Feminism

Misogyny and Game of Thrones (SPOILERS and TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR EVERYTHING!)

I caught up on Game of Thrones (the TV show) last night and I had the exact same reaction as the rest of the Internet so there’s really no need to go into the specifics, there. From here on out, assume lots of spoilers up to the Season 3 episode The Rains of Castamere, though no spoilers for the books as I haven’t read them yet.

This week’s episode, of course, dealt with the “Red Wedding” that book readers have been eagerly anticipating since day one, I assume. Three major characters are brutally murdered in an out-of-nowhere move that came during what was beginning to look like a surprisingly happy wedding. I’m pretty good at avoiding spoilers but I did figure out from the sheer number of posts about the episode that some major shit was going down, so I spent the entire episode on the edge of my seat wondering who was about to get slaughtered. I suspected it would happen at the wedding and I was sure of it when that guard closed the doors after the bride and groom left the hall, but even I was blown away by the brutality with which the violence started – with Robb Stark’s wife, Talisa of Volantis, being stabbed repeatedly in her pregnant belly and left to bleed to death on the floor.

As Charlie Jane Anders mentions briefly on io9, even before the womb-stabbing, the misogyny in this episode was particularly bad in a series that is regularly filled with brutality against women:

From Walder Frey exhibiting his daughters (and not knowing all their names) to Talisa standing before Walder so he can ogle her tits, to Roose Bolton talking about marrying a fat wife so he could get the biggest dowry, to Walder watching his wife’s throat cut without a flinch — this show is rubbing our faces in misogyny on purpose, to show how it’s part and parcel of the larger brutality.

Cat Stark’s final gambit of holding a knife to the throat of Frey’s young wife to save Robb is particularly brutal – the gambit fails when Frey says simply, “I’ll find another.” Frey is consistent in his views toward women: they’re objects to be used to gain progeny and power.

Arya Stark dancingIt’s telling that this entire event came about because of Robb Stark’s subversion and then acceptance of another patriarchal aspect of Westeros – the arranged marriage that would use one of Frey’s daughters (doesn’t matter which) as a pawn to secure more power for the men. Stark didn’t subvert it because it’s misogynistic, of course – he subverted it because he fell in love with Talisa. He continues the arranged marriage tradition by (very, very unsuccessfully) attempting to patch things up with Frey by making his uncle Edmure Tully marry a Frey. In the Game of Thrones universe, it often seems as though these political marriages are unavoidable, as with the last episode’s marriage of Sansa Stark to Tyrion Lannister. But in this case, it was avoidable: Robb only pushed for the marriage in order to get more troops so that he could get revenge on the Lannisters for killing his dad.

This is just one example of many in Game of Thrones in which a losing proposition is directly related to sexist and patriarchal thinking. Some progressives may find the misogyny of the show too much to handle, but I love it because it’s not presented as just an unavoidable aspect of the society or as an excuse to give all the important roles to men and keep the women as silent and useless eye candy. Instead, it’s used to highlight the evil that exists in the characters and in the society at large, as with Frey; it plays a pivotal role in the downfall of certain characters, as with Robb; and it gives the dynamic, three-dimensional female characters agency, something to work within and fight against.

There are two extreme cases that, thus far, seem to support this as a theme. On one end of the spectrum we have the least likable character in the history of fiction, Joffrey Barratheon. Joffrey is a sociopath who from an early age was forcing prostitutes to hurt each other for his entertainment, and who quickly escalated to tying them up and murdering them using his crossbow. At Sonsa’s wedding, he toyed with the idea of raping her, and it was clear it was no empty threat. While many characters in Game of Thrones have defied a simple good-or-evil characterization (Jaime Lannister springs to mind as my favorite example), Joffrey is (at this point at least) truly horrible, seemingly unsalvageable, and eminently punchable.

