The Bizarre Morality of Hair Color on Game of Thrones (SPOILERS!)

Has anyone else noticed the bizarre relationship between hair color and evil on Game of Thrones?

Blondes

betty-veronica-art-2
They look EXACTLY THE SAME, apart from the hair

It’s a simple, if troubling, old concept: light = good, and dark = bad. The good guy wears a white hat and the bad guy a black. Blondness typically means innocence.

Not so much on GoT, however.

The Lannister family, known for flaxen hair, are the evil, rich overlords of the show. Not only are they blonde and evil, but you can determine just how evil they are by how blonde they are.

Tyrion, the “black sheep” of the family, is the only one with brown hair and easily its most principled, likabable member.

jaime
I’m not as blond as you think

Jamie is probably its next best member: capable of great evil, yet not without redeeming qualities. He’s blond, but his hair is dark enough to be considered light brown.

 

Joffrey, on the other hand, is a raving lunatic, so evil that he’s not even calculating about it. His family may be willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, but even they think Joffrey gets out of line. He’s just cruel for kicks and his hair is almost white.

joffrey
Platinum lunacy

House Targaryen, the other blonde family, aren’t much better. King Aerys II wanted to burn down a entire city of innocent people and his heir, Viserys, pimped out his sister to a horde of rampaging horse-worshippers just to get his hands on some warriors.

 

That sister, Daenerys, is the only exception to the show’s blonde=evil pattern that I can think of, with her platinum locks and benevolent nature.  She does have black eyebrows.

And there’s also Lady Brienne, who seems honorable. But they do make a big point about her “mannish” appearance.

Brondes

Bronde= brunette + blonde, the hair color often sought by women who want the best of both worlds.

It’s a color that can’t quite decide it’s own category, a color of ambiguity. Much like the moral ambiguity of the brondes on GoT.

jaqen-hghar-game-of-thrones-theory
You can’t pin down my motives any more than my hair color

I’d argue that the Faceless Men are brondes. Jaqen has brown hair with blonde highlights and is a difficult character to pin down. He saves Arya, then trains her, but also tortures her and ultimately calls for her execution. Still, he wants it done painlessly and only because it’s demanded by his belief system.

 

The Waif sometimes looks blonde, sometimes brunette, depending on the lighting she’s in. She definitely unlikeable, reveling a little too much in beating blind Arya with a stick, but she was only following orders. She’d probably be considered Lawful Neutral by the old Dungeons and Dragons alignment system, which is about as morally ambiguous an alignment can be. Same for Jaqen.

And Margaery Tyrell? She’s definitely something between blonde and brunette and we’re not sure of her morality either. It’s hinted that she’s not nearly as chaste as she presented herself to King Renly. She was willing to marry sociopathic Joffrey when it was politically expedient, barely breaking step after his murder to ingratiate herself to the next heir.

margary
Be wary of highlights

Margaery seems sympathetic to the poor, but as she told the High Sparrow, her sympathies were always very public, more about winning approval than genuine.

Was this true, or was she just telling the High Sparrow what he wanted to hear? We don’t know. Whether her machinations are Machiavellian or purely meant to protect herself and her loved ones is unclear.

Like her hair color.

Gray Hair

Gray hair usually denotes wisdom or fragility, but in Game of Thrones, no one fragile sticks around.

So maybe that’s why its gray-haired characters are among the most evil.  You have to be pretty ruthless to last long enough for your hair to turn gray in a land where you win or you die.

The long-surviving set includes Tywin Lannister, the godfather of the Lannisters, who was once blond. While you can’t help but admire his cunning, he’s undeniably one of the most evil characters in the show, which takes real dedication. He won’t hesitate to force his own children into miserable, unfulfilling lives if it’s politically advantageous.

walter.jpg
Why are you so nervous? I just said we should do brunch sometime

Neither will Walder Frey, host of the Great Red Wedding massacre, who considers his child brides replaceable, calls his sons weak and his daughters ugly, and marries off his youngest girl to a man seconds from being thrown into a dungeon.

