HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011 - ) is without a doubt one of the most popular shows on TV and also one of the most controversial. The question of Thrones sexism has always been prominent, and every season seems to bring more debate than the last. There are so many opinions that recently the Mother of Dragons herself spoke out on the issue.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Emilia Clarke shared her opinions on the sexism debate, saying, “There’s so much controversy. Yet that’s what’s beautiful about Game of Thrones – it’s depiction of women in so many different stages of development. There are women depicted as sexual tools, women who have zero rights, women who are queens but only to a man, and then there are women who are literally unstoppable and as powerful as you can possibly imagine. So it pains me to hear people taking Thrones out of context with anti-feminist spin – because you can’t do that about this show. It shows the range that happens to women, and ultimately shows women are not only equal, but have a lot of strength.”
I couldn’t agree with Clarke more. Not only do we have Daenerys, but we also have women like Brienne, who is unquestionably brave and strong in stereotypically male arenas, fighting better than most men and shaking off the haters because she knows who she is and embraces it. We have Cersei, who, while certainly is not a beacon of morality, doesn’t let men take away her power. We have Arya, who has always been a fighter, very courageous and strong. And we have Sansa, who is arguably the most abused character on the show but continues to fight and endure through her loss.
Am I defending the terrible things that happen on this show? Of course not. Many of the things that happen in Westeros are unbelievably terrible. But as Emilia Clarke's comments point out, Game of Thrones doesn’t defend the horrific actions. What the show's creators highlight is how many strong women on the show overcome horrific oppression. In a perfect world, disgusting things wouldn’t happen, but they do in our contemporary world, as they have in Westeros and throughout history. The writers stay true to the world George R.R. Martin created, while showing how women can survive and fight back against the injustice and horrors that happen to them.
While Clarke is firmly against the idea that the show is sexist, she does point out that the nudity on Game of Thrones is unequal. Anyone who has heard of the show knows how much nudity it features, but almost all of it is female. Seeing so many female actors showing skin for extra roles, in contrast to the more empowered central female characters, we have to question why so many women must be shown naked. Many agree with Clarke that more equality between male and female nudity is called for on the series and would only help the storytelling. Still, the nudity question doesn't undermine Clarke's overall view of Game of Thrones as a series that should be applauded for its strong female characters.
Has the Mother of Dragons shut down the sexism debate? Probably not. There are widely ranging opinions out there, but Clarke gives a new, insider's perspective that aligns with the view of most fans of the show, who are moved by the powerful examples set by characters like Clarke's Daenerys. If the coming season is going to be as female-centered and empowering as the showrunners have hyped it up to be, Clarke’s statement is likely to get plenty of support. Hopefully these strong women will continue to get the screen time they deserve.