Has 'Game of Thrones' Become a Show That's Actually Good for Women?


Photo: Courtesy of HBO

By Lynsey Eidell

Given the frequency of rape, violence, and objectification of women in Game of Thrones, it's  difficult nearly impossible to describe it as a show that’s pro-feminism in any way, shape, or form. So when, in the beginning of season five, the female characters took hold of the spotlight, I shrugged it off and assumed that another horrifying incident (a la the “Red Wedding”) was headed our way. But we’re now halfway through the fifth season of George R.R. Martin’s saga, and I’m ready to start making some cautious claims: The women of Westeros (and beyond) are currently dominating this show. Now, I haven’t read the books, so I don’t know what’s in store—but there’s been plenty of evidence thus far to indicate this power shift is real and (hopefully) permanent. Behold…[Spoilers ahead!]

All of the major story lines are being driven by women. Daenerys is queen of Meereen. Arya makes it to Braavos and the trippy House of Black and White. Cersei is in a power struggle with the manipulative Margaery. Sansa is back in Winterfell—and Brienne of Tarth is on her heels. Save for Jon Snow up at the Night’s Watch and Stannis’ army, this season’s plot is being pushed along primarily by the women.

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Even the men’s stories are intertwined with the women. If season five was a flow chart, each male character’s arc would be found stemming from one of the ladies: Jaime Lannister’s mission to Dorne to rescue Myrcella is ordered by Cersei. Tyrion and Jorah are on their way to Daenerys in Meereen. Littlefinger, the creepy Boltons, and Stannis Baratheon are all caught up with Sansa. Even the male-dominated, no-girls-allowed, Night’s Watch has Melisandre, Lady Selyse, Shireen, and Gilly in tow.

But it’s not just quantity air time—the GoT women are turning the gender roles on their heads. The best examples came from Daenerys in last night’s episode. She first turned to her right-hand woman, Missandei, for official state advice (this after her first male advisor betrayed her, and her second just died in a sword fight with the Sons of Harpy). “I am not fit to have an opinion on these matters,” Missandei told her, referencing the fact that she’s A) a woman and B) a former slave—the lowest of Meereenese social ladder. But the Mother of Dragons certainly doesn’t care: “You are as fit as anyone I know,” she tells her—and ends up heeding her advice. And in this fictional land where women are often just commodities for the men to marry, Khaleesi goes ahead and selects her own suitor—one that will cement her power in Meereen.

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And they’re kicking butt in the process. I all but “hell yeah!”-ed at the TV screen when Sansa stood up to the terrible, horrible, no-good Boltons, snapping at them: “This isn’t a strange place. This is my home. It’s the people who are strange.” And she’s not the only one standing up for her family: Margaery lambasted Tommen when he failed at getting her brother out of prison (you know she would have gotten the job done if she went herself), and Ellaria is circumventing the prince of Dorne to avenge Oberyn’s death on her own (with the help of the bad-ass Sand Snakes). If we’re comparing power moves, the women are outscoring the men big time so far.

Oh, and that major twist last night? When Jorah contracts greyscale from the Stone Men? Stannis Baratheon’s daughter Shireen (who survived greyscale) has been foreshadowing that the entire season.

Here’s to hoping that this pattern continues throughout the rest of season five—and the GoT series. Don’t let us down now.

What’s your take on season five of GoT so far? And who is your favorite leading lady? (I love the devilish Margaery.)

P.S. Which Game of Thrones power woman are you? Take our quiz!

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