Emily Luo Essay Samples
Game of Thrones
1. Media content may be interpreted in many ways. One of the perspectives that we can use to analyze images in the media is to apply concepts about women and gender representations. Hence, in this discussion, the analysis focuses on the gendered representation of images in a television show, Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is a fantasy television show on HBO that takes place in the imaginary world of Westeros. The show was based on a series of novels written by G. R. R. Martin. Although Game of Thrones is essentially about the politics in Westeros, particularly the struggle to win the crown, the show illustrates unique images and characters that represent women, gender and sexuality. The show will be analyzed from different perspectives, particularly radical feminism and Kellner’s multiperspectival approach to cultural studies.
2. Game of Thrones is widely known for representing the female body in its full form, that is some of the characters expose their bodies on the show without censorship. Some of the characters, particularly females, also commit sexual acts on the show. The representation of women, gender, and sexuality in Game of Thrones feed on existing stereotypes about both men and women. The world of Westeros is a patriarchal society dominated by men. Men rule kingdoms, are considered as the head of the family, and take on roles socially prescribed by existing gender stereotypes. On the other hand, other female characters on the show are largely objectified. Criticisms of the show also raise how Game of Thrones promote rape culture because of the way that women are treated sexually and violently.
3. According to Kellner (67), the study of media must be conducted from multiple perspectives. Multiple perspectives consider the analysis of the text, the perception of the audience, and the political economy. An analysis of the text may be based on the narrative of the show. As formerly noted, the show focuses on the throne at King’s Landing. The decision on some of the characters on the show is driven by their desire to become the rulers of Westeros. One of the characters in the show, Margaery Tyrell, wants to become queen. Although the current kind, Joffrey Baratheon, is narcissistic and abusive, Margaery is still determined to marry the king. To accomplish her goal, she seduces Joffrey by feeding his narcissism. Margaery and her grandmother’s behavior in the show illustrates the political economy in Westeros. Most of the characters want to rule the seven kingdoms and part of gaining power means making calculated and manipulative moves to accomplish their goals. Margaery’s character illustrate the willingness of some female characters to arranged marriages. They engage in manipulation so they can marry into powerful families and become queen to the king of all seven kingdoms. Considering the analysis of the narrative, the quest for power and wealth influence men and women’s decisions and choices. Characters forego moral values over power. In terms of women and sexuality issues, Game of Thrones illustrates the power of women over men. Women use their sexuality in the show to seduce men and gain leverage. The need of women to use their bodies to gain power and influence in Westeros illustrates male dominance in society. As Mulvey pointed out, women using their bodies to seduce men illustrate the difference between the passive female and the active male. As the active male, he projects his fantasy to the female form. Hence, the male gaze. The passive female, on the other hand, is the sexual object being viewed. The female projects an erotic image who seduces the male. The active male, in turn, is largely influenced by the female because of her sensuality as a character (Mulvey, 11).
4. The perception of the audience about Game of Thrones may be varied. Frankel explored the views and perspectives of critics (181) and viewers about the show. Criticisms and opinions are varied. Some laud the show for being daring in representing nudity and sexuality. Some critics argue that the way Game of Thrones treats nudity and sexuality is not demeaning but rather representative of how men treat women in a patriarchal society. Hence, the show is merely illustrating the truth. By showing controversial images, Game of Thrones is challenging how people see women and sexuality. Hence, the show evokes varied responses from the viewers and these varied responses illustrate different points of view about women, gender, and sexuality. The theme and value of the show, therefore, depends on the views of the audience. Feminists choose to applaud the strong female characters in the show, while others look into the negative implications of Game of Thrones in terms of promoting violence against women.
5. Another way to view Game of Thrones is to realize how the show challenges human experiences by integrating taboo themes such as incest and sodomy. Characters in the show engage in taboo acts. Jamie and Cersei Lannister are twins having an affair with one another. Other characters engage in other taboo acts such as group sexual relations or orgies. In some ways, nudity and the sexual content in the show also serve to represent multidimensional characters and illustrate how sexual desires shape behavior. In a way, Game of Thrones shows that sexuality is part of human instinct for both men and women. Even if men take advantage of women on the show, some female characters also show understanding of their self and sexuality. Women understand their effect on men and how sex is valued by their counterparts. This may be an oversimplification of human sexuality but the show touches on self-awareness on the part of women and how their bodies effect men in different ways.
6. As formerly noted, the opposite argument about women, gender, and sexuality is that Game of Thrones objectifies women. Some argue that Game of Thrones is feminist because it features strong and powerful women. Nonetheless, the amount of nudity in the show, particularly of women, and the violence against female characters in the show undermine feminist values. Others also argue that Game of Thrones perpetuates rape culture because of the way women are treated. Violence against women is prevalent in the show. Women are being sexually harassed or raped, beaten, and murdered. Many female characters on the show portray prostitutes or courtesans. As sexual objects, they appear needlessly in the background of some scenes, meant to create intrigue rather than advance the narrative of the show. Furthermore, male characters on the show act violently towards women. Men who raid villages, for instance, rape and beat women. In Craster’s Keep, Craster rapes women including his own children. Craster uses women to bear babies who he sacrifices so the Whitewalkers will not attack his village. The images in these scenes show women as powerless against men, taking on submissive roles and accepting that they are less important than men in their culture.
