Game of Thrones Author Comments on Lack of Racial Diversity in Series

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Game of Thrones Author Comments on Lack of Racial Diversity in Series

George R.R. Martin says he does have some "characters of color" who will have larger roles in Winds of Winter, but admitted these are secondary characters.

If you're a fan of either HBO's Game of Thrones or the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, you might have noticed that there's not a lot of color and racial diversity when it comes to the characters George R.R. Martin has concocted. In a post on his blog, Martin answered a fan who said that the lack of diversity in Game of Thrones "really hurts," and asked if " must all black people in the series be servants, guards, or charlatans?"

Here's Martin's response in full:

Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America, of course... but with that being said, I do have some 'characters of color' who will have somewhat larger roles in WINDS OF WINTER. Admittedly, these are secondary and tertiary characters, though not without importance.

Of course, I am talking about the books here, and you are talking about the show, which is a thing apart. I do think HBO and David and Dan are doing what they can to promote diversity as well, as witness the casting of Areo Hotah, which you mention. Of course, Hotah IS a guard... but he is also a viewpoint character in the novels, a brave and loyal warrior.

At this year's San Diego Comic-Con, it was announced that actor DeObia Oparei (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) has been cast as Areo Hotah for Season 5.

It's been a rather busy start of the month for Game of Thrones info. Last week, we had Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) say she's "so sick" of snobby book readers, next we had Martin admit that the pressure from fans and HBO to finish the books do affect him. Lastly, Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) teased that a "big change" will be coming to her character in Season 5.

Does Martin have a point or should HBO make more effort in ensuring that races of all colors are represented in one of TV's most popular shows on air?

Source: George R.R. Martin via WinterisComing

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The show did cut down on a lot of the parts for non-white actors (removing Strong Belwas, putting the bloodriders into the background, etc.) while leaving the foreign villains mostly intact, but I think that is more of a constraint of trying to fit everything into a TV show than a deliberate stylistic choice. I think it would be nice if they opened those parts back up, but then again I don't care if they take 5 seasons to get from where they are now to the end of what GRRM has written.

I think the first part was about all he had to say. Westeros isn't supposed to be diverse, I wouldn't expect much of it outside of King's Landing (as a trading hub) or Dorne. Dany (and some others) rolling around the free cities is the best bet for the new characters, and considering how many characters have come and gone I'm not surprised.

And what's with the passive aggressive "Must all black people be"? She realizes there's just as many white servants, guards, and charlatans in the series too, right? And some of the white people who aren't any of those things are still terrible people.

Inb4
Anecdotal examples of a few notable non-Caucasians in medieval Europe

I think a series which is all about power through family lineages can be forgiven for having a racially unbalanced cast. Non-white people in Westeros are likely to be recent immigrants so having them as Lords of castles several thousands of years old wouldn't fit.

That being said the fact that in the show the Unsullied seem to all be black is a bit jarring when the the Unsullied in the books are from anywhere that people could be kidnapped from. A visual shorthand of "black people = slaves/ former slaves" isn't a great idea.

It's very clearly a story set in a racist world rather than a racist story.

Westeros is a cruel and brutal place, yet there's practically no racism in it. Tyrion gets shit because he's got dwarfism, but I haven't seen a single character get shit for their skin colour.

Ya know, everytime I read something like one of these 'This medieval Europe analog is not as racialy diverse as north America! My feelings are extremely hurt and you are a RACIST!'... its comming from a black person. Its never a latino, east-asian, central asian, arab or slavic.

And im not talking about actual valid complaints of inequity, just these complete off-the-wall comments. This self-victimizing, Jesse Jackson-style shakedown, guilt abusing scumbaggery seems to have taken on a life of its own and now has people genuinely believing this garbage. This does not help anyone, it hurts actual progress, it makes it harder for minorities with ACTUAL problems to be takenn seriously and further convinces anyone who thinks ALL complaints of inequity are a load of whining of his viewpoint.

