For the past few years, it’s been impossible to go online in the spring without hearing some mention of Game of Thrones around every proverbial corner. There’s just something about the show (copious amounts of both boobs and beheadings, to put a fine point on it) that keeps hoards of people glued to their HBO Go accounts. And we're not just talking certain types of niche audiences who are watching this show: GoT has the kind of far-reaching appeal that shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos had, except it’s got elements of fantasy that normally are only embraced by smaller audiences. To write off GoT as just another typical magic-and-dragons show would be a disservice to the show and its fans, including us feminists, who can’t seem to get enough of the goings-on in King’s Landing and its surrounding areas.
Game of Thrones has been open to feminist criticism from day one. After all, in just the first episode we see a woman sold into slavery and raped, while another woman commits an act of incestuous adultery. But just because we’ve been (and continue to be) critical doesn’t mean we don’t also appreciate and often love the show. If you’re sitting there wondering why that is, or are a feminist yourself who has avoided watching the show for this long, here are some of the many reasons why many of us are obsessed with the show:
There Are Nearly As Many Women On The Show As Men, And Hey, We'll Take It
Alright, so technically there aren’t entirely equal numbers of women and men on the show, but when you think of the main characters, they are certainly divided more or less equally. There’s Tyrion and Cersei and Jamie and Brienne and Ned and Catelyn and Arya and Joeffrey and Sansa and Theon and Margaery and Jon and Daenaerys, and...you get the point. Lots of people, and lots of them are women.
The Strongest, Most Powerful Characters On The Show Are Women
Seriously. Right now I’d say the strongest and/or most powerful folks still alive (for sure) in Westeros and Essos are Daenerys, Cersei, Tyrion, and Arya. Three ladies to one man. Again, we'll take it.
And Maybe That’s Because The Women Are Usually The Ones Who Survive
It seems that for every four men who die, one woman goes, too. Seriously, of all the Starks that have been killed (so far), two were men and one was a woman. The main female characters are just better at telling the gods of death, “Not today!”
Mothers Are Not Pigeon-Holed As Solely Caretakers
There are plenty of badass mothers on Games of Thrones, but they are all so much more than “just moms.” Ellaria Sand can wield weapons whether they be spears or poison, Daenerys commands armies, Gilly does what she needs to keep herself and her baby safe from harm... They are all different and so awesome.
And Young Girls Are Free To Fight Their Way Through The Patriarchy Through A Variety Of Means
The best two examples of this are Arya and Sansa, two sisters who are nothing alike but who are both definitely survivors. Arya is driven by vengeance (much like her mother), but rather than find ways of influencing others to do the dirty work (as her mother did with Robb), she’s all about wielding the sword herself. Sansa, however, is not as much a fighter as she is good at simply surviving, making the best of any and every situation she’s thrown into (though I suspect she may begin taking a more active role in her survival in this coming season).
But Really, All The Characters Are Extremely Well-Written
I mean, seriously. Tyrion? Arya? Varys? Littlefinger? All so, so, so good. Every last one of them. And well-written characters mean more well-developed characters, which means the women get to be every bit as complicated and compelling and multi-dimensional as the men, which frankly, is a feat for any show of any genre, and feels like a feminist success strong enough to outweigh even painful-to-watch rape scenes (which, to be fair, aren't really portrayed as especially positive, and are in fact, mainly used to brutally drive home what kind of horrifically inhospitable conditions the aforementioned, well-developed female characters are surviving within).
The Sex Scenes Are Hot And Diverse
Sex scenes in this show are often more than just gratuitous sex (though, yes, of course there is some of that). They are often used to move the plot forward; intimate scenes where characters divulge information to one another. And they are not always simply one man and one woman. We’ve seen same-sex sex scenes and multiple-partner scenes and scenes where characters are teaching one another about love making, and that’s all pretty awesome.
And Sex-Workers Are Shown As Three-Dimensional People, Not Just Bodies
Ros was one of my all-time favorite characters on this show. She was a sex-worker but also a highly intelligent woman making it in a world that was not exactly made for her. And Shae! Way more to Shae than her profession. Game of Thrones is weird in that it's this incredibly sex-positive show about about world with what would appear on the surface to be ruled by hella regressive gender politics (and I mean, true). But beneath that is a complex (and boldly, artfully depicted) power structure where the women wield power from sex when it's an advantageous tool to employ, but never allow themselves to be defined as merely sexual objects. Their sexuality is their weapon, their plaything, and it effortlessly exists beside their bitingly sharp minds. I mean, I can't think of much that could be more sex positive than that.
There’s (At Least Some) Diversity In Casting
OK, I know more could be done when it comes to the issue of diversity on Game of Thrones. But at the very least, more has been done in later seasons to bring more PoC to the show, and George R.R. Martin has said there should still be more characters of color to come, so that is encouraging. At least it’s not anywhere near as white a TV show as Friends, right? (It's always nice that we have that to fall back on when a show we love is not totally on point in the representation department. Thanks, Friends!)
The Dialogue Is Always Sharp And Clean
Here are just a few gems:
"The gods have no mercy, that's why they're gods."
- Cersei Lannister
All my life men like you have sneered at me. And all my life I've been knocking men like you into the dust.
- Brienne of Tarth
Money buys a man's silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever.
- Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish
The Cliff-Hangers Keep Everyone (Including Feminists) Wanting More
From the very first episode (where a certain someone is thrown out a window for learning some dangerous info) to the very last episode of last season (where a certain someone is stabbed to death...or are they?), Game of Thrones knows exactly how to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, screaming, “WHAT? NO! C’MON!!!”
The Fight Scenes
I can’t be the only one who is dying to see another epic battle like the one against the White Walkers? Seriously...so, so good. Just because you’re a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate a good fight scene. In fact, all of these points makes feminists happy because, believe it or not, feminists are also just human TV fans, and the truth is, when we watch something, we're evaluating it based on more than its adherence to the Bechdel Test.
It’s One Giant Emotional Rollercoaster And We’re Not Immune
Two words: RED WEDDING.
Oh, And This May Put Me In The “Bad Feminist” Category, But That Sure Is One Good-Looking Cast
Jason Momoa? Hot. Emilia Clark? Hot. Kit Harington? Hot. Natalie Dormer? Hot. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau? Hot. Nathalie Emmanuel? Hot. Do I seriously need to go on? I'm a feminist and I'm here to aggressively objectify the whole lot of you (respectfully)!