As usual, the latest episode of Game of Thrones immediately lit the internet up with diverse opinions and takes, from fans freaking out about the presence of a Starbucks to-go cup in a scene to the Twitterverse bemoaning the poor quality of writing.
Among the more common protestations was the sentiment that episode 4 made it very clear that the show is written exclusively by men.
Perhaps chief among people's concerns about last night's portrayal of female characters was the GOT writers' choice to have Brienne run after Jaime—in her bathrobe, no less—and weep pitifully as he left her behind in the snow. While it's important to keep in mind that there is nothing inherently weak about displaying emotion, it is a very valid argument that Brienne's reaction to Jaime's desertion was extremely out of character. Not only that, but everything about the interaction was set up to make the knight seem womanly and desperate: she pleaded and wept, holding onto his face and spouting clichés like, "Don't leave me."
We've seen Brienne remain stone cold in the face of a great many tragedies, and while actress Gwendoline Christie is gifted at allowing hints of emotion to seep through Brienne's carefully constructed composure, we've never seen that composure crack entirely. That it would now—after just a couple of amorous nights with a neck-bearded, one-handed knight—feels unlikely. But when faced with complicated situations in which a female character's reaction requires nuanced thought and consideration, it seems the GOT writers just revert to unfortunate feminine stereotypes.
Episode 4 showed this weakness again in Dany's transparently power-hungry conversation with Jon. The dragon queen, who has undergone a massive character shift over the last few episodes—namely, from a three-dimensional character to a one-dimensional one—was presented as a stereotypical temptress in this episode. There was no nuance at all in her scene with Jon, and it became clear that her love for him—whether real or not—is something that she only views as another chess piece to be used in her quest for power. Not only is this a boring plot choice that removes much of the appealing humanity Daenerys once presented, it's a sexist choice that paints Dany as a sexually manipulative Bathsheba.
Sansa, too, has been suddenly simplified. In episode 4's conversation with the Hound, her implication that she was grateful for her rape was a wildly out-of-touch decision. Sure, there is nothing wrong with a woman finding strength in the knowledge that she has lived through great hardship, but Sansa has never been the blood-thirsty, dauntless character she was portrayed as in episode 4. Not to mention, to portray rape and abuse as a character-building experience is irresponsible and insensitive to the real experience of many women. Sansa has been a historically nuanced character, displaying tenderness and strength in equal measure—but not anymore.
It's as if, knowing they had to rush to wrap up the show in six episodes, the scriptwriters decided to save time by turning their female characters into easily palatable stereotypes of women. This is particularly unfortunate given the show's relatively strong track record for creating female characters with autonomy and storylines of their own, but it seems that when faced with time limits and pressure, the all-male writing team for season 8 just...didn't bother with the female characters.
While there is no question that Game of Thrones is a groundbreaking TV show in many ways, one can't help but to wonder how much more groundbreaking it could have been had women been a part of the writers' room.
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