Welcome to the final installment of our 2022 Pride Month Series! For the entire month of June, we will be highlighting different members of the LGBTQIA+ community who we think are great examples of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQIA+ community and in mainstream media. Today’s article focuses on Game of Thrones‘ Red Viper of Dorne, Prince Oberyn Martell played by Pedro Pascal.
It suffices to say Game of Thrones was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. The series, based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, ran for eight seasons, each a massive spectacle of its own. It collected awards from all the major shows, wracking up more gold than any Lannister could dream of as it commanded the attention of audiences and critics alike.
While LGBTQ representation wasn’t something that was omitted or avoided as we met and ultimately said goodbye to so many paths we crossed, there are a few who stick out amongst the crowd, the Red Viper of Dorne being one of them. Introduced in season 4, episode 1, Oberyn Martell had our eyes widening and jaws dropping as he sauntered onto the screen oozing charisma and charm.
The first aspect of Oberyn’s bisexual characterization that stood out was the unambiguity of it. How many times have we confirmed a character actually being bisexual via an interview with the actor or assumed it by simply saying “Well, they’re with this person and also flirt with this person and it seems like they’re bi!” Not Oberyn. He waltzed in and made it known early on that, “When it comes to war I fight for Dorne, when it comes to love … I don’t choose sides.” Not only does he explicitly state it, he also acts on it, having relations with both Ellaria and Olyvar onscreen (and simultaneously). Saying this so loudly and boldly doesn’t happen enough in media, perpetuating stereotypes about bisexual people and the fluidity of sexuality. It was also refreshing to see a male bisexual–which is lacking even more than general bisexual representation–with a female partner, because yes, you are still bisexual even if your partner is of the opposite sex. Oberyn came in to take down the Mountain but tackled bisexual stereotypes instead.
On top of that, he was never once portrayed as the stereotypical gay man. He maintained a suave masculinity with combat skills to boot, he was a force to be reckoned with. However, there were some aspects of Oberyn that set him apart from other men in the series. He was one of the few, if not the only, man who was exceptionally skilled in battle and also incredibly capable of showing love and affection. His heart was an open book, not sheltered or closed off, and love was not seen as a weakness or burden to him, but as a strength. He wasn’t a hardened warrior, like practically every other man in Kings Landing and beyond, he was both the embodiment of an exceptional lover physically and emotionally and a fearsome warrior, proving that you can do both. He was a welcome reprieve from a slew of monotonous hardheads and macho brutes.
Plus, what makes this even sweeter is how important Pedro Pascal is to the LGBTQ community. Always the first to speak out on injustices or celebrate Pride month on the first of June, Pascal doesn’t shy away from showing his support not only during Pride month but throughout each and every year with no inhibitions. Everyone feels safe in a room when Pedro Pascal is around, I don’t know how else to put it.
Game of Thrones is streaming in its entirety on HBO Max with the prequel series, House of the Dragon, premiering August 21. Be sure to check out our other Pride Spotlights from this month!