What Are the Positive Aspects of the Women in Game Of Thrones?

05/16/2013 11:28 am ET | Updated Jul 15, 2013

This question originally appeared on Quora.
Answer by Faye Wang,

First of all, I don't think GRRM wrote the book and its many characters to be role models to anyone. They're extremely flawed people struggling under extraordinary circumstances. All of them make stupid horrible decisions and suffer the consequences. I don't think you can put any of them on a pedestal and make them a "role model" for kids. I can't imagine children say: When I grow up I want to be like Dany, who gets married at 14 and is obsessed with ruling a continent she last saw as an infant. Or "I want to be like Arya," a violent girl full of rage, thinking about her assassination list every night. Or Catelyn, who made some really really bad choices, resulting directly or indirectly to all of her children's suffering and death?

No ... None of them is Hermione or Buffy, not even Katniss. Few of them had any grand ideals, none of them care much about "the innocent" (not even Dany, who's probably the most idealistic of the bunch). They're more than willing to hurt other people for their own gain. But how can we blame them when they're trying to hard to survive, to look after their loved ones the best they could?

If there's anything we could learn from these characters, I think it is their resolve and grit. They NEVER gave up the fight. All of GRRM's characters fought on against incredible odds, even the "craven" Sam. They made bad choices, they suffered defeat, but none of them gave up. They grasp that one hope, and they keep on fighting. Dany want to rule the land that's rightfully hers, Catlyn want to save and avenge her children, Arya want to survive and kill all those who wronged her and her family ... Even Cersei, the unrelenting Cersei, never gave up her (very unwise) coveting for power.

You have to admire their courage, these brave yet flawed women. I think if there's anything we can learn from them, this is it.


Answer by Katy Donahue, Game of Thrones fan

Daenerys - Her narrative of coming into her own as a leader after the shadow and guidance of two men in her life (Viserys and Khal Drogo) is inspiring because she has managed to become a relatively ethical and just leader, as well as a clever one.

Arya - Arya shows girls they can break gender roles, be a fighter, etc.

Cersei - This is going to be controversial but I actually think Cersei has positive lessons to take away. in a way, she went against her strong and powerful husband, the King, and slept with whoever she wanted (the fact that it's her brother needs to be glossed over for this one to work). Additionally, she is very powerful and manipulative in the game of thrones that seems to be otherwise dominated by men. She is fiercely protective of her children, which isn't necessarily a bad trait, and she also talks at length in the books about how it is unfair that she and Jaime were treated differently just because of what is "between their legs." Since she was born first, she often resents the fact that if Westerosi inheritance law was like Dornish inheritance law, she'd be the heir to Casterly Rock. I think her discussion of this brings up important issues in gender in the series. Her Snow White complex surrounding Margaery (younger, more beautiful woman threatening to take power) also brings up the issue of how women are valued for their beauty and youth.

Catelyn - Catelyn Stark, to me, is motivated by the fierce desire to protect her children, but she is less complex than Cersei, so I think that's covered.

Margaery - This girl knows what she wants (to be queen!) and is going after it in her own way. You go, girl.

Brienne - Brienne is a great role model for girls. Like Arya, everything about traditional gender roles and being a fighter. Brienne is loyal and a good person, and like Cersei, Margaery, Catelyn, and Daenerys, if she wants something (to bring Jaime back to King's Landing, for example), the girl's gonna fight to get it.

SUMMARY - The common qualities of many Westerosi women (breaking gender roles, determination to get what they want) make them appropriate, if not the best, role models for women.

More discussion on Game of Thrones (TV series):