At the other extreme is Daenerys Targaryen, a woman whose story began with a tragic arranged marriage to a terrifying and powerful man who raped her, but she soon used her smarts to improve her situation dramatically. At this point, she’s plowing around the desert murdering slave owners and, notably, misogynists. Several episodes ago I remarked to my partner that her story was beginning to feel like feminist porn (in the metaphorical sense) which, while very satisfying, could also begin to be a bit, well, cheap and masturbatory. (This may be on my mind because awhile back a few of you linked me to this essay which masterfully encapsulated many of my feelings about Ender’s Game being a kind of bully porn.) But oh, how satisfying this was:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-S9VVH-toc

CALL HER BITCH ONE MORE TIME, ASSHOLE!

Daenerys shouting to her new army, “Slay every man who holds a whip” is the very definition of epic feminist badassery.

Misogyny, while a major theme, isn’t the only character flaw that leads to upset and tumult. Obviously there’s also revenge and pride and other vices at play, and so I don’t expect Daenerys’s feminist porn ways to continue much longer, something I’m quite happy about because seriously, it would get boring if she just collected all these freed slaves, marched into King’s Landing, murdered Joffrey with a giant, sharpened Venus symbol, and proceeded to turn Westeros into an egalitarian utopia. I mean, it would be very, very satisfying to watch, don’t get me wrong. But boring.

I’m excited to see where all this goes. So excited, in fact, that I may go ahead and start plowing through the books after next week’s episode, since I’ll have too long of a wait until Season 4.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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72 Comments

  1. June 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm —

    It’s a very optimistic perspective to think of the misogyny in GoT as “used to highlight the evil that exists in the characters and in the society at large” — I just worry that it’s not being seen that way by a large number of viewers. It’s always a risky game to try and portray violence in excess in hopes that it will wake people up to it’s evil…because some people will just think, “That’s cool!”

    • June 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm —

      I agree, but I think that’s a risk with every kind of nuanced portrayal/examination of societal ills. There are, without a doubt, people who non-ironically love GoT for the tits, but if we want interesting media, we have to put up with that. Otherwise all progressives would have to enjoy would be obvious and boring moralizing tales. This is why I’m hopeful that Dany’s story doesn’t continue to be such a cake walk.

      • June 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm —

        I think it’s possible to make the point that misogyny is bad from the opposite direction – by showing a society that doesn’t engage in it. I think that was done fairly effectively in the past by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Ursula Le Guin and some other fantasy writers who also were early progressives or feminists. Misogyny and medieval-era settings don’t necessarily have to go hand-in-hand. We can cherry-pick from history the elements we want to show.

        I haven’t taken the time to make comprehensive lists and do surveys, but it seems to me that we have fewer feminist fantasy fiction writers now than we did a few decades ago – that we’re on a backwards slide, in many ways. That may be just because writers who fit that criteria aren’t getting discovered and published, or because they don’t get promoted… it’s hard to say.

        • June 4, 2013 at 3:32 pm —

          Good point! That can also go wrong, though, in the wrong hands. Consider The Powerpuff Girls episode with the feminist superhero. The girls discovered feminism, but it didn’t apply to the egalitarian society the show built up, which made feminism look ridiculous. So I agree with you, I just think it’s important for an author depicting a world without misogyny to make sure that world is obviously distinct from the real world.

      • June 6, 2013 at 11:32 am —

        Also apart from the tits, there is also quite a bit of penisage and male buttockness. Also male preoccupation with sex is an often fatal weakness in the series. I’d agree that depticting strong female characters (with actual character and ambitions apart from tits!) is a helpful way to rewrite the romantic stereotypes we have about the mediaeval period, and showing violence against women as disgusting as it is can’t but make people rethink their predjudices…

    • June 4, 2013 at 4:42 pm —

      Idiot hate-mongers and bigots thought your desecration of the communion wafer and Koran was “cool”.

