But to read Game of Thrones this way, is to gloriously miss the point. This is a show that holds nothing back; bloodshed, barbarity and, yes, boobs. It’s high on shock, awe, dragons and death but, along the way, it has proved itself astonishingly feminist.
Because, of course, it is far too reductive of Game of Throne’s impact and the depth of its storytelling, to dwell on its boob and body count. To condense a woman’s narrative to her on screen nudity is, ironically, to fail to see the woman at all.
Tits and dragons. That’s what the initial reaction of Game of Thrones was. Excessive nudity, gratuitous sex scenes and some dragons thrown in. After all, who doesn’t need a side order of fire-breathing fantasy reptiles with their degradation of women?
Is Daenerys; Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Queen of the Andals, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms only worth the sum of her (naked) parts? Is Sansa Stark, fierce matriarch-in-the-making, plotter, schemer and ultimate victor of the Battle of the Bastards, defined only by her abusive marriages to Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton?
No, because Game of Thrones deals expertly with the notion of victimhood, especially when it comes to women. Female characters on the show are subjected to heinous, traumatic acts –many of them sexual- but they are defined by their survival. Daenerys becomes a conquering queen, commanding the armies of the man she was sold to. Sansa turns her tragedy into a steely-sense of purpose becoming a calm, calculated would-be-queen with a taste for revenge, more like Cersei Lannister than the wallflower we saw mooning over Joffrey in season one. They are celebrated for their strength, a strength made all the more powerful by the show’s visceral and unfettered exposure of the harrowing obstacles they had to overcome.
Then, of course, there are Game of Thrones’ warrior women; the armoured juggernaut of honour and heart that is Brienne of Tarth, the tough-as-nails Yara Greyjoy with her quick wit that commands fleets, the deadly Sand sisters of House Martell and the doomed wildling fighter Ygritte. All of them are forces to be reckoned with, whose gender is discussed but rarely dismissed, whose fierceness is never questioned, at least not twice…
The greatest character arc within this narrative is Arya Stark, who rejects the lady of the manor mould afforded her in season one, preferring instead to wield a sword than wear a dress. She spends most of Game of Thrones alone, sharpening her combat skills (and her sword) on an eight-season-long journey of vengeance. If this was an old school western, she’d be played by a hardened, grizzled bloke, but this is Game of Thrones, so the cold-as-ice avenger is played by a baby-faced teenaged girl. How’s that for feminism?