Or Lord Greyjoy, who lost two sons twenty years ago and had the third taken hostage. His first reaction, upon his long-lost son’s return, was to call him a pansy and make fun of his coat. And THAT was the high-water mark in their relationship…

I’m starting to see a pattern here. Most GoT characters are ruthless against people outside their alliances, but the gray-haired ones aren’t even kind to their own kids.

Lady Olenna is the notable exception. She seems deeply invested in her grandchildren’s happiness, and I’m assuming her hair is gray. We never actually see it, though, from under her headdress. Maybe that’s on purpose.

The gray-hairs without children are even nastier. Littlefinger never had children, after losing Catelyn Stark, and he may be the most Machiavellian character on the show.

Or the High Sparrow, who has no children because he’s a religious fanatic, hellbent on destroying aristocratic sinners. He could arguably be considered a quasi-hero, being the only one capable of making Cersei Lannister answer for her crimes.

But I don’t think so. He’s a reformed lecher and a glorified hypocrite, brutally forcing everyone else into his own spiritual persecutive. He tortures homosexuals. His treatment of Cersei actually made me feel sorry for her.

And anyone who can make me feel sorry for Cersei must be pretty bad.

Brunettes

Brunettes fare pretty well in GoT. Most of the good characters are brunettes.

Ned Stark is brunette, as are Robb Stark and Jon Snow. So are Arya, Gendry, Khal Drogo, Bron, Brann, Dario, Benjen, Missandei, Oberyn Martell, Grey Worm, Meera, Mance, Gilly and Samwell Tarly.

Of course, “good” is a relative concept in this show. It seems to mean only being willing to do the heinous things you have to for survival, without enjoying them too much.

Samwell-Tarly
Not the face of a villain 

No one is entirely pure. Samwell may be the cleanest of the bunch, only having broken his vow of chastity after saving a damsel in distress. Or possibly Bran, who only sacrificed a friend while making his escape in a situation where everyone would’ve otherwise been killed.

Either way, dark hair is highly represented on the good team. We are even finding redeeming qualities in Gregor Clegane, who definitely started off as a bad guy. It feels like he’ll be renouncing the Dark Side in Season 7.

The grand exception to all this is Ramsey Bolten. He had black hair and was possibly the most evil character on the entire show, which was surprising. I didn’t think anyone could beat Joffrey for pure sadism, but I was wrong.

I guess Ramsey is the great outlier in the brunette equation, like Daenerys of the blondes. And both are hair-color extremes: Ramsey’s is black and Daenerys’is white. I wonder if that’s somehow significant.

Redheads

Redheads are represented fairly well in GoT, usually good but flawed. They’d probably get a chaotic good rating by the old DnD alignment system. They are ruled more by their personal consciences than any arbitrary group rules.

You’ve got Ygritt the Wildling, who falls in love with Jon Snow and risks herself to save him. She is kind enough to make Snow sympathetic to the Wildings’ plight (a first for the Knight’s Guard), but angry enough to kill him after he betrays her.

Except she can’t kill him. She’s a marksman who keeps firing arrows into nonlethal parts of his body, maybe so she can rationalize that’s she’s loyal to her Wildling buddies while still not leaving him dead.

wildling
We just want independence from England… umm, we meant Westeros

Or Tormund Giantsbane, with his shock of orange hair and Viking beard. After watching Jon Snow’s mercy-killing of Mance, Tormund decides Snow is alright and helps bring about the Jon Snow/Wildling alliance.

Apart from the Wildlings, there’s redheaded Catelyn Tully. She’s generally a good character, but can be nasty. For example, she was cold and unloving to the bastard infant her husband brought home.  I can understand her being angry at her husband for having an affair, but why be cruel to an innocent baby? At least she felt bad about it, I guess.

And then there’s Sansa Stark.

I’ll admit not being much of a Sansa fan, so far (I’m much fonder of Arya). It all started when she thought her fiancé Joffrey was super awesome.

After the butcher’s boy incident, Sansa has every reason to believe Joffrey is a monster. He bullied a peasant kid and then Sansa’s own kid sister, had the peasant kid murdered and then killed an innocent wolf.