    • June 4, 2013 at 6:32 pm —

      Game of Thrones may be the most feminist show on television. Granted, I have no idea what else is on TV, but between Brianne of Tarth, the Tyrell matriarch, to some extent Cersei Lannister, definitely Arya Stark, and the uber-heroin (and Mother of Dragons!) Daenerys Targaryen strong women kick so much ass in GoT–which is all the more impressive, and thematically telling, considering the overtly patriarchal and oppressive universe they inhabit. This is the first time I’ve commented here, and I can’t believe it was about this. Hodor!

  2. June 4, 2013 at 1:48 pm —

    I saw a great tweet from @xdoctortx :
    Why doesn’t George R.R. Martin use twitter? Because he killed all 140 characters.

  3. June 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm —

    Oh girl, you are so wrong, the series is just as misandric as it is misogynistic. READ THE BOOKS! There are such female characters in the books that you have not seen anywhere else: besides Daenerys you have Arya, the fierce little tomboy; Brienne of Tarth, Oleanna (Queen of Thorns), Sand Snakes and Arianne Martell, Asha Greyjoy, Ygritte; a wide selection of different kind of girls and women who have found a different ways to cope and manifest themselves in a patriarchal society. Even Cercei Lannister’s & Melisandre’s characters ares great, how often do you come across evil women as heroes?. The women are awesome!

    • June 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm —

      I can only assume you didn’t read my post? Because nothing you said suggests I’m “so wrong,” about anything….

      • June 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm —

        And just trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here, maybe you misunderstood and thought I was somehow suggesting that the treatment of the female characters was misogynist? I don’t think that at all. The misogyny is in the society, not in the writing.

        • June 4, 2013 at 2:08 pm —

          I must have misunderstood something. Or a lot, possibly. But even after another reading I really don’t get your point. Well, maybe third time’s the charm.

          • June 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm

            Her thesis is something like (someone correct me if I’m wrong) there’s a buttload of misogyny depicted in Game of Thrones, but that’s not necessarily a Bad Thing.

          • June 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm

            It may help if you first realize misandry ain’t a thing, in our world or in the GoT world.

        • June 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm —

          Your post read now thrice, still not happy. Thank you anyway for your overly arrogant comments. Never mind, I will still encourage you to read the books.

          • June 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but the post is a comment on the TV show (and I have read the books, and I can separate the two mediums). To then state ‘Oh girl, you are so wrong’ (very respectful tone, for sure!) based on your assessment of the books, is the the height of arrogance.

          • June 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm

            WHAT are you not happy about? Your first comment has very little obvious relation to the position that was staked out in the post, and your subsequent comments have done nothing to clarify.

          • June 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm

            It’s actually really simple. Most (if not all?) the societies in Westeros are patriarchal, and misogyny is rampant. The show/books depict this misogyny. Rebecca is saying it’s an interesting use of misogyny in storytelling, not that the author or the tv show or the books are misogynist.

          • June 4, 2013 at 3:37 pm

            lara, what a weirdly angry comment. If you want to elaborate on exactly what you’re not happy with in my post and what you feel I get wrong, please do. Be sure to quote the text because no one here knows what you’re talking about, exactly.

          • June 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm

            You start with “Oh, girl” and you clearly lack the ability to comprehend what you read … and Rebecca is the arrogant one? Riiiiiiiiight.

            Honestly, I thought the recent pay-gap post was going to start most of the shit…

    • June 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm —

      I think the term you’re looking at is misanthropic (hatred of humanity). But, I don’t think GRRM is misanthropic. He’s far more complex than that.

      • June 4, 2013 at 3:29 pm —

        Well, the post is just superficial, sorry to say this. And for the choice of words, I regret using the the misandric. Just meant that there’s shitloads of violence and hatred in GoT, enough for both sexes and it is not as gendered as this post might lead you to think.

