April 19, 2011

Native-style savages in Game of Thrones

Latoya Peterson of the Racialicious blog writes about the new HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones:

Can I Just Watch A Game of Thrones in Peace? [Brown Feminist Fan Rant]

She starts by noting the problem with fantasy in general:[W]e fen of color know that generally, if we want to dip a toe in new worlds, they are going to be filled to bursting with white folks. As Angry Black Woman wrote a few years back:White, heterosexual men have the luxury of being able to turn to 99% of the channels beamed into their TVs and see themselves portrayed in a manner that makes them comfortable and happy. Most white women, do, too. Minorities of most any stripe do not have that luxury. This is especially true of ethnic minorities. Why do we ‘bean count’? Because we can. That’s not flippancy, that’s a fact. I can look at my TV and count the number of black people I see because there are so few of them and they tend to stand out in the sea of whiteness.Then she dives into Game of Thrones:Let’s start with the racefail. I’ve been flinching all week as reviewers and fans throw around the term “barbarian” like it’s going out of style. The Dothraki can be interpreted a few different ways, but are described in the book as having copper skin and almond-shaped eyes. They are described by the language creators as “a cross between the Mongols and some of the Native American tribes.”

I’m left with a lingering question–who is supposed to be a savage here? The producers of the show gave the Dothraki all the markers of the other–less clothing, no real concern about murder, unclean food preparation. And yet, I didn’t walk away from the books with that impression.
Finally, she addresses a typical fan's comment:Ram-Sacked

[...] p.s. For those people fretful that brown Dothraki will be poorly portrayed because they are brown, I can assure you that there have been plenty of awful societies here on Earth that were owned and operated by brown people. Brown people, just like white people, can and will be pretty awful some times. (Edit comment)
Right. And brown people, just like white people, can be awesome and heroic, but that never seems to happen for us. Perhaps one could claim ignorance about all ancient civilizations that don’t revolve around Europe (which is a tough sell, but considering what I learned in school, I’ll bite). But then that doesn’t explain the whitening of the handful of universes that aren’t completely white by creator design.
Comment:  For more on savage Indians, see Origin of "Fighting Sioux," Wild "Indians" in Trucksgiving, and Tribe of Arrows Reality Show.


dmarks said...

Tolkien is the root source of much of fantasy fiction, including the George R. R. Martin books.

The Haradrim, clearly intended to be black Africans, or northern Africans, were nothing but evil hordes.

Jaine said...

Tolkien was trying to create English legends. I always thought that the Haradrim were Arab and if you have read the book you will know that he acknowledges they have families, loves, hopes, dreams and being far away from home to fight another's war. Also Tolkien, unlike many authors of fantasy, had strong female characters that didn't need to get about half naked. A better example would be Star Wars where the only main female character was white (and she needed to be rescued twice, and still at points, was half naked). The only other female leader was at the end of A New Hope (commander giving orders). The rest were "alien" strippers, slave girls and entertainers.