All hail HBO’s Game of Thrones!!!!! If you didn’t tune in on Sunday night, you should probably re-evaluate your life choices. According to Entertainment Weekly, the fourth-season premiere of the fantasy delivered the show’s biggest audience yet: 6.6 million viewers. That makes Sunday’s Thrones HBO’s most-watched program since The Sopranos’ series finale in 2007.
In the season premiere, we meet a fan favorite from the books: Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal). Think of him as the Sonny Corleone of the Martell family. He is first seen in the most high-end and reputable brothel in King’s Landing, with his mistress, Ellaria Sand. Oberyn and Ellaria check out the brothel lineup and both like what they see, the men and women alike. Oberyn and Ellaria engage in a whirlwind of homosexual and heterosexual intercourse in one fell swoop. In a single scene, Game of Thrones screenwriters and producers reintroduce this normalized representation of homosexuality—a theme that has been seen throughout the series. We witnessed manifestations of this concept during previous Thrones seasons (in Renly and Loras’ relationship) and now we are seeing it again in the very first episode of season 4!
When I use the word, “normalized,” I mean to describe the strikingly casual manner in which homosexual sex scenes are shown. Scenes, such as the ones between Renly and Loras, literally just fall into the plot. They are treated no differently than the show’s wide array of straight sex scenes. There’s this sense of pride that communicates the idea: If straight characters are worthy of gratuitous sex scenes, then gay characters are too. The show, in my opinion, is remarkably progressive in terms of sexual equality. It really is quite groundbreaking to include explicitly gay relationships in such a mainstream, big-budget, production.
The show has received a lot of praise, and unfortunately, a lot of backlash for its treatment of homosexuality. I personally think that Game of Thrones shines in its portrayal of explicitly gay sex scenes involving men, however, it falls short in terms of same-sex scenes involving women. They were all bullshit, and frankly, quite insulting. Instead of featuring same-sex, female, intercourse based on genuine attraction, Thrones depicts women having sex with each other purely for the satisfaction and pleasure of male audiences. For example, there are multiple scenes involving prostitutes, in the same brothel visited by Oberyn, that have perform sexual acts on each other, in order to please the brothel patron, Little Finger.
Nevertheless, Game of Thrones provides an interesting insight into homosexuality within sphere of modern television culture. What I find so refreshing about Thrones’ portrayal is that there is no “gay” storyline. There isn’t a problem surrouding Loras, Renly, Oberyn, or Ellaria’s sexuality. It is treated by the writers and characters as a simple, casual, and normal situation—no different from a man having sex with a woman. There isn’t any drama accompanying these homosexual scenes, no outrage, shit-stirring, black-mailing, shamefulness or anything of the sort that is usually associated with gay relationships in other TV shows.
The show is crucially progressive in its ability to avoid defining characters utterly by their sexuality. I am not saying that gay characters are “sidelined” because their sex scenes are not treated differently than straight sex scenes. I am simply pointing out that Thrones manages to abolish the tendency for TV shows to allow sexual orientation the purpose for a character to exist within a storyline. Game of Thrones takes away the focus of “being gay” by putting straight characters and gay characters on the same playing field. Good shit, Thrones, good shit. Keep it coming. I APPRECIATE YOU.