"Game of Thrones" and Violence against Women

I confess to being a big lover of action movies–I got hooked on Jean Claude Van Damme in high school and never looked back.  However, I recognize one of the inherent problems in the genre itself is the way women often are portrayed: “Jinx”  [Halle Berry] might well have been a very different Bond girl than “Pussy Galore,” but she was still a “Bond girl” all the same; and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  In too many movies and tv shows, women are objects to be ogled, victims to be rescued, or tools for male recreation or dominance.  Too often, female characters do not have their own agency, their own relationships–or even their own integrity.  Too often, they are exploited, abused, and ignored.

All of this came to my attention thanks to a great blog post on the Dialog Facebook page, which you should check out, if you haven’t already:  Game of Thrones, by Rob Saler.
Rob Saler, one of the Dialog editorial council members, reflects on why he stopped reading “Game of Thrones,” a VERY popular series that is very violent, and also very misogynistic.  For me personally, it served as a reminder not to just take the “state of things” for granted in what I read and watch, allowing sexual violence to become familiar and unremarkable due to its frequency.  Instead, it is important to apply a “hermeneutic of suspicion” when an author, director or producer tries to minimize sexual violence or exploitation, insisting either that it is integral to the story and/or not related to how real women are treated in the real world.  The latter is patently false–and often the former is as well.  Women cannot and should not be defined simply by the “male gaze,” such that their character takes shape only in relationship to the men who have power over them.  

This is all the more true today given the real-life experience of far too many women around the world:  the horrific story of the mass rape of young female captives in Nigeria is only the most current and most visible example–Rape of Female Captives in Nigeria.  The picture a culture presents of women in a variety of media context matters–particularly in light of how far-reaching and pervasive these images can be in the global society in which we live.  I’m grateful to Rob for calling out “Game of Thrones” and demanding more.  It’s a prophetic task to which we’re all called.

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