"Game of Thrones" has the potential to become the most honored narrative series in Emmy Awards history on Sunday night (September 18), after a mixed-bag sixth season which did, thankfully, find a way to tell the Westeros story without relying heavily on sexual violence against women.
After the controversial fifth season aired yet another rape scene, the women leading the series — Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Maisie Williams, Natalie Dormer, Carice Van Houten, Gwendoline Christie, and especially Sophie Turner, the star of said rape scene — were repeatedly pelted with questions about feminism, the show's depiction of violence against women, and sometimes both at the same time.
It was understandable (and, due to a former editor's insistence, I myself asked Williams one such question), but I can understand why, when Season 6 premiered, Williams expressed frustration about the topic on Instagram. Basically, Williams seemed frustrated that she and her female costars — over, say, Peter Dinklage — were being treated like they not only write and edit "Game of Thrones," but are somehow more responsible than their male costars and producers when it comes to speaking up about feminist issues. Because when you examine how all of these women live their day-to-day lives, they further feminist causes without even having to say the big F-word (which, of course, is still important) like the badass queens of Westeros they are. Such as...
When Emilia Clarke repeatedly argued for (nude) body equality on "Thrones."
Sure, "free the peen" isn't the most overtly serious of feminist causes. But Clarke has been adamant about the fact that, if the nude female form — hers included — is going to be on display so frequently on "Thrones," then the male should be, too. The pervasiveness of the male gaze in Hollywood and its many effects on women is important, so kudos to Clarke for speaking up for equality.
... And also had a pretty damn firm grasp of what feminism actually is. (No, we're not trying to beat you up, guys. Though we will if we have to!)
"It really is crazy that the word 'feminist' can have negative connotations in 2014," she said in the Daily Beast interview. "It upsets me that the younger generation of women think it’s a dirty word, and associate it with a kind of militantism or a sense of female superiority. It’s not. It just means liberation, and equality."
When Carice van Houten sounded off about her insane amount of nudity they make her do on "Thrones."
Houten certainly doesn't hold back when it comes to discussing gender disparity behind and on screen — she's even expressed ambivalence about constantly having to strip down in freezing Arctic temperatures to play Melisandre.
"I feel like [nudity] has been a weapon for a lot of women in the past and men have taken advantage of women’s bodies," she told Guardian. "It’s true, I think, and therefore probably very painful sometimes to watch. It’s not my favorite thing to do — at all. I really don’t like to take my clothes off on a set where everyone’s wearing fucking North Face jackets. But in Melisandre’s case, it’s definitely a weapon she uses."
... And also about the sorry state of female roles in film.
"The scripts I see sometimes for movies ... The women are 'sassy' and 'sexy,' whereas men get descriptions like: 'You can see that his past has done something with him,' 'he’s intelligent,'" van Houten continued. "It’s very sad. Sometimes there are moments where I feel like we haven’t come far at all. TV in that sense is definitely way more progressive. They’re interesting female characters — not just doing the dishes, waiting for the man to come home and being worried about the children."