In the aftermath of the Emmys, and with Kylie and Julia’s retrospectives now in full swing, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and look back over the most recent season of Game of Thrones. It’s easy to say that any given character on that show deserves better. Whether from the horrible scripting or the in-universe treatment, it is always an accessible criticism. Loras Tyrell in particular suffered grievously at the hands of the writers, and of all the characters savaged by D&D’s idiocy I have yet to read an article about the pride of Highgarden. So here I am to enlighten you as to how thoroughly Loras was savaged because of the rampant Toxic Masculinity, Homophobia, and False-Ally-ism present in HBO’s dumpster fire.
To begin to understand how badly Loras was handled, it is necessary to remember his character in the books. Loras Tyrell is the youngest son of House Tyrell, and he is also one of the biggest badasses in Westeros. In tournaments Loras has unhorsed Jaime Lannister, who is called by many one of the greatest swordsmen alive, and Ser Gregor Clegane, the monstrous Mountain that Rides. The only person we have seen beat Loras in a fight is Brienne of Tarth, who was also the only person known to beat Jaime Lannister. Some might say that Loras’s victory over The Mountain was because he cheated, using a mare in heat to inflame The Mountain’s stallion, but A Song of Ice and Fire constantly praises the characters who use their wits to achieve victory. Tyrion Lannister’s silver tongue and quick mind have delivered victory into his hands more times than can be counted. Besides, Loras’s other victories attest to his prowess in battle.
Yet, for all his skill with a sword, Loras is always a good boy. He is courteous to Sansa Stark at the Hand’s Tourney, but above all is unfailingly loyal to his family and to his secret lover, Renly Baratheon. Their relationship is always in the shadows, never stated outright (Westerosi society seems to frown upon homosexuality, though not to the exaggerated extent of the show’s setting). Still, Renly and Loras are seldom apart.
After Renly’s death, Loras is named to the Kingsguard; the Tyrells have other children and heirs who will inherit the titles and land, so this actually is a sensible move. Besides, this kept someone loyal to Margaery close, since the Lannister/Baratheon brood is a dangerous place to be. If the vile Joffrey does not get to you, the vicious Queen Regent Cersei certainly will. One of the reasons why Joffrey is poisoned is because Loras cares for Margaery so much. If the abusive little blond laid a hand on Margaery it would only be a matter of time before Loras killed him, at least according to Olenna Redwyne.
Loras is not without his flaws, though. He is prone to anger; he threatens to kill Brienne of Tarth when she and Jaime Lannister return to King’s Landing, believing Brienne to be Renly’s killer. When Renly died, Loras slaughtered the other two of the Rainbow Guard who had been guarding Renly that night. He is noted many times to be arrogant and impetuous. It is these flaws that allowed Cersei to trick him into leading the assault on Dragonstone. While Loras’s fate as of the end of A Dance with Dragons is unclear, it is said that he was grievously injured by both arrows and boiling oil. Given the state of Westerosi medicine, it is unlikely that Loras will survive.
Now, one might be tempted to say that this is “Kill Your Gays” in action, but I think it does not quite qualify for one particular reason: Loras is not “The Gay Character.” His being gay is not a defining part of his character, so while he is a gay character he is not treated as the gay character.
This is so important for representation; too often when non-straight characters are introduced into TV and movies their non-straight-ness is the sole point of their existence. Every scene they make it a point to mention how gay they are, either through behavior or by outright stating it. Gay people are not just gay. They can be athletic, combative, impetuous, flawed human beings, and sure they can define themselves by their sexuality, but many see themselves as more than that and want to see that represented in pop-culture.
Game of Thrones does exactly NONE of that.
Season 1 was pretty good, as it followed the first book extremely closely and Loras only appeared in a few scenes. Season 2 played it pretty close to the text as well, but Season 3 is where D&D showed their true colors.
Firstly, they start to make Loras extremely effeminate. There is nothing wrong with being effeminate in any way, but the way that it was used in the narrative played into many gay stereotypes. Loras is stripped of his armor, and never wears it again after the end of Season 2. He seems to develop an affinity for fashion, correcting Sansa when she calls his brooch a pin. His gayness is made into the defining trait of his character, and many times is made into the punchline of a joke. Whenever he is near a woman, he becomes incredibly awkward, more awkward even than the absolute mess that was Renly and Margaery’s attempt at sex. Just talking to Sansa makes Loras seem to wish desperately to be somewhere else. He is so gay that even being near a woman who is not family makes him uncomfortable. Every other aspect of his character is forgotten. Ill temper, love for his family, heck even his love for Renly, the man who he risked his life to love, is forgotten so that we can know how gay Loras is when he bangs one of Littlefinger’s plants.
He is never seen as a warrior, and his prowess is never mentioned again. All of this is done to feed in to the next problem: Toxic Masculinity. I have mentioned before how D&D adore Toxic Masculinity, and their treatment of Loras is a perfect example. Since he fails one of the crucial criteria for being Toxically Male, the salacious desire for women, he cannot be shown to be strong. Gods forbid a gay be able to beat the stuffing out of a straight. So instead he is shown to be as weak and girly as possible, culminating to the absolute worst part of his handling in Seasons 5 and 6.
I have found that many Game of Thrones watchers consider themselves to be the best of Allies simply because they watch the show. The latest two seasons saw the arrival of the Faith Militant, a terrifying combination of the Westboro Baptists and the Taliban. Their chief concern, rather than the plight of the suffering poor refugees, is the eradication of sexual misconduct in King’s Landing. So of course, because D&D decided to make everyone know Loras was gay, the Faith arrest him. He appears very little after this, save when he is dragged in to look dirty and miserable in front of the audience. The crown jewel of his brutalization comes when a seven-pointed-star is carved into the flesh of his forehead moments before he and his sister are obliterated by Wildfire. The message most people take away from this is: “Look at how terribly they treat the poor gay, I would never do that.”
Congratulations, you did the bare minimum of not condoning the torture of a human being. I have a little secret for my fellow allies: brutalizing someone onscreen for the sole purpose of generating sympathy or showing the depths of depravity the villain is capable of is NOT what good representation is.
Just ask women, who have been brutalized for the same reasons for much longer because at least it was legal to be a woman since TV and cinema were invented. Good representation is a nuanced character; the fact that this character is a minority should not be the only character trait for them and it most certainly should not be the punchline. Game of Thrones has no legs to stand on in any form of positive representation or being an ally.
But everyone still says it does.