Jesse Jackson and this anonymous GoT fan screw over their own minotiry and society as a whole. Do not give in to them.

UberPubert:

And what's with the passive aggressive "Must all black people be"? She realizes there's just as many white servants, guards, and charlatans in the series too, right? And some of the white people who aren't any of those things are still terrible people.

I wonder how quick the "RACIST!" accusations would come if the majority of the characters were non-white and still did awful, awful things to each other.

OT

What about that continent across the sea from Westeros? Granted, I've not read the books and haven't exactly kept up with the show, but that place seemed to be full of non-whites....

In our diverse society, this just won't do. Game of Thrones needs to give credit and spotlight to more races and sexual orientations. Seriously, what is this? Aryan race land?

If Tolkien had writted the Lord of the Rings today, the social justice warriors would probably have a heart attack. All the characters are white, straight, cisgendered and the story is almost entirely based on Northern European culture and mythology. Oh what horrible racism and white supremacy.

Infact I think all LOTR books should be forcibly removed from shelves and re-written in more inclusive and multicultural fashion. Frodo should be replaced with a bisexual Muslim and he should be married to Samwise, a gay African and Merry and Pippin will both be disabled Indians. Aragorn should be a transexual native American, Gimli should be a gender neutral Jew, Legolas will be a feminist Japanese girl and Gandalf a Buddhist monk. The Nazgul already look somewhat like burka wearing Muslim women so they get a pass.

Sauron will now be an evil white man, who wants to keep all the minorities down with his army of neo-nazi orcs. The entire story will revolve around this vibrant fellowship fighting through the neo-nazi orc hoards, with the goal of reaching Mordor and forcing Sauron to check his white privilege, and then eventually turn Mordor into a diverse, multicultural paradise.

Some people are just fools. They take the concept of diversity and run along with it until it has been stretched all out of shape.

Diversity in media is very simple, whether we're talking about films, tv, books or games. You can't attempt to represent every single sexual orientation or racial minority in existence; what you can do is choose a variety of diverse viewpoints and do each one proper justice.

That's what Game of Thrones does. True, most of the people with obviously 'foreign' racial characteristics tend to be minor or background characters (looking at you Jalabhar Xho), but the books are very representative in other ways...

We have a dwarf, some truly fascinating women (including an exiled-queen, an assassin-in-training and Brienne, born a lady but wanting to be a warrior), we have children and high-borns, wildlings born free of all society as well as a variety of male characters, not all of whom are entirely conventional in their sexual orientation. Hell, if you really wanted to (and I personally really don't), you could try and make the argument that Bran is a furry of some sort.

The point is, no piece of media is ever going to simultaneously portray every kind of race, sexual preference, physical disability or mental peculiarity at any one time. If you tried, the result would be crowded and ridiculous (think the 'Planeteers' of 'Captain Planet' fame) and unless such a book or show were to be 2000 pages or 30 hours long, respectively, then the POVs of those characters would be diluted and less thoroughly expressed.

What truly great media can do, what truly great media like Game of Thrones has done, is to present us with an amazingly diverse selection of viewpoints and to explore each of them thoroughly - you can't have all the cakes and eat them, but you can have a couple dozen slices from various cakes and learn to be happy with that. Because that's all there is, and that's as good as it gets.

Groenteman:
its comming from a black person. Its never a latino, east-asian, central asian, arab or slavic.

Honestly, I see this sort of thing coming from upper-middle class white girls more often. Youtube videos on the subject may have skewed my perception, but I have detected a trend.

Wasn't there a black priest of that fire cult? or was he dropped along lady stoneheart?

UberPubert:

Groenteman:
its comming from a black person. Its never a latino, east-asian, central asian, arab or slavic.

Honestly, I see this sort of thing coming from upper-middle class white girls more often. Youtube videos on the subject may have skewed my perception, but I have detected a trend.

