Game of Thrones Orientalism

Game of Thrones: A White Liberal’s Orientalist Wetdream

Games of Thrones is a massively popular show on HBO (based on this book about white people fighting other white people to become king, or something. Also, snow zombies. But a story about a bunch of warring white people whose way of life is threatened by scary northern immigrant zombies isn’t necessarily racist. After all, that girl with the dragons is going around freeing all the slaves. That’s sort of radical, right?

Nope. As Aamer Rahman on i09 argues, Game of Thrones and the whole “white woman goes around freeing slaves” subplot is just the super-racist imagination of American neocons like Karl Rove. Drawing on orientalist tropes of the Middle East and “noble savages,” the whole thing is kind of fucked.

It starts with the use of the Orientalist trope of a “noble savage.” You see, the white dragon lady marries into a tribe of nomadic warriors. Their hobbies include raping, pillaging, and killing people at weddings.

Game of Thrones Orientalism

But when they’re not raping and pillaging, they stick to all of that warrior code business.  Did I mention they live in a desert and look vaguely Arab? It’s nothing new in Hollywood. The whole noble warrior/noble savage thing is everywhere, especially in Star Trek.

The Klingons are the Dothraki of Star Trek — the scary, warmongering Other from the Heart of Darkness out in deep space. The great thing about imaginary black and brown people is that white sci-fi/ fantasy writers can project their repressed oriental fetishes onto a blank canvas without taking responsibility – “WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S RACIST, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS KLINGONS OR DOTHRAKI! How can we be racist towards people WHO DON’T EVEN EXIST??” Funny how it’s always real black and brown people who have to play the role of the imaginary ‘non-existent’ warrior/tribal/primitive/race. (With the exception of the original Star Trek, which had white actors in blackface as Klingons.)

But it’s fine, because white dragon lady, like Carrie in Sex and the City 2, is going to bring civility to these barbarians.

It begins with taming the savage Drogo who rapes her “like a hound takes a bitch,” on their wedding night (and every night after that) – until she teaches him the tenderness of looking him in the eyes when they sleep together. Then, the reforming of Dothraki customs: Dany prevents the rape of female prisoners and even gets Drogo to back her against the wishes of his riders. Finally, she establishes herself as a leader when she gives birth to her dragons (at this point the brown people literally prostrate themselves to her).

Well that sounds cool. I mean, raping female prisoners is pretty bad.  Except a very similar pretext has been used to invade Iraq and Afghanistan to save women from their evil, misogynist husbands. Additionally, the pretext gets a little fuzzy when you start to think about proliferation of rape culture among America’s bros and the fact that most of America is still really shitty to trans people. So who’s going to invade American to save them? The whole thing, according to Rahman, is just a Bush family revery.

Barbarian cultures who don’t know how to treat women bowing in the face of superior technology and military arsenal (Dragons are basically the advanced fighter jets of the GOT universe) – does this feel familiar? She then goes from city to city freeing slaves who dutifully join her quest. Dany’s story is, at its heart, a neocon wet dream. She is Laura Bush, advocating for the invasion of Iraq under the pretext of saving its women who are desperate to live a life like hers.

But Rahman is wrong, sort of. It’s not just a neocon wetdream to justify invasion. It’s a particularly virulent strain of orientalism that is deeply embedded in the white liberal imaginary. Jasbir Puar even wrote a whole book about how this idea of “sexual exceptionalism,” where we believe to be the super-best at treating women and gays, justifies the bombing of brown people while conservatives and liberals alike gleefully look on. Puar argues:

That gay and lesbian rights discourses can risk slipping into Islamophobic and racist discourses that in many ways propagate or support racist agendas is not really news. Nor is it without historical precedent. Liberal feminism has long been accused of needing the oppression of the native woman in order to achieve its own libratory trajectory. “How well do you treat your women?” became a key measure of the ability of a colonised or developing country to self-govern. While “the Woman Question” has hardly disappeared, we can now find its amendment in “the Homosexual Question”, or “How well do you treat your homosexuals?”, as a current paradigm through which nations, populations and cultures are evaluated in terms of their ability to conform to a universalised notion of civilisation.Rescue fantasies and projections about endangered homosexuality “elsewhere” are aspects of liberal gay rights frames, functioning in order to support the predominance of gay and lesbian proper subjects “here”.

Read the original io9 article here.

 

 

 

  • Myra Esoteric

    Now I know why I had such a problem with the Game of Thrones books!!! *Goes to read more Samuel Delany*

    • Kevin Wallace

      Some random dude writes a whack opinion on a book series, and you suddenly now know why you had problems with the book? I would assert that if you didn’t know originally for yourself then you still don’t know.

      What about The Wildling’s north of the wall, buddy? They are all white skinned and arguably more barbaric and savage than the Dothraki. Doesn’t quite fit into the vein of your near-sighted op-ed, does it?

  • The Tide Turns

    Who freed the slaves around the world?? WHITEs.

    Deal with it.

    • Pariah

      Do you know what revolutions are? I suggest you study them, particularly in areas of the world where your ilk have instilled their racist white supremacist ideologies, during your off-time from whiteness.

    • Volomon

      Whites didn’t free the slaves if they faced constant revolution.

    • http://pandarogue.blogspot.com/ Yǒuhǎo Huǒ Māo

      Read up on the history of Haiti.

  • AfroSaxon

    Do me a fekking favour and man the fuck up about your skin colour, tired
    of these twats dribbling on about their fucking skin colour, go watch
    and read something akin to your insecurities.

    • Volomon

      Isn’t the insecurity in you? Why would some one making a point up set you unless you feel like a fraud watching whites as heroes when reality tells you otherwise.

      • AfroSaxon

        Sigh the irony. The same could be said the other way round, ….and around….and around…..erroneous reply at best.

        • BruceMcGlory

          LOL so you don’t understand what racism, or erroneous mean. Def keep talking then.

          • AfroSaxon

            No master can you teach me too read…ffs some people.

        • Volomon

          Not really as you are only complain because the faces may change from white to black.
          You cannot acknowledge the idea of both being on the screen.
          You have some fragile feelings.

          • AfroSaxon

            I will keep fighting racism in all it’s pathetic guises, also I don’t know you, don’t care, and certainly wont tell you what you are based on a post (something you seem to think you have mastered) Over and Out, oh great master debaters.

          • Volomon

            So, what is the issue then?

          • AfroSaxon

            Nothing more to add, said my piece, case closed, life moves on, frogs multiply, goats are currently mowing my lawn…

          • AfroSaxon

            You have, you are the only, you cannot….tsk tsk, you presume too much! My toast is getting cold…

          • Volomon

            Your last comment doesn’t make sense.

          • AfroSaxon

            Oh but it does, it makes all the sense in the world, if you get my drift, no, nothing?… oh well,ta ta.

          • Volomon

            Why do you call yourself AfroSaxon? You mixed race?

  • Joseph Desch

    I never really drew any connections between Arabs and the Dothraki. Their language doesn’t sound Arabic, their culture is nothing like it either, and most of the actors playing them are just a random assortment of non-whites.