It shouldn’t surprise anybody that I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones. I began reading the books a few years ago when the HBO series premiered, and I’ve read all of them thus far. Something about the very gritty and realistic setting always intrigued me, though as the series goes on, it becomes clear that there are magical and mystical things afoot. Without spoiling anything for you, suffice it to say, there is always more than what meets the eye in Westeros.
That being said, it is also a bit problematic to watch the series from a modern perspective, whether it be in terms of violence, gratuitous nudity, treatment of women – and, of course, the use of meat and animal hides in production. While there are some dark clouds over the show, there are some silver linings as well, and I thought I would share some of my findings with you.
1. Let’s just get this one out of the way: In 2012, it became public knowledge that season 3 of GoT used over 31,000 square feet of leather and fur. That’s just for the ten episodes of one season! The “By the Numbers” report quoted in this Forbes article has since been removed, but that did not stop outraged fans from taking to the show’s Facebook page. A similar report for previous seasons and the current season 4 has not been made available, but that doesn’t mean the practice has stopped or decreased. In all likelihood, HBO just removed the reports and became less transparent so it wouldn’t have to bother with a public PR problem. Sigh.
2. It’s no shocker that a lot of meat was consumed in the historical-ish period we imagine Westeros to be in. One of the recent episodes this season had Arya and her companion eating lots of chicken – real, actual chicken. In a Q&A session with Arya’s actress Maisie Williams, she confides that she took home the leftovers from the set that night. I hope everybody else on the set who ate meat did too, so at least it wouldn’t go to waste, but … come on, guys, real chicken? We can make CGI shadow-babies and alchemic hellfire, but we can’t use fake chicken?!
Okay, now for the good news.
3. While the official A Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook is mostly meaty recipes, it does feature some recipes that are easily modified to omit meat, or are outright vegetarian. In fact, the website of the cookbook’s creators, Inn at the Crossroads, has a whole vegetarian section with indicators for which can be made vegan. The southermost country, Dorne, is known for its grueling heat, its crystal-clear waters, and its awesome wine. It is easy to imagine that Dornish food may closely resemble our Mediterranean fare of fruits, olives, and hummus. Spinach, turnips, beets, and lots of grapes factor into the veggie dishes mentioned in the books and in the show. And you know how much Cersei loves grapes…
4. Everyone’s favorite little Lannister, Peter Dinklage is a vegetarian! In all of the scenes that require him to be eating meat with his dear family in King’s Landing, Dinklage eats tofu or fake meats instead. You may also know that he recently did a “Face Your Food” video spot for PETA, and while it wasn’t done in Tyrion’s signature accent or smugness, hopefully it will give a familiar intelligent face to a very important issue.
Speaking of, um, fake meat, that thing Daenerys eats in Season 1 was of course fake. It was a gummy concoction of pasta, sugar, and lots of jam. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the scene here. Be warned: there’s lots of … jam. And fake blood.
5. Last but not least, and probably my favorite bit of news: Sophie Turner, aka Sansa Stark, adopted the dog who played her direwolf in Season 1! All of the direwolves are either CGI or dogs who look like wolves – big, cute Zunni among them. In an interview with Coventry Telegraph, Turner and her family fell in love with Zunni while on set, and adopted her after the season was over.
No word just yet, however, on whether Ser Pounce will make a comeback in future scenes; horses and dogs may be easy to train, but it ain’t easy getting a cat to jump on a bed when you want her to. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything…
I usually don’t comb through “behind the scenes” features if I can help it, though getting to watch the world of Game of Thrones come to life through modern magic was really quite something. If there are any tidbits you find interesting or heartening about the show, leave it in the comments below!
P.S. I know that both pictures feature Sophie Turner / Sansa in them. That is because I think she is beautiful and great, and Sansa went from being one of my least favorite characters in the books to one of my favorite characters in the HBO series. So there.
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Photo: HBO; Jamie J. Gray