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HBO’s New Series Game of Thrones Review: Best New Show or Racist Cliche?

game of thrones poster2 186x300 HBO’s New Series Game of Thrones Review: Best New Show or Racist Cliche?Winter is Coming: A Review

By Matt Goldstein

The hype has been building for months and months about the new high profile series from HBO, Game of Thrones.  Based on a series of books by George R. R. Martin and costing about $4.5 million an episode, the production costs make Game of Thrones one of the biggest budgets HBO has ever had for a series.  The opening episode sets the scene with the Kings right hand man dying of fever.  King of the Seven Kingdoms of Wetereos, King Robert Baratheon decides to travel north for an old and trusted friend, Lord Eddard, “Ned” Stark, to take his place.  Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North has fought more than half of his life protecting and fighting the Kings battles.  Stark, reluctantly accepts the position as the new hand of the King, but worrying about the breakage within his own family because of the move.  The scene is set, Stark is to be the King’s hand and protect the kingdom from a possible invasion from Viserys Targarian, who claims title to the throne, and a Dothraki army of barbarians, who will lead the invasion.  Of course, before the episodes end, it is rumored that the Kings hand was murdered as well as Starks son being murdered by the queen’s brother, setting the stage for even more drama.

GameOfThrones poster 21 300x168 HBO’s New Series Game of Thrones Review: Best New Show or Racist Cliche?The first episode set the landscape well for a dramatic series.  However, Game of Thrones is a bit over the top and cliché at times, not to mention outright racist.  First, the nudity and violence is mostly unnecessary, but OK, people love nudity and violence so that’s how you get ratings for a TV show.  Then, the Queen Cersei Lanister is sleeping with her brother Ser Jaime Lannister brother and they both might have conspired two murders inside the King’s court to hide the secret?  Yeah, OK, not too over the top or anything.

Perhaps the low point of the show was at the Dothraki wedding to celebrate the marriage between Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryan.  The only black characters in this show were of course dancing without clothes, having deep tribal inclinations, animalistic traits and over the top sexuality.  Do we even have to explain the problems here?  It’s not that we don’t expect outright racism in the year 2011; it’s just that we expect a much tighter PR firm to jump all over something like this and force it to be cut out of the final edit, but I digress.  The opening episode of Game of Thrones, “Winter is Coming” is a B/B- although most first episodes are just there to set the stage.  No doubt the drama is coming, hopefully at a more subtle and intellectual pace.  We did watch the first episode 3 times in the first 24 hours since the premiere so there are some great things going on.  We will be watching closely over the next few episodes to see if there’s a real series here, not just an overpriced production.   

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7 comments to HBO’s New Series Game of Thrones Review: Best New Show or Racist Cliche?

  • Ben

    Good god… I hope you watched the rest of the series, or at very least read the series to understand different cultural themes in the show.

    1. The heavy sex/incest/titties are, I will agree, something HBO hopped on for a way to be, well, very HBO. It wouldn’t be HBO without the extra nudity and sexual themes that you don’t get with your average cable package. That being said, I think it provides a very accurate representation of the world that this series takes place in. Women in this story have power because they are either highborn, or use their sexual prowess as a way of controlling a very male-driven world. If you stick around, Season 2 introduces a couple female characters who chose to be warriors, which is a huge statement against their society. Remember the conversation that Ned has with his daughter Arya when she says, “No, that’s not me,” after Ned explains her future of marrying a king and fathering powerful sons? Looking at the bigger picture, this is quite empowering, and a very beautiful thing in such a world driven by very human vices, such as lust and power and greed. Even characters like Ros, the redhead that the northern boys mention, often is given a larger part in the TV series to provide character backgrounds necessary for character development that you would miss by not reading the books (Theon Greyjoy, Maester Pycelle, Tyrion Lannister).

    I think to say that HBO is using these integral parts of Martin’s book series for ratings is a tad ignorant. Note that I said book series, because the TV series is at very least 95% true to his novels, written prior to this television phenom.

    2. I will also go as far to say that the “racial stereotyping” is misconstrued and nothing but convenient to be upset over. You see lots of nudity in this series, and it’s not even slightly predominantly from African-American cast members. The designers of this show were wise in using an larger ethnic spectrum in scenes that take place across the Narrow Sea, away from Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms, which is primarily Caucasian. In the books, they explain that the people of Westeros have the blood of the First Men (Northerners and Wildlings) or the Andals (Southerners who brought the Faith of the Seven to Westeros). In the seasons to come, we see more of these Eastern cities that need to look very different than the rest of “civilized” Westeros. Pentos and Qarth and Asshai are exotic locations that are melting pots of trade communities and have a more “tribal” feel to them, which isn’t too dissimilar to differences in our Western and Eastern worlds.
    Keep in mind that A TV show doesn’t have the privilege of giving so much exposition for a region, and must show the culture in other ways. You can think of it as a form of iconography, so that less needs to be said and more is shown to viewers to create a contrast that would only be tedious if it took more than a few lines of dialogue to explain. It also shouldn’t need to be explained. If you really think about it, you’re complaining about the representation of a race/color that doesn’t have the same history in this fantasy world that they might in our present world.
    I highly doubt that the designers for this show were so ignorant to only cast African-American women dancing rambunctiously with their tits out at the Dothraki wedding. If memory serves me, only a few of the concubines were blatantly African-American, though all of them were very intentionally exotic looking. There were probably 3x as many dancing concubines in that enormous crowd that you would have only seen for a split second of camera time. The Dothraki are a nation/tribe consisting of different blood, due to their nature of conquering other nations and taking hostages as the alternative option to taking their lives. Khal Drogo’s powerful Khalasar is made up of both Dothraki and the remnants of nations they crushed in battle.

    If you took a moment to look at the bigger picture and questioned the reasoning behind an intentional decision, you would see that there is much more to this world being represented. I’m not saying that you can’t draw those politically incorrect lines, but to me it sounds like you’re going out of your way to complain. Many racist opinions come from the fact that people don’t or won’t understand cultural differences because they’re so accustomed to their own. I’m sure in many places in the worlds, people of all skin spectrums dance around with their tits out for their own cultural or personal reasons.

    I challenge you to take it with a grain of salt and just enjoy the story for what it is: a commentary on humanity where nobody is completely innocent or detestable for being who they are and trying to succeed, survive, or protect that which the love/believe in.

    [Reply]

    Matt Goldstein Reply:

    WOW! I think your reply is longer than the article. I agree with many of your points and I do love the series after watching season 1 twice. However, the 1st episode portrayed the only black people on the screen as savages. Pretty weak IMHO. I am not the only critic who has mentioned this issue. I believe it was talked about all week after the first episode premiered.

    [Reply]

  • Joyce

    I like this show but I do not like the way they have the black peoples
    acting like they are animals, is this the way they are going to be portrayed the rest of the series.

    [Reply]

    Matt Goldstein Reply:

    I completely agree Joyce.

    [Reply]

  • Herb

    The Dothraki are heavily based on the Mongels, as well as on other Central Asian nomadic peoples and Amerindians. How dare the makers of Game of Thrones draw from history!

    [Reply]

    Matt Goldstein Reply:

    Herb, Central Asians and Mongels are not black. Let’s be real here. The characters I’m speaking of are the ones who are clearly black with african hair, not Asian. Watch the scene again and tell me I’m wrong.

    Also, it’s about who is portrayed one way, and who is portrayed another way.

    [Reply]

  • Herb

    If any group of people got a raw deal in their characterization in the first episode it was blondes…

    [Reply]

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