At this point, any reasonable-thinking woman would be freaking out about what she was getting herself into, but no. All Sansa was worried about was whether the smug little sh*t still liked her.

sansa.gifIn fact, she seemed pretty squarely on Team Joffrey until he had her father beheaded then made her stare at his disembodied head while having someone smack her around.

That’s brutal, of course. But I’m wondering if there’s a word for people who have utterly no sympathy for anyone’s else’s problems until they are themselves facing the exact same problems. Sansa never cared about Joffrey’s cruelty until he was specifically focusing it on her.

Sansa goes through an enormous amount of personal suffering while refusing to learn anything from it. After finally escaping Joffrey, she throws a hissyfit about marrying Tyrion because he’s a dwarf.

Despite his kindness and sensitivity. You’d think after seeing how bad things could get with Joffrey, she’d be a little less worried about her new husband’s height than his character, but no. It takes Ramsey Bolten to put things into perspective.

Maybe we can cut her some slack for being so young. She definitely suffers from her foolishness choices and seems to turn around in season six.

Still, I’d argue that redheads in GoT are mostly good, with the exception of Melisandra, the Red Woman. Apparently, there’s a major outlier in every group.

 

So, what do you think? While not applying to every last character, there do seems to be hair color personality patterns on the show.

Is it a coincidence?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Comments

    1. Thank you! It hit me one day that blondes on GoT were mostly evil. The more I watched, the more it seemed to play out.

      Maybe gray is a variant of blonde on this show, lacking color.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cool! I find the plot and twists so complex, that I am incapable of doing anything but watch, let alone think – so, I find it definitely laudable that you actually analyzed it as it played out! 🤓

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I liked this article!

    The books do make notice of the Stark children’s hair color in particular, since Robb and Sansa (and maybe Rickon, I can only vaguely remember Rickon) inheriting the reddish Tully hair from Catelyn, and Arya and Bran (and Jon … who doesn’t quite count) inheriting Ned’s hair coloring.

    There are still a lot of non-blond evil characters, the Lannisters are just standouts for being so notably blond. But I like you using this as a yardstick.

    Now I’m thinking (from a book perspective) about the Tyroshi characters who die their hair crazy colors. (Daario in the books has a really, really weird look.)

    The show doesn’t go into this, but the books also do a lot with eye color.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Had been floating this around my head while getting caught up on the show 🙂

      It doesn’t work for every last character, but there seems to be a general pattern of light (blonde or gray) hair with more evil characters and darker hair with more good…

      Not just the Lannisters, but also the Targaryens. Dany, Ramsey and the Red Woman are the big exceptions, from what I can tell.

      I didn’t take to time to check out EVERYONE… not sure about the Britherhood’s hair, for example. But I noticed the pattern because traditionally it’s the other way around.

      I haven’t read the books, so that’s an untapped resource! Don’t know how closely the series follows them. It may just be that the blonde hair is a device for uncovering the Joffrey parentage secret, although it would work better the other way around (a brunette could father a blonde kid with recessive genes, but two blondes can’t make a brunette. Three blonde kids are a real coincidence, though).

      Figuring out who is a good character is another confounding factor, lol. Most of them are debatable 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Regardless how well the theory fits, it’s a fun yardstick to employ, and these are the kind of articles I like.

        If you’re interested, I have a post that also talks about what’s on top of characters’ heads, but I’m not talking about hair, I’m talking about crowns. It’s kind of similar in spirit.

        https://patricksponaugle.com/2014/02/04/uneasy-lies-the-head-that-wears-a-crown-in-game-of-thrones/

        (This seasonal hiatus, I’ll probably have to refer back to that post when I write about Euron and his ridiculous-looking Driftwood Crown.)

        Thank you again for posting a Game of Thrones article. I love reading this kind of stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good article! I just read it. The great thing about shows like Game of Thrones that add SO much detail is you can analyze so many parts of them. You can rewatch them and keep discovering more and more.

          The driftwood crown did look silly, almost as silly as King Tommen.

          This hiatus is hard to take after getting to watch a new episode every night!

          Liked by 1 person

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