Why don’t the Sand Snakes have clothing that can protect them from sunburn? As natives of the desert landscape of Dorne, shouldn’t this be a pressing concern for them?
What accents are those supposed to be? Hispanic? Arab? Mediterranean? I know this is a fantasy world, but it seems that everyone from this region has a different accent.
I love Alexander Siddig, but how is it that a man of Sudanese descent is the brother of the clearly Latino Pedro Pascal? Those aren’t the same races or cultures, not even close.
is not the most diverse of shows. And the program has had its fair share of racial snafus before. This season, with major plotlines intended for the eastern areas of Slaver’s Bay and the desert country of Dorne, might have shaken this up a bit. In Meereen, we have nearly all of the cast, who are POC, telling Daenerys Targaryen how great she is, even telling her that she always knows what to do despite her constant mistakes.
And in the Middle-Eastern-inspired region of Dorne, every single character is A) appallingly stupid (Doran, Ellaria, the Sand Snakes), B) absolutely mad (Ellaria, the Sand Snakes), C) bloodthirsty as all get out (Ellaria and the Sand Snakes again, also pretty much every Dornishman Jaime and Bronn have come across), d) subservient (Areoh Hotah) or some combination of these things.
The bulk of the Dornish cast is a vicious collective of zealots willing to butcher innocents in order to provoke war and gain vengeance for perceived slight— basically the way many Middle Easterners are portrayed in a lot of modern media. As I’ve covered before, the motivations for these actions in the show are muddled, nonsensical, and disorganized, rather than complex and at least partly based on years of complicated, bloody history. Once again, sort of the way the Middle East is portrayed in modern media.
The brown sand people of Dorne are either monsters out to hurt innocent white girls for revenge, or they are oblivious pampered princes unwilling to do something and keep criminals from committing war crimes right under their own noses until the last minute.
Well, here’s a quote from the show to make it all better (worse):
“Ever been to Dorne? I have. They’re crazy. All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight. There’s nothing like a good fight to get you in the mood for fucking. And there’s nothing like a fuck-mad Dornish girl to clear your head for the next fight. It’s how the two work together.” —-Bronn
There aren’t really many “fuck-mad” Dornish girls in the show (but then, this isn’t a show big on consensual sex). Ellaria Sand last season was pretty enthusiastic about visiting the brothels with Oberyn, but she wasn’t really “mad” at the time, just bisexual. There are plenty of “mad” girls ready to do a lot more fighting than fucking, but it’s nice to see that everyone in the show thinks the brown people are “nuts”. And it’s nice to see the characters we’ve viewed so far confirm this.
In the books, Dorne has a fascinating history and cultural landscape. Dorne as a kingdom was established when the Princess Nymeria of the Rhoynar came to Dorne with her people to escape the rule of the Valyrian empire. She ended up marrying and founding the kingdom of Dorne with Mors Martell, also creating the House of Nymeros Martell, the current incarnation of the ruling Princes and Princesses of Dorne.
Dorne was also the one area of Westeros south of the Wall that Aegon the Conqueror, his queens, and their dragons refused to conquer. Though the forces of the Iron Throne tried to force their sovereignty onto Dorne through warfare for generations, the Dornish remained “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”. Dorne only officially became part of the Seven Kingdoms though a marriage and peaceful alliance years later.
Despite their reputation for being “hot-blooded” among the rest of Westeros, the Dornish never went out of their way to attack anyone. Despite constant aggressive attempts at invasion by Aegon the Conqueror, Maegor the Cruel, and Daeron the Young Dragon, the Martell resisted the rule through thoroughly defensive strategy, only killing when invaders from the north came to slaughter the people.
Even after an official peace was established through a marriage, the Dornish retained many of their rights that other constituent kingdoms of Westeros did not enjoy, such as the ruling House Martell being able to retain the royal titles of “Prince” and “Princess” for their rulers, to maintain their own laws, and collect their own taxes with very minor interference from the Iron Throne.
The Dornish distinguished themselves in other ways as well. Indeed, Dorne is, essentially, one of the only parts of Westeros where being a woman isn’t completely horrible. For hundreds of years, the laws in Dorne have maintained absolute cognatic primogeniture (in which the rights to inheritance are determined by age regardless of gender) while everywhere else in Westeros the males are favored to the point of outright war. One of the bloodiest wars in Westeros’s history came about when the children of Viserys I fought for the crown. Though the much older and more qualified Queen Rhaenyra was designated officially as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne by her father, her younger half-brother Aegon II went to war with her in the furious, monstrous conflict known as The Dance of the Dragons. It ended with Rhaenyra being devoured by her brother’s dragon in front of her seven-year-old son. As a result of the primogeniture, numerous rulers of Dorne have been women. When Dorne first stood up against the forces of Aegon the Conqueror and his dragons, it was the aged Princess Meria Martell who basically told the Targaryens to GTFO, and they did. Doran Martell’s mother was the ruling Princess of Dorne before him, and in the books, his successor is his daughter Arianne, despite the existence of his two sons Quentyn and Trystane.
Furthermore, any husband who beat his wife by law must be beaten. In times of war, the poor are entitled to be given bread and water by their lords, and people who have lost limbs in battle are legally entitled to be housed, clothed, and fed by the nobility for the rest of their days. In Dorne, people are allowed to have lovers outside of marriage—called paramours— and such lovers are not mistreated or considered shameful. They and their children have legal rights and respect. Homosexuality is not only legal and tolerated but outright accepted. For centuries, common-born children have been welcome to play and swim in the Water Gardens with princes and princesses.
Basically, if you’re anyone but a rich, able-bodied, heterosexual, nobly-born male land-owner, Dorne is the one of the only places in the world you can expect to be treated like a human being. Despite being “hot-blooded”, the Dornish are one of the few places where a noble House known for flaying people alive and claiming the right of “prima nocta” would never be welcome. While in the Westerlands men like Gregor Clegane can be knighted despite constant cases of rape and abuse, in Dorne, Gregor likely would have been exiled or locked away the second he pressed his little brother’s face to a burning coal. While Dorne is no egalitarian paradise (the incredibly violent Oberyn Martell is a total rock star there), it’s a hell of a lot more civilized and progressive than other parts of the continent.
In the show, Oberyn Martell is a sexy, violent bisexual man-muffin who maintains that they “don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.” His paramour Ellaria Sand is an angry, vicious bisexual moron who totally, totally wants to hurt little girls in Dorne. His daughters are Ellaria’s mad puppets. Doran Martell is a guy who sits in a chair, tells Ellaria “ho, don’t do it” when she wants to hurt Myrcella, then does nothing to stop her until AFTER she and the Sand Snakes have made it to the Water Gardens and tried to grab Myrcella. His son is his heir, has sexy eyebrows, and is basically a teenager who wants to make out with his new girlfriend.
So essentially, everything that was unique, interesting, powerful, and intrinsic to Dorne has been washed away in favor of brown people in bright clothing who are either violent and sick enough to mutilate innocent teenagers to serve a worthless agenda, or spoiled and lax princes who can’t even be bothered to prevent their people from achieving this end until it ends up disturbing the peace of their quiet garden.
Where have we seen this narrative before?
The people of Dorne are not characters, they’re archetypes. The Sand Snakes are “the whip”, “the spear”, “the daggers”. Ellaria Sand is robbed of her kindness, strength, and righteousness to be made into an evil child-killer. Doran Martell can’t even take “let’s send Myrcella back piece by piece… The Sand Snakes are with me” as a warning sign. Dorne, rather than be a place of socially progressive values, intense and far-reaching political maneuvering, and a rich history, is a desert with some pretty gardens and swarthy people with bad accents. The only beautiful thing about their culture that has been maintained is the architecture and clothing. The people are just violent lunatics.
following in the time-honored tradition of painting Middle Eastern folk as exotic “nutballs” who threaten pretty white girls. While much can be argued for time constraints and streamlining the story, as has been covered before, the changes they’ve made not only sacrifice a lot of important cultural/gender issues at play, but actually makes the plot in Dorne even more confusing even as they try to simplify it. There is no reason Arianne Martell can’t exist. There is no reason anyone should want to hurt Myrcella. There is no reason for all these stereotypes.
Wendy is a graduate student, freelance writer, and fangirl originally from the Washington D.C area. She loves talking social issues, A Song of Ice and Fire, comics, Nickelodeon’s Avatar, Girl Genius, Harry Potter, history, and various other geeky things. She also spends a little too much time writing erotic fanfiction.
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