How HBO’s Game of Thrones Proves That a Disability is Not Everything

While many television programs depict a cast of characters that exhibit near-perfect physiques, stunning looks, and the charisma to match, it’s not so common to find a good show with characters who may be less than physically perfect. This is where HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones shines. It dissolves the pop culture norms that are so frequent in modern cinema and essentially carves its own niche into the film. The show follows several storylines in a fictional fantasy-medieval world known as Westeros and the power struggles and betrayals that come standard with primal politics. Having just recently completed its 7th season, I see no better time to talk about the not-so-normal characters that can inspire those who either live with or know someone with a disability.

Brandon Stark

One of the main characters on Game of Thrones, Brandon Stark, is the brother of Sansa and Arya Stark, and cousin to Jon Snow (Aegon Targaryen). In the first season of the show, Brandon (more commonly referred to as Bran) was pushed from a tower in Winterfell by Jaime Lannister. While the fall should have been enough to kill him, it spared his life. Sadly, Bran was left paralyzed from the waist down, never being able to walk again. This did not deter him however, he still maintained an upbeat personality and even was able to ride a horse via a harness fashioned by the Maester of Winterfell. He also has a big friend, Hodor, who carries him on his back wherever he needs to go. You could think of Hodor as his own personal power scooter. Bran has a whole company of friends who protect him and help him along via a sled as they venture beyond the wall; a highly frigid and dangerous region to the far north of Westeros. It is here, that in the later seasons, Bran finds out he is a warg and can take over the minds of animals. This enables him to run again via his wolf, and even fly by taking over the mind of a hawk. Bran also has the power of seeing into the future, past, and present. While these abilities may not be realistic in a real-life application, his harness, sled, and makeshift “power chair” are attainable items. In the most recent season, Bran received a well-fashioned wheelchair so that he can now move around on his own.

Image result for bran starkImage Courtesy of Time Magazine

Jaime Lannister

On the opposite side of the Game of Thrones spectrum, we have Jaime Lannister, an anointed knight, former Lord Commander of the Kings guard, disputed Head of House Lannister, and most importantly; a one-handed man. Jaime is one of the most complex characters in the Game of Thrones Universe and has been teetering on a fine line between good and evil for most of the show's run time. One of the defining moments in his life was the loss of his right hand by the northern soldiers during the War of the Five Kings. This caused a myriad of problems for Jaime, who up until that point had been regarded as the best swordsman in all of Westeros. The loss of his sword hand essentially detracted from his identity, and many people took advantage of it. Despite this loss, however, Jaime practiced and trained with his left hand, and eventually learned how to at least defend himself. He even received a prosthetic hand, made of pure gold and embroidered with lions, the symbol of his house. While this hand does not have the same functionality as modern artificial limbs, it still does show the rudimentary purpose of a prosthetic, to replace a severed limb. Despite his time in captivity and his maiming, Jaime Lannister was eventually set free and was reestablished as the Lord Commander of the King's Guard, and eventually went on to lead the Lannister armies in various military campaigns throughout the realm, despite his loss of limb, Jaime retained his power through charisma, honor, and loyalty to his family.

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Tyrion Lannister

No doubt one of the most beloved characters to ever grace the small screen, Tyrion Lannister is the younger brother of Jaime and Cersei Lannister, and son of Tywin Lannister. Tyrion is no ordinary man, as he is extremely intelligent, full of cunning, and has a kind heart. On the other side, he suffers from dwarfism, alcoholism, and is prone to lustful behavior. It is because of his dwarfism that he is hated by his father and sister, only having a positive relationship with his brother Jaime. He is even blamed for the death of his mother, who died during childbirth with him. Despite having the world looking down on him, Tyrion has managed to stay afloat and plays the political game very well. What he lacks in size he makes up for in intellect and manipulates people as though they were pawns on a chessboard. He ensures that he always has a way out of a bad situation, and goes out of his way to help other people who suffer like him. He specifically states “I have a soft spot for dwarves, bastards, and broken things” and is the one who provides the saddle harness blueprints to Brandon Stark so that he could ride again. He eventually finds himself as Hand of the Queen to Daenerys Targaryen and assists her in the invasion of Westeros. Tyrion has fought for acceptance his entire life and finally received it after being held prisoner, being sold as a slave, and being looked down on by his extremely cunning father. His very existence has been a battle, one that the Game of Thrones universe has been presenting him since his inception into the world. The actor who plays the character, Peter Dinklage, also suffers from dwarfism, but that didn't prevent him from winning an Emmy for his outstanding performance as the “Half-Man”.

(All images are property of HBO® and Game of Thrones®)