Dissecting Masculinity In "Game Of Thrones"
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Dissecting Masculinity In "Game Of Thrones"

Daenerys Targaryen may have power, but it's still a man's world.

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Dissecting Masculinity In "Game Of Thrones"

Throughout "Game of Thrones," we see that all of the characters must adhere to very strict gender roles. There is a very dangerous focus on a male's ability to properly represent family identity, which includes their capability to pass on the family name and remain able-bodied. The ways in which the characters fit into gender norms say something about what it means to achieve a position of power in this society. The film techniques deployed throughout the series are used to reinforce this outlook on what makes up masculinity and specifically the male gender. Looking specifically at one of the series' main female characters speak to what it means to be a man in Westeros illuminates this. I will closely analyze the events of the season three episode “Mhysa” (episode ten of the season) in context to the rest of the show to comment on the social structure that appears throughout "Game of Thrones."

In order to gain any sort of power, female characters must live up to the traditionally male characteristics of properly representing the family identity. One of the most dynamic and strong feminine figures on the show is Daenerys Targaryen. Oddly enough, Daenerys, or Dany for short, initially began her journey as submissive and entirely female. Dany is initially viewed as a sexualized object. The job of the female character is to be looked at and displayed by the active male. Within the first minute we see Dany on screen in season one we got a shot of her naked body as her brother Viserys touches her breasts. She’s just a tool for Viserys to use in order to get what he wants. However, Dany eventually sheds this stereotypical female identity by embracing other aspects of her femininity. It was by embracing her body and position as a sexually attractive women that initially gave her the confidence to be a leader. We see her take matters in her own hands and make decisions that ultimately affect the fate of the entire realm.

Daenerys exudes power. Despite being a woman, Dany is the perfect embodiment of the masculine characteristics that the male characters of the show struggle to maintain. Dany is very much in touch with her family history and name, often referring to herself by her full title: Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen. Furthermore, she is actually able to pass on her family name, although through different means then traditionally thought of. The Targaryens were known for having the blood of dragons. She is able to pass on her family legacy by being the mother of dragons, and having control over the "Game of Thrones" universe’s only living dragons, a relationship that is clearly shown during the final scene of the episode. More important, Dany encapsulates these qualities associated with masculinity more than her brother, who aspired to become king, was ever able to. She reaches power because of these qualities, which are traditionally thought of things that masculine figures would do. The fact that she is a woman doing these things is even celebrated, as her people chant “Mhysa” to her, which means mother. These clearly aren’t qualities that can only be attributed to men.

What is problematic in terms of Dany’s rise to power is how she was technically able to do so. She only reached her position of power by the assistance of outside forces, even if she did fit the traditionally masculine stereotype that goes hand in hand with having power. The camera angles in the episode "Mhysa" reinforce what we’ve been told throughout the series: Dany has reached power through the help of magic. The film techniques utilized at the end of the episode make this very evident. At the end of the episode, Dany is elevated above her people and the shot appears to be taken from towards the ground; therefore she is shown using a low angle. This shows that Dany is the one in power. The camera is directed down at the people she is commanding, in a high angle. This difference in the way the characters are captured is even more distinct then in the Theon/Ramsay torture sequence because Dany demands respect. Towards the end of the scene, we hear Daenerys’ people chanting “Mhysa” for her, and non-diegetic sound is also utilized behind their yells of praise. The music is dramatic and uplifting, suggesting just how great a leader Dany is. Furthermore, we also see close up and high angle shots of Dany’s primary soldiers, such as her close comrade Jorah. We do not get similar shots of the rest of her army. This is because they are the “unsullied,” former slaves who have been castrated. Scholars have claimed that a female character's lack of a penis implies a threat of castration and hence "unpleasure." If this is true, it makes sense why women would typically not be favored as leaders, especially because phallus holders would be under the control of non-phallus holders. However, in Dany’s case, it does make sense that males and females alike are willing to look up to her: they have already been castrated or enslaved. When the scene ends and her dragons take flight, the focus leaves Dany being adored by her people. Instead it closely follows her dragons, the source of her real power. Daenerys and her followers are shown using an extreme long shot, whereas her dragons are shown flying much closer to us, for Dany is insignificant without her magical dragons.

One of the majors strengths of "Game of Thrones" is that it shows you what it means to be excluded from power and the struggle to defy or conform to gender norms that comes with it. Westeros and the society within it is organized around patriarchy, which is very detrimental for those living within it. The men who live up to masculine stereotypes, such as Eddard “Ned” Stark, Rob Stark, Prince Oberyn and the Hound, all die noble deaths, but they still perish as a consequence of their extreme masculinity. Meanwhile, those who aren’t seen as masculine must go to great lengths to prove their masculinity. We may not like Theon or Ramsay as people, nor do we agree with all their decision making, but we still pity them. It is also problematic to consider Daenerys Stormborn’s rise to power. While she gives women hope that we are capable of reaching power, it is only by fulfilling traditionally masculine characteristics. As a women meeting these qualities, she still needs outside forces to reach her position. There is an implicit criticism here of how men and magic are necessary for women to reach true positions of power. We must ask ourselves why she needed men to get there, even if she is her own person and chooses what she deems to be the best decision, regardless of how other people feel. Overall, all of these elements highlight the flaws in the social structure "Game of Thrones" is modeled after. Because there are no entirely successful male figures on the show, we must question the values that society places on masculinity.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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