While I can't get enough of the latest season of Game of Thrones, something has been happening in the last couple of episodes that has irked me somewhat. While the fire-breathing dragons, epic battles, and javelin-throwing White Walkers are all making this season one of the most intense yet; it's becoming more obvious that its female characters are playing into certain boring stereotypes. And I'm not here for that.
This is a huge shame, because up until now the #HBO show has always done right by its women. Powerful, dynamic, badass women have dominated the landscape from High Garden to Meereen, ruling their respective kingdoms, dealing with the fallout of war waged by power-hungry kings, and experiencing horrors only to come out the other side even more determined than ever. The show has been praised at length for the positive and diverse development of its broad female cast — a feminist #TV show, some might say, full of those "strong female characters" we keep hearing about. Yet Season 7 has washed all that down the Citadel latrine.
First, we have lost so many incredible lady cast members since the Season 6 finale. There was Margaery Tyrell, who perished when Cersei blew up the Great Sept of Baelor. Margaery was everything Cersei wasn't, and had the potential to be the smart and capable queen the Seven Kingdoms deserved. Season 7 also saw the end of House Tyrell with the death of sass queen Olenna, who was poisoned by Jamie (but not before checkmating Cersei). The Sand Snakes — Oberyn's collective of badass daughters — are all but wiped out, and lady killer Yara Greyjoy has been captured, vanishing into the bowels of the Red Keep.
This doesn't mean the women still playing the game of thrones don't have a stake in its outcome, but a handful of Season 7 storylines have made many viewers wonder how long it's been since the GoT writer's room had asked for a female perspective.
Why Is Arya So Angry At Sansa?
Let's take Sansa and Arya as an example. The two Stark sisters have been through hell and back, haven't seen each other since Season 1, and were reunited halfway through Season 7. What should be a powerful moment of sisterly bonding has been completely (and easily) manipulated by Littlefinger, turning the Stark sisters against each other in a messy, cobbled together storyline that makes little sense.
According to Arya, Sansa wants to steal the North from Jon, telling Sansa she's always wanted to be a queen with a handsome prince and wear pretty dresses, while Arya wanted to be a knight — essentially turning the two into a "me vs. other girls" meme.
The worst thing about the exchanges between Sansa and Arya in Season 7 is that Arya has made Sansa ashamed of everything she had been through, effectively blaming her for being a victim of abuse, telling her she was pleased when her father was beheaded, and tried to weigh up who has it the worst over the seasons. It plays into stereotypes that women will compete in one way or another, and was hugely frustrating to watch when both characters should have evolved beyond Littlefinger's reach, as Bran (interestingly, the only surviving male Stark) has. The pair have also not spoken about much else other than Jon, begging the question of if their interactions even pass the Betchdel Test. Having said this, with one episode to go, many viewers are convinced Sansa and Arya are somehow playing Littlefinger — or at least Arya is. Which I pray is the case to salvage some of this botched storyline.
Dany, Cersei And Brienne Are Being Defined By Their Romantic Interactions
Of the complex female characters that are left, Season 7 has reduced much of their storylines to the men in their lives. Take Dany for example, ever since Jon stepped foot onto Dragonstone with his brooding features and man bun, Daenerys Targaryen, the Queen of freakin' Dragons, has laid down her life to trust Jon and fight for him. She even lost one of her beloved dragons in the process — which could spell her doom.
We've rooted for Dany to reach Westeros and unleash hell on the Lannisters since Season 1. Yet rather than any individual character growth this season, she has served as Jon's exquisitely dressed guardian angel, rather than pursue her own endgame. Having said this, I appreciate that the show is winding down and the Jon/Dany stuff was always on the cards, but I just miss the Dany that sent Daario away because he loved her. At least Jon eventually bent the knee — but perhaps that was the aim all along?
Tormund's crush on Brienne is charming, but apart from that, what else had Bri done this season apart from engage some sick sword fighting with Arya? As much as I'm totally on board with Team Brimund, "the giant woman" has so much more autonomy than many other female GoT characters, and a relationship with Tormund would need to be very much on her own terms, and right now she really isn't keen. Thankfully, Cersei is still the bitch we love to hate, but her recent pregnancy raises certain questions. There's a theory that Cersei is lying about her pregnancy to keep Jamie loyal to her — a harmful and deceptive trope that women do this to "trap" men. It's possible, as Cersei is a serial manipulator and this is plot point plays very much into Cersei's character — unlike the way Arya is treating Sansa.
The final episode of Season 7 airs this weekend, so we don't know how the situation between Cersei and Dany is going to play out, whether Arya was playing Littlefinger all along, or if Yara will return, but something needs to change if this show wants to keep its status as a female-positive TV show. Some may disagree with me, but the show needs to do better by its ladies, or at least stop writing leading, convoluted storylines. Someone bring back Lady Mormont!
Do you think Sansa and Arya are playing Littlefinger? Let us know int he comments!