Actor David Oyelowo recently talked to Radio Times about racial diversity in Hollywood, and singled out Game of Thrones as an example of a show that’s lacking. Oyelowo, best known for his roles in Selma and The Butler, says there’s “no excuse” for Thrones to keep characters of color—e.g. Missandei and Grey Worm—in the background.
The fact that they put any ethnic minorities in that means that there should be space for bigger characters. Because you’re not just saying ‘OK this is purely a white world, and here are very story-driven reasons why that’s the case…You are interspersing people of colour into it. And so therefore it’s a conscious decision to put them on the margins, as opposed to put them front and centre. Even if for whatever reason, it’s a world in which people of colour in those stories are subservient, or they are more in a helper role, that doesn’t mean they can’t have prominent storylines. All you have to do is shift the focus to focus on those characters.
Oyelowo is not the first to bring up such matters. In 2014, a fan commented on author George R.R. Martin’s Not a Blog about the lack of diversity in the Song of Ice and Fire novels. Here’s Martin’s reply:
Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America, of course… but with that being said, I do have some ‘characters of color’ who will have somewhat larger roles in The Winds of Winter. Admittedly, these are secondary and tertiary characters, though not without importance.
Oyelowo’s criticism pertains solely to Game of Thrones. Can HBO be blamed for adapting the source material faithfully? Should it have done more to promote characters of color? Generally speaking, the network has stuck close to the racial descriptions of the characters from the from the books, although there have been exceptions. Areo Hotah, for example, is a white Norvosi guard in the novels, but is black on the show.
Changing the race and sex of traditionally white, male characters has happened before. For example, in the world of comics, the new iterations of Spider-Man and Thor are much altered. The new Iron Man is a young black girl named Riri Williams—there’s even some talk of Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) playing her in a movie.
So should HBO have done more to make Game of Thrones more racially diverse? Or was sticking to the original source material the right route to take? Let us know your take.
h/t Radio Times