Us fans of Game of Thrones are counting the weeks to the new season, while articles and bets on who will sit on the iron’s throne multiply.
However, I’m not interested in analysing the fighting over power in this modern tale of dragons and princesses, but instead the representation of functional diversity. Picture the dwarf: marked by his historical role as the royal court clown and a freak show monster. In Amores Enanos (Dwarf Love) the main character is expelled from the circus he works in because the public no longer wants to see wild beasts shows and, as he acidly refers: “they (the public) link dwarves to wild animals and they don’t want to see neither of us”.
Without a job, he ends up finding a new “circus” in which his services are welcome: a strip club with a dwarves freak show that disturbs and at the same time amuses the female audience. If you’re thinking “What are the odds?”, just take a look at the “bizarre” category of any porn website or see Chiki’s posed for Interviu (the most famous Spanish erotic magazine). Chiki is dwarf, famous because of her participation in Spanish Big Brother, who I met thanks to my students that chanted its name when I asked if they knew any famous woman with functional diversity. Is the sex industry more opened about diversity? In a certain way it seems to be more aware of the morbid desire that (apparently) undesirable people generate and has no problems with it when it comes to making money out of it. In Hot girls wanted: turn on documentary, it is referred that “interracial” scenes (white actress-black actor – as an example of that category) are better paid, especially if they contain a high dose of violence against the female body. Well, it looks like racism, sexism and ableism really do sell, right?
In this exotically new context of the difference, in which the only famous Spanish dwarf that comes to mind is Galindo of Martian Chronicles (I didn’t want to ask my students again for fearing another unexpected answer), we have to be thankful for Tyrion’s character. At last, a dwarf character who isn’t ridiculous, comical, pathetic or perverse, but he is complex, charismatic, sexual and interesting. And he doesn’t fear facing the discrimination he suffers, as it proves his exhilarating speech after being accused of a crime he has not committed: “I am guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I’m guilty of being a dwarf. (…) I have been on trial for that my entire life. (…) I wish I was the monster you think I am.”
Peter Dinklage’s performance is brilliant and his physical condition turns the speech into a social denunciation, since both character and actor not only share the achondroplasia, but also the ableism discrimination.
But the success of Game of Thrones in showing functional diversity is not limited to Tyrion (although he’s the only one represented by an actor who shares that condition). Another example worth referring is Maester Aemon (who’s blind) or the King of Dorne (who’s paralyzed), both characterized by their wisdom and good judgment, or even Hodor, a faithful and noble mate. In addition, the series also doesn’t fall into the idealization of all “different” characters and, in fact, some of the bad guys (Sandor Clegane) and the really bad guys (his brother Gregor) have important physical anomalies.
Also worth referring are the characters whose physical condition is transformed, leading them to a situation of physical “incapacity” that, paradoxically, becomes an opportunity. That is the case of blind Arya Stark or her paralysed brother Bran. And Jaime Lannister without any doubts, the handsome blue prince who, after losing a hand, becomes sensitive and intelligent, and starts a (for now platonic) relationship with Brienne, another outsider of the body canons.
Although the representation of diversity in Game of Thrones is much richer, I wanted to limit this analysis to these characters, as they represent a group whose practices of representation are still criticized and outdated for others: characters with functional diversity are still so colonized by an absolutely normalised (and rewarded!) ablest imaginary, with “normal” actors representing them, with the blackface becoming increasingly unacceptable, and with male actors acting as females sounding like medieval.
This post was originally written in Spanish. Click here for the original text.