American Wedding - Frank Ocean
Eartha Kitt photographed at the pool by Isaac Sutton, c. 1959
For y’all who don’t know it yet: Brazil has submitted The Way He Looks for Best Foreign Language Academy award
When the Princess Becomes a Prophet by Jeannine Hall Gailey
Favorite film: The Philadelphia Story (1941)
1. Westeros is poorer and less economically developed than Essos. It’s far less urbanized than Essos. It’s an exporter primarily of natural resources and can’t produce the advanced manufactured goods it imports from the Free Cities. Its financial system is really quite crude, especially in comparison to the large banks and insurance companies of Braavos. It has very few roads and none of them Valyrian; main thoroughfares like the Kingsroad don’t have bridges over major rivers but use fords instead; it lacks internal canals to connect major river systems.
2. Westeros is less politically developed. It’s only been politically unified for 300 years, and even that weak feudal state is extremely shaky and may not survive. Essos has had continent-spanning empires that lasted for thousands of years. It has much more diversity of political systems - republics with separation of powers and political parties, merchant oligarchies, elected tyrants, etc.
3. Westeros is considered less culturally developed. Essosi call Westerosi unwashed barbarians, referring to them by the inaccurate title of “Andals.” (reminds me of the way Americans and Europeans labeled various nationalities by incorrect names because they didn’t speak the language) The Essosi of the Free Cities are the blood of Old Valyria; the Ghiscari have their empire, the Dothraki have their prophecies of manifest destiny, and the Qartheen are the pureblooded descendants of the greatest city that ever was or ever will be. Westerosi nobles are sent to the Free Cities to get culturally enriched, not the other way around. In terms of cultural production, most mummers are imported from Essos, as Westeros has no tradition of theater.
When engaging with ASOIAF, you have to analyze the world of Planetos as it is, rather than automatically applying heuristics based on our own world. Assuming that west = rich, civilized, and east = the Other (because that’s how it’s been presented in the past) is falling into the same essentialist trap that Edward Said and others are critiquing.
Alright, I understand what you’re getting at, and I agree that Westeros is less developed than Essos, but I disagree with the following logic: the West more developed than the East, Westeros less developed than Essos, therefore there is no parallel mainly because I COMPLETELY disagree with the first part of that statement. The European Middle Ages were literally called the Dark Ages, there was very little development scientifically, politically and socially speaking at that time. And even in those conditions, they still thought themselves more developed and civilised than Eastern people, but hey, it seems that belief is still shared nowadays so who can blame them?
Dazed & Confused, Autumn 2014