‘Game of Thrones’: Women in a ‘difficult world,’ say show runners

April 21, 2014 | 2:42 p.m.
760000 got404 090213 hs dsc45641 Game of Thrones: Women in a difficult world, say show runners

The lead mutineer (Burn Gorman) threatens Bran's friends (Ellie Kendrick and Thomas Brodie-Sangster). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

759998 got mp 091113 ep402 29561 Game of Thrones: Women in a difficult world, say show runners

From left, Dean-Charles Chapman, Peter Dinklage, Jack Gleeson and Sophie Turner in "Game of Thrones." (HBO)

759998 got mp 091713 ep402 40351 Game of Thrones: Women in a difficult world, say show runners

Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) spar in "Game of Thrones." (HBO)

Anyone who watches HBO’s lavish fantasy series “Game of Thrones” understands that it’s not easy for any character to  live in the cutthroat world of Westeros, defined as it is by treachery and death. But navigating the brutal environment can be especially fraught for the women who have a central role in the narrative.

(If you missed Sunday night’s episode, “Breaker of Chains,” you might want to stop reading now.)

In the latest installment of the hit show, Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) arrived at the city of Meereen with her army of Unsullied at her back, determined to continue to free the slaves in the cities of the East. But even as she wins the affections of the underclass, she’s also making powerful enemies.

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Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) finally escaped from King’s Landing (though at great cost to Dontos the Fool) in a scheme orchestrated by Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), the slippery operative known as Littlefinger. But Cersei Lannister’s relationship with her brother Jaime took a bleak, horrifying turn as he raped her beside the body of their son Joffrey.

Reactions to the scene between Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau have played out online, but in an interview prior to the season’s launch, “Game of Thones” show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss discussed how they view the women on the show.

Tommen )Dean-Charles Chapman), Cersei (Lena Headey) stand beside the boy of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) in Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones," titled "Breaker of Chains.  (Helen Sloan/HBO)

Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Cersei (Lena Headey) stand beside the body of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) in Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones,” titled “Breaker of Chains.”
(Helen Sloan / HBO)

“We always pay a lot of attention to our female characters,” Weiss said. “They’re in a difficult world, a world that doesn’t give them a whole lot of latitude for movement — certainly not as much as our world does.”

“The world of the show may not have a tremendous amount of respect for what the women of the show are capable of, but the show itself does,” he added.

Fighting to claim her rightful place in “Game of Thrones”‘ world has long been a motivating factor for Daenerys, according to Clarke.

“Fundamentally she is a leader and a survivor, and the beautiful difference between Daenerys and the rest of the cast is her ultimate goal is pure,” the actress recently told Hero Complex. “Her ultimate goal is entirely selfless. It feels much more of a bigger idea than simply I want to sit on the throne because I want to sit on the throne. She would like to rule and create an equal world.

“I think the reason why strong women have such a powerful impact is that you’ve got the strength of a man with the heart and sensitivity of a woman,” she added. “I think that is where Daenerys could go to, but, my God, she’s still learning.”

Possibilities seem to be emerging for Sansa, too, now that she’s been able to flee the Lannister stronghold, even as her sister Arya (Maisie Williams) crosses the countryside with Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann).

George R.R. Martin “created some of the greatest female characters,” Weiss said. “The Stark sisters, they both come to real turning points this season. There are big changes in store for both the Stark sisters this year.”

“It’s fascinating to see how they’ve evolved,” Benioff added. “They become so much stronger within the season in completely different ways.”

What did you think of Sunday’s episode? Let us know in the comments section.

— Gina McIntyre


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5 Responses to ‘Game of Thrones’: Women in a ‘difficult world,’ say show runners

  1. Shirley Crawford says:

    Loved it all, didn't really feel that it was rape………maybe because I read the book also…….

    • Jezabel says:

      Weird that reading the book made you feel that way as the scene is completely different.

      • doom.agent says:

        having not read the books, i felt that it was somewhat forced, but not entirely rape, as cersei only resisted to a point, never screamed, and stopped resisting after a short while. it seemed like it was something she wanted but didn't want to let herself have.

  2. devika1967 says:

    Now that Sansa in Season 5 is raped on her wedding night – a deliberate plot variation from the book – it appears that the women in this ‘harsh world’ are being

    ritualistically punished in a pornographic way. The actress playing Sansa had been observed to be growing stronger, and praised for doing so despite her terrible experiences. This latest outrage appears to confirm the collective misogyny of the producers, endorsed not only by its author (all justifying the violence by saying it occurs to fictional characters in a fantasy world), and even the 19 year old actress herself. What fantasy message is being offered here: that women are objects, and their strength is punished and defeated via their bodies and their sexuality? This is a wasted opportunity to make some really life-changing television for a mass viewing audience. The motivation cannot be money. So that leaves the fact that the writer and his creative collaborators REALLY ENJOY THEIR WORK.

  3. stolt says:

    Can't see what all the fuss is about (in the rape obsessed US mostly it seems) with this and the more recent fictional scene from a fictional book with a fictional character being allegedly raped by her fictional husband in a brutal fictional world.

    Strength, wisdom, independence, you-name-it-girl-power, are far from effective rape repellents in the real world which has a far more equitable lot available for women, letalone in this unrefined fictional world. Did you expect the writers to suspend the laws of reality in Westeros just to appease your American feminist sensibilities? [SPOILER ALERT]I guess they did that by letting Tyrion Lannister beat that slaver up to let him live…

    But I mean, if you like the character of course you don't want them to be raped/mamed/murdered/humiliated/whatever, and of course you are going to express outrage on Twitter or whatever, probably spoiling the story for others who haven't seen it yet. But do you really believe rape deserves to be put up on a pedestal of taboo plot devices when so much atrocity is happening on this show?

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