Movies + TV, Pop Culture

Here’s what I learned from watching 5 seasons of Game of Thrones in 2 weeks

It's more than just boobs and war.

I am a bit late to the Game of Thrones party – about six years to be exact. To catch up, I watched all five previous seasons over the past two weeks. Like any binge-watching event, my fast-forwarded experience with GoT has highlighted a few things about the series that may have otherwise not been so apparent.

1. We are still much more comfortable watching naked female bodies than naked male ones.

 

Before anyone gets up in valyrian steel arms about this, hear me out: Yes, there is a plentiful amount of heterosexual—and even homosexual—sex in the series, which means inevitably including male bodies in conjunction with the female. However, women undressing on the show is much more often a “scene” as opposed to men undressing. Sure, we see a few penises here and there, but these instances are often portrayed in such a way that the audience doesn’t necessarily want to see more (e.g. genital warts or full-on castration.)

We are still much more comfortable watching naked female bodies than naked male ones. Click To Tweet

Contrast these incidents with how Melisandre the fire priestess or Margaery Tyrell gain their power—political, social, and/or religious—by using their bodies and sexuality.  While feeling powerful about one’s sexuality can be an incredibly positive attribute, turning it into the main source of power seems a rather outdated move for GoT to make.

2. Everybody should be in love with Brienne of Tarth.

As outdated as the female objectification is on the show, Brienne’s character does a lot to catch us up to a more realistic understanding of what it means to be a woman. Mocked endlessly by those around her for her stature and traditionally “masculine” physical attributes (broad shoulders, short hair, the right to not smile at all times), Brienne is not the emotionless fighting machine she is initially presented as. Her discipline with both her sword and her principles earn her roles as protectors of important individuals on the show, but she also falls for Jamie Lannister, a romance she knows will never see the light of day. Heartbreak for an atypically sized and shaped woman is no less a heartbreak than it is for a traditionally beautiful one, though the latter often receive the brunt of our attention in entertainment media. Brienne’s graceful acceptance of reality and focus on her work as protector of the Stark women is inspiring and uplifting, to say the least.

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3. Daenerys Targaryen needs to go.

As a feminist who believes in upturning male rule, I should be an unhesitant Daenerys supporter. After all, for most of the series, she has been the only woman directly in the running to win the Game. But blindly supporting Daenerys just because she was a woman would not be dissimilar to throwing my support behind Hillary Clinton for the same reason. Though it is exciting that there is a woman in the running, the woman herself may be upholding certain oppressive norms. Is it not odd that the “Breaker of Chains” is white? Is it a coincidence that Daenerys is presented as a white savior to desert lands in which people have darker hair and skin and are clearly dressed in Middle Eastern garb?

We still argue the ethnicity of Jesus in Christian iconology as many have recently pointed out that he was, in fact, a Middle Eastern man, not an Anglo-Saxon European as he is often depicted. If we now view Daenerys as a female white Christ figure, we aren’t necessarily moving social issues forward just because a woman is in power; we are only solidifying the error of the old ways by distracting ourselves from one serious issue with another. Daenerys is no savior; she’s a social red herring.

Daenerys is no savior; she's a social red herring. Click To Tweet

4. A little understanding of your enemy could help you win that pretty iron chair, folks. 

Though the focus is more on family lines than cultural ones, we would be remiss to not notice the various cultural landscapes in GoT, some obviously modeled on real-world civilizations. And like real-world cross-cultural contact, cross-kingdom contact in GoT is rife with not just misunderstanding, but often complete ignorance of the Other. A myopic Us-Them dynamic has been embraced by nearly every contender for the Iron Throne when perhaps a more all-encompassing eye is necessary. (Guess that’s why no one’s won yet.) Only the Night’s Watch really see the bigger picture and the one common denominator throughout all the realms: death.

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5. Motherhood is incredibly complicated.

Repeatedly throughout the realms and seasons, we see mother figures not only as all-sacrificing female characters, but also as characters who sometimes lead their offspring astray. GoT does not hesitate to show the messy undersides of the relationships between mothers and their children, from the incestuous Cersei who births both her sons and nephews to the determined Catelyn Stark who mistakenly leads her eldest son, his wife, and her future grandchild to slaughter. Even the dark arts and magic get a say in motherhood, with Melisandre birthing a murderous shadow and Daenerys Targaryen becoming the “Mother of Dragons.” Heavenly mothers? Not here.

Heavenly mothers? Not here. Click To Tweet

My overall opinion of GoT? It’s often just as unbelievable as real life, so might as well watch it.

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Tasneem Mandviwala

Tasneem Mandviwala

Tasneem Mandviwala is an Editorial Fellow for The Tempest. She is a doctoral student at the University of Chicago studying the identity trajectories of Muslim American girls and women, has a background in psychology, English literature, and art history. She uses these fields to enhance not only her research but also her visual art, the latter which she pursues simultaneously on the side as inspiration allows.

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