        • June 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm —

          Having not read the books, I’m unfamiliar with which male characters are raped or otherwise sexually brutalized. Could you elaborate? I’m also surprised to hear that the books are so wildly different from the TV show that they would actually depict an egalitarian society and not one that is so obviously patriarchal. That must make Brienne’s story particularly boring, since there would be a more equal number of male and female fighters. And all the storylines concerning the female sex workers must not exist in the books, either. Maybe Renly rapes Tyrell? Or half of the royalty and competitors for the throne are women? And more sons are married off against their will to far-off princesses and duchesses? The books must be much more different than I thought!

          • June 4, 2013 at 3:54 pm

            The books aren’t wildly different than the show is concerning misogyny. It’s pretty much the same basic setting. Specific details are different – Ros is not a character, for example, so her brutal death isn’t depicted, but other nameless women are treated very poorly. If anything, the show is somewhat better in that women like Ros have names and story lines that they don’t really have (with the exception of Shae) in the books. And men aren’t really the targets of sexualized violence any more than they are on the show.

            I think that lara is making a false equivalence of the general violence of war that harms everyone with the patriarchal violence directed at women.

          • June 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm

            I agree with electrasteph. The women in the books have everything going against them. Even Cersei, who is arguably the most powerful woman in Westros, feels slighted because she is a woman. If only she would have been born a man, the kingdom would have been hers years ago. But however poorly the main female characters of GoT are treated, they are all middle to upperclass members of society. The small folk are treated terrible, less than human. Entire villages are raped and massacred just for fun. I’m kind of disappointed that the differences in classes isn’t explored more fully, in either the show or the books.

        • June 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm —

          Yes in both mediums there is plenty of hate and violence but almost always the violence and hate the men face is due to to the fact that these are brutal violent societies there isn’t anyone specifically targeting them because they are men. The women however often face violence because they are women. The threats of rape are because they are women, the deaths and harm they come to are because they are women.

          • June 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm

            There are some counters to that, for instance the unsullied- a group of people (already sold into slavery) who are selected, due to their gender, for the most brutal punishment imaginable, in an attempt to destroy them as people and turn them into unthinking robots who can be abused or killed on a whim. there are also the tens of thousands of male peasants who are forced to fight and die, selected for warfare based solely on their social status and gender. This isn’t to say that GoT depicts a society where men have it as bad as women, but it does show instances where men are being singled out for violence and abuse because they are men (and yes this is largely on the orders of other men, but I’m not sure that makes it better).

          • June 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm

            But, the Unsullied aren’t chosen due to their gender. They’re former male slaves chosen for their potential to grow into strong warriors. In other words, they are chosen for certain physical characteristics aside from being males–being male is a necessary but not sufficient trait for being an unsullied.

        • June 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm —

          And going back a little: when I saw a post on GoT in Skepchick, I was all Yippee, my favorite show dealt in my favorite site, this must be GOOD!! So I was probably expecting more than I got. I think I wanted an in-depth analysis of how how women are portrayed in a series set in patriarchal society. And as I said in the previous comment, in my opinion, the violence in GoT is not as gendered as this post might lead you to think, so no point shouting misogyny, even if it is considered as part of storytelling.

  4. June 4, 2013 at 1:59 pm —

    “At the other extreme is Daenerys Targaryen, a woman whose story began with a tragic arranged marriage to a terrifying and powerful man who raped her”

    Thank you for saying this, you have no idea how many arguments I’ve gotten into with people on tumbler who post things celebrating the “love” between Danny and Kal Drogo. Not only is he a goddamn serial rapist and murderer, he also raped his wife on their wedding day, I mean does that look like a relationship people should be celebrating?

    Oh and I agree with you’re assessment that many characters get shafted because of awful misogynist thinking. In fact it seem how far a character makes it in the story depend more so on how smart their decisions are rather than how “good” or “evil” a character is, and I think we can all agree misogyny isn’t all that smart.

