Why won’t Game of Thrones give LGBT characters a break?

Why won’t Game of Thrones give LGBT characters a break?

Originally published in independent.co.uk

*This piece contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season Seven, Episode Two*

As it so often does, Sunday night’s Game of Thrones left me screaming at my television screen. Now in its seventh season, showrunners David Benioff and D B Weiss probably assume we’re used to the unpredictable horrors they routinely inflict on the denizens of Westeros. But Sunday night was different, and has me wondering whether I can stomach watching this show again.

As they sailed for Dorne at Queen Daenerys’ behest, Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand – two of the handful of LGBT characters the show has given us – begin flirting. It looks like the two are about to hook up when Euron Greyjoy (Yara’s brutal uncle and rival for the throne of the Iron Isles) attacks their fleet. Euron manages to kill most of their sailors and get a knife to Yara’s throat, but the episode leaves Yara’s and Ellaria’s fates unknown.

They must survive. Game of Thrones is a brilliant show that has me and millions of other viewers on the edge of our seats week after week, but it has a horrible record of writing same-sex couples. The only other real same-sex couple was brought down way back in season two, when Renly Baratheon was killed by a shadow demon birthed from the womb of Melisandre.

Renly’s death

The symbolism of a vagina demon killing a gay man told gay audiences everything we needed to know – homosexuality leads heterosexual retribution. This became even more obvious when, at the end of last season, Renly’s partner Loras was arrested for “buggery” and put on trial by a far-right religious cult which demanded heterosexuality or death. In the end, that cult was blown to smithereens by Queen Cersei, but it was of little consolation as Loras was killed along with them.

My problem isn’t so much that same-sex loving characters don’t get a happy ending on Game of Thrones. No one really does. But same-sex love is treated as a plot device on this show. None of the lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters we encounter are main characters. Instead, they are background players who, for the most part, serve to further the storylines of the main – and straight – characters.

When same-sex love is shown, it is often portrayed as something decadent or weak – such as when Oberon’s bisexuality was considered as a Dornish eccentricity rather than a valid sexuality. He was shown to be a promiscuous dandy, but we didn’t see him form any meaningful relationships with men. His relationship with Ellaria was fleshed out, though.

Oberyn favoured men too

Of course, that was before he had his head smashed in. Yet another LGB character that meets a grizzly fate. This was a common trope in 20th century literature and television, where homosexuality was seen to lead to tragic ending. So taboo was showing same-sex love in a positive light that E.M. Forster held off on publishing Maurice until he was dead, afraid editors and the public wouldn’t accept it.

But we don’t live in the 20th century, and gay and bisexual characters – and audiences – deserve better. Game of Thrones loves playing with gay and bisexual trauma as a plot device, but it doesn’t ever seem willing to actually let us be fully formed people with our own agencies and in charge of our own destinies. When two characters finally do find a little joy – such as Yara and Ellaria sharing a kiss – they are immediately attacked or killed. We never get to see what might have been.

Which is why I’m rooting for Ellaria and Yara to survive. I don’t know what’s going to happen to them, but I hope it ends with them ruling Dorne and the Iron Isles as coregents. I’ll settle for them actually becoming fully formed, dynamic characters who serve as more than a plot device in Daenerys’ quest for the Iron Throne.

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12 Comments

  1. trystham
    July 26, 09:02 Reply

    Please give it a rest already. So many other characters died that if the author of this…thing took time to read the book, would have noticed. Everything is all symbolism to all these overly conscious freedom fighters. Were they seriously expecting the Viper to triumph against that brute? Besides, up until the fourth book, Daenarys partnered with Greyjoy as a vassal so why is he crying? Fucking enjoy a good book.

    • trystham
      July 26, 09:04 Reply

      Its the little ppl’s turn and the dumb blondes’ this time. GET OVER URSELF!!! Aaaaarghhhh!!!!

      • Mandy
        July 26, 10:39 Reply

        lol. Calm down, Trys. We are a persecuted minority. Seeing demons everywhere is our stock in trade. 🙂

  2. Mandy
    July 26, 10:36 Reply

    “The symbolism of a vagina demon killing a gay man told gay audiences everything we needed to know – homosexuality leads heterosexual retribution.”

    This!!! This was exactly what I thought when I watched that scene. The subtle ‘reminder’ that the punishment for being gay is fatal and comes from the hands of the heterosexual counterpart. And that symbolism trails the gay characters in the show. Honestly though, it’d be nice to see Yara and Ellaria not get killed. I know Game of thrones characters keep dropping like ants, but if there’s anyone who will get a happily ever after in the end, the gay characters should be among them.

  3. Alex
    July 26, 13:03 Reply

    This is just retarded….Cersei n Jaime are into incest…and they r major characters… Does that mean HBO shuns been gay over incest?…. There’s no point in this post

  4. Innocent
    July 26, 15:22 Reply

    Cersei and Jaime are into incest and they are also major characters. Now, does it also mean the GOT shuns being gay over incest?

    This analysis is totally ridiculous, so to say. A lot of people died and more are still dying. No one is being giving any chance. There is no point soliciting for who should be among the main characters and who should not die.

    You should be direct in your accusations. Cos this is as good as accusing the GOT of homophobia.

  5. iAmNotAPerv
    July 26, 18:13 Reply

    oya y’all calm down. have you guys read the books? Daeneryrs had a paramour, Irri i believe. The books are not homophobic and tbh neither are the series. The series are set in a time where the LGBT did not really get any love so kindly calm down.
    i know it seems like they are killing off all gay characters but remember valar morghilis (all men must die) all men include gay men and women. Shouldn’t we be happy that they are being treated like every one else albeit they are dying. and as a queer ass woman you think say e no pain me, i would have finalllyyyy had a sex scene but the stupid uncle turned up.
    Also remember we are AT WAR!!! It’s a Game of Thrones and besidesss they are not dead, think of the sexy reunion they would have when they meet again (if they don’t die lol)

    and can we all be fucking mad at THEON MOTHERFUCKING GREYJOY?!

    • trystham
      July 26, 19:07 Reply

      Paramour? I think not. She was more like a sex coach teaching her how to pleasure Drogo and some tension relief I’m not even sure e pass dat one time after Drogo died sef

      • iAmNotAPerv
        July 27, 18:01 Reply

        That’s not Irri ogbeni that’s Doreah. She has three handmaidens. I know exactly what i am saying fam

  6. Yazz soltana
    July 26, 22:41 Reply

    Laughs in high Valerian. Cercei is going to deal with those bitches in the next episode… They dead…..

  7. Foxydevil
    July 27, 05:58 Reply

    Technically most people come out of the vagina. This article makes zero sense. Of course another attempt to make gay people boycott a popular show under the guise of self imposed discrimination.
    To be honest, the people that suffer most in that show and women ,not only is nudity so unevenly dispersed, women are made to look like sex symbols and hardly anything else, with the few exception of cersai ,arya and Brianne other women were wrongly portrayed and used on to quell interest from straight viewers .But I am not surprised with this article, gay people can never resist making a victim of themselves at the slightest opportunity. Mtchew

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