“Women hating on other women is the problem,” says the Daenerys Targaryen actress.
Game of Thrones has sparked controversy in the past over its portrayal of female characters; some felt that women have been objectified in nude scenes, that rape scenes have been “gratuitous”, and that most of Westeros’ women come to power through physical and emotional humiliation.
However, Emilia Clarke – who plays Daenerys Targaryen (aka one of the most empowered characters in George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice And Fire) – firmly disagrees.
The actress has been a prominent part of HBO’s fantasy series since its first season, with Daenerys Targaryen’s quest to reclaim the Iron Throne one of the story’s main narrative arcs. However, while the Mother of Dragons seems firmly in control of her own destiny, Clarke says she has been openly criticised for accepting a role which required her to appear nude on screen.
Chatting to The Sun ahead of the season eight premiere, Clarke explained: “There’s not one part of the show that I would go back and redo. People ask me the nudity question all the time. But the short answer is no, I would never change anything.
“You had to see those sex scenes, as they couldn’t just be explained.”
As well as her character’s sex scenes with Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Clarke has also appeared naked in season six, when Daenerys emerges unscathed from a burning building.
To highlight the fact that she had only survived due to the Targaryen blood coursing through her veins, Clarke and the producers decided that Daenerys would be physically unhurt – but that the flames would have burned the clothes away from her body.
The scene received criticism from self-described feminists on social media – criticism which, Clarke felt, was largely undeserved.
“I just wanted to come out and do an empowered scene that wasn’t sexual — it was naked, but it was strong,” she said.
“I get a lot of crap for having done nude scenes and sex scenes. That, in itself, is so anti-feminist.
“Women hating on other women is just the problem. That’s upsetting.”
Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth, has also spoken out in defence of Game of Thrones, insisting the show and its writers have given us some of our best, most compelling, and most empowering female characters to date.
Indeed, from the very first moment she read the scripts, Christie knew that Game of Thrones was going to do something incredible for women.
“This was a television show that would put women at the forefront,” she said. “We were going to explore female characters in a way that conventionally doesn’t happen.
“We were going to look at them in a three dimensional way. We would explore their darkness, we would find them complex. And we would spend more time on them.
“They wouldn’t simply exist as the mother role, the girlfriend role, the wife role, or the sister. They would be people in their own right.”
In this writer’s opinion, Christie is 100% correct in her analysis. Game of Thrones is a show that gives us full-realised female characters – all of whom have motivations, flaws, strengths, and detailed back-stories. We have women who are not intrinsically ‘good’ or ‘nice’, nor inherently ‘bad’. We have Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) championing feminism wherever she can, Brienne of Tarth refusing to conform to gender stereotypes, and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) forging her own path. Gilly (Hannah Murray) has shown us that women from all walks of life have to deal with mansplaining, while Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is keen to prove that women can and should rule.
Then there’s Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who is unwilling to be anything less than she is, and Daenerys Targaryen, who has led an army (and dragons) across the narrow sea to reclaim the throne she sees as rightfully hers.
In short, we have women defying gender stereotypes and taking up arms, leading battles, taking over governments, and getting exactly what they want – by whatever means possible.
No wonder the women of Westeros hold all the cards, eh? Roll on the final season, already.