Some of you may have seen the show and some of you may have even read the books. For those of you who haven't, let me admit: at first glance, the series (which revolves around the epic struggle for control of the kingdom) can seem vulgar, perverse, and misogynistic; but upon closer review, it becomes clear that the female characters in author George R. R. Martin’s tale are the key manipulators.
Cersei is the gorgeous, golden matriarch of the uncannily powerful Lannister family. She is, admittedly, awful. Once the reigning Queen of Westeros, Cersei knows that to obtain the power she desires, and to ever hold claim to the Iron Throne herself, she must rely on the men immediately around her. While she is cruel, vain, and hateful, to watch Cersei Lannister is to love her; her patterns of manipulation prove her to be vastly more clever than the men in the kingdom. Cersei represents a female leader archetype that does not exist in the somewhat medieval world of Westeros. She is as beautiful and quick as a lioness, and just as deadly.
Wife of the Lord of Winterfell, Catelyn is the series’ hardened, northern woman. Unlike Cersei, Catelyn’s not particularly smitten with visions of power; rather, she wants peace. Her courage is proven repeatedly, as Catelyn is able to survive crushing losses with dignity and poise. Catelyn possesses a quiet strength that provides a comforting undercurrent for the northern narratives of the series. Her one shining similarity to Cersei is her undying devotion to her children.
Daenerys is breathtaking. She is extremely young, (in her teens) and yet serves as the Khaleesi (or queen) of a tribe of Dothraki horse-lords. Dany’s men are primal and barbaric, yet they prostrate themselves before her. Finally free of the tyrannical oppression of her vicious brother, Daenerys is now growing her tribe with the intent (like everyone else) of taking over Westeros. Dany’s secret weapon? Dragons. Seriously. Not only does she possess three real, living dragons, but they take orders from her and will one day be able to carry her into flight and, perhaps, onto the Iron Throne.
Arya is the youngest daughter of Catelyn and Ned Stark. At eleven years old, she is wild and rambunctious; Arya is the ultimate tomboy heroine, a sharp contrast with her traditionally-girly older sister, Sansa. While Arya rejects the conventional behavior expected of a young lady (in her world and in ours), she also showcases as much blind courage as any male character in the series. She is deadly with a sword and, most likely because of her willingness and capability to take a life, does not seem to fear her own death. Her understanding of mortality has been forced upon her in the crazy-violent clamber for the throne.
Brienne of Tarth:
Though Arya Stark may be often mistaken for a little boy, it is Lady Brienne who truly illustrates the power of gender-blur in the series. Brienne has no strong family tree to define her; instead, she must rely on her physical strength/ power to achieve any social power in Westeros. She is modest, humble, and extremely dangerous with a sword. In truth, she is the ultimate foil for Cersei: she is brutish, ugly, and hulking; she much prefers to don chainmail and armor rather than delicate gowns; she represents truth, blind devotion, and altruism – all things that might stand in the way of Cersei’s victory.
Just writing about these five women has made me even more excited for the third season of this remarkable show. Do yourselves a favor, luvvies, and find a buddy with HBO so you can begin your newest obsession.