April 7, 2014

These Women of Westeros

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I recently had a conversation with a friend about all the reasons why she would not enjoy watching Game of Thrones. Like much of adult America, I watched the season four debut last night. It’s one of the few shows I do watch live because I’m so keen not to have it spoiled for me by social media. But as I listed the baby killings and the incest and the beheadings and the rapes and the betrayals in an effort to spare my friend a show very much not for her, I found myself wondering—why the hell do I watch this show?

Well, it does have a fantastic, complicated layered story with twists I don’t see coming and it’s the rare show where I don’t see the turns broadcasted ahead of time. It’s helluva sexy too with a gorgeous cast and a nudity factor so infamous, it coined the phrase “sexposition” since so much exposition is shared during graphic sex scenes. The cast is also extremely talented and most of the great character actors from the British Isles have wanderer across the screen along with a host of European ones.

ayra stark
Ayra Stark

The world is rich and complicated with call backs to the Medieval era that are catnip to me. The characters are fully drawn so that overtly evil people can yet inspire sympathy while good characters often make me want to slap them upside the head for sheer stupidity that usually ends up getting them killed.

There’s much that is gruesome and brutal about Game of Thrones, no question. “When you play the game of thrones,” we’re told from the start, “you win or you die.” In depicting the reams and reams of characters and events that make up George R.R. Martin’s books, the show’s producers have spared no punches and gilded no lilies. There are great risks in these stories, great costs to claim and hold on to power, great prices for honor and mercy. The good people die too badly and the bad people remain past endurance…and then some.

Brienne of Tarth
Brienne of Tarth

But it bothers me how much overall the women are exploited…and how easily that’s accepted within and without the show. Most of the sexposition involves full frontal nude shots of nameless women extras playing maids or whores or tavern’s daughters. Women are especially victimized in Game of Thrones. Even allowing for the paternalistic parameters of the world, its levels of chauvinism are almost ridiculous. Just about every man on the show not named Stark is a rapist or a man whore. Even the awesome warrior woman Brienne of Tarth was nearly gang raped and wound up tossed into a bear pit for sport and ultimately rescued single-handedly by a weakened, malnourished man. And yet, some of the most powerful characters on the show are women. Cersei Lannister. Ayra Stark. Caitlin Stark. Brienne of Tarth. Khalessi, the Mother of Dragons. Actual dragons.

These women of Westeros are strong and powerful and above all, they endure. They are used, abused, manipulated, traded in marriage, murdered, deceived and deceive. One even gave birth to a mystical, murderous baby made of shadows. Oh yeah. You read that right.

Khalessi, the Mother of Dragons

About the time Daenerys Targaryen stepped from a bonfire with three baby dragons climbing her naked form, it became clear who really holds the power. I don’t know who wins the game, who survives to rule from the throne of swords, but I know who’ll be there to see it. Because it’s the women of Game of Thrones who change the world.

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  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    I’m a big fan too, and if you’ve read the books, the series is following them pretty closely in most respects. I think the reason we watch is that Character Is King as Lee Childs said, and Game of Thrones has a lot of really fabulous characters. Here’s a post I did on it, I think before you came onto the LadySmut scene.


    Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorElizabeth Shore

    I saw a short interview with Sibel Kekilli, the actress who plays Shae, and she herself said it would be nice if there were more nudity with the men. Oh, we see their behinds enough, but full frontal? Not so much.

    In any case, I still love love love the show. I was over the moon with excitement last night watching the season debut, and can’t wait to see what happens as the season progresses. I’m in the middle of reading the third book, but I’m not going to be able to catch up with the series so I’ll find out what happens by watching the show. It’s a great one, though, for all the reasons you cite above. The characters are amazing, and the multi-layered story sustains my interest like nothing else on TV. Love it!

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • Post authorReelGoddess

    I think one of the most interesting things about this show is that even though the women are victimized/exploited, they are the strongest characters…..and often the most deceiving. For every whore, tavern wench or lowborn woman we’re also treated to characters like Arya….who has no problem sticking them with the pointy end. Some of the graphic violence is hard to watch / read, and the nudity, while scaled back a tad in the later seasons, had been most gratuitous at times.

    I think what the books/show does best is it forces you to re-evaluate what you love/hate about a character. Even though we’ve learned time and again that we shouldn’t get attached because GRRM has no qualms about killing people off. This is an amazing show and the only one I watch live. It’s definitely not for everyone though.

    Reply to ReelGoddess
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Yes, yes, yes! Preach it. I agree with everything you say. Every word.

      Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorSue Swift/Suz deMello

    I had to watch the first show a couple of times before I got into it, but now that I have…oh, wow. Well-drawn characters and a generally unpredictable story. I was SHOCKED when Geoffrey the creep (so glad someone offed him) had Ned Stark’s head chopped off. The boldness of the writing–they’re not afraid to sacrifice people–amazes me.

    And yeah, the women endure, just as we have for millennia. I predict that it’s either Arya or Denaerys on the Iron Throne.

    Reply to Sue Swift/Suz deMello
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      If Martin doesn’t die first. He keeps NOT ending the series and leaving people lost in distant lands….ugh!

      Reply to Madeline Iva

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