Sunday, 9 June 2019

Game of Thrones and Female Leadership

This article is about the TV series and not the books. I have wanted to write on this subject for years, the reason I did not was because I feared that the writers would change direction in the last season. Instead they stayed true to the traditional view of female leadership, that it is unnatural and poisonous.

Why was female leadership traditionally considered unnatural? Because men kill, but women give life. To be a good ruler you must be prepared to kill and if a women's role is to give life then she cannot be a good ruler. It poisons the relationships between men and women as it puts an obligation upon woman that should not be there burden. Men should defend women not the other way around. If women are defending men, who is defending the children?

Who is defending the future?

When men defend women and women defend children there are two rings of protection around children. When both men and women defend children then they only have one ring and women have no protection at all. They must have all of the strengths of a man, which they of course do not have.

Game of Thrones is a fascinating and at times bizarre combination of Medieval history, particularly England and Scotland in the 1400's. Fantasy books with an effort to subvert some common tropes or ideas within fantasy. And modern attitudes, particularly with regards to sex and sex roles, supporting sex and subverting the sex roles. As you can see not all of these work together and at times it shows.

At first there were the books written by George R.R. Martin which were then made into the TV series. Martin is the sole author of the books, but not the sole writer for the series. However he had input into the entire series and I have been watching talks he has given which are on Youtube. He has said that the characters that most changed from the books were Little Finger and Shae.

The two major characters I will concentrate on are Cersei and Daenerys Targaryen.

Cersei was the daughter of Tywin Lannister the richest and one of the most powerful Lords in the Seven Kingdoms. She was married to Robert Baratheon, the King of the Seven Kingdoms. She had spent her entire life next to the greatest political players in Westeros. Her brother Tyrion stated that her greatest vitues were " love your children and your cheekbones", whats clear is that she does not possess a third virtue. I believe her character can best be summed up after she has invited the Ladies of the Court to her tower for protection during the Battle of the Blackwater. Here she tells Sansa that if the enemy break through then the other women in the room "will be in for a little raping" whilst trying to suppress a smile.

After the death of her husband and the death of her children, Cersei seizes the throne and rules as Queen. Many commentators are very positive that she is always one step ahead of her enemies, but I tend to agree with her fathers assessment "...your not as smart as you think you are". She was certainly ruthless, merciless and vindictive but how often were her plans strategic?

Letting Ned Stark be killed? It was the act that started the War of the five Kings. Her son Joffrey had him executed, however she was convinced that she could control him and she could not. She was completely outclassed.

How about when she armed and gave Royal protection to the Church Militant? In fact arming the Church Militant lead to the complete destruction of two great Noble houses, the Tyrells and her own House. She was completely outclassed and her only solution was to blow up the Sept of Baelor, along with the leadership of the Church Militants, most of House Tyrell and a huge amount of the Nobility.

Her one strategic plan that worked was to seize Highgarden, the Tyrells castle and loot it, although it is unclear whether that was her or Jamie's plan. The series at different points told us it was her plan and at another that it was his. Whoever's plan it was it worked and was a great strategic outcome.

Did you notice that once she became Queen she did not have any courtiers, or Small Council? Compare her reign as Queen with Joffreys, he had courtiers and a Small Council., where were her's?

Then we have Daenery's Targaryen who started off as a victim, being married off so that her brother could obtain an army. George R.R. Martin used a sympathetic character to try to get us to ignore what was really going on. And here at the end of the series we have people saying that her burning a city to the ground was out of character. But they weren't paying attention to the character that was onscreen, instead they were watching the character that they wanted to be onscreen.

Daenery's was portrayed as being a transformative character, as she herself said "I want to break the wheel", she was a revolutionary. She lead her people out of the desert, ended slavery, stopped the masters from coming back into power. She changed peoples lives and mostly for the better. If that is true then how could her rule be seen as unnatural and poisonous?

To gain control she had to kill people, those she killed in war are not the issue, what is at issue is how she treated those under her protection. Her first monstrous act was to crucify 163 men for being Masters, in other words for being the wrong social class. Now many people defend her actions as 163 children had been crucified by the Masters to warn her away. However unlike the Masters she had accepted all of the people into her protection. She then crucified random members of a particular social class, no trial, no effort to decide who was guilty or innocent.

Then in an effort to intimidate the Masters, she has the leaders of the great Houses brought to her and then she feeds one, again at random, to her Dragons. Again no trial or effort to decide guilt or innocence. Some would argue that she did it to stop a rebellion, however the rebellion did not stop. Feeding people to beasts is something Ramsay Bolton would do, ohhh and Daenery's.

Once she arrives in Dragonstone and begins her military campaign against Cersei to gain the Iron Throne, she wants to attack the capital, Kings Landing. Now her advisers tell her  that attacking Kings Landing will result in the killing of thousands of innocents. For an entire season she reluctantly agrees. In the mean time she attacks the Lannister convoy bringing the gold from Highgarden to Kings Landing. Most of the gold gets through but she destroys those forces that tried to stop her. Soldiers surrendered, including their commander Lord Randyll Tarly and his son Dickon. They are all offered the choice between joining her or being burnt alive by one of her Dragons. The two Tarly's refuse and true to her word she has them burnt alive. Once someone has surrendered then they are under your protection, once again she has killed people under her protection.

Then she decides that she will attack Kings Landing and she appears to agree that she will stop the attack when the cities bells ring out. But she did not agree. When the bells ring and it is clear that she has won, she does not stop but instead burns the city to the ground. Many people have then said that this was out of character for her, but that is simply not true. The evidence that she would do this was there for seasons and each season it built. People wanted a hero, but George R.R. Martin doesn't do heroes. When he writes one, he kills them.

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  1. Very interesting, I keep wondering whether I should watch the show.

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