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Is Game of Thrones Really Sexist and Racist?

04/30/2014 12:23 pm 12:23:12 | Updated Jun 30, 2014

Writing in The Guardian, Danielle Harrison says that she gave up watching Game of Thrones at the end of Season Three because of the scene where Daenerys is acclaimed as their Mother by the Yunkai whom she has freed from bondage. Referencing "the visual impact of slavery," she particularly objects to the final moments where Daenerys is "carried into the crowd as the camera pulls back to show her floating in the middle of this sea of arms like the bright planet in a constellation of darkness."

But isn't it a perfectly natural response for those being liberated to celebrated their freedom and bear their liberator aloft, whatever her color, or theirs? Let's face it, given Dany's unique Valyrian genetic inheritance, anyone in the Free Cities (or Westeros, for that matter) who isn't an albino or a White Walker is likely going to look darker than she does.

Despite giving up on the show, Harrison apparently tuned in to see Jaime rape his sister two weeks ago, or she at least tuned into the Internet furor over the scene not following the book. Ditto this week's episode where the Night's Watch mutineers rape Caster's daughters.

Harrison sees the show as profoundly misogynistic because women are constantly being disparaged. And men aren't? What about Tyrion, the subject of mockery and scorn in almost every single episode? The Game of Thrones world is filled with brutality, oppression, and torture. I wonder why Theon's subjugation and emasculation aren't worth Harrison's notice. Surely they constitute one of the most horrific interactions of the series to date. Does violence against the male body not count?

The only strong women Harrison highlights are Cersei and Daenerys, who she claims represent the two ways women "come to their power" in the series, either "through physical and emotional humiliation (Daenerys) or a cool detachment from reality (Cersei)." I disagree. Each one of them was strong-willed to begin with and had a head start on power by being born into a powerful family, or one with claims to it. As for Cersei in particular, she seems anything but divorced from reality -- she's a typical practitioner of realpolitik.

But what Harrison also skates over is the other strong women in the cast of characters: Arya, Shae, Lady Stark (and even her crazy sister thanks to the Eyrie), Brienne, Melisandre, Olenna, Ellaria. Are they humiliated? Some of them yes, but shame and humiliation are themes of this show and almost no one, male or female, escapes. Think of Ned, Jon Snow, Bran, Tyrion, Samwell, and yes, even Jaime.

The world of the series is, to yank Tennyson out of context, deeply "red in tooth and claw."