"I really have to take issue with this: “the Western portion of the world, Westeros - the rich and civilized portion.” This isn’t true.
1. Westeros is poorer and less economically developed than Essos. It’s far less urbanized than Essos. It’s an exporter primarily of natural resources and can’t produce the advanced manufactured goods it imports from the Free Cities. Its financial system is really quite crude, especially in comparison to the large banks and insurance companies of Braavos. It has very few roads and none of them Valyrian; main thoroughfares like the Kingsroad don’t have bridges over major rivers but use fords instead; it lacks internal canals to connect major river systems.
2. Westeros is less politically developed. It’s only been politically unified for 300 years, and even that weak feudal state is extremely shaky and may not survive. Essos has had continent-spanning empires that lasted for thousands of years. It has much more diversity of political systems - republics with separation of powers and political parties, merchant oligarchies, elected tyrants, etc.
3. Westeros is considered less culturally developed. Essosi call Westerosi unwashed barbarians, referring to them by the inaccurate title of “Andals.” (reminds me of the way Americans and Europeans labeled various nationalities by incorrect names because they didn’t speak the language) The Essosi of the Free Cities are the blood of Old Valyria; the Ghiscari have their empire, the Dothraki have their prophecies of manifest destiny, and the Qartheen are the pureblooded descendants of the greatest city that ever was or ever will be. Westerosi nobles are sent to the Free Cities to get culturally enriched, not the other way around. In terms of cultural production, most mummers are imported from Essos, as Westeros has no tradition of theater.
When engaging with ASOIAF, you have to analyze the world of Planetos as it is, rather than automatically applying heuristics based on our own world. Assuming that west = rich, civilized, and east = the Other (because that’s how it’s been presented in the past) is falling into the same essentialist trap that Edward Said and others are critiquing."
Anonymous asked: "I'm confused with the whole head canon that the Martell's are of Indian or Middle Eastern descent. They're all described as olive skinned, and olive skinned can mean so many races. Why are people so headstrong on this subject? A curvy Bulgarian olive skinned woman matches Arianne's description just as a Spanish woman or Saudi Arabian woman could. Can't people have their opinions without receiving such blacklash as long as the fancast is ethnic? (I'm asking other people too to get an opinion)"
continued: by the way, I don’t mean any offense I’m just new to the community of online game of thrones fandom and kinda confused and intimidated.
The ASOIAF fandom (especially on Tumblr) can be a scary place, but you’re not offending anyone — simply trying to understand is a huge step in the right direction. I’ll try to help!
I think that the discussion stems from quite a few places; namely …
- The lack of racial representation in the ASOIAF books. We’ve got the Dothraki, some Dornish, and some Free City people, but for the most part, the “Western” section of the world, Westeros — the “rich” and “civilized” portion — is almost entirely white. That’s why, in many peoples’ opinions (and certainly mine), the characters whose race is not specified should almost always be cast as PoC. That’s not saying that they one hundred percent of the time have to be, but it would be pretty swell if they were.
- "The salty Dornishmen were lithe and dark, with smooth olive skin and long black hair streaming in the wind.” Doran is dark. Pretty self explanatory. Just to continue, “The sandy Dornishmen were even darker, their faces burned brown by the hot Dornish sun.”
- GRRM has stated that Janina Gavankar looks like Nymeria Sand. Janina Gavankar is Indian (well, three quarters).
- Geographically, Dorne is most similar to Egypt and other North African countries. Now, though we can’t know for certain, in order to talk about race at all, we have to assume that in GRRM’s world, genetics and biology work the same way as they do in ours. In this environment, Dornishmen (well, Rhoynar-Dornishmen) would have evolved as PoC, just like how they have in Northern Africa.
- The Martells are the only high-profile PoC (or even PoC passing, if you interpreted “olive skinned” as still white). The rest are servants, slaves, slavers (arguably worse), “uncivilized” (e.g. Dothraki), sailors, etc.
Ethnic diversity isn’t the same as racial diversity, and the problem here is with the latter. I hope this helps. If anyone else has something to say, feel free to keep the discussion going!