The “Game of Thrones” final-season premiere Sunday night pulled in a record 17 million people for one of the rare collective-viewing events left in American culture. But one group of fans view “GoT” a little differently than most: Black fans have taken a show with more magical creatures than recurring characters of color and turned it into something unapologetically black.
Black “GoT” fans have amassed around the #DemThrones hashtag launched by Rod and Karen Morrow, hosts of the podcast “The Black Guy Who Tips.” Comments span everything from explicit black humor to deep analyses of elements of race, class, and enslavement in the mostly white fictional world of Westeros.
For Black and Brown fans of science fiction and fantasy, there are has always been a love for the genre coupled with the very clear reality that we are not often represented in the media we consume, and when we bring that up, it’s often seen as confrontational. Yet, we still participate, and one of the ways we do so as POC fans is by being on Twitter.
One of the characters who has often been the focal point of that kind of discussion is Daenerys Targaryen. Due to her exile and storylines, Dany has often been placed among people of color, first the Dothraki and later the people in the cities of Yunkai, Astapor, and Meereen.
One scene that was especially jarring for many POC fans was Dany being lifted up and called “Mhysa,” which means “mother,” by a group of mostly brown people.
On a cinematic level and on a character level, this scene is really powerful. It comes right after the Red Wedding and signifies Dany’s ascension to one of the highest points of her story arc. It’s a powerful moment that highlights her journey from the young woman we saw being sold off into sexual slavery to being able to free other people.
However, if you’re someone who is descendant of Western slavery or colonization, the visual has tints of white saviorism, especially when you consider that Dany does not understand the culture she is “freeing” and ends up causing more problems than she solves due to her cultural ignorance.
Bigger Meaning to a Larger Issue
“Moments that resonate with black people I think are a little bit different than just the major moments of the series,” says Rod. Like the scene where a crowd of black and brown people hail Khaleesi as their savior, which drew comparisons to Hillary Clinton. In #DemThrones, Rod says, “We can have those kinds of conversations without interruption.”
Those conversations don’t detract from what makes the show fun, but it’s great to have a huge diversity of thought and discourse about the media we consume, especially something as watched and discussed as Game of Thrones. As a Black nerd, these types of communities and hashtags are a great space for them to find thoughts and opinions that were not even considered.
That doesn’t mean it’s all accurate or perfect, but the point is that, for those trying to seek out communities with people who look like them and who share similar cultural experience, Twitter sometimes comes through.
Also, the memes are just great…