“My reign has just begun” – Daenerys Targaryen
Society is now, more than ever, aware of the roles that women have to play in multimedia. Whether it’s in reference to books and music or movies and television shows, as consumers we are more aware of the decisions artists and creators make in the depiction of their female characters. Take the HBO hit, True Detective, for example. It received critical acclaim for its directing, storytelling and acting, even winning 4 out of 7 Emmy nominations, as well as receiving 4 Golden Globe nominations. However, the show’s creator, Nic Pizzolatto received backlash for the world he created on his show, which was purely driven by testosterone and machismo. Women were ignored, and it was blatantly obvious to anyone that watched Season 1 in its entirety. So in a time where we’re more conscious of the roles women play in our society and culture, I would like to commend Game of Thrones for the total dominance shown by its women in Season 6.
It wasn’t easy. Far from it. For five seasons we saw Sansa Stark get pushed around and bullied from precarious situation to situation. Arya Stark was forced to don the guise of a boy, in order to avoid the treatment she would receive if people saw a young girl wandering around by herself. Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister are queens but men have undermined their capacity again and again, seeing them only as means of power through marriage alliances. Brienne of Tarth was ridiculed as a female knight, even though she had shown her considerable fighting skill time after time. From the very first episode of Game of Thrones, it’s clear that A Song of Ice and Fire author, George R.R. Martin and show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have created a world that functions strongly in patriarchy. The world functions based on the decisions of men. Their fates are decided by the men in their lives. Traditions like “The Bedding”, which occurs after a wedding reception in Westeros could be considered as marital rape in some cases. But in spite of the picture that has been painted above, the women in Game of Thrones have managed to shine through and chip away at the patriarchy in their own special ways.
All over Westeros, the suffragist movement has gathered steam and it has been amazing to watch it transpire in so many different ways. The women are taking matters into their own hands– acting, rather than reacting to the plot. Arya graduates from assassin school and finally makes it back to Westeros exacting revenge for her family on the most vile character in the show, Walder Frey. Sansa Stark plays a huge part in the “Battle of the Bastards” and helps reclaim her family home, Winterfell, while finalizing her divorce from Ramsay Bolton. She kept the house and he got to keep the dogs. Yara Greyjoy is challenging for right to rule the Iron Islands with her brother at her side, instead of it being the other way around. Brienne of Tarth has proven to be the most honorable knight the show has featured so far by completing her oath to Catelyn Stark against insurmountable odds. Cersei Lannister quit playing chess with her enemies and flipped the whole damn table and burnt the house down. With no one left to oppose her, she stands as Queen of Westeros, assuming all the power that she’s always wanted. Albeit, not for long because Olenna Tyrell has brokered what might be the largest alliance ever seen on the show with Dany at the forefront leading her dragons and Dothraki army to Westeros to take what is hers with fire and blood. And who can forget young Lyanna Mormont (my MVP) who shamed the men of the North by leading by example through honor, unwavering commitment and bravery? And that scowl. Geez.
The women of Westeros have shaped the landscape for what’s to come as the story’s conclusion draws nearer. It’s masterful writing considering these characters and their respective arcs, as they have all been at rock-bottom at some point or another. One wonders if we’re on the verge of a Westeros that is ruled mostly by women, from Dorne to the Iron Islands and to King’s Landing. It’s a possibility, but for now we can step back and enjoy the rise of the women in a world that has kept them underfoot for far too long.