Yarr, here be spoilers.
So last night was the season finale of Game of Thrones, which, for those of you who have been living under a rock, was actually the end of Storm of Swords, the third book in George RR “All My Friends Are Dead” Martin’s epic series. I’m going to say right now that if you haven’t read the books or watched the show yet (even though Storm of Swords came out in 2000 and the statute of limitations on spoiling that bad boy has expired) there will be spoilers ahead, so if you don’t want to know what happens, turn off the internet and don’t leave your house until you’ve gotten caught up.
Anyway, I wanted to address the idea that some people seem to have that “girls hate Game of Thrones.” I’m not sure who these people are, although they probably spend a lot of time either living in their mom’s basement playing World of Warcraft, or maybe they have memorized every single episode of Sex and the City and can’t be bothered to do anything new. At any rate, it’s well known that there’s a lot of misogyny and douchebaggery on the internet, and when it comes to stuff like GoT, which has swords and blood and boobs and killin' and not an awful lot of attractive men who actually LIVE, apparently being in possession of a uterus makes one want to shut off the telly whenever someone shouts WINTER IS COMING or I AM THE MOTHER OF DRAGONS or YOU KNAW NOTHING JON SNAAWWW.
Here’s the thing though. GoT, and its books, to which the show is pretty faithful, contains a lot of really strong feminist characters. This is one of the reasons I love it.
I know, I know, “Cersei’s a bitch and Sansa’s an idiot and there’s incest and Danaerys is too pretty to be a warrior princess” or some other bullshit. No, seriously. Every one of the women in this show is totally badass, for one reason or another. Let’s take a look at them.
Cersei: The queen you love to hate. Yeah, ok, she’s not REALLY the queen anymore, she’s the queen mom, because her horrible incestuously-begotten son is the king. But let’s face it, Cersei is way tougher than most of the rest of the Lannisters. The biggest shortcoming she’s got (besides being homicidal, sneaky and manipulative) is that SHE’S NOT JAIME. Her brother Tyrion can never be king because their father hates him, and Jaime’s off being the Kingslayer and stuff… but Cersei’s totally qualified to sit on the Iron Throne. She got stuck marrying Robert Baratheon, and now that he’s dead she has to live vicariously through her psycho offspring, because she has no power other than what is granted to her by the patriarchy. Cersei has responded to gender inequality by doing the only thing she knows how to do - pulling the strings from behind the scenes.
Catelyn Stark: I’ll say this for the show - it makes Catelyn a whole lot more likable. The wife and then widow of Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, does pretty much everything for the sake of her kids. Unfortunately, her need to save her children ends up dooming the lot of them, because when she frees Jaime Lannister, she sets all kinds of things in motion that have a really bad ending. Way to make heads roll, Catelyn.
Danaerys: Mother of Dragons? Sure, even though in the books she’s about fourteen, gets married off by her pervy brother to a tribal warlord, and is basically treated like property… until her husband’s death, at which point she loses everything. But! She’s Daenarys Stormborn, sister of the late Rhaegar Targaryen, which means she’s got dibs on the Iron Throne too. What does she do? Same thing any other teenage widow would do -- raises an army, collects her dragons, frees a bunch of slaves and begins making her way back to Westeros so she can claim what’s hers. Plus, the men under her command never try to say “But you’re a girl.” Props to Ser Jorah Mormont and Barristan Selmy for that.
Brienne of Tarth: I can’t begin to say how much I love Brienne, because she’s socially awkward, people make fun of her, she’s constantly belittled - even by Jaime Lannister, the freakin’ KINGSLAYER - and yet she remains strong, proud, and undeniably loyal. She’s a badass warrior, but what makes her awesome is not her fighting skills, but her fierce sense of right and wrong. Even when a gaggle of the Brothers Without Banners decide it might be fun to rape the Maid of Tarth, Brienne makes it clear that she might get raped but she’s going to castrate a couple of people in the process. If we were casting RPG statuses here, Brienne would be our Lawful Good warrior. She can’t help it, it’s just who she is.
Asha Greyjoy: Renamed Yara in the show, Asha is a swashbuckling pirate who decides to take the helm of the Iron Islands’ fastest ship with fifty of the best killers around so she can go rescue her poor brother Theon, who really doesn’t have a lot left worth rescuing now that he's being skinned alive by Roose Bolton's bastard. Like Cersei, Asha is fighting against the role that her society dictates for her gender, and because no one is going to give her power, she simply TAKES it. Eventually, teevee watchers will see Asha at the Kingsmoot, where she challenges her uncle for rule of the Ironborn, and while her gender may get in the way, it’s not the primary focus of why she ends up on the losing side.
Arya Stark: I love love love Arya Stark with the love of a thousand lovey suns. Unlike her sister Sansa, she’s managed to escape the hot mess that is Kings Landing and the Lannister family, and now she’s gallivanting around the countryside in the company of Sandor Clegane, the Hound himself. He’s keeping her alive, but Arya does pretty well on her own. She’s already got a couple of kills to her name, and she’s stealthy. She refuses to wait around letting things happen to her, instead Arya is completely pro-active and goes after what she needs and wants. Calm and cool, she tells the Hound, "Some day I'm going to put a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull." AND OMG I CAN'T WAIT.
Sansa Stark: I have to say, reading the books, Sansa was my least favorite character. I really disliked her until about halfway through Storm of Swords, and then I had a sort of Sansa-piphany. Sansa becomes stronger, as do the other female characters, but in a different way. She’s not a warrior, not a schemer, not a manipulator, or even particularly clever. But Sansa, for all her other faults, is a survivor. Like a chameleon, she learns to adapt to whatever horrible situation she is put in by other people - because nothing that happens to Sansa happens BECAUSE of her. She is completely at the mercy of other peoples’ whims - her parents, Joffrey, Cersei, Lord Baelish… pretty much everyone other than Tyrion Lannister wants something from her. And Sansa adapts. She overcomes and she survives.
So, despite the insistence of some bloggers that Girls Don’t Like Game of Thrones It’s Too Hard to Understand, seriously, it’s worth investing some time to watch (or better yet, read) the series. Yes, there’s lots of sex, boobies, politics, blood, beheadings, flayings, and some rapeyness, but it’s a strongly written character-driven series that’s well worth exploring.