I have loved Game of Thrones ever since I watched the entire first season in one night, curled up on a tattered sofa in the living room of my brother's old house. We were Lord of the Rings kids, faithfuls of castles and heroes and dragons and villains. The coming of Game of Thrones and it's success amongst the people who don't know their swords from their scimitars felt like permission from The Universe to finally be open about my love for imaginary worlds where the line between what's real and what's magic blurs. Since that first night, Game of Thrones has become a yearly fixture for me, and I could not be more excited about the upcoming fifth season. For the first time ever I feel Socially Allowed to be excited about DRAGONS which, as a deeply self-conscious person, is no small thing for me. So this year I am refusing to let anyone else's opinion hamper my love of Game of Thrones, especially all the people who take issue with the fact that it isn't "feminist."
The discourse concerning Game of Thrones and feminism has existed since the beginning of the show, but it gained a lot more attention last year when George R. R. Martin, the author of the books on which the show is based, said in an interview that he considers himself a feminist. The feminist response was swift and scathing, especially considering that the interview was published around the same time that an episode of the show depicted a rape scene between Cersei Lannister and her twin brother. For this and many other reasons, there has been quite a lot of vehement explanation of why Game of Thrones is not and will never be feminist. People who have defended the show focus on how it features a diverse range of strong, intelligent women who have empowered themselves in a particularly patriarchal world. The debate goes on and on, and there are valid arguments to be made either way; problem isn't that one side is right and one is wrong, but that the fixation on applying feminism to Game of Thrones exists at all.
Debates likes this are instrumental in fuelling the idea that feminism is some sort of "cult" which dictates the shows, books, movies and music that we should and shouldn't be consuming. What this does is make people feel like maybe they have to choose between the part of themselves that is feminist and the part of themselves that enjoys things like Game of Thrones. This is something which excludes or alienates; it's the reason why people look at feminism and say, "that's not me". But it's not just the women who dislike Game of Thrones who create this impression; the women who love the show and therefore try to find elements of feminism within it are doing the exact same thing - they're trying desperately to feel like they belong by applying feminism to all of the things in their life which they enjoy. This still perpetuates the idea that being a feminist means sacrificing some of the things that you love, or that things you love have to become "guilty pleasures" instead of just plain old every day PLEASURES that you don't have to explain to any body.
The thing is that, in some areas of pop culture, feminists have done a really great job of banishing the idea of "guilty pleasures". Feminists like Caitlin Moran and Tavi Gevinson have really driven home the idea that feminism is all about unashamedly loving all of the stereotypical things that girls in the past have been made fun of for liking. Theirs is the message that it's wonderful to care about fashion, it's great to have encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music, it's fucking awesome to sit around and watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with the same gravity and attention as though it were BBC News. These are not feminist things, and no one tries to say that they are, because the point is that feminism isn't about liking feminist shit, it's about liking whatever the fuck you like because you are a badass feminist.
My question is this: in the mainstream dialogue on feminism, why hasn't the message of liking whatever you like transferred to Game of Thrones yet? In a context where women everywhere are being told that they should be unashamed about loving the things which make them happy, whatever that thing is, the fact that Game of Thrones is still surrounded by polarising feminist debate is a really sad, frustrating thing. Now that geeky girls everywhere finally feel like frothing over dragons is an Acceptable Thing, please don't take that joy away from them.
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