Middle class white girls? You mean feminists? In that case yes your right, they (or rather a smaller sub-group of the original feminists) seem to be showing a remarkably similar trend as they have run low on real problems to complain about. Its not just impressionable young girls either, grown women have made carriers out of 'gender eqaulity' the same way Jesse Jackson is a 'civil rights advocate' (as in, public extortion schemes).

There is something to them being tertiary though. In the books they are presented as essentially outside of the Bullshit that goes on within the 7 kingdoms and over at the east.

One of the best quotes was from a summer isles person when confronted with the idea of gods making men make vows to forsake having a lover. She said: "I have heard of your gods and they must be cruel indeed. What gods would give men desire to make love and then tell them that they cannot. If they are gods then our gods must be demons"

Thats not a perfect quote but for the life of me I cant find it. Still one of my favorites though.

But I agree. We need more diversity in media yes.

Just not in game of thrones its martins story and if he doesnt feel the need then his story has no need for it. If he wants to include the summer isles peoples then he should but if he does not want to then thats fine too. Really wish people could grasp that.

Its not just minority races that are underrepresented either! Where are the differently-able people in Westeros? In 4 seasons of the show I haven't seen one person in a motorized chair, or injecting insulin regularly. And how hard would it be to include one fully-transitioned trans character?
I can hear you know, sputtering "B-but those type of people don't make sense in a medieval Europe analogous world!"
Please, this is FANTASY, they can explain it. There are DRAGONS for godsake.

Denamic:
Westeros is a cruel and brutal place, yet there's practically no racism in it. Tyrion gets shit because he's got dwarfism, but I haven't seen a single character get shit for their skin colour.

Not really skin color, but Syrio Forel is called a "foreign bastard" right before... well, y'know. Other than that I can't really think of anything.

Trucken:

Denamic:
Westeros is a cruel and brutal place, yet there's practically no racism in it. Tyrion gets shit because he's got dwarfism, but I haven't seen a single character get shit for their skin colour.

Not really skin color, but Syrio Forel is called a "foreign bastard" right before... well, y'know. Other than that I can't really think of anything.

That's because he's a foreigner in a country that's hostile against its own people.

If I wanted to watch asians, I'll go watch asian movies. Coincidentally they don't have a single non-asian cast in 99% of their movies. I remember Family Matters doesn't have much whites either, and not a single asian.

And so fucking what?

Movies and television is cast how're they cast, the lack of diversity could be what gives it character. People should take their racial views out of artistic expressions.

Misread the article, forget I said anything.

What?? all the stuffy white people are in power? totally unrealistic. No I think he has it spot on. It is kind of racist and that's just how things were there and then. That said it generally states that Essos is far more diverse. It just so happens that Westeros was founded by a bunch of white guys. One thing to note again there's no real heroes. stop rooting for people in this series they're all fools or bad guys. So complaining that the main cast is not diverse enough is silly. In fact all the diverse folks are pretty much the only non-idiots.

I know it's been said but....
I am shocked! Shocked to learn that Westros, a land that is based off Mideveal England, is mostly white and run by white people.

al4674:
In our diverse society, this just won't do. Game of Thrones needs to give credit and spotlight to more races and sexual orientations. Seriously, what is this? Aryan race land?

If Tolkien had writted the Lord of the Rings today, the social justice warriors would probably have a heart attack. All the characters are white, straight, cisgendered and the story is almost entirely based on Northern European culture and mythology. Oh what horrible racism and white supremacy.

Infact I think all LOTR books should be forcibly removed from shelves and re-written in more inclusive and multicultural fashion. Frodo should be replaced with a bisexual Muslim and he should be married to Samwise, a gay African and Merry and Pippin will both be disabled Indians. Aragorn should be a transexual native American, Gimli should be a gender neutral Jew, Legolas will be a feminist Japanese girl and Gandalf a Buddhist monk. The Nazgul already look somewhat like burka wearing Muslim women so they get a pass.