    • June 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm —

      I remember being so torn about the Dany storyline at the start. I first hated that the only main character of color was a savage rapist, and then I hated that she fell in love with him in a way that didn’t seem to explicitly point out the Stockholm Syndrome-ness of it all. I’m going to go back and rewatch season 1 at some point to try to resolve my feelings on it. But her storyline has improved dramatically.

      • June 4, 2013 at 2:56 pm —

        Reading the books may be a good way to come to grips with your feelings on Drogo’s raping Dany. As a man, I found the book rendition of the same scene deeply troubling. When several of my close female friends took issue with my characterization of their relationship as rape, I decided to hold judgement. Interestingly enough, the same women found the HBO rendition to be more “rapey”, whereas I didn’t see much meaningful difference. Point being, there’s seems to be qualities to GRRM’s version of their wedding night that speaks to some people as being more healthy – it’s certainly more tender and moderately more intimate.

        • June 4, 2013 at 2:57 pm —

          “there’s seems”? Wow, clearly I need to proofread more and this comment system needs an “edit” button :)

      • June 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm —

        It is a testament to how good the show is that I could get past Drogo raping Daenerys. Because that DOES NOT happen in the books! It’s actually a very sweet moment where Drogo is caring and gentle with Daenerys even though they don’t speak the same language yet. It’s that gentleness that makes her fall for him, which is much better story line than, “Oh, I’ll just learn how to sex from my hot maid, then he’ll stop raping me and I’ll have power.” Uggghhh.

        • June 4, 2013 at 3:36 pm —

          I agree it’s a better storyline (and sets Dany on a better–at least in terms of literary value–character development arc) but I found it more disturbing than sweet. His gentleness doesn’t alter the facts that she was still compelled to have sex with him against her will (at least initially) and that she’s thirteen.

          • June 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm

            I can see that. It’s been ages since I read the book. I think when I read it, I was just so ready for something good to finally happen to her, that I ignored the greater implications and just decided to focus on the one moment of not-completely-awful.

          • June 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm

            Yeah, the contrast definitely helped make it seem less awful. It was unexpected gentleness in a mercilessly brutal world.

          • June 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm

            Also, forgot how old she’s supposed to be in the book. So, nevermind, not sweet, just not horrifically brutal like the TV show scene.

      • June 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm —

        I haven’t watched the series but I’m a veteran of the books. And I’m appalled that they turn the wedding Of Daenerys and Drogo into a rape scene. WTF! In the books Dany falls in love with Kal Drogo because he’s one of the first persons she’s ever met who treated her with anything resembling kindness. It really fucking sucks that they could screw that scene up. In the books it is actually an incredibly touching and romantic scene where you get to see a really different side to Drogo. Wow. I know you don’t want to read the books Rebecca, but if you can grab a copy, pp 106-108. It’s 180 degrees from a rape scene.

        • June 4, 2013 at 3:25 pm —

          Amazing how acceptable hebephilia becomes if you make it gushy tender romantic. Wasn’t there already a huge debate about otherwise consensual statutory rape in Glee around here.

        • June 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm —

          Except for the fact that he bought her and she was expected to have sex with him.

        • June 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm —

          Yeah, as everyone else is pointing out, her age and the fact that she was purchased sort of negate the tenderness in my mind. But I’ll (eventually) read it to see what’s up.

      • June 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm —

        I imagine you’ll still be torn. Nobody is purely “good” or “bad” in these books, including Drogo. Drogo is a rapist who supports slavery and views his wife as property. But he also supports his wife being strong and independent and empowers her. He’s a product of his culture who lives in a brutal world… but he’s also a powerful ruler who could change his culture for the better.

        By the 4th or 5th book, I found myself thinking Ned a terrible hypocrite and admiring Jamie. Martin constantly fucks with your head.

      • June 5, 2013 at 11:53 am —

        I follow GoT through discussions and tumblr and the like theses days so I know that Daenerys’ story gets better, but I had to stop at the end of the first season. I just couldn’t see myself enjoying a narrative that validated her falling in love with her captor and rapist (after he saved her from another captor and potential rapist, ugh, Viserys was bleh) and then framing her strength as coming from her loss of that love.

