Whether you watch “Game Of Thrones” or not, you’re probably well aware of the iconic cultural moment the show gave us this past Sunday. The episode was a culmination of eight years of storyline buildup loaded into 90 minutes of high drama. About 18 million people watched the show live and about double that will have watched the episode by week’s end.
If you haven’t seen it, you still probably have some clue what happened – some little girl killed some zombie thing. You know you know? Because all week, your social media news feeds have been inundated with memes, gifs and jokes about the pivotal moments from the episode. And I’m willing to bet those memes had some reference to something that was Black as hell – Arya Stark with a cigarette in her mouth mimicking the popular LeBron meme, Jill Scott clips used for reactions, and, of course, Jay-Z and Beyoncé pics.
The jokes have been spread and made popular the same way most viral memes and jokes spread on social media: through creative Black people. The weekend was full of such memes not only for “Game Of Thrones” but for “Avengers: Endgame” – two crossover cultural moments that Black folks were all the way dialed in on. In fact, on Sunday, #DemThrones – a hashtag started by Black social media user @FiyaStarter to talk about the show – was trending across the world. In many regards, the social media and pop culture legs that vehicles like “Game Of Thrones” and “Avengers: Endgame” enjoy come from Black folks’ creative content, jokes and analysis beyond the show or movie’s expiration date.
But there’s a problem. While Black voices are pushing these moments’ popularity on social media and in our own Black-owned outlets, white publications are leaving their bylines – and paychecks – to white writers. I searched many of the large publications – 20 in all – for Black writers who reviewed “Endgame” or “Game Of Thrones” and literally couldn’t find one. There isn’t a single Black face in the list of top critics for “Endgame” on Rotten Tomatoes, nor did any come up in any Google or Twitter searches. I did manage to find a few Black writers who did tangential stories and straight-up news stories – casting, reactions, the occasional box office news – but for the most part, the analysis and reviewing was left up to white writers.
Black writers, it seems, are only asked to pen long-form thoughts on these shows and movies whenever the issues revolve around race. Want to know about the politics of Greyworm? Get a Black writer. We’re ghettoized into talking about race and white entertainment but never asked to offer our perspectives on these topics as a whole. Meanwhile, Black creatives are pumping out tremendous content and recaps about the show, but we have to use our own means and outlets to get them out.
I am a lifelong comic book “nerd” who was a huge fan of Marvel books before the MCU was just a twinkle in Kevin Feige’s eye. This has not been a secret as my social media has been littered with the geekiest tweets you’ll ever see. Can you guess which MCU movie, out of all 22 I was ever asked to write about? That’s right: “Black Panther.” I’m not alone here, obviously, as the breakthrough movie had an endless catalog of great writing from Black writers for just about every publication you can name. But so few of these writers were asked to write about any of the other movies in the MCU. There’s no excuse, either, as most of these writers showed enough of an understanding of the Universe that Black Panther lives in to continue writing about it whether he’s a central figure in the movies or not.
This all speaks to a larger American problem. Black folks are the people constantly pushing the culture. If there is a monoculture anymore, it’s centered around Black brilliance. Yet when it’s time to actually pay people for their commentary on important cultural moments, Black folks are often left out. Black folks are central in any transcendent American event and it’s time we get treated like it. Lack of inclusion for Black folks in talking about “Game Of Thrones” or “Endgame” is a failure of journalism, the entertainment industry and the culture as a whole. Any publication that has excluded Black folks in its coverage needs to reevaluate its approach because neglecting us is nothing more than a deliberate effort to leave us out of conversations we’ve most likely started in the first place.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College. David’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, The Atlantic, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the internet.