Game of Thrones ‘S Us
Set in some mythical time and place reminiscent of Paganism meets Christianity here on Earth, the mirror that is Game of Thrones reflects both our gender bias and our rising equality.
In this patriarchal world the virtuous Daenerys Targaryen and her evil brother, Viserys, march to take back the Iron Throne they were born to, but are now exiled from. While Daenerys is clearly the wiser of the two, she has no right to rule — at least not while her brother lives. Instead, she is used as a pawn — sold off as a slave, really, to buy her brother an army.
But at his death, Daenerys takes over the march for power. Yet the “bitch” word flows freely from disgusting men who are clearly beneath her, trying desperately to debase her and women, as a class. But as her true nature is revealed she gets the best of them. Last we saw of her, she had become a Savior, freeing the masses from slavery.
Daenerys grows from a sense of feeling entitled to rule to feeling called to make a difference. Her evolution mirrors modern politics, with women more likely to enter public life from a desire to make people’s lives better. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to enter politics to raise their status.
Are women just better than men? Doubtful. Because of their historical roles, women’s self-esteem has been more closely tied to their looks and the well-being of their families. Men’s self-esteem has been more tied to career success. Meanwhile, women are more likely to have faced oppression and gained empathy for others who are subjugated. That is something that Daenerys and modern female politicians often share.
Feminism also warns against being misled by appearances. Beautiful, sexy women may also be strong and wise.
And a dwarf whose body is near useless in battle is hardly a useless human being. Tyrion Lannister compensates by developing his brain and his cunning. And through his struggles he gains a penetrating discernment (amidst strong doses of foolery).
In GoT we see patriarchy damaging men. Robb Stark, heir to the Northern Throne, died because his goodness was at odds with his job, says Rowan Kaiser at American Prospect. Robb married for love, not strategic gain. He failed to punish his mother when she worked against him. In sum, his humanity overrode his power obligations.
But he also sought to enjoy privilege without accepting its costs, says Amanda Marcotte. The outcome? A red wedding, with himself, his family, and guests bathed in blood.
Ms. Marcotte draws a parallel to modern patriarchy:
Men are harmed in countless ways by stifling male gender roles. They are cut off from their emotions and have to expend a serious amount of energy always maintaining the image of masculinity, and that energy drain appears to lead to higher levels of stress for straight men than for out gay and bi men. However, many straight men appear to believe that in exchange for constantly policing the boundaries of masculinity, they get a number of pretty significant male privileges, including economic opportunities, fewer domestic responsibilities, and, most importantly of all, being treated with gravitas and respect that is not generally extended to women. They get, in other words, to matter, and that is worth quite a bit of sacrifice.
Seeing ourselves through the GoT mirror we find powerful women. But they are typically less powerful, more demeaned, objectified, sadistically tortured, more often treated like slaves, and more underestimated, compared with men.
GoT: New season premieres this Sunday.