        It also bothered me that Daenerys was considered proper, from the perspective of both the viewer and the people around her, for quietly acclimating to her new role and culture, while Viserys’ awful character was reinforced with his vocal contempt for the Dothraki people. I hope this was intended to flip the norm, but it didn’t really subvert anything.

        I don’t know, it’s been awhile since I watched it, but I remember thinking there were much better ways to deal with the issues than to fall back on problematic tropes….

  5. June 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm —

    Somewhat off-topic and I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but if you do read the books, start with the first one. There’s a HUGE amount of important backstory and nuance that hasn’t been brought over to the TV show.

  6. June 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm —

    Great article… and I think that it captures an aspect that is often missing from fantasy, and other fiction genres as well. There are often “powerful” female characters, in the sense that they behave as much like men as possible. But rarely are they placed seriously in context in worlds that are frankly horrifying for many if not most women.

    I will say that the wedding night between Dany and Drogo as described in the books is not nearly as bad as what they put on screen, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is being sold like cattle, and to someone who is indeed a serial rapist and murderer. Not to mention that in the books she is THIRTEEN.

    • June 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm —

      Hmm… I thought the wedding night was worse in the book because it gave the impression that she ended up kind of liking it after he reassured her that he wasn’t going to physically hurt her. That’s my memory of it, anyway. It’s been a while since I read it.

  7. June 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm —

    One of the reasons for the success of GoT and the ASoIaF books is that in a genre noted for its lack of fully rounded female characters, GRRM has managed to write a book full of them. Part of this comes from GRRMs love for playing with conventions. For example, Sansa Stark is initially enamored with Joffrey and terrified of Sandor Clegane because Joffrey is handsome and heir to the throne, while Sandor is deformed and far beneath her station. Eventually, she realizes how wrong she is. In addition, the only “woman in refrigerators” (that I can think of off hand) to be found are men. Besides Ned’s death motivating Robb (and The North) to seek vengeance, Arya has a male friend who only purpose in the story to show us what a total douche Joffrey is and motivate her against Sandor. Of course, it’s not just the trope subversions that I like so much about the book it’s the fact that both male and female characters are well rounded with their own motivations, strengths, and flaws.

    • June 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm —

      There are definitely a few “women in refrigerators” in GoT if you want to go by the strict definition of the term. Lyanna Stark, for one. Robert Baratheon essentially usurped the throne because he was in love with her and she had been kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar Targaryen and held against her will in a castle near Dorne.

      It’s true that GRRM writes a lot of strong female characters, but there are some criticisms that could be made about how he approaches it – often they are masculinized characters who resort to weapons (acting like a man would) – Arya, Brienne, Asha Greyjoy – where women who work with their wits like Cersei Lannister and Catelyn Stark get subverted. Lady Olenna Tyrell could be said to be the exception to that.

      • June 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm —

        I’m not so sure, analysing tropes is only really relevant when they persist throughout. In this case, you have a writer who kills men women and children to motivate men women and children. Similarly, his poweful female characters are all different. Brienne the masculinised powerhouse, Danny the ruthless tactician, Melisandre the scheming witch. There are also strong, tactical and scheming men, so all and all I find his treatment of gender outstanding. Where it becomes misogynist is how the characters are treated within the world, but I find that just as valuable as books that ignore misogyny. It almost becomes a denial if misogyny is just written out of fantasy altogether (I guess that’s more a response to the original comment).

        On your second comment there, I couldn’t agree more. The fantasy genre isn’t short of well rounded female characters from my perspective. At least not in books… maybe TV and games still are. But there does seem to be a backslide, as you say.

