Game of Thrones failing women?

The fantasy saga is nearing its conclusion

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Is Game of Thrones failing women?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Winter has arrived in Game of Thrones, as the remaining characters battle for control over the Iron Throne.

The popular HBO series has a number of female characters in leadership roles, whether it is ruling over the Seven Kingdoms, fighting to take them, or controlling the different Houses in Westeros.

Despite the women in power on Thrones, the show - and its writers - has been accused of "still betraying its female characters".

However, others argue that the work of fiction could positively help the real world, showing that women are able to take charge.

The Claim

Digital Spy's Abby Robinson argues that there is "sexist trope hiding in plain sight in Game of Thrones". She says that eight seasons - and 71 episodes - in, the fantasy saga is "still betraying its female characters".

Despite women comprising a significant chunk of the Thrones audience - roughly 42 per cent - showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss are "failing to hit the mark".

She argues: "While Thrones has, in parts, graduated from past errors, (mostly) eliminating the gratuitous one-sided nudity and the familiar theme of extremely limited, two-dimensional women solely existing to serve the male characters' stories, there has been one constant throughout: when women experience loss, they lose their minds."

Robinson notes that numerous male characters have experienced trauma and the death of loved ones, but they have not descended into hysteria.

While the male characters are seemingly able to shoulder betrayal and loss "in such a way that they are imbued with an inner strength and measured focus", this is not the same for the female characters.

Robinson calls the show "a cultural juggernaut that both delights and enthralls", that feeds our debate and conversations. Robinson concludes: "But while there are countless faults we can tolerate, the failure of its female characters is where we draw the line."

The Counterclaim

On the other hand, the New York Post's Jennifer Wright says that Game of Thrones is "paving the way for a female president". While the tagline of the show may be "all men must die", she says that the women rule... literally.

Wright explains: "This season Sansa Stark has overcome the trauma of abuse to become the pragmatic ruler of Winterfell. Yara Greyjoy is Queen of the Iron Islands.

"Daenerys, the Dragon Queen, has established a massive army and empire across the sea (though she appears to be going mad).

"Meanwhile, money-mad Cersei Lannister is sitting on the Iron Throne. On the upside, Arya (not Jon, as some expected) has saved the world of the living."

She argues that the fact that women are being portrayed this way, especially on a show that attracts 17 million viewers, is "important". She adds: "Seeing different women in positions of power is timely as the Democratic primary field hosts an unprecedented number of female candidates."

Wright notes that Dennis Haysbert’s portrayal of a black president on 24 was "credited with helping voters grow more comfortable with the idea of an African-American in the White House", just before Barack Obama's presidency.

She writes: "Maybe these made-up characters will help convince real-life men that stepping back and letting women take charge isn’t such a bad idea.

"That’s true whether it’s a man in Westeros recognising that Sansa’s doing a good job or a man in America realising that a woman being president wouldn’t be too terrible, after all.

"In a show full of black magic, dragons and zombies, it’s one imaginary element we could use a lot more of in real life."

The Facts

There are just two more episodes left of Game of Thrones. The HBO series started back in 2011, premiering with 'Winter is Coming'.

Winter has well and truly arrived, as the remaining characters of the brutal show fight for control over the Iron Throne.

One fan calculated that between its first and sixth series, the death count for Game of Thrones stood at 150,966. This has definitely increased with the devastating events of the Battle of Winterfell, where the living fought the dead.

The series' eighth and final season premiered on April 14, returning after nearly two years off the screen, and it will conclude on May 19. The final two episodes are both feature-length, clocking in 79 minutes each.

Game of Thrones continues on Sunday on HBO or Sky Atlantic. It is also available on NOW TV.

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