We love HBO’s Game of Thrones. It’s some of the best storytelling on premium cable, possibly the best production quality ever for a TV series (DRAGONS!), and the directing and acting are pretty darn awesome to boot.
We’re also really happy the phenomenally popular show has increased interest in high fantasy on the small screen, big screen, and in books.
Another thing we love about GoT is that it has gay, lesbian and bisexual characters and decent portrayals of women. The Hogwarts G.S.A. believes gender equality and LGBTQ equality go hand-in-hand, so strong, diverse female characters are important to us too.
Flavowire proclaimed GoT: the “queerest show on television,” by which we think they meant the queerest, big production show on a non-queer TV network. If not, we think they set the queer bar rather low. GoT has no queer lead characters, and in any given episode, queerness gets a pretty paltry amount of screen time.
Maybe ten or fifteen years ago, that was enough to uplift any TV series as queer-friendly, but times have changed. We have dozens of shows with LGBTQ content on premium channels, Netflix, Youtube, and even standard cable TV. Thus, we thought it was time to give a report card on GoT Season Six “The Winds of Winter” to see just how queer-friendly the show really is.
THE GOOD STUFF
Women Rule the Known World: From Season One, GoT gave us diverse portrayals of women, with fabulous lead characters who survive and achieve power by their own agency, as well as women who have the mettle and physicality to get by in the martial world of men. Season Six amped up their storylines with a season finale that arguably leaves the guys on the margins of the action. Will Danaerys conquer Westeros, aided by the female-headed houses of Dorne, Tyrell and Greyjoy? Will Sersei, the self-appointed queen of the seven kingdoms, terrorize everyone into submission?
The season developed further Arya Stark as an expert assassin, a force to be reckoned with next year. Her sister Sansa rose above her status as a bartered wife (and the abuses that went with it), emerging as a leader of the Stark clan. Melisandre, a complicated character who we love, had a pivotal role, and a sympathetic treatment, as she used her sorcery to bring Jon Snow back from the dead and grew a bit more circumspect about the powers invested in her by the Lord of Light. Sersei went nuclear as a supervillain. Danaerys overthrew the masters of Slavers Bay. Margaery Tyrell outwitted the oppressive High Sparrow (though ultimately perishing along with him in the season finale). The Sand Sisters took over Dorne, and the list goes on and on. Season Six showed that women not only hold their own with men, they can surpass them in every measure.
Grade: O for Outstanding
GoT Gets Its First Lesbian Character: Most of us had our suspicions about Yara Greyjoy. Maybe it was a bit stereotypical, but she was always a tough broad, willing to speak her mind and more comfortable in armor and on horseback than hanging back with the ladies.
In Season Six, Yara’s attraction to women was confirmed, and we got to see a little of her horsing around in Braavos as well as flirting with Danaerys when she came to Meereen. She’s not a major character, but it was great to see the cast expanding to include a woman who fools around with women on her own terms, rather than doing it to titillate the guys.
Grade: A for Average
THE BAD STUFF
The Last Gay Standing Repents and Dies: Loras Tyrell was always a pretty ineffectual character who got bossed around by the Lannisters. But at least his story showed a bit how a gay man navigates the fiercely heteronormative world of Kings Landing.
Imprisoned by the Sparrows in Season Six, his storyline plunged him deeper into pathetic territory. While his sister Margaery has the grit to overcome the High Sparrow (as did Sersei), Loras turns to pudding. The season finale both had him humiliated as a repentant “ex-gay” and obliterated in an explosion of wildfire. On the same night LGBT Pride Parades were being celebrated across the country. Two weeks after the greatest massacre of gay men and women in America. (We understand the writers could not have anticipated that tragedy, but the timing made the situation necessarily crass).
We get that the world of GoT is brutal and many characters are killed off to kick up the drama. But Loras’ characterization wouldn’t have been so bad if there were actually other gay men in the cast.
Grade: T for Troll
Butch is Good. Femme, not so much: Opposed to the reverential treatment of women who transcend gender norms, the writers continued to have a problem portraying their non-conforming male counterparts with balance.
One example is the handling of the sissy prince Robyn Aryn versus the feisty, pint-sized Lady Mormont. Robyn appears on screen to show how uncoordinated he is at swordsmanship while the Knights of the Aerie roll their eyes and Littlefinger manipulates him. Meanwhile, Lyanna Mormont stands up to the lords of the North, questioning their courage and honor, and earns everyone’s respect.
Costuming and styling supports the writers’ prejudice. Fey, androgynous characters in Essos have almost always symbolized evil, i.e. the warlocks of Qaarth. In season six, it was the masters of Slavers Bay, a prettified, mascaraed lot served up justice by Danaerys. Back in Westeros, opera-singing dandy Mace Tyrell is a court buffoon, completely ineffective compared to his mother Leanna.
The only non-traditional male character with a likeable story is Lord Varys, a wise and dryly witty eunuch, and we appreciate Samwell Tarly, who would rather read books than fight.
Grade: P for Poor
Bisexuals or Transgenders, Anyone?!: Pansexual Oberyn Martell is dead, and his pansexual lover Ellaria Sand understandably had bigger concerns than sex and romance. She took a cold-blooded turn in Seasons Five and Six, and perhaps has an important role to play next year, though she’s never gotten much screen time or dimension.
As for transgender characters, are they off-screen in the Shadowlands?
Grade: D for Dreadful
Our overall grade for GoT Season Six: Poor, and it sadly set up low expectations for queer-friendliness next year except for the centrality of strong (cisgender, heterosexual) female characters.