Sauron will now be an evil white man, who wants to keep all the minorities down with his army of neo-nazi orcs. The entire story will revolve around this vibrant fellowship fighting through the neo-nazi orc hoards, with the goal of reaching Mordor and forcing Sauron to check his white privilege, and then eventually turn Mordor into a diverse, multicultural paradise.

Ya know, sometimes it's difficult to express sarcasm in an online post, but you pull it off marvelously. Bravo to you sir.
I will throw it out there, the GoT world IS a representation of medieval Europe, the War of the Roses in fact. THAT'S RIGHT, I SAID IT! Were there historical people of African or Asian descent in that era during this specific period in history - between 1455 and 1487, within England and its territories? Maybe. Were they significant enough to be recorded? Not likely. (Cue some historian dusting off a 100yr old tome JUST to correct me, go ahead, I welcome it) And yes, a lot of the slaves Dani is liberating are black or brown people. Guess what, a lot of slaves in our own history were black and brown people! Here in the U.S. we fought our own war of liberation for that very reason. With Daenerys it's not different. Lets look at it another way. Bravos is representative of the French - that rich land across the sea that will not be conquered. So their people have thick accents in comparison to the people of Westeros, who are of course where most of the PoV characters hail from. Do we object when we see and hear this, that one has an accent, one does not? I haven't heard complaints. In fact I've heard the opposite, that this Bravosi or that didn't carry an accent and should have. Is the bickering over accents racist? One could claim the subtext is there but it's so minor, why bother. That's what this is, a minor complaint over something we take for granted and think we can somehow hold the moral high ground when we imagine the smallest slight to political correctness. Some people really should just step away from the computer, take a deep breath, and go outside rather than judging others whose works they have enjoyed for so very long. And with that, I'll do the same. It's a hot, sunny day and I plan to enjoy it.

Coruptin:
Inb4
Anecdotal examples of a few notable non-Caucasians in medieval Europe

Yeah because Westeros is so true to medieval Europe.

Dragons? Fine.
People coming back from the dead? Makes sense.
More people of colour in important roles? Don't be so unrealistic.

Groenteman:
Ya know, everytime I read something like one of these 'This medieval Europe analog is not as racialy diverse as north America! My feelings are extremely hurt and you are a RACIST!'... its comming from a black person. Its never a latino, east-asian, central asian, arab or slavic.

And im not talking about actual valid complaints of inequity, just these complete off-the-wall comments. This self-victimizing, Jesse Jackson-style shakedown, guilt abusing scumbaggery seems to have taken on a life of its own and now has people genuinely believing this garbage. This does not help anyone, it hurts actual progress, it makes it harder for minorities with ACTUAL problems to be takenn seriously and further convinces anyone who thinks ALL complaints of inequity are a load of whining of his viewpoint.

Jesse Jackson and this anonymous GoT fan screw over their own minotiry and society as a whole. Do not give in to them.

Knee Jerk reaction much? It's just a question, people shouldn't be threatened by questions. I was also curious as to why there were so few non-criminal/non servant black people in the series.

UberPubert:

And what's with the passive aggressive "Must all black people be"? She realizes there's just as many white servants, guards, and charlatans in the series too, right?

The issue is that while there are white servants and guards, people of colour tend to only exist in these roles.

I don't understand why people on this site have such trouble with people asking about diversity.
No one said anything about racism, just the typical Escapist thread, over-reacting to accusations that haven't been made.

Oh noes, someone dared to ask an author a question about diversity, call the SJW Police or some shit.

Remus:

al4674:
In our diverse society, this just won't do. Game of Thrones needs to give credit and spotlight to more races and sexual orientations. Seriously, what is this? Aryan race land?

If Tolkien had writted the Lord of the Rings today, the social justice warriors would probably have a heart attack. All the characters are white, straight, cisgendered and the story is almost entirely based on Northern European culture and mythology. Oh what horrible racism and white supremacy.

