Belfast Telegraph

While Doctor Who has just got to grips with feminism, women have always ruled in Game of Thrones

By Grace Dent

Into a post-Jodie Whittaker female Time Lord landscape, festooned with mewling man-babies, came the first slice of Game of Thrones season seven, underlining how in Westeros the women have never, ever been merely sidekicks. Not now, not ever. Not yielding to audience expectations of power is what built this show.

Yes, Game of Thrones is sexy. Porny, even. But as Arya Stark opened the season by literally slaying her banquet guests with a killer wine selection and then tiny, mighty Lyanna Mormont clapped the mouth shut of Lord Glover, we were left in no doubt that this is a world where women lead.

"We can't defend the North if only half the population is fighting", says Jon Snow, discussing a probable attack from the Night King and his army of zombie nags and depressed skeletons, now featuring an undead giant.

It's safe to say Jon Snow made a right old mess of Hardhome. And now Lord Glover quakes at the thought of women doing their bit to help things.

"You expect me to put a spear in my granddaughter's hand?" he scoffed.

Enter Lyanna, probably not old enough to do a Brownie House Orderly Badge but, regardless, jubilant in ire.

"I don't plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me", she said, "I might be small, Lord Glover, and I might be a girl, but I am every bit as much a Northerner as you".

Glover stammered a bit, possibly gathering muster to forbid her from fighting. Perhaps he could bring in a law or have an emergency vote to protect us women from ourselves?

"And I don't need your permission to defend the North," Lyanna continued. "We will begin training every man, woman, boy and girl on Bear Island."

Marvellous. This notion of female agency and the right to make your own choice, even if it means the right to be killed in battle, is still quite uncharted in drama. Dialogue like Lyanna vs Glover still, in 2017, feels bold, ground-breaking and thoroughly giddy-making.

This scene was made even richer by Sansa Stark publicly querying Jon Snow's leadership decisions. This still felt oddly taboo, dangerous even, in front of a group of men. Girls, you should never humiliate a man by looking smarter and more authoritative than him in front of his friends.

That said, Sansa is being guarded by Brienne of Tarth, who, despite her ovaries, is one of the most super-hard brickhouses on British television.

There is a sense with Game of Thrones that, while the BBC has dawdled for a decade wondering if a woman could be trusted with a sonic screwdriver - and, more crucially, what would male viewers say - on Sky Atlantic's flagship drama, women have always held the keys to the entire kingdom.

Blatantly, the power which women relish in Game of Thrones corrupts and corrodes exactly as it would their male counterparts.

Cersei Lannister began her on-screen journey, years back, as a ruthless, witty, lust-driven, incestuous, yet prettily high cheek-boned queen.

Seven seasons later, all that remains of the complex but strangely rootable-for antihero is her brittle beauty.

Cersei, we now see, would destroy the entire world to make amends for her dead children, her murdered father and that public walk of shame. She'd make an alliance with Euron Greyjoy - if he'll murder enough enemies for her.

And if any other evidence is needed that the writers of season seven are playing with us, everyone's favourite singer, Ed Sheeran - despite having no acting talent - had several speaking lines and a singing role in the first episode (I say "everyone's favourite" when I mean "utterly divisive antagonistic pop culture reference").

Regardless, Arya sat down, ate charred squirrel and drank blackberry wine with him and his friends. "I'm going to kill the Queen," she told them, cheekily. And then they all laughed warmly at the conceit and swagger of the silly little girl. But the thing is, I believe her.

Belfast Telegraph


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