Column Editor: Debbie Vaughn (Adjunct Instructor, Clemson University)
Column Editor’s Note: Binge-watching television series is the new norm, as evidenced by a 2013 survey conducted by Netflix. A whopping 61% of those surveyed regularly binge-watch shows, and binge-watching behavior is relatively consistent across demographics. According to a TiVo survey conducted in the spring of 2014, Game of Thrones, the popular television drama inspired by George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is the third-most binge-watched series. Television programs and movies based on literary novels often spur a resurgence of interest in the original books — this year alone has seen numerous shelf-to-screen (big and small) titles such as The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, The Giver, Outlander, and The 100. It is unsurprising, then, that libraries across the country have programs, blog posts, bibliographies, and read-alike resources pertaining to Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire series. New reviewer Brandon Lewter examines another title to add to the list of Game of Thrones resources: Valerie Estelle Frankel’s Women in Game of Thrones: Power, Conformity and Resistance. Many thanks to Brandon for sharing his thoughts about Frankel’s title. Happy reading, everyone! — DV
Frankel, Valerie Estelle. Women in Game of Thrones: Power, Conformity and Resistance.
Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. 978-0-7864-9416-3. 216 pages. $35.00.
Reviewed by Brandon Lewter (Interlibrary Loan Coordinator and Reference, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston) <[email protected]>
I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel series, in 2005, around the time the fourth book in the series was published. Being a huge Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fan, Martin filled a void that had been empty in my literary life since high school, when I read the Lord of the Rings series a dozen times. My adult self really appreciates Martin’s R-rated writing, and his willingness to kill off his main characters in order to keep the plot moving and interesting.
By the time I finished the first four books in A Song of Ice and Fire it was 2006. I had a grueling four years to wait until Martin would publish the fifth installment in the series, A Dance With Dragons, in 2011. Fortunately, while I anxiously wait for Martin to publish the next book, I have had HBOs television adaptation of the series, titled Game of Thrones.
Valerie Estelle Frankel has written a book on this television series, titled Women in Game of Thrones: Power, Conformity and Resistance, which examines femininity and the portrayal of women in the series, while sometimes drawing on Martin’s novels for comparison and analysis. While the television series, for the most part, stays true to the novels, Frankel argues women’s roles are more one-dimensional in the show, especially when compared to most of the men’s characters. Frankel’s makes her argument by breaking her text into three sections: the first, dealing with the controversial issues in the show; the second, examining and analyzing female archetypes and historical tropes found in the series; and third, which deals with the gender roles in Westeros, the fictional land where the series takes place.
From the onset of the text, I must admit I was a bit off-put by Frankel’s suggestions. Being a huge fan of the novel series and the show, I had never thought of the series as being sexist. Yes, there are many nude scenes of women, but there are quite a few nude scenes of males as well. Yes, some female characters are treated as lesser beings compared to their male counterparts, but this series is supposed to take place in a medieval-like time period where women were, for the most part, with the exception of royalty, treated as property. Saying the show is sexist is pointing out the obvious about the time period in which it takes place.
But then, after some consideration and discussion with my wife, I tried looking at Frankel’s text from a different point of view and I found she makes several great points that are, depending on your stance, quite appalling when it comes to the way women are portrayed in the show, especially when you know the great lengths Martin takes in the novels to empower women and make them dynamic characters. For example, as Frankel points out, the directors of the show do often show female nudity for what often seems to be no reason other than showing female nudity. Many scenes where females are nude are not in the novels and do not seem to further the plot or character development, where the scenes with male nudity often have a purpose, such as showing a male character’s homosexuality. Frankel goes on to make several other eye-lifting points with her poignant analysis in this text.
Women in Game of Thrones is a thought-provoking read. Anyone who is a fan of the novel series or show should read it to get an interesting perspective that is backed up with convincing evidence. You do not have to be a feminist to buy what Frankel is selling.
Leah was appointed Executive Director of the Charleston Conference in 2017, and has served in various roles with the Charleston Information Group, LLC, since 2004. Prior to working for the conference, she was Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions for the College of Charleston for four years. She lives in a small town near Columbia, SC, with her husband and two kids where they raise a menagerie of farm animals.