7. In terms of political economy, Game of Thrones has established its influence in the entertainment industry because of its strong narrative and the controversial themes. Game of Thrones is handled by two male writers – Dan Weiss and David Benioff. Essentially, we cannot assume that their male perspectives have influenced the show because the based the narrative on Martin’s novel. Martin’s novel are as explicit and controversial as the show. On the part of Martin, the author once stated that he based events in his novels to history, which is why the show is largely influenced by patriarchy and gender stereotypes perpetuated in the past. Millions of people watch the show all over the world. For this reason, HBO has capitalized on the show to create a franchise that amounts to millions of revenue for the company. In turn, HBO and the male and female producers, try to create a quality series by investing in them. Per episode, HBO and the producers invest around $6 million. HBO brings jobs (e.g. hiring crew members, extras, etc. locally) to different filming locations such as Iceland, Dubrovnik, Belfast, Croatia, and Osuna among others due to the sheer size of the production.
9. The transformation of one of the female characters in the show also illustrates radical feminism. Daenerys Targaryen’s brother, Viserys, forced her to marry the leader of a barbaric tribe, Khal Drogo. She had no choice in the matter because the union was necessary so her brother could amass an army to take over the throne of Westeros. In the beginning, Daenerys struggled due to Drogo’s deviant sexual behavior. Throughout the show, however, Daenerys teaches Drogo to treat her compassionately. This represents the character’s ability to ‘take command of her sexuality’ so to speak by making her own desires known to her husband and later on, taking on a more dominant role in their relationship. After Drogo’s death, Daenerys was able to put together her own army. She also freed many slaves and became the ruler of various slaver cities. The transformation of Daenerys’ character in the show illustrates radical feminism, particularly in opposing standard gender roles.
8. Simply put, radical feminism emphasizes the role of patriarchy in the oppression of women (Nicholson, 100). Some aspects of Game of Thrones may be anti-feminist. Nonetheless, it has managed to support the idea behind radical feminism by simulating a patriarchal society and revealing its flaws by showing visually how patriarchy detrimentally affect women. When people see how men treat women in Westeros – men raping and beating women, using women for their own political gain, among others – they realize the flaws of patriarchy. Westeros is largely a patriarchal society as formerly noted. Kingdoms in Westeros are ruled mainly by kings and their own wife if they die. Male children succeed their parents but young women may also be named as ruler in the absence of a male heir. Families in Westeros also value male children and place upon them more responsibilities than they would their female children. In the Stark household, for instance, Robb, the eldest male, became the ruler of Winterfell when his father died. Previously, his sister Sansa, was sent to King’s Landing as she was expected to marry the son of the king. This alone illustrates the gendered roles of men and women in Game of Thrones. The men rule the kingdoms while women married men, often based on political benefits of unions between two people. The marriage of Cersei Lannister to the king Robert Baratheon, for instance, was politically motivated. The Lannisters wanted the throne so Cersei’s father married her off to Robert. This practice illustrates the prevailing patriarchal system in Westeros.
10. Aside from Daenerys, other female characters also represent ideas in radical feminism. Brienne is a female warrior whose goal is to become a knight. Arya Stark also challenges standard gender roles. Unlike her older sister, Arya is more interested in swordplay and shooting arrows than killing themselves form gender stereotypes inherent in other shows. Many critics praised Game of Thrones for including female characters that ‘break the mold’ so to speak. Some characters show injustices against women while characters like Brienne, Arya, Catelyn, the matriarch of the Stark family, and Daenerys, and perhaps even Cersei despite her flaws, who illustrate women of character and strength. Critics admire Game of Thrones for making women central to the show and for treating them as equally valuable as male characters. The audience largely admire female warriors and strong characters such as Brienne and Arya.
Game of Thrones, however, illustrates the flaws it not criticizes the patriarchal system. The show does not merely represent patriarchy without illustrating its impact on women. In some scenes, the show illustrates the consequences of patriarchy on women in society. Some of the women on the show become acrimonious, unhappy, and resentful because they are unable to make decisions on their own. Often, the men in their lives make the decisions for them. Hence, although Game of Thrones is set in a patriarchy society, the how also criticizes patriarchy by showing its impact on women.
Frankel, Valerie Estelle. Women in Game of Thrones. McFarland, 2014.
Kellner, Douglas. The Postmodern Turn. Guilford Press, 1997.
Mulveyu, Laura. Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. Screen, 16:3 (1975 Autumn), 6-18.
Nicholson, Linda J. The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory. Psychology Press, 1997.