Game of Thrones has, as anyone can see, a lot of patriarchal elements: objectification of women, several unnecessary nudes, rapes, etc. Viewers may think “It’s a medieval show so it’s no sexism, it’s just history”, but they forget that we are not living in those past times anymore. TV shows and films can’t just show us raped and humiliated women, they have to delve into their personalities, fears and hopes and make us fully understand them. The show may be aesthetically medieval but the treatment of the story and the characters must be contemporary.
Does the show have that contemporary look, or does it just perpetuates that anachronistic and sexist attitude? There is no simple answer as many feminist writers think but, in my opinion, Game of Thrones is not only far away from being sexist, it also possesses feminist features.
It is true, as I said before, women (think about the sex-workers employed by Petyr Baelish in his brothel) are constantly objectified, reduce to a normative body that is looked by the sexual and possessive man gaze. The introduction of Oberyn Martell illustrate this situation: we see women totally naked but when there’s a man nude we just see… a nipple.
That’s the negative part, but I want to make a claim here for the other part: the feminist part. This other side can be seen in many female characters, but we’re going to focus mainly in three: Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. We could also write about Melisandre, Arya Stark, Ygritte, Catelyn Tully, Olenna Tyrell, and even Sansa
Stark Lannister, but we can make a strong point only with these three due to the feminist vindication they make within patriarchal social system represented in Game of Thrones.
She was rapped by her husband Khal Drogo in her wedding night when she was only thirteen, her brother, Viserys, demeaned her for years, and as a child she was almost murdered. But that was a long time ago.
Daenerys Targaryen is a female character that has destroyed the sexist hierarchy of the Khalasar becoming their leader after Khal Drogo’s death. She didn’t turne into a sad widow, she found her place and her mission in Westeros, and she won’t rest until she wins the Iron Throne through her strategies.
The Mother of Dragons is also a sexual character and her desire didn’t die with Drogo, it’s more alive than ever as her relationship with Daario Naharis proves. But this sexuality it’s not an obstacle, she doesn’t quit the fight, it’s just another aspect of her life.
The legitimate heir of the Iron Throne has something more powerful than three dragons and an army: a boundless feminine desire.
Probably the most misunderstood character in the show, Cersei got married (even when she was in love with Rhaegar Targaryen) with the sexist, unfaithful and alcoholic Robert Baratheon; She had to send her daughter Myrcella to Dorne and hasn’t been able to live her sexuality freely: As we all now since the first episode, she loves her brother Jaime Lannister, biological father of Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen.
Although people usually see her as the bitch because of the love for her brother, she defends that nobody should say anything about how she decides to live her life. The dialogue between Ned Stark and her in the first season left no doubts about it:
Cersei doesn’t just fight for her sexuality, she makes a claim for her gender. Being a woman (and also a mother) prevented her from ruling King’s Landing, and even from being treated seriously in several occasions: she’s just the crazy incestuous widow. She rejects her unfair situation and will try (by absolutely all means) to do whatever she wants whenever she wants.. As she said to King Robert: “I should wear the armor, and you the gown”.
So we have a woman who is not just a mother (even if she’d kill for her children) or a wife, she’s a warrior, a slightly psychotic character that doesn’t allow others to treat her differently because of her gender.
Brienne of Tarth
Our final character is Brienne, the heiress of the wealthy Lord Selwyn Tarth. She has been treated as a monster since her childhood because of her appearance and her likes. Brienne may have many complexes for these mistreats but she never changed her personality. She wanted to be a knight in shinning armour, fight on a horse, lead battles, and only under the rule of Renly Baratheon she was able to do it.
Again we have a female character that doesn’t fit with the stereotype of her gender. She’s a loyal warrior (ask Catelyn if you have any doubts), probably more skilled with the sword than Jaime (the best swordsman in Westeros), and a sexual human being. Usually, this type of character would be A) lesbian or B) asexual, but the Maid of Tarth loved the late king Renly with all her heart and that (as Daenerys with Daario) didn’t become an obstacle for her duty. Forget about Xena or Buffy, Brienne is our new favorite ass-kicker.
Game of Thrones won’t ever be Jezebel’s favorite series, but we have to admit that some of the female characters are breaking stereotypes and creating more egalitarian heroines. It’s not Orange Is the New Black (the dream of every feminist) but it has a lot to say about strong women in TV.
The Homecoming Queen.