The Women of Game of Thrones

Warning: this post contains several spoilers from Seasons 1-3 of the television show version of Game of Thrones.

I took advantage of this long weekend to watch several episodes of Game of Thrones. I was initially hesitant to watch this show as fantasy and sci-fi are not my favorite genres. Before watching the series, I did not realize that Game of Thrones is really about the quest for political power during a time of upheaval that is war. The setting of the series would best be described as a fantastical version of Medieval or Renaissance Europe and Middle East.

There are just as many male characters as female characters on the show and the female characters are just as integral to the plot as the male characters. George R.R. Martin does not shy away from having female characters that do more than portray the stereotypical female role of mother and wife. The characters include but are not limited to soldiers, knights, queens, princesses, battlefield nurses, whores, and witches. Some of the women are depicted as fulfilling more traditional roles while others play very non-traditional roles; they do not only out of necessity.

Catelyn Stark, for example, plays the very traditional role of queen, mother, and wife to the beheaded Ned Stark. She thinks that her most important duty is to support her family. She is not sitting at home, though, hearing about everything happening from afar. When her son, Robb, decided to declare himself King of the North, she joined him as he moved to fight battles on his quest for political power. On the road with him, she is present at major decision-making meetings but she clearly does not hold a lot of power to make the final decisions because her son is the self-declared king.

Cersei Lannister is the Queen Regent of House Lannister and mother of Crown Prince Joffrey Baratheon, but despite these lofty titles, she is frustrated in her quest to yield power. She is constrained by the mostly-traditional role that she is forced to play. Her father makes most of the decisions for the family and although Cersei and her brother Tyrion often consult with their father, they are ultimately forced to obey him. Although she is hardly a pleasant person to be around, Cersei does not have the power to constrain Joffrey from acting in rash, cruel, and politically damaging ways towards his family, subjects, and even his (former) fiancé. Cersei would like to have true political power, but instead she resorts to making threats and mean comments in the course of her conversations with others.

Daenerys Targaryen is Khaleesi (leader of a Dothraki horde) and is the mother of dragons (dragons are powerful because of their destructive potential). Daenerys is one of the most non-traditional female characters in the series. She initially seemed to be submissive as she was forced to follow her abusive brother’s commands. Her life changed when she was forced to marry Khal Drogo. When she was with Khal she found the strength to stand up to her brother, and when Khal died she took over his position. Daenerys then became focused on her goal of becoming Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and she was able to summon an army of 8,000 in only a year. Some of her power does come from the position she was born into and the man who she married, but she is very clever and is more ambitious than many of the other characters, male or female. She is aware that people discount her because she is a woman, which makes her character even more fascinating to analyze.

There are of course other female characters on the show who I should analyze here, but for the sake of brevity I will not. In my opinion, George R.R. Martin did a very good job with providing a wide range of female characters play both traditional and non-traditionally female roles.

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