*SPOILER alerts regarding Game of Thrones season five and trigger warnings for discussions of rape and other extreme violence.*
I’ve long had problems with your exploitative and gratuitous use of full frontal female nudity when male counterparts are granted visual bodily integrity. I’ve written about this at length for Sociological Images and examined the sexist phenomenon across various HBO shows over the years in graphic detail, much to my own chagrin.
While I was pleasantly surprised to see that for once an HBO show — The Leftovers — was not only light on nudity in general, but actually had an equal ratio of partially naked women to full frontal men, I thought maybe HBO was on a new track. I had so much hope.
And then came the fifth season of you, Game of Thrones.
Where do I even begin?
With the dozens of full frontal female extras being paraded around at length for even more gratuitous brothel scenes?
The fact that the High Septon also did a walk of shame and his male bits were not on display, but when Cersei Lannister did the same walk we had a prolonged and almost gynecological view of her body?
Then you began changing book plotlines so that beloved young girl characters could be brutally and repeatedly raped, tortured and murdered? You did not need to do that to Sansa Stark, or Shireen Baratheon. Backtracking to past seasons, neither Danaerys Targaryan or Cersei Lannister were raped in the novels, and yet you decided that would be an appropriate shift in your adaptation. So wrong, Game of Thrones. So repulsive of you.
And pedophile and sadist Merryn Trant beating young girls with a stick, including Arya Stark, before presumably going on to rape them? Are you kidding me?! When we can still hear the echoes of Sansa’s and Shireen’s screams clanging about our heads and hearts? Those are the creative choices you’re making?
Amazingly, the one instance of full frontal male nudity we did see in your fifth season was — gasp! — actually relevant to the plot development. So, Game of Thrones, this tells me you do know the difference between gratuitous and “necessary” bodily displays, and ta da! Your sexism just took on newly epic levels.
Do you realize, Game of Thrones, through all of these narrative choices you’re enmeshing yourself further into the rape culture that saturates our media, in many ways making the actual real world a more dangerous place for girls and women?
Do you know, Game of Thrones, that you’re contributing to a toxic culture of male entitlement to female bodies that generally results in actual violence against women and girls?
Do you understand, Game of Thrones, how offensive all of this is to your legions of incredibly intelligent viewers, many of whom are women? Do you even care?
Then I learned that you didn’t have one woman in the writer’s room or behind the camera this entire season. No wonder you’ve mucked everything up so dreadfully. I would expect nothing less from a team of bro-dudes behind each episode, completely missing the mark on these sensitive gender issues.
I’m so disappointed in you, Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin’s stories deserved better. Your viewers deserved better. Your artists deserved better. And you deserve to think better of your own productions rather than pandering to the lowest common “perv side of the audience.”
And along with the death of a major character on the show, I too am saying goodbye to Westeros and its environs.
I can’t in good conscience, feminist and otherwise, continue watching a show that is so blatant — so over the top — in its sexism and misogyny and makes no apologies for it.
I will not invest any more emotional energy in a production that exploits and makes sexual objects out of women for borderline pornographic purposes. Now that I see once and for all that these disgusting narrative choices are truly a pattern and have been since season one, I’m finally out.
I cannot support a show that capitalizes on the gratuitous displays of female nudity, rape, torture, murder, and pedophilia disguised as entertainment. As a woman, these displays are far from entertaining. You need to step up your trigger warnings, Game of Thrones.
As an artist, these unnecessary displays are demonstrative of shock and awe tactics masquerading as (lazy) creativity. Mad Max: Fury Road, the plot of which revolves around a sexual slavery narrative, managed to not include one single rape scene and still made its point.
As a human being, I agree with Tyrion Lannister: “There’s always been enough death in the world for my taste: I can do without it in my leisure time.”
The women of this world and their allies live in the knowledge that everywhere girls are being hurt, murdered, exploited, devalued. We do not need extensions of that awareness in the entertainment we consume, especially when it’s contributing to society’s sexual objectification and dehumanization of this already marginalized group of people, rather than advocating for their human and equal rights.
Rest well, Jon Snow. My wish for you is that your death is final, for there are far worse ends than death in Westeros.
Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion, you magnificent creatures: I hope you burn that world down to the ground. Dracarys.
And Tyrion, I will miss you most of all.
Godspeed, Game of Thrones. Valar Morghulis.
And now, my watch has ended.