      • June 4, 2013 at 6:18 pm —

        To be fair, Lady Olenna is also outmaneuvered when Sansa is married to Tyrion. If anything, there’s more of a theme concerning rational vs emotional decision making. (I’m approaching this as a tournament chess player of which GRRM also was at one time. Although it’s been a long time, he was a Class A player putting him in about the 90th percentile of the U.S.) Cersei, Catelyn, Ned and Rob all experience their failures due to decision making based on emotion. Cersie (fear of the lack of control/power or desire for control/power) Catelyn, the reaction due to the loss of her husband and perceived loss of her sons. Ned, feelings of honor and mercy. Rob who succeeds until he makes the decision to reneg on his arranged marriage which leads to his downfall. Theon would be another one, as he persued Winterfell not out of any rational strategic reason but desire for fatherly approval and to prove himself a “proper” alpha male.

    • June 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm —

      Sorry for the second reply, but I thought of something else – “a genre noted for its lack of fully rounded female characters” – as I mentioned above, that’s a more recent backslide. Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula Le Guin among others were pretty instrumental in bringing strong female characters and egalitarian worlds to fantasy fiction for several decades. The backslide into more misogyny-based world building is much more recent.

      • June 4, 2013 at 6:37 pm —

        Sci-fi is really more my genre than fantasy, so I’ve only read Ursula and don’t have a lot to go on. But, is it really a backslide considering that GoT is at least inspired by if not wholly a reflection of the customs and traditions in feudal Europe. I guess I consider Martin’s world more historically based (a very misogynistic period to be sure) than just misogynistic because Martin wants to be.
        As I said, fantasy’s not really my genre, so I don’t know what’s been happening in the rest of fantasy.

      • June 5, 2013 at 2:43 am —

        As to the perception of a backslide, there have been some not-unfamiliar issues going on in the Science-Fiction & Fantasy writing world as submitted to a previous Skepchick Quickies:

        http://ecatherine.com/dear-sfwa/

  8. June 4, 2013 at 3:16 pm —

    Rebecca,

    Do you think it is ironic that fantasy tales of brutal patriarchal societies bring out multi-dimensional women characters? What are your thoughts on characters like Luthien Tinuviel in Tolkien’s guy privileged tale, The Silmarillion? Without the aid of Luthien (a descendant of the Maiar), Beren would have never been able to remove the Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown. After re-reading the story of Beren and Luthien, I get the impression that they are equals in their quest rather than Luthien playing second fiddle.

  9. June 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm —

    I get all of what your saying. I think my dislike of the books but the show in particular is that there are too many triggering elements. I cried and had to leave the room when Jaufry ordered Sansa stripped and beaten. It didn’t matter that the beating didn’t happen. Aside from being triggered by the story itself the visuals were too strong and brutal. My partner and I have both noticed with some amusement that Hannibal and other such procedurals don’t bother me. I think it’s because those are stories where someone is trying to stop the torture or mutilation unlike GoT where they go unoppossed(or the opposition is summarily executed). I have the same problem with teenage supernatural shows, especially the vampire ones, because the relationships are always horribly and irrevocably damaged and the supernatural elements are only an extension of that theme.

  10. June 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm —

    Awesome post, Rebecca. I’ve loved this season. I, too, haven’t read the books, but after I saw the scene you posted above (best scene of the whole series IMO! Team Dany!!), I went and read spoilers because I got too curious. I won’t have time to sit and read the books anytime soon, so I’ll just have to be content with spoilers for now. =P

  11. June 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm —

    I feel like this is a wrong thing but that moment when Frey shrugged at Catelyn’s threat and she followed through and slit the girl’s throat and then just stood there was incredibly powerful. It lasted for only a few frames before she was also killed but I would suggest going back and watching it. It was beautifully acted and really highlighted not only how little a powerful woman counts for in Westeros. Michelle Fairley did a great job of showing that realization, the fuck you I’m going to do it anyway, and then just the despair that comes afterwards. I totally lost it right then.

