Game of Thrones – an opinion

(no spoilers if you’re current with last week’s episode)

This is Samwell Tarly, played by John Bradley.

Sam and three other people – late king Robert Baratheon, Varys and Hot Pie – make up the fat part of the Westeros cast of Game of Thrones. (There is also Xaro Xhoan Daxos, a liar and a traitor, but he is from Qarth, in Essos, and I’ll not discuss him here)

Now, I like Game of Thrones. I’m a sucker for fantasy anyway and this series has carefully chosen settings, overall great character development and superb acting. It has strong female characters along with the male and, despite it being ‘ period’ drama in a sense, it passes the Bechdel test several times (Catelyn Stark and Brienne, Sansa and Shea and Sansa and Cersei, just to name a few). I also have a happy little celebrity crush on Jon Snow / Kit Harington. I think it’s the pout. In any case, I love the series and look forward to every new episode.

However, there is one thing that annoys me, and it annoys me more every time I see it. I’m hoping it will become less prevalent over the coming episodes and seasons.

Game of Thrones is not cool when it comes to fat people and that’s a pity and a shame, because I think it does a good job of not being exclusionary otherwise.

I have not yet read the books so I don’t know if this is something George R.R. Martin put in himself, but I believe that the series would have been stronger if Sam, king Robert and ‘Hot Pie’ had not been written as clearly inferior to their companions. Varys is a different story – while he is considered unusual, he is also considered dangerous enough to make up for it. His fatness is not a defining quality, overshadowed as it is by his choices of clothing, his effeminate behavior and, of course, the known fact of his missing genitalia and mysterious past. His fatness is also not associated with a host of character flaws or, worse, a lack of character whatsoever. As spymaster and member of the small council, he may be subject to rumor and gossip, but he is considered a force to be reckoned with.

Sam is a character with potential. While he often comes across as bumbling and cowardly, he shows strength of character on par with other major characters in the tale on a few occasions. I, for one, hope that he’ll develop into a more well-rounded character. Not as ‘comically’ insecure,  not as scared and inept, not as lacking in courage and will to fight. No longer the laughing stock of the rest of the people at the Nightwatch. And then I hope he stays fat. If Sam is only allowed to grow mentally while shrinking in physical size, I’ll be disgusted. Of course it is possible for a scared and insecure person to also be fat. But I don’t see why the one visible scaredycat in the Nightwatch needed to be ‘Ser Piggy’.

King Robert Baratheon used to be a capable man, charming, good at fighting. That’s how he came to be king. And then.. Then he won the war and began drinking too much. He became a drunken sot, incapable of ruling and unwilling to spend time on serious matters. He spent much time with prostitutes and fathered some bastards. In return,  he was cheated on by his wife and was tricked into raising three children, none of which are his. In his seventeen years as king, he drove the Seven Kingdoms millions into deep debt.  His love of the drink even leads to his assassination. Robert ends up a man who hits his wife, bullies his squire and is entirely unwilling to deal with anything that distracts him from his pleasures.

In Robert’s own words, to Eddard Stark: “I’m not trying to honor you, I’m trying to get you to run my kingdom while I eat, drink, and whore my way into an early grave.

So, while King Robert may not have started out incapable, slothful and overindulgent, he sure ended up that way, and fatally so. How better to show this than by having a scene in which Robert tries to put on armor, but has become too fat to wear it? And then laugh at himself (because when you’re fat, you better be very good at self-deprecation, I guess). While I understand that every king must have a tragic flaw, I would have appreciated it if it had not been so mixed up with his exterior. A lustful, unfaithful, overindulgent drunk can still be thin, if you know what Im saying.

Then, there’s Hot Pie. Who – as far as I can tell – has no other name than Hot Pie. Shortly after we meet him, he bullies Arya. Then, he shows himself as a braggart and a liar -and not a very good one. When fighting breaks out, he alone hides and yields immediately when found, displaying cowardice. He shows incompetentce by believing a rumor and so puts himself at risk of being killed. He pees his pants when he is scared. Later, Hot Pie is sent to work in the kitchens of Harrenhal. After his escape from that castle, he decides not to continue on with Arya and Gendry  and chooses to stay at an inn and bake bread.

