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Game Of Thrones is turning out to be a misogynistic series much like its popular counterpart, Avengers: End Game. Why can’t we be true to our women characters for once?
When it began, Season 8 of The Game of Thrones seemed a strong endorsement of women leaders, but it is turning out to be a show that yet again does not do justice to its ‘woman power’.
Yara, Arya, Daenerys, Sansa, Lyanna, Missandei, and (of course!) Cersei stood out for their strong will, determination, and sheer grit. Two episodes had passed by the time Endgame released. The film sent me home with grief and disgust at the treatment of the women on screen. Two weeks from thereon, the same feeling rises: except it’s The Game of Thrones at work this time.
This article does contain a bunch of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched Episode 5 of Season 8, send your cursor flying to the little ‘x’ by the tab for this screen and come back when you’re done watching. Most of the episode has been about the larger goal of serving a patriarchal display that shows both the women and the men in poor light at best. I’ll start with the men in charge of the bloodbath.
Jon Snow / Aegon Targaryan plays saviour to a woman who a soldier is advancing on. The camera dwells on him as he tells her to find somewhere to hide. Arguably he was acting out of a good heart – but let’s look at this with the bigger picture in mind.
There’s a woman flying on a screeching dragon setting fire to an already surrendered city (because authority) and there’s a man who looks at her as if wondering about her (because sharma ji ka beta and not-sharma ji ka beta) and then tries to undo the damage in one tokenistic move so that he looks like the sharma-ji-ka-beta that he is. Let that sink in for a bit. The Mountain and The Hound identify appropriate organs in each other’s bodies and stick knives and their full-blown punches into each other. (Worst lesson on the human body ever, by the way.)
Euron Greyjoy and Jaime Lannister treat each other like pieces of meat under a butcher’s knife, even as the one line that gets Jaime’s goat is Euron Greyjoy speaking of sleeping with Cersei like a conquest, and Euron dies happy knowing that he was the man who killed Jaime Lannister.
The assortment of men on the battlefield are human one moment and burst packets of tomato puree the next. Scenes from the battlefield seem intent on showing women as helpless screaming props, running cluelessly and standing in the line of fire just so they can be thrown screen-wards for good shock value.
Moving on to the women in charge – Arya, Cersei, and Daenerys – this episode revealed misogyny’s dominant problem with women in power: that the very idea of it is simply unpalatable. And it did so with an archaic formula, no less. A woman in/with power has to either be:
Raving “mad,” “insecure,” “unreasonable” (Cersei, Daenerys), OR
Not a “lady” (Arya, Brienne) OR
Clueless, weak, a victim (Sansa)
As much as the show did right by Lyanna Mormont through the narrative arc, it failed its other women egregiously in the last two episodes. From Brienne’s “virginity” being something Ser Jaime felt entitled to “take,” to Arya’s dissociation with anything “lady” (who said there was one idea of “lady,” again?) in the last episode, perhaps the stage was being set.
This time around, right from Cersei’s helpless “Stay with me Ser Gregor” to The Mountain, to Arya’s pitiful show of gratitude to The Hound, the women have suddenly been reduced to accessories to the men around them, on their journeys. Cersei has been immensely powerful and unafraid of the decisions she chose: howsoever ruthless. Arya is a warrior: determined, motivated, and her own person.
Seeing these two women being reduced to weak accessories feels incredibly uncomfortable. I’m holding out hope that Arya’s ride out at the end of the episode may see her old self back, though.
Daenerys’ fury is, from what we can see and what the general review whisper around the internet suggests, mounting to the notion of a Mad Queen – which is not very different from what Cersei has been known as for a good amount of time. In Daenerys’ fury, we see a very strange side of hers that is striving to serve a narrow-minded view of a woman in power. She brought with her the hope and vision for peace and a life without dictatorial tendencies. She respected rebellions and their successes and did not appropriate credit: a line she herself alludes to in the last episode, where she talks about the unsullied who liberated themselves, to refute any credit being attributed to her for it.
To see the same Daenerys burn a whole city down even after they surrender feels immensely uncomfortable: not because it is impossible for her to have that narrative arc, but rather because it is clear what the writing in this episode has strived to do.
Daenerys has no family left, save for Aegon Targaryan (who she is not pleased with, for outing his secret), and her lone, last dragon-son, Drogon. Rendering her “mad” is collateral damage to the show, for it’s a way to take her out justifiably.
This takes me back to Endgame: killing Natasha / Black Widow for the soul stone was done entirely on this justification, for she had no family, while Hawkeye had his to return to.
Between the narrow-minded view of women in power as being rabid creatures blinded by anger and insecurity and the equally stifling understanding of women as valueless without family, the portrayals in both GoT and Endgame have been nothing shy of tremendous disservice. The tokenist all-women ensemble that marched into the battlefield in Endgame felt like a trophy for all the women who showed up to watch the film, really: “Now then, you’ve been represented on screen, run along now and let the men do all the business.” Dracarys to misogyny. Dracarys.
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