Bran Stark and the Persistence of Ableism
~THIS ESSAY CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON 8 FINALE OF GAME OF THRONES. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK~
So, Game of Thrones finally ended. After eight seasons, it is done. And before it ended, the writers just had to put one last bit of truly awful ableism in.
Brandon the Broken. Bran the Broken. What a horrifically cruel title. In case any of you needed a timely reminder — being disabled is not being broken. Hey writers, you are fucking awful for doing that. The message you just put out about disabled people is horrific. What exactly did you hope to achieve with that? Did you even think about the ramifications of stating on a show broadcast to millions that wheelchair users are broken people?
No, of course you didn’t. You’ve never been good with marginalised characters, ever.
The fact that Bran doesn’t even correct those who call him the Broken fucking hurts. Not a peep from the siblings who love him, nor a protest from Sam who is probably one of the most just and decent characters. Not one. And that Tyrion gave Bran that title, when Tyrion of all people should know and believe better, is galling. Fuck you, writers. Seriously. The writers should have the decency to apologise, but we know they won’t. They’ve treated marginalised characters like shit throughout the entire eight seasons; of course they wouldn’t stop for the finale.
And you know the other thing that really bothered me? It is never mentioned in the series whether Bran can have kids or not. Sansa just goes straight ahead with the awful assumption that he can’t because he can’t walk. But guess what?
WHEELCHAIR USERS CAN AND DO HAVE KIDS. FUCK YOUR ABLEIST ASSUMPTIONS, WRITERS.
Lazy, ableist writing is the goddamn worst and yes I will rage about this forever because it fucking matters. Telling millions of viewers that using a wheelchair means you are broken and not whole is a horrific reflection of the writers’ views and the hugest indication that they really don’t care about disabled characters.
- Brandon the Breaker
- Brandon the Wise
- Brandon the Raven
- Brandon the Seer
- Brandon the Keeper
Any, any of these titles would have been a better choice than “Brandon the Broken”.
But no, ableism endured. As it always has done throughout this messy series. Yes, I’m still salty. I will always be salty about how disabled characters are portrayed in media. If people take issue with this, they should really have a look at why they do.
“But they made Bran King! A disabled character is the King of the Six Kingdoms!” I hear you say. You see, that counts for nothing when they call him broken. It is in no way good disability representation if you denigrate the character and reduce his name and being to an ableist judgement.. Also, Isaac Hempstead-Wright is not disabled in real life, so there’s that additional insult to injury. A non-disabled actor imitating disability, yet again. However, that topic has been covered far and wide by many good disabled journalists, and I’m not delving into it here.
The thing that gets me is that Bran isn’t broken. He’s clever and wise and yes he holds all memories of times past and present but. He is not broken. Not physically or mentally or emotionally. We see him smile, sass people, trick them, tease them. Bran is OKAY WITH NOT BEING ABLE TO WALK. He is FINE WITH NOT BEING ABLE TO WALK. His wheelchair and his ability to warg give him physical and mental freedom. And he forgave Jaime. He forgave Jaime because he knew that becoming the Three-Eyed Raven made him who he was meant to be. Bran has never been seen on screen wishing revenge upon Jaime Lannister, and after the events of the dreams, the Weirwood tree, I don’t believe he did.
So, Grand Maester Samwell, you better not record him as Brandon the Broken in your record keeping. No. Brandon Stark is not broken.
He is whole, just as he always was.
Lily is a non-binary disabled writer, activist, and medievalist. She has a masters’ degree in medieval literature from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in England. You can find her on Twitter or on her Patreon, where she posts medieval non-fiction, poetry, and queer fantasy fiction.