Game of Thrones Addict Wakes Up
Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 1:57PM
Elena Taurke in Culture, Feminism, PsychoZen Meets Life


Let's start with the antidote: it's the brothels, Baby. Some smart feminists have opined on the forms of feminine power and how they are portrayed, and there is a lot to say about that. Personally, I think Game of Thrones accurately portrays our world and that is why it is compelling. The women who have power either have it through the men or by becoming masculinized exceptions to the gender rules. 

Some other stuff I found essential and interesting: good people are hurt and betrayed and killed. Sometimes they are avenged and sometimes not. Unlike most stuff we watch, we don't always know who is the good one. This complexity deteriorates in the end, as many have noticed, but I don't really agree with the suggested repairs. For example, Daenerys goes from a valiant warrior for justice with a bit of a temper problem but learning from her mistakes to a vengeful unstoppable madwoman within minutes. Ok, those minutes involved seeing her best friend beheaded, and yes, she had a history of significant trauma (as do they all, actually), so it is plausible as a deadly trigger. However, even a full-on rage attack has a lifespan. To bomb the entire city of innocent citizens served no purpose either strategically or psychologically. 

No, but it served the story. It allowed her and Serse, the other vengeful despot, to be destroyed. By the way, the suggestion for repair involved having her learn from her mistakes, then make the tough choice to destroy all magic, including her beloved John who was only alive because of it. The same critic would have also featured Jaime's moral development. Jamie, for those who will never watch the show, is the dude who pushed a boy out of a window rather than be caught having sex with his sister whom he later raped and then chose to die with. I'm a psychologist so I'm skeptical that either one can be redeemed, certainly not without at least 20 boring episodes of psychoanalysis.

So let's look at the broad strokes. Two powerful vengeful women dead. Of the honorable Stark family, one big sister (Sansa), who has learned to hide her power and manipulate, leaves the capital to be Queen of her own realm. The younger sister, who has become a great warrior, also leaves to pursue the unknown. Good for her! but note that there is no room for her in the civilized world. Toughie Brianne is abandoned by the man she loved and now gets to function like a man on the council. Most of the other women were either killed or their story lines were just dropped. oops, I guess it wasn't important.

By the way, speaking of honor, one hero defines it thus: "A man of honor serves his King even if he is a drunkard, liar or mad." And actually, some of our heroes challenge the rules of honor. Arya disobeys an order to kill someone she values. John can't kill a wildling woman. (Wildlings stand for the rejected outsiders in this show, though they are all white.) And I do think this is another value of the show. Unlike the obedient Republicans, we need to be able to see through what a despot commands, and disobey. 

I would take it a lot further though. A. lot. further. Let's look at the last scenes. Daenerys and John cancel each other out and so we are left with a council of nobles who have no problem 'voting' for Brandon Stark as ruler of the realm. Brandon is the youngest of the Starks, the one who lost the use of his legs, the one who spent most of the time while everyone else was fighting living in the past with his eyes rolled up in his head. What has he learned from his daydreaming? We don't know. He's barely eighteen. Have you ever dealt with a teen boy? Would you want him to rule the Seven Kingdoms? We don't even know if he can pay attention to the basics. He didn't even develop his upper arm strength, just expected others to push him around. Didn't even thank them much. Sound familiar? 

Then it gets worse. Directors seem to love to give us jokey talking as a relief from tense drama, but actually it's in the jokes that the truth is revealed. At almost the last scene we are treated to an affectionate council meeting in which there is playful banter about whether funds should go toward building defenses or repairing the brothels. heh heh, I know where my money would go, heh heh

Many women were offended by the naked sex workers as well as the onscreen rapes and other brutality. But the brutality felt like brutality; the sex work was never challenged. The prostitutes were usually laughing, horny as hell, and seemed to love their work, as if they had chosen it. But they didn't. They had no choice. They were slaves. They never expressed resentment about their bondage. They didn't get to be any kind of hero. They were never liberated. They were never even noticed. After a while they became background. We watched the men have conversations while naked women sat on their laps.

And so this penultimate scene is what I found to be most distressing, disgusting, and in need of calling out. If you show us many wrong things that meet their consequence yet continue to show the happy enslavement of women then you are a slave trader, a user of women without their consent. This is what we need to question, just as we need to question the received ideas about beauty and the matter of the electibility of women. 

Game of Thrones is a world we can step out of in order to see alternative possibilites. Let's use it to repair our own. 

May 2019



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