Infact I think all LOTR books should be forcibly removed from shelves and re-written in more inclusive and multicultural fashion. Frodo should be replaced with a bisexual Muslim and he should be married to Samwise, a gay African and Merry and Pippin will both be disabled Indians. Aragorn should be a transexual native American, Gimli should be a gender neutral Jew, Legolas will be a feminist Japanese girl and Gandalf a Buddhist monk. The Nazgul already look somewhat like burka wearing Muslim women so they get a pass.

Sauron will now be an evil white man, who wants to keep all the minorities down with his army of neo-nazi orcs. The entire story will revolve around this vibrant fellowship fighting through the neo-nazi orc hoards, with the goal of reaching Mordor and forcing Sauron to check his white privilege, and then eventually turn Mordor into a diverse, multicultural paradise.

Ya know, sometimes it's difficult to express sarcasm in an online post, but you pull it off marvelously. Bravo to you sir.
I will throw it out there, the GoT world IS a representation of medieval Europe, the War of the Roses in fact. THAT'S RIGHT, I SAID IT! Were there historical people of African or Asian descent in that era during this specific period in history - between 1455 and 1487, within England and its territories? Maybe. Were they significant enough to be recorded? Not likely. (Cue some historian dusting off a 100yr old tome JUST to correct me, go ahead, I welcome it) And yes, a lot of the slaves Dani is liberating are black or brown people. Guess what, a lot of slaves in our own history were black and brown people! Here in the U.S. we fought our own war of liberation for that very reason. With Daenerys it's not different. Lets look at it another way. Bravos is representative of the French - that rich land across the sea that will not be conquered. So their people have thick accents in comparison to the people of Westeros, who are of course where most of the PoV characters hail from. Do we object when we see and hear this, that one has an accent, one does not? I haven't heard complaints. In fact I've heard the opposite, that this Bravosi or that didn't carry an accent and should have. Is the bickering over accents racist? One could claim the subtext is there but it's so minor, why bother. That's what this is, a minor complaint over something we take for granted and think we can somehow hold the moral high ground when we imagine the smallest slight to political correctness. Some people really should just step away from the computer, take a deep breath, and go outside rather than judging others whose works they have enjoyed for so very long. And with that, I'll do the same. It's a hot, sunny day and I plan to enjoy it.

It doesn't matter that in the real world a lot of black people were slaves. How does that have any relevance to the fictional world of Game of Thrones where dragons and ice zombies exist? Dark skinned people being the "stock people" for slaves isn't exactly an encouraging thing to see in a series.

Sanderpower:

It doesn't matter that in the real world a lot of black people were slaves. How does that have any relevance to the fictional world of Game of Thrones where dragons and ice zombies exist? Dark skinned people being the "stock people" for slaves isn't exactly an encouraging thing to see in a series.

But it doesn't make it any less accurate. I'm sorry that Game of Thrones couldn't fit your ideal, where all the slaves were white people, or maybe that there weren't any saves at all, thus cutting out a major plot point that easily fills at least a third of the show.

I'd actually really like to see more POV people of different cultures outside of Westeros. One of the neat things the POV system can do is show events from the perspective of different people of different cultures. We get alot of that from the different individual areas in Westeros but not a lot from places outside of it.

Sanderpower:

It doesn't matter that in the real world a lot of black people were slaves. How does that have any relevance to the fictional world of Game of Thrones where dragons and ice zombies exist? Dark skinned people being the "stock people" for slaves isn't exactly an encouraging thing to see in a series.

Were the Unsullied black? I always made them out to be more Middle-Eastern (since most of the Africa analogue seems to be the Summer Isles). May be wrong though.

Colour Scientist:
The issue is that while there are white servants and guards, people of colour tend to only exist in these roles.

But what of it? The lack of black people outside of these roles is not evidence they must be in them, especially not when they're filled by so many white people. I don't even think it can be argued that these roles are lesser, considering GoT has had a knack for depicting most upper class characters as incompetent or tyrants (or dead).

Colour Scientist:
I don't understand why people on this site have such trouble with people asking about diversity.
No one said anything about racism, just the typical Escapist thread, over-reacting to accusations that haven't been made.

