I’ve never read any of George R R Martin’s novels. I only know him from the television series, Game of Thrones. And now, I am half way through the third season — far further than I ever thought I would make it. But once you get involved in these things, it is kind of hard to break away. There’s always just one more episode to watch. I can well see how people get addicted to soap operas. But there is one thing that really stands out to me in my recent viewing: its portrayal of women.
There are many aspects of this, of course. But I’m primarily interested in two. The first is the use of naked women. In one way, I really like this. I’m as keen to see beautiful naked women as anyone. But it bothers me that we don’t see more naked men. It makes me feel guilty, as though the filmmakers are pandering to men. And it leaves me with the impression, which I harbor anyway, that women really are better than men. This isn’t to say there isn’t any eye candy for women and others who appreciate male beauty. But the men are always facing away from the camera. Is this because no one actually wants to look at the penis? That’s probably true. But the fact remains that there are at least five times as many naked women as men — and that includes a lot of the female leads.
The other aspect of this is not specific to the television series. I think it relates to Martin himself, who, very much like myself, has a preference for women. It is kind of a naive preference — one that in me dates back to grammar school when all the girls seemed (because they were) so much more mature and worldly than us boys. The men in Game of Thrones fit broadly into two categories: decent and evil. A lot of those decent men are still total jerks. Tywin Lannister is a good example of a decent guy who is still awful. But then there are men who are simply evil such as King Joffrey and Ramsay Snow. There is also a fair amount of cowardice among the evil.
The situation is rather different for the women. I can’t think of any character who isn’t sympathetic to one extent or another. Again, as with the men, that doesn’t mean that they are exactly good. Cersei Lannister, for example, is not easy to love. In fact, at the beginning of the series, I hated her. But over time, I’ve become very sympathetic toward her. There are other characters, like Osha, who are difficult but ultimately of pure heart. And who does one not love Arya Stark — the live action version of that girl in Brave.
But I’m especially taken with Ygritte — currently Jon Snow’s girlfriend, I guess. She provides a kind of positive take on Lady Macbeth. The original has always bothered me in its misogyny. But here, Ygritte isn’t looking for status or power. She’s just really smart — and in love. And she’s trying to keep the two of them alive. Jon Snow has never shown himself to be particularly smart — from the very first episode. So I think Ygritte is a good example of Martin’s generally positive take on womankind.
Now if you will forgive me, I’m going to watch another episode. As I said, it’s very addictive.