Game of Thrones is a television series created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and produced by HBO last April 17, 2011. It is an adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels entitled A Song of Ice and Fire. It is set in the “unique background setting of the mythical fantasy world where the nine noble families are viciously fighting for the throne of King’s Landing, the strongest territory of the families and control over the entire kingdom of Westeros” (James, 2017).
The story takes place “in a time comparable to the medieval age” (Wood, 2015) that is why the society in the series shows a hierarchical structure and the social structure being divided in the conventional sense, with the respective titles such as king, queen, noble, servant, etc. (Wood, 2015).
The series has attracted record viewership on HBO and has a “broad, active, international fan base”. Its acting, complex characters, plot, scope and production quality gave way for critics to acclaim the series. (Cogman, 2014).
What really caught my interest in this series is the way it represents the characters — it shows distinctive characteristics of being either feminine or masculine. Its society is viewed as misogynistic in the way that it is structured. (Wilson, 2014). Land and titles are only passed down through the males in a bloodline while the women are just married off because of political reasons or peace pact. Women are also shown to wear long flowing dresses or gowns, they are expected to look beautiful, bare children, and be inferior to their husbands. (Wilson, 2014). In the series, it can be seen that the characters adhere to very strict gender roles. The ways in which the characters fit into gender norms say something about what it means to achieve position of power in this society (Ayars, 2015).
And although a lot of women in the series go against the gender expectations in a multitude of different ways, it still shows that there are biased views against women for being helpless or powerful but needing a strong male figure nonetheless (Wilson, 2014). It also depicts women can only be powerful if they follow the “traditional stereotypes of femininity which are subservient, passive, beautiful and their identities linked to men” (Wood, 1994).
The series also objectifies women in a way that it shows lots of nudity and sexualized representation of women while the male characters mostly have dominant roles and they generally engage in battles and violent activities.
In almost every episode, the series presents scenes in which women are shown naked and mostly engaging in sexual activities. It also shows women working as prostitutes to give pleasure to men.
The images above depict the usual scene of prostitutes in a brothel. In these scenes, women are portrayed as gaining a lot of pleasure from they work that they do. These kinds of scenes are so commonly shown in the drama that it reduces femininity to being merely sexual, seductive and subordinate. Moreover, Game of Thrones usually shows women satisfying men’s sexual fantasies. In a way, it reiterates the cultural images of women as ornamental objects whose primary functions are to look pretty for the purpose of pleasing men. (Wood, 1994)
Another example is Daenarys, one of the main characters in the series, a princess of one of the nine noble families (from the house Targaryen). Her brother named Viserys plans to reclaim the throne as a revenge. But all of this would not be possible without having an army. Viserys, then, uses his sister by selling her off to marry the king of Dothraki nomads in order to get an army. Daenerys is depicted as inferior to her brother, she is seen as weak, innocent, and dependent. On her wedding night, she was raped by her husband and she looked helpless. This only shows that even significant characters in the series represent the submissive characteristic of women and they are seen as sexual objects that men own (UW, 2015).
The picture above shows the empowered Daenerys. She was able to acquire power after her husband died. In the series, she seems to “go against traditional expectations of the women of the misogynistic society” but not completely. As stated earlier, for women to gain power, they must live up to the traditionally male characteristics of properly representing the family identity. Daenerys is the perfect embodiment of the masculine characteristics that the male characters of the show struggle to maintain. She is “very much in touch with her family history and name, often referring to herself by her full title: Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen. The Targaryens were known for having the blood of dragons and she was able to pass on her family legacy by being the mother of dragons. More importantly, Deanerys encapsulates these qualities associated with masculinity more than her brother, who aspired to become king. She reaches power because of these qualities, which are traditionally thought of things that masculine figures would do. (Ayars, 2015). Even with the power and position she holds, there is a problem with they way she was able to reach this position and acquire this power. All throughout her journey, she was helped by external forces, she was always “surrounded by strong male figures who are in love with her beauty” and she uses this advantage to have them assist her and fight for her. Even though she is powerful, she was still depicted as someone who depends on men. And being the mother of dragons, people only fear her because of her dragons, without them, she would be insignificant.
A fire witch from the series named Melisandre is another example of a female character who can be seen as powerful but still follows the stereotypical characteristics of a woman. She controls a male character in the series through her dark powers. She does this by manipulating men through her body by seducing them and engaging in sexual activities. This just shows how women cannot be independent or strong without feminine features or without being objectified (UW, 2015).
The series also represents the stereotypical characteristics of men. They are usually shown to be engaging in physical fights in every episode. It shows people what it means to be masculine — joining battles, killing, engaging in violent activities.
To sum up, Game of Thrones depicts “binary gender stereotypes that masculine men are muscular, powerful, and violent, and feminine women are sexual and submissive. These stereotypes also affect their relationship in a way that men are shown to be positioned above women, and even women in strong positions depend on men in certain aspects. By showing strong positioned or gender-bending female characters, Game of Thrones attempts to go against the stereotypes, however, it still shows male dominance/female subservient pattern that is constantly repeated in the media (UW, 2015).
Hibberd, James. “Game of Thrones: HBO clarifies prequels, final seasons plan”. Entertainment Weekly. June 2, 2017.
Cogman, Bryan. Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones. Orion. p. 4. November 6, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2016.