The Horrendous Misportrayal Of Women In Game Of Thrones

Sexualisation of females’ bodies still remains a common problem even during the twenty-first century. While the world is making prominent developments in science and technology, there still are various instances where we see the evolved versions of issues that people, especially women, were facing in previous decades. These include, but are not just limited to, sexist remarks, gender-based wage gaps, sexualisation of women’s bodies, misogynistic views and movements, and rape culture. Even though significant changes have been brought about my various movements to support women and their rights, such as the Suffrage Movement, Black Feminism Movement, The Feminist Sex Wars (Conger, 2009), and the MeToo Movement, mass sexualisation of women’s bodies still occurs at a global scale, not just in people’s daily lives, but on media as well. One prominent example is the hit TV-series Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is an HBO series that tells the story of a medieval country's civil war. The series, which premiered in April 2011, is set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos (McKinney, 2015). What has caught viewers’ attention is the portrayal of women through their bodies i.e. female leads having to perform scenes of full nudity, which include scenes from brothels, various wedding traditions, scenes depicting rape culture, and instances where nudity was termed as punishment. Throughout the TV-show, women in various roles have been treated with a misogynistic approach, and despite being empowered, they are still dominated by leading men in their kingdoms. Over the course of this essay, main focus will be drawn upon the ways in which this show has portrayed women as objects of sexual gratification and how eventually everything comes down to women’s bodies.

Game of Thrones not only gives its viewers a sense of how things were in the medieval era, but also an idea of how bad they were for women and minority groups. For instance, if a character was anything but male, they had to go through torment, be it female leads, eunuchs, slaves, or prostitutes. The idea that men are superior, stems from the very root of this show’s misogynistic character development for each actor. For instance, Cersei of House Lannister is overshadowed by her brothers, despite being the smartest out of all three. Since her childhood, Cersei has been commoditized and generalized by almost everybody around her. Losing her mom at age four, her nearest perspectives were her father and her siblings. In this manner, the essential understanding she has of herself is through the men around her. Cersei’s young marriage to Robert Baratheon was a clear cut example of how it was just a business deal for her father, in order to gain another part of Westeros. Her hatred for Baratheon can somewhat be justified after he slapped her in front of the King’s Hand, and the way he brutally raped her on their wedding night, in a state of drunkenness. These examples just reinforce the claim that I am trying to make her- this show has shown its women to be subjected to their men’s hunger for power, lust, and enmity. While the novel insults her, the show gives her a voice, yet still conveys how little power she has in this male dominated world.

Looking at the show from a broader perspective, we can identify numerous instances when prostitutes were being used like toilet paper, without any clothing whatsoever, at the mercy of strange drunken men, who hurl insults at them. According to a survey conducted by Sara David, throughout the series, there were a total of 144 naked women, out of which 83.7%, approximately 121 were women. The sex scenes in the Game of Thrones TV series have drawn a lot of attention. Bloggers, journalists, and other commentators have discussed, in particular, the frequent display of female nudity and sexual violence in the series, complaining that it is gratuitous, excessive, and misogynist. In general, the TV-adaptation of Game of Thrones contains more sex and nudity than the novels. Sex is referred to at least as often in the novels, but the mere mention of a naked sex worker in words makes for quite a different impression than an actual naked woman in a scene on TV. George R. R. Martin himself has responded to criticism by stating that it would be “fundamentally false and dishonest” to avoid depictions of rape and sexual violence, since these have been part of human history “from the ancient Sumerians to our present day”, while the writers and directors failed to keep in mind that such portrayals can have a negative, lasting effect on the minds of viewers. Looking at the rape statistics of this show, according to the graphical information provided by Sara David, we can comprehend that a total of 17 rapes and attempted rapes were shown on screen, out of which, one scene showed the rape of a man called Theon Greyjoy, so approximately 94.16% of the rape sequences shown were female-centred. Attempted rape is included in this category because they hold approximately the same screen time and they're both traumatic for viewers. For example, when the King's Landing rioters chase, corner, and attempt to rape Sansa, we see the harrowing scene for 51 seconds, versus the 42 seconds of screen time devoted to her rape by Ramsay. In 67 total episodes, there are 17 instances of onscreen rape or attempted rape — all of which happened to women. Though one near-exception would be Ramsay's abuse of Theon, which included castration and was dubbed 'torture porn' by critics.

In essence, saying that Game of Thrones is influenced by misogynistic views would be an understatement since throughout the show, rape culture has been reinforced continuously, without any regard for the effects it has on viewers. Hence, it would be safe to say that this TV show portrays women horrendously, in the light of being merely objects to derive sexual gratification from eventually, and to increase their viewership.

Works Cited

  • Conger, C. (2009, January 26). Top 5 Feminist Movements.
  • McKinney, K. (2015, April 16). Everything you need to know to start watching Game of Thrones today.
  • Jones, R. (2012). A Game of Genders: Comparing Depictions of Empowered Women between A Game of Thrones Novel and Television Series. Journal of Student Research (2012) Volume 1, Issue 3: pp. 14-21, Research Article.
  • Gallagher, M. (2015, April 9). Game of Thrones: Adaptation and Fidelity in an Age Of Convergence.
  • Larsson, M. (2016). Adapting Sex: Cultural Conceptions of Sexuality in Words and Images. A. Gjelsvik & R. Schubart (Eds.). Women of Ice and Fire: Gender, Game of Thrones, and Multiple Media Engagements (pp. 17–38). New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Staff, H. (2017, April 11). Women of Westeros: the Epitome of Unnecessary Sexualization, or Television's Feminist Icons?
  • Kalishman, J. (2019, February 18). Cersei Lannister: A Character Study.
  • Bruney, G. (2019, April 11). The Treatment of Women on 'Game of Thrones' Will Tarnish Its Legacy.
16 December 2021
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