It's not just this site, I can assure you - and the trouble is always with people calling for diversification in media that other people enjoy. To ask for increased diversification in an established property is to challenge the creator's intentions as being A. The result of a whimsical dart toss, rendering the significance of an established character's features moot, or B. Actual malice on the creator's part to perpetrate bigoted ideas.

Colour Scientist:
Oh noes, someone dared to ask an author a question about diversity, call the SJW Police or some shit.

It has very little to do with the simple question, and far, far more to do with the implications, and the repeated attempts by people who say these kinds of things to paint others as bigots. It's widespread on the internet by now and people are sick of it.

Come on, it's epic fantasy. It's expected that Aryan characteristics win the day.

Thunderous Cacophony:
The show did cut down on a lot of the parts for non-white actors (removing Strong Belwas, putting the bloodriders into the background, etc.) while leaving the foreign villains mostly intact, but I think that is more of a constraint of trying to fit everything into a TV show than a deliberate stylistic choice.

It's amazing how often the non-whites get cut as some sort of extraneous constraint. This is incredibly common, and he volume alone should set one's pattern recognition a-tinglin'

Colour Scientist:

I don't understand why people on this site have such trouble with people asking about diversity.
No one said anything about racism, just the typical Escapist thread, over-reacting to accusations that haven't been made.

It's "Suspiciously Specific Denial" played straight.

Groenteman:

Jesse Jackson and this anonymous GoT fan screw over their own minotiry and society as a whole. Do not give in to them.

Funny you should bring up Jesse Jackson, a guy who's usually paid to give his opinion. But okay, if the actions of a few paint the majority poorly, doesn't that also hold true of the whites who actually are racist? What about the people who complained that they "made" Rue and her District black in the Hunger Games movie (Spoiler: she was dark-skinned in the books, though I don't think they specifically said "black"). Are white people bad now?

Or does this "reflects poorly" thing only work one way? Because it's generally only applied one way: towards minorities.

Dragonlayer:

UberPubert:

And what's with the passive aggressive "Must all black people be"? She realizes there's just as many white servants, guards, and charlatans in the series too, right? And some of the white people who aren't any of those things are still terrible people.

I wonder how quick the "RACIST!" accusations would come if the majority of the characters were non-white and still did awful, awful things to each other.

OT

What about that continent across the sea from Westeros? Granted, I've not read the books and haven't exactly kept up with the show, but that place seemed to be full of non-whites....

Yeah and set it in commonly overly accused of crime and dilipated area like uhm BOSTON and...

LiMaSaRe:
Its not just minority races that are underrepresented either! Where are the differently-able people in Westeros? In 4 seasons of the show I haven't seen one person in a motorized chair, or injecting insulin regularly. And how hard would it be to include one fully-transitioned trans character?
I can hear you know, sputtering "B-but those type of people don't make sense in a medieval Europe analogous world!"
Please, this is FANTASY, they can explain it. There are DRAGONS for godsake.

Bran, Hodor, Jaime, Tyrion, and.. likely dozens of other characters.
GoT has some issues. And its complainers do get out of had but if you will parody them do please try not to make them blind deaf AND dumb.

Colour Scientist:

UberPubert:

And what's with the passive aggressive "Must all black people be"? She realizes there's just as many white servants, guards, and charlatans in the series too, right?

The issue is that while there are white servants and guards, people of colour tend to only exist in these roles.

I don't understand why people on this site have such trouble with people asking about diversity.
No one said anything about racism, just the typical Escapist thread, over-reacting to accusations that haven't been made.

Oh noes, someone dared to ask an author a question about diversity, call the SJW Police or some shit.

White Guy Defense Force.. they.. yeah it was a thing

I thought he was already including a whole lot of racial diversity. In the books, at least (don't know about the tv series).

The barbarians like Khal Drogo, all of the inhabitants of the distant lands such as Braavos, the "sand snakes", the black guys who wear feathers....

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