Now, Hot Pie doesn’t get that much screen time, but when you do see him, there’s an guesstimated 50% chance that he’s eating. He’s also heard talking about recipes and food. While I don’t know what the future holds for Hot Pie, I wonder what those involved in making the series thought to gain with his character up until this point. Was he supposed to be funny?  Was he just ‘filler’? Was he once an interesting, well-rounded person who got squashed into two-dimensional ‘always hungry, cowardly fat kid’ because of a lack of time for character development?

Dear people who work on Game of Thrones, I know you on’t read this. But just in case you do, please put a little effort into not giving in to sizeist prejudice. I know that ridiculing fat people is something is sometimes thought to be acceptable in this day and age. I know that you’ll appeal to many people’s biases when you correlate being fat with negative things such as a lack of courage and competence, and win some easy laughs. But think about it for a second: why would you take the easy way out here when you’ve obviously worked so hard on getting all the other things right. Why do justice to men and women alike, to cultures far and near – taking the effort to develop a whole new tongue to enhance the depth of the Dothraki people, and then drop the ball on some people, just because they’re fat.


6 Responses to “Game of Thrones – an opinion”

  1. 1 Allen V. Cortez April 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    George R.R. is a big man. So maybe he has earnt the right to say what he wants about weight :P. I have only ready about a quarter of the the first novel [Game of Thrones] and don’t recall any fattist text, but I don’t think I got up to any of these characters, except maybe Baratheon.

    Sam started out as bumbling and cowardly and that was his character – I don’t think he’s like that any more. If anything, I think his treatment by his colleagues says a lot, that THEY can’t look past his weight.

    Sam is a major character in the Jon Snow story. He imparts wisdom, and loves his friends. He is also respected by them. I don’t think the insults about his weight are anything but childish bullying, which contributes to the realism of the piece. I’ve never thought Sam was awkward because of his weight, I just thought he was a young, awkward guy (of which I know plenty, both skinny and large).

    Robert, well, I know plenty of fellows his age who drink and eat like he does and none of them are skinny.

    Hot Pie… Yeah, I suspect he was just a filler. May have played a larger role in the books, but he almost should have been written out of the TV show.

    Great post! Have you seen the Jon Snow hair treatment? I had a quick look but couldn’t find it; a mock advertisement because Snow’s hair always looks good.

    Take care,

    • 2 thesmittenimmigrant April 22, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      You’re right, there is definitely more to Sam than I gave him credit for in this post. It’s why I hope to see him develop even more. I don’t think that the character Sam is awkward because of his weight, per se, I just thought it was a little too coincidental that he was both awkward and big. As if one social disadvantage wasn’t enough 😉

      That I have not read the books was definitely a handicap for writing this post. It’s possible that some things that work very well in the books get lost in translation, or perhaps lose some sensitivity. It’s of course also possible that things have been added or altered in the series. By no means am I holding anyone directly responsible for what annoyed me in the series.

      Now I need to look for the Jon Snow hair advertisement 😛

  2. 3 sampaxton April 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Not to spoil anything, but Sam becomes a major character in the books (especially book four), though I can’t speak for the show. Also, in the books, I’m not sure they mention Hot Pie as being fat. I always envisioned him as skinny, but maybe I overlooked something.

  3. 5 Sheryl April 23, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Sam, well, he becomes more of a player later on and I think that some of your concerns would be addressed. As for Hot Pie, he’s less of a character in the book and his size is only mentioned in passing there.

    As a whole though, the tv show is very true to the book. It does kind of prettify its characters – Brienne and Tyrion are both shown to be more “ugly” in the books than is portrayed on screen. In fact, the book has more bad examples – Lisa Arryn, who is teeny tiny on screen, is described as being morbidly obese in the books, for example.

    • 6 thesmittenimmigrant April 24, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      Interesting that you bring up Lysa Arryn – I was wondering where the bigger women in this series were..

      So far, Lysa has not had much screen time, so I wonder what her character will show – based on what I have seen she’s not a very competent character either, so that she was made out as obese in the book is perhaps too bad.

      I really do look forward to Sam, though.

      Can I just say that I really like talking about fantasy / fiction with you? We seem to share so many preferences 🙂

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