    • June 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm —

      Her acting in that scene is just incredible. She should win an Emmy for that scene alone. I agree, that look on her face was just heartbreaking–the horror at realizing that in the end, the most hurt she could inflict on her enemies was to murder an innocent girl who no one cared about.

  12. June 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm —

    I have the book on my Kindle, and started to read it, and then remembered fantasy just isn’t my thing. It’s too much. I get the appeal, but it’s just not me.

    The show itself is also a little too heavy on the drama and beards for me.

    I don’t care about spoilers in general though so I read the post, anyway, but since I haven’t seen or read it, I can’t say much about it. :)

    It’s been a weird last coupla days online. I feel like I’m out of the loop haha.

  13. June 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm —

    Well said. I do sometimes find myself explaining the difference between a misogynist story and a story about misogyny. I have a few issues with how they ‘changed’ the story from the books, and up until this episode I’ve liked all but one change in the entire series. This means I’m finding it a bit difficult to react to the actual events as they played out so thanks for putting it in perspective.

  14. June 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm —

    I would assume that any misogyny depicted in such shows is intended to be “historically” accurate, since the peoples living in the real world’s medieval times WERE highly misogynous. Arranged marriages of young women/girls to older men for the sake of empowering male dominated families were the norm among the royalty and nobility of Europe. The assumption that there was something extremely perverted about the Prophet Muhammad marrying a nine year old girl is based on ignorance about how common that sort of thing actually was among CHRISTIAN countries. BTW, did you know that Juliet in the play by Shakespeare was only THIRTEEN?!

    Indeed, watching the scene linked to from YouTube, I thought perhaps was watching something from a historical reenactment until I saw the woman release the dragon. That’s how little I knew about Game of Thrones.

    • June 5, 2013 at 10:50 am —

      You’re as misinformed about history as you are about everything else.

      • June 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm —

        King Edward I’s first wife (Eleanor of Castile) was roughly 13 when they married. His second wife Margaret of France was 20 when they married and Edward was about 40 years her senior. Edward’s main motivation at the time being additional heirs and peace with France so he could deal with Scotland. So while such things may not have been common among the general populace (as your link mentions), they certainly did happen.amongst the ruling class.

  15. June 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm —

    I don’t watch GoT and I really don’t plan to at all, I find I have more … involving … things to do with my free time. I do check out some of the clips though and the linked scene with Daenerys is one of my favorites, loved the symbolism of discarding the whip at the end. You don’t need a whip to lead.

    Mike

  16. June 6, 2013 at 8:45 pm —

    There is a commentary on the books ‘Beyond the Wall’ which has an essay which makes a similar point.

    I have only read the books so the TV series has some composite characters. Having to age the characters to make the TV series legal also has a major impact. Joffrey is 14 in the books when he becomes King. So instead of making him an actual monster, GRRM instead shows him developing into a monster. Joffrey in the books seems to have been modelled on the younger Caligula so it is logical that he would act like Caligula in the TV.

    The Red Wedding is based on an actual event, the Glencoe Massacre in which the Campbells slaughtered 78 McDonalds while staying in their homes. The Starks appear to be the Stuarts. There actually is a wall between England and Scotland built by the Romans, Hadrian’s wall. But it is stone, not ice.

    As the story goes on the consequences of the culture begin to become more apparent. Winter is coming and the high lords are laying waste to the riverlands, burning the crops to play their game of thrones. The consequences of the rape culture also start to become more apparent.

  17. April 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm —

    I think this line is a grotesque mis-reading of the episode, which is very fresh for me since I caught up with the series only recently: “what was beginning to look like a surprisingly happy wedding.” There was absolutely nothing happy about it. Walder Frey was cheated out of his choice of groom and presided over the affair looking like death eating a sandwich. The groom himself was miserable until he saw the bride, but even then, everything surrounding the event portended doom (and I hadn’t read the books). The whole thing was merely a distasteful matter of state.

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