Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones will be remembered as one that rewarded emotional investment in a show that, in recent seasons, has given its viewers plenty of reasons to check out. The series became famous for suddenly killing off major characters in the least merciful ways imaginable, but the newest episode ended with a beloved figure dying in a manner that was excruciating and brutal but also honorable and sort of elegant. Oh, and earlier in the episode they showed a dick.
Depending on your sources of Game of Thrones news (“news”), the appearance of a penis was the biggest story to come out of the episode. Publications as esteemed as Time and Vanity Fair and as downmarket as Perez Hilton and “Telegraph.co.uk.” together erected an entire pop-up content mill to manufacture news stories about the dick that appeared on Game of Thrones:
Some of these news stories, as you can see, revolve around an appearance by Emilia Clarke (aka Daenerys Targaryen aka the Unburnt aka Breaker of Chains aka the Mother of Dragons) on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, in which she exalted the on-screen cock:
“There’s a new character that was introduced last night on Game of Thrones, and the new character is a penis. A penis was shown on the show. About damn time, right?”
But the dick is currency in the recap economy even aside from the talking points of a high-profile actor. A post on Vox about a play-within-the-play that took place during the episode shoved the phrase “penis-scene” into its URL, while Fusion’s episode recap heralded a “surprise death and surprise dick.” The discussion among the Fusion recappers encapsulates the general reaction:
Katie: On the topic of dicks like Euron, we saw an actual dick. A surprise dick. And guess what? I did not like it
Kelsey: Omg, we did! I screamed “PENIS!” when it happened.
Tahirah: They have never shown a penis like that. Or at all, I think? It was like getting a surprise dick pic: I didn’t ask for this. Who is this, even?
Katie: I think we’ve seen them sometimes in brothel situations, dicks off in the distance, but this was a close-up! No warning! In some ways, it was the kind of senseless, gratuitous nudity that we usually see from female extras.
While I agree that it was cool to see a dick (well, upon closer inspection, shaved balls and the balloon-knotted tip of an uncircumcised dick), I think it’s important to note that—contrary to breathless media reports—this was far from the first clearly exhibited dick in the history of Game of Thrones. (Warning: This post is about to get NSFW.) Full frontal has been a part of the show dating as far back as Season 1, when Alfie Allen—in far better days for his character—put himself on clear display (via the invaluable celeb dick resource omgblog):
For American television, this counts as particularly prominent penis. Vox’s Emily Crockett read the most recent cock shot as the show’s creators’ meta-response to the claim (publicly advanced by Clarke) that Game of Thrones doesn’t feature enough male nudity, and maybe it was.
Clarke and others have argued that the ratio of female-to-male nudity on Game of Thrones is out of balance, which remains true. And while Allen (who went nude once before in a staging of Equus) has remained a fixture in the series’ ever-expanding world, frontal nudity is expected of some of the show’s most recognizable female actors (Clarke, Carice van Houten) even as most of its leading men are allowed to stay clothed. (Though both Kit Harrington and Lena Headey have been afforded body doubles in the past.)
Nonetheless, I’d say that Game of Thrones has done more to chip away at the American entertainment industry’s longtime nudity imbalance than pretty much any other show on television. That’s at least true within HBO, where dick should almost be a requirement (Girls, for instance, didn’t show a penis until this year). Maybe this is a low bar to clear. Regardless it’s one which women, gays, and Matt McGorrys would be happy to see Game of Thrones continue to lift. But let us cease pretending that this show has never before placed a dick directly in front of our faces.