Game of Thrones Doesn’t Care About Female Fans

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If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, either of the books or the show, you can’t help but have heard about the “rape as plot device” arguments that have swirled around the show, almost from the beginning. It has brought us to the point where The Mary Sue has decided to no longer promote or review Game of Thrones, a decision that, for a geek website, hits them right in the pocketbook. But as a feminist website, they felt like their hand was forced by this most recent episode.

To quote:

“There’s only so many times you can be disgusted with something you love before you literally can’t bring yourself to look at it anymore. That is where I currently find myself in relation to Game of Thrones.”

My corner of the Internet was on fire with this. And the more I read my friends’ reactions, by and large as horrified and upset as The Mary Sue’s, the more angry I became. I don’t watch the show because the violence the show glorifies isn’t my cup of tea, and I don’t read the books, even as an avid fantasy reader. I actually haven’t read a book by a white male author in more than two years. There came a point in my reading career where I refused to spend my entertainment time in the fantasy worlds of white men. The more I did so, the more I actively sought out books by Women of Color in particular, the fewer regrets I had with my reading choices. I don’t read GRRM not because his books aren’t good — I’m assured by people whose opinions I trust that he is a great writer — I don’t read GRRM because I don’t need his vision of fantasy in my head. He doesn’t care about me as a reader, why should I care about his world?

And now I hate to say I told you so, but:

There are many ways for an author to “motivate” their female characters, rape isn’t the only one. GRRM’s, and now the TV writers’, continual return to it indicates not only a lack of vision, but a lack of sensitivity to their female audience. “You offended?” they seem to say, “#SorryNotSorry, that’s the way it is.” My response?

“Well, who made it that way? You made this whole thing up, so you made it this way. It’s your fantasy world and you can do that. Cool. Doesn’t mean I have to be a part of it.”

I chose to spend my time reading books that put forward fantasy that does care about me as a reader. I’m not saying it is rape-or-violence-free, it isn’t. But it is creative and alternative, questioning assumptions about experience, all experience, and pulling old tropes out to be examined. It is fantasy, fantastic and amazing, and also visionary. And it is written by authors who are imagining different worlds, not just re-hashing the oppressed one I already live in.

There’s so much good fantasy fiction to read. Fiction that doesn’t continually force-feed me the same “historicity” arguments. Fantasy fiction that allows me to be my own damn hero and that respects that my body, a woman’s body, isn’t a plot device for male motivation. It isn’t a tool or a trope. My sex isn’t always the only thing I have to sacrifice or survive in spite of. I’m not mad about this one fictional rape. I’m mad that there have been so, so many of them before it. I’m mad that my friends have screamed to the rafters that they are done with this, and the show that they arrange their Sunday evenings around has once again told them that their voices don’t matter as much as the white male gaze they are feeding.

So I spend my fantasy fiction time with Nnedi Okorafor and Nalo Hopkinson and Balogun Ojetade and so many others. You can stay in Westeros if you wanna. I never got on that boat, and this weekend just confirms why.

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  • L.E.H. Light

    Editor/Reviewer

    Editor, Writer, Critic, Baker. Outspoken Mother. Lifelong fan of sci fi/fantasy books in all their variety. Knows a lot about very few things. She/Her/They.

  • Show Comments

  • NoThronesHere

    Well said. I tried the books, didn’t enjoy them, and now I’m particularly glad that I never really watched the show.

  • Kathryn Ryan Light

    I never understoid the appeal. Like you said there is a lot of fantasy, science fiction out there to be enjoyed. Enough for everyone to find something that speaks to their taste. Just because something is popular doesn’t make it every ones cup of tea. Thanks for expressing what many of us think in so elegant a fashion.

  • NoSurprises

    I don’t condone, excuse, or defend the show’s depictions of sexualized violence. What confuses me, though, is the number of people boycotting the show due to the sexual assault in s5e06 who had no qualms with the sexual assault of Cersei in s4e03, or both Theon Greyjoy AND Brienne of Tarth in s3e03, or Sansa in s2e06, or Joffrey’s two prostitutes in s2e04, or Danaerys right there in the PILOT.

    Anyone who’d walk away form this show on the grounds of how it depicts sexualized violence should have done so at the first rape of a minor, 57 minutes into the series, rather than enjoying 50 hours of it only to feign shock & surprise now. A vegetarian has every right to be outraged when served meat — but maybe not after five years of ordering the steak every Sunday night.

  • mdebaun

    Preach.

  • Zig

    So… You’re going to disapprove of books that you haven’t even read. And furthermore, you now steer clear of books written by white men because of your blind assumption in an all encompassing sexist premise? I’m a feminist myself, but that sounds more like willful ignorance to me. Avoiding rape and violence in books and media is a respectable choice. But I would highly recommend saving your opinions for things that you HAVE read, rather than things you haven’t. If you had read them, you’d see there are multiple powerful female characters that have never used rape or sex as a motivator. There are multiple male characters that haven’t either. Men have been abused or tortured even more than women have, and by more men than women. This is not a series made of shooting stars and rainbows. Westeros and Esos are harsh lands where thousands of people die; all from the race for power, and the seat of one very pointy and uncomfortable chair. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to read it. But without reading it, you also can’t expect anyone to respect your opinion on it either.

  • Jan

    I think this episode was the straw that broke the camel’s back the show had added more rape than those in the books, whitewashed characters and have given character arcs that came from women to men. So like I said I think most people are just over it some many strikes have been passed and they are just done so I will just be here hoping that N.K. Jemisin’s books to be adapted to a movie or show

  • Ella Kelly

    HBO added that the creators and showrunners of the main series, D. B. Weiss and David Benioff, are continuing to work on finishing the upcoming seventh season of “Game of Thrones” and are “in the midst of writing and preparing for the eighth and final season” but would be attached, along with Martin, as executive producers.

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