Strong Female Characters Overcome Misogyny in “Game of Thrones”

By Matt Weese on Mar 28, 2012 to Game of Thrones

Celebrated HBO series “Game of Thrones” based on George RR Martin’s popular fantasy novels; I’ve seen several internet writers accuse the series of being misogynistic in its portrayals of women. Certainly we see a brutal world in which women are raped, beaten, used as sex objects in brothels and just basically terrorized. On the other hand, men are tortured, beheaded, murdered, castrated and made into prostitutes.  Westeros is a brutal, medieval world and no one is protected or excluded from said brutality. It is however, still a man’s world. Women like Catelyn Stark, and Cersei Lannister who are powerful leaders in their own right, are secondary and subject to the rule of their weaker and less deserving sons. Even as a childless widow, Dothraki  queen Daeneryrs  Targaryen is the primary ruler of her people  but still dependent on the whims of men regarding her rightful power.

The basic argument I’ve seen in these reviews is that even though this world is based on medieval history, it’s still fantasy and as such, these worlds don’t HAVE to be created as misogynistic. This is true. The stories don’t have to be written this way, however I think these critics are overlooking that for the female characters in “Game of Thrones” the story is ABOUT the struggle against misogyny.

“Game of Thrones” is not only a reflection of what women face in reality, an everyday struggle to survive in a man’s world, the struggle against misogyny is a very integral part to the growth and development of the female characters.  The cruel, misogynistic world of Westeros is the setting for these fictional female characters to display their bravery, wit, cunning, strength and worthiness when compared to their male counterparts.

The audience cheers for Daenerys when she emerges from the fire unscathed, baring dragons on her shoulders when fire would have destroyed her weak and abusive brother. We ROOT for little Arya Stark who must disguise herself as a boy to survive, even though we KNOW she can fight better than any of the boys she is running with. We feel Catelyn Starks pain, and we SEE that she is in actuality a better and stronger leader than her dead, honor bound husband because she takes ACTION where her husband would not. We FEEL Cersei Lannisters frustration at being a woman of power in a family of chauvinistic men, forced to rule from behind the iron throne instead of sitting in it where she belongs.  Even Sansa Stark, who tries to play by the rules of the patriarchy, finds she cannot win. We have to admire her inner strength and wit when simply trying to survive as a captive and abused consort to the cruel and useless figurehead of King Joffre. Sansa represents a reality for many women who are captive in abusive relationships with no visible way of escape.

Having read some of the novels I know there are more strong and heroic female characters to come. Based on last season I am certain that HBO will do them the justice they deserve.  But what do you think, ladies?  Leave a comment below and tell us why you love (or hate) Game of Thrones.  I probably don’t need to tell you this but Game of Thrones season 2 premieres April 1st (four days!) at 9PM.

  • Woo Hoo! We finally get to see Brienne! Wow! She’s HUGE! Is that the actresses real size or is it modified?

  • Jamie

    How can you write about strong female characters in the series and not mention Brienne of Tarth?! Are you sure you read the books?

    • Yes, I am reading the books. If you see at the end of the article I say that I know there are mores strong female characters to come. I didn’t want to give anything away.

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