There have been many requests for me to put Game of Thrones to the Gold Test, so here goes! The Gold Test (similar to the Bechdel Test regarding female portrayals) is meant to focus attention on film and television portrayals of the largest minority group, people with disabilities.
The Gold Test has the following three levels:
10 karat Gold – Part A: Is there anyone in the world of this story that has any type of disability and is not stereotyped? If it passes it goes on to…
14 karat Gold – Part B: Does the work feature a disabled character whose story is not about their disability, and whose character is not solely defined by their disability?
24 karat Gold – Part C: And, for bonus points, is the character played by an actor with that same disability?
Although viewers are conflicted about the perhaps rushed ending of the series, Game of Thrones is a show that is beloved by millions. It has captured our imaginations and kept us entertained for eight seasons. It has been rewarded with forty-seven Primetime Emmy Awards, three Hugo Awards, a Peabody Award, and five nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series.
Peter Dinklage has won three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2011, 2015 and 2018) and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor (2012) for his performance as Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion is certainly not defined by his disability even thought he lives in a time when people are not understanding or tolerant. Yes, there are discussions about him being a Dwarf and like anyone with a disability it is part of who he is, but his life is lived to the fullest with wine, women, love, hate, and all the treachery that comes with playing the “game of thrones.”
This wonderfully written role has allowed Peter Dinklage to showcase his incredible talent and earned the series the rare 24 karat Gold Test acknowledgement.
Of course, Tyrion Lannister is not the only character with a disability who is fully entwined in the story. Notably there is also Bran Stark portrayed by Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Jaime Lannister (also known as “The Kingslayer”) portrayed by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Of course both are able-bodied actors, since their characters become disabled later in the story.
Jaime Lannister, who had pushed young Bran off that tower, eventually loses that hand, thus showcasing how quickly one can “join the club.” Now an amputee, Jaime learns to swordfight with his other hand and continues his escapades with a golden prosthesis.
In one of my favorite scenes, Tyrion presents the newly-paralyzed Bran with a saddle design to help him ride a horse again.
Tyrion: Do you like to ride, Bran?
Bran: Yes. Well, I mean I did like to.
Maester: The boy has lost the use of his legs.
Tyrion: What of it? With the right horse and saddle even a cripple can ride.
Bran: I’m not a cripple.
Tyrion: Then I’m not a dwarf! My father will rejoice to hear it!
Yes, the word “cripple” is not PC, and, in fact, as repulsive as the N word. However, in this setting it is appropriate. This video contains the following exchange:
Bran: Will I really be able to ride?
Tyrion: You will. On horseback you’ll be as tall as any of them.
Robb: Is this some kind of trick? Why do you want to help him?
Tyrion: I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things.
In this scene, Tyrion gives Bran (and viewers for that matter) a lesson on how a different life can and should be accepted and lived to the fullest. Peter’s intense performance of Tyrion’s last line (perhaps a foreshadow of “Bran the Broken”) certainly makes a lasting impression.
Of course, there is a lot of talk now about the finale, in which Bran become the first elected King of Westeros. I must admit, as a wheelchair user myself, I like the idea of the person in the wheelchair getting the best job! His chair becomes the throne and he becomes the most powerful person in the realm. Also, in that time and oh-so non-inclusive place, the little person is now the second-most powerful person in the land. I like that too! Unlike in the real world, where those with disabilities who want to work are grossly under-employed, this fantasy ends with two people with disabilities obtaining the best positions available. A nice message, to be sure. However, I do agree that his nickname/title of “Bran the Broken” isn’t as positive as one would like; I would prefer “Bran the All-Knowing” or “Bran the All-Seeing” or really anything else. But it does seem to be somewhat of a bookend to that important conversation between Tyrion and Bran detailed above. So, all hail Bran the…Unbroken!
Last time, we looked at the How to Train Your Dragon film series, which passed the Gold Test with flying colors (pun intended). Next time, we’ll be looking at an older film series, one of Chris Gore’s favorites, that was surprisingly ahead of its time.
Jenni Gold is an award-winning writer, director, and film producer whose latest project CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion is 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently on sale everywhere. Jenni is also the CEO of Gold Pictures, a woman-owned entertainment company in Los Angeles whose mission is to produce quality entertainment that will stand the test of time.