It’s no secret “Game of Thrones” deviated many times from the text in season five. We’ve seen this with Sansa’s character and the expansion of a fan favourite on screen. But there’s one change from the text which has increasingly confused fans of the beloved book series this season.
Ser Loras Tyrell, the brother of Margaery and a popular side character in “Game of Thrones,” has been increasingly reduced to a caricature of homosexuality — and no one is sure why.
Loras was very subtly alluded to as being gay in the book series, but it was so quietly done that George R.R. Martin had to confirm the speculation. On the HBO adaptation, Loras’ homosexuality is his most obvious trait.
In season five episode four, we saw the Faith Militant, a military branch of the Faith of the Seven, exercise their recently granted power by aggressively stamping out “sinful” behaviour. They concluded their raid on King’s Landing with the arrest of Ser Loras, on charges of “perversion” in the form of homosexuality.
Let’s go back to see how Loras landed in a jail cell.
Loras was introduced back in season one during a jousting tournament, where he beat Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (an impressive and rare feat). Afterward, it was quickly made apparent that he was not just a skilled fighter, but also Renly Baratheon’s lover.
The series took a lot of liberty almost immediately with Renly and Loras’ relationship. In the book series, each chapter is told from the point-of-view of a character, and Renly and Loras never have POV chapters. This means their relationship is only ever conveyed through the impressions that main characters have of it. There are no sex scenes between the two, or overt acknowledgments of either characters’ sexual orientation made in the books.
George R.R. Martin’s subtle references to Renly and Loras being gay were so minute that many overlooked it. He is referred to in the text once as “Renly’s little rose” and the “Knight of Pansies,” but this could be interpreted as rumour mongering.
The most obvious quip came from a scene between Jaime Lannister and Loras in the third book, A Storm of Swords. Jaime is frustrated with Loras, and snaps “Now sheath your bloody sword, or I’ll take it from you and shove it up some place even Renly never found.” This definitely implies a gay relationship between Renly and Loras, but it still could be chalked up to rumours. And among the thousands of pages of text, it was an easy inference to miss.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decided to do away with the ambiguity, and take advantage of HBO’s allowance of nudity and adult material. Renly and Loras were immediately established as a gay couple in season one.
This is all fine and dandy for the first two seasons of “Game of Thrones” where we saw Loras do more than just dote on Renly. Loras had a great fight scene with Brienne of Tarth in season two, and was shown conspiring with his sister Margaery to keep Renly in power. He was one of the heroes at the Battle of Blackwater, saving King’s Landing from Stannis Baratheon’s attack.
But from season three onward, his role on the show became far less complex and his character development came to a grinding halt. After Renly’s death, it seemed every time Loras was shown on screen it was either in a sex scene with Olyvar or him complaining to Margaery about being in King’s Landing.
There haven’t been any more signs of him serving as a noble knight or crucial warrior the way he is in the books. Instead, his sexual orientation has become Loras’ defining characteristic.
Now, the show has created a narrative where Loras is arrested for being gay — a plot that does not exist in the written series.
This is equally disappointing and confusing on several levels.
It seems anti-progressive to have a gay character who is overtly defined by the fact he is gay. One online user pointed out this difference by explaining that on HBO, Loras is “a gay character,” whereas in the book series Loras is “a knight and a son of House Tyrell, who happens to be gay.” There have been many outcries online about this treatment of Loras, especially in recent episodes where Loras is now being persecuted by the Faith for his sexual orientation.
Loras Tyrell is such a horribly written character in the show.
— Cian (@SerSpiffy) May 2, 2015
Loras shouldn’t be “a gay character of GoT”, he’s a character who happens to be gay. It’s not like his sexuality is everything that matters.
— Klaudia (@freddiesfox) May 9, 2015
Speaking of fleshing out characters on Game of Thrones, can we please give Loras Tyrell a personality beyond a stereotypical gay character?
— Raul M. (JRM) (@Raul_JRM) May 10, 2015
One of George R.R. Martin’s book editors, Jane Johnson, has been very vocal on Twitter recently, referring to show-Loras as a “gay cartoon.”
There was also a recent post on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” subreddit, where a user explained the many ways in which this is an abominable adaptation of Loras. The user points out that the Faith in the books does not seem to dictate that homosexuality is a sin. It seems to be more of an Ancient Greek-inspired social rule, where the norm is heterosexuality but gay relationships are tolerated among men as well.
The user, a self-identified gay man, stated: “When I watch my favourite series about a fantasy world, why the hell do I need to see guys being accosted for being gay…At best I feel pandered to in some sort of weird pity, at worst I’m outright offended.”
The purpose for adding this storyline is unclear. The Faith Militant do exist in the books, but they are more concerned with closing the gap between the elite and the common folk, as well as clearing out corruption from inside the castle. In fact, it is Margaery that is arrested at the behest of Cersei, under charges of adultery and treason.
Showrunners have opted to put both of the Tyrell siblings behind bars, with Margaery taking the fall for knowing about Loras. But they could also be trying to make some larger commentary on the nature of religion and homophobia.
Are Weiss and Benioff attempting to equate the Faith Militant with the persecutions carried out by religions of the real world? If so, how is this going to play out?
Olyvar, Loras’ lover on the series, works for Littlefinger, so by providing testimony against both Margaery and Loras he is choosing to destroy the alliance he built with the Tyrells. But that doesn’t make much sense. The Tyrells have proven to be strong players in the game of thrones, with more financial resources than many of the main houses and a cunning matriarch, Olenna. Did Littlefinger really instruct Olyvar to testify?
The worst outcome (that Loras is tried and executed) would provide the Tyrells with motivation for revenge, and perhaps another coup. But that scenario would just cement the Faith as being an extreme brand of fanatics, which is also a one-dimensional take on religion and its practices.
We’ll have to wait and see how this new plot progresses, but fans are not optimistic it will get any better. Of all the side characters, Loras has been doled the weakest writing, and it’s a true shame.
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