This documentary would have you believe that D&D is the most influential game in history. Whether you believe that or not, petitioning Wizards of the Coast for art with better gender and racial balance in D&D 5e is a good thing. The nice folks at Black Armada started the petition, I’ve signed it, and other friends of mine have blogged about it.
The chainmail bikini did not begin with D&D. Frank Frazetta did his fair share of drawing more flesh than chainmail (though to be fair, Conan was also nearly naked). But if D&D wants to take the credit for the success of the videogame industry, for treating PTSD, and for “lite roleplaying activities like Facebook” (really?) then it can also take the blame for Game of Thrones‘ disproportionate female to male naked bottom ratio.
I didn’t like GoT when I read it more than 10 years ago. I thought it was forgettable fantasy trash remarkable only for the number of bland characters and gratuitous body count. Watching the first episode of the series this week brought all of that back. My first instinct was “it’s Downton Abbey with swords” but it’s not even a soap opera. GoT fails the Bechdel test miserably; its women exist to be raped, and its men exist to be murdered in graphic fashion. It’s George R R Martin’s perogative to kill his characters as he sees fit, but of the 15 best deaths in the first series only one is female (and arguably not a sympathetic character). Perhaps Martin was reluctant to kill female characters in the way he kills males. Still, I subscribe to my partner’s view – it’s OK to have death, prostitution, and people married against their will – as long as the gender balance is equal.
GoT probably likes to think it’s edgy but it does nothing to distance itself from the fantasy gender (im)balance tropes. In fact I think Sinbad does marginally better in that respect; it’s plotting may leave a lot to be desired but it has a female fighter and thief, and the most vulnerable character is male.