If anything, the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones masterfully sustained from start to finish a complex new fictional world, creating believable cultures and customs. Establishing the detailed social hierarchies in George R. R. Martin’s novels could have been no easy task, but Season 1 prepped us well for the civil war we are about to witness in Season 2.
Yet no fictional world, particularly one so historically influenced, can escape having to make a decision about gender dynamics. Will it completely turn the usual male/female structures around? Will it recall bygone times and traditional gender roles? A Song of Ice and Fire has a firmly male-centric – even at times macho – storyline, which draws from the medieval fantasy genre. So how come us ladies by no means feel alienated by this show? One would think if the macho bravado wouldn’t try our patience, the endless use of the word “wench” might…
That is where, though, the TV series has managed to pull off what the books do – sure, there’re a lot of monsters, wars, semi-naked women, blood and glory – but neither the language nor this content drives female viewers away. There’s something about this world that is rich and believable enough to make its unforgiving masculine culture a very creative resource.
For out of this setting comes female characters who are all the more interesting and inspirational. They’re moments in the story really shine with a different perspective: for instance, while we get plenty of insight as to what’s going on in each kingdom from the male characters, we often depend on characters such as Dany and Cersei for major story arcs, and later those such as Brienne, Asha and Arianne for detailed plotlines.
Daenerys and Cersei are characters who really come into their own thanks to the very fact that they need to fight for political power in masculine hierarchies. Although Dany gains her first taste of power through being Drogo’s wife, she soon grows to understand how she must use that power when she’s alone and defenseless. Not to spoil anything for future viewers, but some of the things she goes on to achieve require a seriously skilled, objective balance of caution and risk, mercy and vengeance.
Cersei, too, cuts an impressive figure, however much we may love to hate her. You’ve got to hand it to her: surrounded by a master of strategy like her father, the epitome of a soldier like Jaime, and a sharp mind like Tyrion, it would take a lot to have your say. Despite the limited roles she has been confined to – wife, mother – she thinks big, dares much, and isn’t afraid to reach out and take authority.
In later seasons, it’s exciting to think how Brienne, Asha and Arianne will bring new locations, characters and conflicts into the story. Although relatively more minor than Dany and Cersei, these three really make the later books gain a sense of the whole of this world. The war has reached all corners of Westeros, and its repercussions are felt from court to roadside inn. Brienne in the riverlands, Asha in the Iron Islands and Arianne in Dorne are characters essential in weaving the plot from the big to the small moments, from the near to the far places. Of course, alongside all these relatable yet intriguing female characters, it is also often the manly men that makes it all the more fun!
What do you think: bump up the macho bravado for season 2, or more girl power for you? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts!