House Mediocre: Game of Thrones Creators Had a 'Learning Experience' Not Afforded to Non-White Males

D. B. Weiss (L) and David Benioff accept the Outstanding Drama Series award for ‘Game of Thrones ‘ onstage during the 70th Emmy Awards on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

David Benioff and D.B Weiss, House White Male Mediocrity, First of Their Names landed Game of Thrones without any TV experience.

“Dan is saying that #GameofThrones was basically an expensive film school for he and Dave,” writer @ForArya reported from a panel featuring the duo at the Austin Film Festival. “For example, they had no idea how to work with costume designers, and it was a huge learning experience.”

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Speaking of the epic series’ origins, the pair recalled the time they met with Game of Thrones book series author and originator, George RR Martin. “We had never done TV and we didn’t have any [experience]. We don’t know why he trusted us with his life’s work,” Benioff said.

The men also went on to reminisce about the awful pilot they shot that led to the network moving forward with the series.

So. Ok.

This thread would be super inspiring if it weren’t a mirror of Hollywood’s blatant hypocrisy. Thing is, for women filmmakers and filmmakers of color, your “learning experience” certainly isn’t going to come from a major and popular intellectual property. The immediate pressure and burden of excellence is evident. When it comes to leadership positions in the TV and film industry, like director and producer, it’s good to at least have some working knowledge of each crew member’s responsibility, especially given the high chance of direct interaction and collaboration.

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Those many, many missteps are going to happen on the set of self-funded or crowd-funded independent projects. Maybe one day they’ll get the opportunity of a lifetime to direct a big-budget film. Maybe they’ll even make history while doing it. Or maybe, they’ll continue to be an unsung talent and struggle to even get into the “big” room, eventually having to make their own table. Maybe that table will make a major footprint in the Hollywood industry. Or maybe that table will be seated in the nosebleed section.

Following a vastly controversial final season (and more specifically, series finale), D&D decided to hop aboard White Privilege Airlines to wash their hands of the criticism at an “undisclosed location.” As someone wiser once told me, “actual imposters never get imposter syndrome.” The concept of “failing up” is a unique experience wrapped in white male privilege and D&D sat on that throne.

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In addition to D&D announcing they were dropping out of their planned Star Wars feature trilogy, the world of GoT was quite shaken when it was announced that its much-anticipated prequel wasn’t happening. Well, at least not the one we thought.

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As Entertainment Weekly reports:

The death of the Game of Thrones prequel is a dramatic twist in HBO’s succession plan for its most popular and most-Emmy-awarded series ever. The ambitious project took place during Westeros’ Age of Heroes on the precipice of The Long Night war with the White Walkers (in fact, author and executive producer George R.R. Martin suggested The Long Night as a title). The pilot also touted a female showrunner (Goldman, whose credits include Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service), director (Jessica Jones veteran S.J. Clarkson), and several female leads (including The Rise of Skywalker newcomer Naomi Ackie and Collette actress Denise Gough). The series was to be distinct from GoT in look and feel, and notably did not include dragons given House Targaryen had yet to rise, but it would have included early Starks and Lannisters.

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Additionally, the prequel was noticeably blacker onscreen than its predecessor, boasting cast members such as Marquis Rodriquez, Naomi Ackie, Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah.

Soon after the death of the diverse prequel, Variety announced HBO picked up another prequel specifically following the origin story of the House Targaryen, based on Game of Thrones companion book Fire & Blood. The upcoming prequel was ordered straight-to-series.

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D&D aren’t going forward with their Star Wars venture nor their previously in-development HBO show, Confederate. The show and its premise—surrounding an alternate reality where the South won the Civil War—wasn’t well-received upon announcement. At this juncture, the show isn’t happening. But, that death was replaced with a new moneymaker—a deal with Netflix. Failing up.

Perhaps, as filmmaker and assistant professor @N_I_K_Y_A_T_U tweeted, the flashlight should be shining more on the white male hires currently thriving in their average-ness simply because they are perceived to be the default “best” option.

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It would be quite the “learning experience.”

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.