Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Existential Similarities Between Game of Thrones and Duck Hunt, or How Game of Thrones Alienates Women

Saying you're into Game of Thrones is like saying you totally ruled at Duck Hunt when you were 8. It's a given, and no one is surprised to hear it. It's hard to find someone who's just "meh" about Game of Thrones, and even harder to find someone who outright hates it. Essentially, there are two kinds of people in the world - Game of Thrones fans, and future Game of Thrones fans.

Because this is a real thing

Since I have a deep-seated need to know what people are talking about, I dived into Season 1 of the show with my equally nerdy boyfriend a couple months ago. He's read all the books and I hadn't yet read any. I found it compelling, and let's face it, pretty hot, and we finished it in a weekend. In the week between that and the beginning of Season 2, I found myself missing the characters so I downloaded the first book on my secret lover Kindle and got to work. Then Season 2 started.
And nobody's sister is safe. From her brother.
And the incest abounds! I'm not prudish and I get that the show is provocative, I mean, it's HBO and the explicit sexytimes are one reason why I watch at all. I'm also aware that most of it is in the books so HBO is just adapting those storylines. Plus, sex is essential as a catalyst or complicator to many of the plotlines. Most of the story couldn't even happen without the catalyst of Jaime and Cersei's relationship, for example. King Robert's whoring is also rather vital, as he begat several sons, thereby gumming up the chain of succession. I get all that.

But here's where I'm annoyed.

All the women suck. "Wait!" You exclaim, "Cat is strong! Arya is resilient! Yara will command an armada!" All true. But while there are strong women characters (+1), they are all treated like absolute garbage by every other character on the show (-1 million). When Theon flips his conquest over so he doesn't have to look at her face, it's not written in such a way as to make us disgusted with him, it's written to make us laugh at the girl. You could argue that Cersei isn't treated poorly, being the queen regent and all, but she was in fact for the entirety of her marriage to Robert treated as second to a dead girl. That treatment manifests itself as her being an outright bitch. So our options are strong, kind women (and weak, passive women like Sansa) who are powerless to their circumstances and are objects to be used or pawns to be traded, or slightly more powerful women (Cersei, Catelyn) who have to be calculating bitches to be respected (but who are still utterly reliant on their husbands and/or sons).

And then there are the whores.

Oh dear god the whores. 

As Erik Kain at Forbes notes, the brothel scenes are "sex as decoration." Little Finger's monologue in the brothel during the second episode of the season has spurred much discussion across the web (google anything like "game of thrones brothel scene" for a taste) but the best argument against the gratuitous and lengthy scene I have read is that there are only 10 episodes per season, and whole lot of story to get through. Wasting loads of screen time on men treating women like crap, of which we get plenty in all the other scenes,without moving the plot forward, is kind of reprehensible, just from an economy-of-storyline point of view, don't you think?

"Well, besides the brothel scenes, most of those scenes are pulled from the book." I'll agree that the necessary ones absolutely are. But fueling my annoyance and discomfort is the scene from Season 1/Book 1 in which Daenerys and Khal Drogo consummate their marriage. In the show, it's a very uncomfortable and almost scary scene for a woman to watch. Daenerys is a teenager and the Khal is forceful. She has stated several times to her brother that this is not what she wants. We the viewer get to watch her essentially be raped by moonlight. I actually thought this scene was well done at the time, because the viewer understands the terrible position Daenerys is in. Then I read that scene in the book. For those who haven't read it, you may be surprised, as I was, to learn that the scene is written very sweetly. Daenerys sees a softer side of her new husband, and helps him please her. This pretty much solidifies to me that HBO is using rape as a shock tactic.

Either that, or a 13 year old boy has been in charge of the show this season.

My last hope is in Daenerys, the Khaleesi. Of course, without her husband, she's just the ex-Khaleesi. Good thing she's dragonborn. I'm betting on her to Fus-Ro-Dah her way through the seven kingdoms, free the whores, and stab Joffrey in the brains. (Please please stab Joffrey in the brains?)

So maybe I'm that third kind of person out there who is not in love with Game of Thrones.
But I also sucked at Duck Hunt, so this is to be expected.

1 comment:

Cavernshark (Drew) said...

I had a discussion on Facebook about this. I get that their treatment of women sucks in it's own right... but I could almost understand it if half of it was in the books. It's not, though, and we're sacrificing valuable airtime to do it. That act makes it seem intentional on the part of the writers, instead of just a lack of imagination and maybe a little misogynism on the part of Martin.

That said, I do have a counterpoint to one of your examples of a woman to gets shit on:

Cersei and Jaime, sitting in a tree... k.i.s.s.i.n.g, first comes love, then comes some extramarital incest, then comes a whiny, petulent, sadomasichist whelp... carraige?

Anyway, even if we pretend that Robert had a tough time transitioning to marrying Cersei due to the tragic death of his previous love, Cersei supported him for all of maybe 3 years before she jumped in the sack with Jaime (and that's assuming she got pregnant immediately with Joffrey).

Cersei's a P.O.S. in her own right and given the longstanding extramarital affair with her brother, I doubt that at least a little of that wouldn't have spilled into and maybe soured her relationship with Robert. Hardly all his fault.