The new Game Of Thrones series House Of The Dragon is in full swing and as a Black GoT fan, I have to say seeing a Black family with power and prestige in a popular television show makes my heart sing.
When Game of Thrones first premiered in April 2011 I was instantly hooked.
It was something about a show filled with family deceit, ice kings, and dragons that intrigued me to the point where I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I’d watch an episode, then rewatch it right after it ended. Then I would hop over to YouTube and watch middle-aged fanboys ramble about their predictions for the next episode. The show’s excellent writing made following the characters fun and realistic. Plot points also kept you on the edge of your seat because your favorite character, big or small, could get killed off before you really even knew them. It was an amazing show, it just didn’t have many Black people in it. When the show did show a black face, their characters were more than likely former slaves and didn’t have any true importance in the show’s important plot points.
Let me make this clear, Black folks don’t need representation on a television show to enjoy it, but it does make us feel more involved. If a writer can get you to relate to a character you’re naturally going to be more invested in the show.
House of the Dragon co-showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik set out to create a better experience for their audience than the original Game Of Thrones.
“The world changed a lot between 2011 and 2021 and [so did] what audiences expect to see on camera. The conversations Miguel and I had were: How do we create a diverse cast for House of the Dragon? But still do it in a way that feels organic to the world and doesn’t feel like pandering or tokenism. And also have them not be pirates, slaves and mercenaries like you tend to see in high fantasies?”
The decision by creator George R.R. Martin to make Lord Corlys Velaryon, the richest man in Westeros, a Black man had the internet trolls losing their minds. Corlys is one of the most powerful men in the entire fantasy world and he plays a major role in House of the Dragon. His wife Princess Rhaenys Targaryen is a dragon rider, which means all of their children will ride dragons, meaning we could also see them in future seasons.
When Steve Toussaint, the actor who plays Corlys was cast he was berated by racial epithets on social sites by GoT fans who could never accept a Black man in a powerful position, even if the world is entirely made up.
“It seems to be very hard for people to swallow,” Toussaint told Men’s Health. “They are happy with a dragon flying. They’re happy with white hair and violet-colored eyes, but a rich Black guy? That’s beyond the pale.”
Last week was the very first time fans of the show witnessed a Black character ride a Dragon and it was marvelous.
Laenor Velaryon, son of Corlys rode his young dragon, Seasmoke into battle to help Prince Daemon Targaryen defeat the Crabfeeder. A feat that would help Corlys continue his reign as Lord of Tides and Master of Dirftmark. No spoilers but Laenor is very important to the future of this story.
It’s worth noting, that George R.R. Martin never fully described what Coryls Velaryon looks like in the books. Yes, Velaryon’s are described as having fair skin, purple eyes, and silver hair, but Coryls isn’t really described that way, leaving room for interpretation when it was adapted for television.
Corlys also isn’t the first Black Velaryon we’ve seen in the GoT universe. Salladhor Saan, a pirate-lord who helped Davos Seaworthy during Robert’s Rebellion was featured in a few episodes in the original Game of Throne series. Although he wasn’t born in Valyria, he is of Valyrian descent. Could we possibly see Corlys’ parents? Maybe he’s related to Salladhor?
It’s clear that the creators of House of the Dragon learned from the mistakes of the past and are taking show diversity seriously, which makes for a better viewing experience for all of us.
The fantasy genre of fiction novels is dominated by white writers. Seeing Black faces in our favorite fantasy worlds could be the catalyst a young Black writer needs to create the next big thing.
Never forget that representation is the bridge to change.
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