come from a largely white tradition whose cultural baggage is bound up in the racism. The author’s inspiration for various ethnic groups and cultures is most likely rooted in history. It’s not hard to see the connection between the Dothraki and the Turkic and Mongol peoples of the Central Asian steppes. They are described in the books as phenotypically Central Asian with ‘copper skin’ and ‘almond shaped eyes’. This is where the potential for trouble comes into the casting process. On the one hand, because the Dothraki are inspired by a real world, non-white culture, it feels like a great opportunity for diversity in the casting process. On the other hand, casting actors of Central Asian descent to play Dothraki exclusively would end up, because of the massive underrepresentation of people of color in film and television, with those actors being the sole and essential representatives of people of color within the world. The show ended up compromising, probably to the detriment of their credibility, by casting a variety of actors of various backgrounds (including white actors) to play Dothraki extras and casting a number of non-white actors of a variety of ethnicities to play Dothraki principal characters. The result is that the Dothraki in ‘Game of Thrones’, rather than being a phenotypically uniform group, look generally non-white with the majority being brown with dark hair. Pair this with the fact that we are introduced to the Dothraki as violent savages, eager to rape white women and plunder white society, and you get a strong implication that in ‘Game of Thrones’ people of color are uniformly savage and uncouth.

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The racial composition of the show has altered instructively, from a representation of the dark-skinned as incapable of even fully human experiences to a fantasy of the white savior. The Unsullied who are a large group of minuscule characters, shown only as dark skinned, combine murderous talents with a certain deferential nature. Although they choose the freedom Daenerys, a main character, offers, their willingness to die for her is not that far from their compulsion to sacrifice under past masters. As she herself puts it on the cusp of liberating a people, some ‘learn to love their chains’. The visual rhetoric of this is striking throughout, and not complicated. With the characters of the poor enslaved people in a different country who are mostly dark-skinned peoples, are liberated, educated, and are made human and whole by Daenerys’ grace who is strikingly shown as a kind of white lighting the show. They are usually martial races, raised up on the civilizational ladder but also kept useful as killers by white leadership. The show has done as bad a job with its racist biases as it has with its sexist ones.

It was claimed in some quarters that the plot subverts certain standard typical ideas about the feminine, and critiques primitive social relations along the way. So, rather than being a ‘racist rape-culture Disneyland with dragons’, the many strong, complicated, female roles in fact set ‘Game of Thrones’ as a critique of patriarchy. This is only the most one-dimensional of sexisms that regards women as utterly objects. It is what we expect form a show that is based off of medieval era practices. The mere presence of intelligent, or emotionally-rounded, or sympathetic female characters is not enough and that it might be taken as inherently ‘progressive’ probably tells us a lot about contemporary gender politics. The issue is how a cultural product deploys some common tropes of masculinity and femininity and how those celebrate or reinforce certain orderings of gender. So, a narrative which makes the family the primary unit, and which does so in a conventionally heteronormative register, is selling a particular idea of gender yet again. We can remember the very strong female characters though because they are we supposed to be ‘wowed’ that a woman can be strong. For all the redemptive joy of watching the Mother of Dragons in the ascendent, this is a textbook imperial feminism we might even, out of the corner of our eye, identify a latent homonationalism: after all, the only community with open female fighters is ruled by a gay king. This is where the show is progressive in their gender aspect.

Even fantasy says something about real-world ethics, after all. If we have mixed feelings about the series on this score, that is due to the deep contradiction between its two primary commitments: to inclusivity and quasi-democracy, on the one hand, and to bloodline or lineage, on the other. The problem here is that the logic of blood in the show is the same logic that continues to fuel the racism that has always existed in this country, but that has become more active and visible in recent years. ‘Game of Thrones’ has even recently been compared to Marxist theory, as the parallels are undeniable. Marx’s theory of class sees society solely from an economic prism and relates all its maladies to the problem of possession – the haves and the have-nots. Which I very much a theme in a show of kings fighting for ultimate power but using their arms of the poor class to do so. Marx believes that the bourgeoisie has been exploiting the proletariats since time immemorial and this exploitation will continue until there is an intervention by the poor class.

We remember the gendered Western gaze is routed in historical norms that are hard to break away from. Many viewers have an idea in mind when they think of how a certain character’s way of life is just based on their own experiences. The Western gaze of blackness historically was a negative one. Today, while many have improved, the deep wounds of that gaze still remain in some of the minds of audiences. For actors to crossover in a sense they have to make the white audience forget their preconceived notions without the black audiences losing interest as well. Thus, only reinforcing that the gaze is alive and well in the back of every Western audience. So, ‘Game of Thrones’ has it all it can be criticized of classism racism and sexism for me it was still a great show but that doesn’t mean any one can take a widely loved show and pick out the parts where there are social issues still present.

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Racism and Sexism in ‘Game of Thrones’. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from
“Racism and Sexism in ‘Game of Thrones’.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
Racism and Sexism in ‘Game of Thrones’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Mar. 2023].
Racism and Sexism in ‘Game of Thrones’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2023 Mar 30]. Available from:
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