Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gender Roles in "Game of Thrones"

Taking a break from “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer”, which features a headstrong female superheroine, lets now take a glimpse into the HBO show “Game of Thrones”, whose second season just premiered. Set in a medieval times, Game of Thrones is filled with political struggle and conflict of several family heads, usually males. While the male characters in many instances oppress females through rape, abuse, and burning, and are primarily focused on gaining power and authority over one another, women, nonetheless, assert their power behind the scenes in the deep rooted patriarchal society, using family as their primary means.

This blog post introduces us to the various female characters on the show. Let’s first look at Lady Catelyn Stark, the wife of Ned Stark, who is the Hand of the King, regarded to be one of the most powerful position. Her character embodies the archetypal mother. She is protective of her children and is revered and respected by those around her partially because of who she is married to. At the end of Season 1 episode 4, believing that Tyrion Lannister conspired with his family to kill her son, Bran, Catelyn Stark uses her high status as the Lady of Winterfell and wife of Ned Stark to summon men who respect her to capture Tyrion. Her determination to find out who is behind the misdeed, using her political status, shows her protective nature for her children.

Another strong female character is Queen Cersei Lannister. While her husband, Robert Baratheon, is more preoccupied with the vices as king such as drinking and promiscuity, Cersei is more focused on political power. She, like Lady Stark, is protective of her children and makes her son, Joffrey Lannister, becomes the next king. Breaking gender stereotypes, Cersei is manipulative and sly, having a covert incestuous relationship with her twin brother, Jaime Lannister. She only cares for the advancement of her family.

One of my favorite characters in the series is Arya Stark, she is the younger daughter of Ned Stark and Catelyn Tully. From the start, she deviates from traditional female roles in the domestic sphere. Her character is often juxtaposed with her older sister, Sansa Stark, who is concerned with marrying Joffrey Lannister and becoming the next queen. Instead of trying to please others, Arya strong minded and takes up swordsmanship. In one conversation with her father, she refuses to marry a powerful lord and have sons. She refuses to let the instilled gender roles define her.

Although I was at first skeptical and only watched a few episodes of Game of Thrones, I was hooked from the first episode. Besides these three characters, the series includes many more headstrong female characters, but these three stood out to me the most. The dynamic cast of female characters are bound by the patriarchal limitations; however, they do not let these limitations define their role in the political and social realm of the Kingdom of Westeros. Whether they are the "good guy" or the "bad guy, we see the female characters bend gender barriers through their steadfast determination and strong-mindedness.


  1. This show seems really interesting. I agree with your opinion that the female characters in this show bend gender barriers through their determination. Other shows on TV today, such as Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries, also have strong female characters that work hard to get what they want. Both of these shows are meant for teens, and this means that teens are being exposed to such powerful female characters. Sure, they don't have superpowers, but characters such as Blair Waldorf, Serena van der Woodsen, and Elena Gilbert all are head-strong and never give up when they want something. Such strong characteristics bend social barriers.

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  3. How sad is it that the mere characteristic of determination bends gender roles and puts pressure on gender barriers...? Because I, personally, find it very difficult to resist cutting all ties to such a society and starting up my own utopia in the middle of the woods.

    I believe that it's actually preferable to show young women "strong" female characters withOUT super powers, since none of us real-worlders have powers and it's much easier to relate and look up to a relatively normal human (Batman, for example) than an alien (Superman).

    In addition, I would just like to state that this post made me think of how not only young women are being exposed to these characters, but young men are as well. This could really have a positive impact on both women's self-confidence as well as how young men treat women. The vast majority of the modern sexist issue is that men buy into it; popular shows like Game of Thrones demonstrate to these men that women can be successful and BAMF as well.

    Keep up the good work, ladies.


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