Spoiler Alert: You may not want to read this till you are up to date with the latest season of the show.
Ok So I love the show. Let me make that clear. The intrigue. The drama. The tension. All of these things hold my attention and keep me coming back for more. However, the show does have many (oh so many) issues that I feel are really important to talk about.
The first and most obvious one to talk about Is the graphic and gratuitous nudity. I’m not a prude, I do believe that nudity and sex scenes (even graphic ones) can have a place on television, but on this show over and over again we are bombarded with sex (or sexual violence) that serves no purpose. For example the scene with Theon Greyjoy has sex with a woman on a boat as he returns to the iron islands did not tell us anything new at all about his character. We already found out about the chip on his shoulder in season one during his interaction with Osha (the wildling who know serves the starks) where he tried to educate her about his position as a lord. Theon’s actions towards his sister later in the episode serve to reinforce the point much more clearly than the sex scene with a random naked lady with no name. Another good example is where Joffery forces one of the two sex workers Tyrian sent to him to beat the other violently. We are well aware of how evil Joffery is it has been shown to us over and over and over and over making the scene totally unnecessary.
These sex scenes are there presumably to make the show seem cutting edge and controversial. The show doesn’t need them to get an audience it is strong enough without them. They simply serve to contribute to the over-objectification of women. Some might argue that the men are just as objectified women but take a look at the power dynamic in these scenes and then tell me what you think. Almost universally the women are passive objects.
Another really huge issue is the portrayal of characters of colour. The dothraki are in season one the only people of colour we see and they are savages. It takes nearly four episodes before we hear Khal Drogo speak beyond a grunt. Danerys is often seen as a civilising influence, telling them not to steal things or preventing them from raping and pillaging. The juxtaposition of brown skin and white in this way is hugely galling. The second representation of a person of colour we see is a smuggler. The third is a merchant in the city of quarth and this is so far the only even vaguely positive representation. I don’t have much hope that it will remain that way though.
There are many other things to talk about but I will save that for another post. These things may seem small to you but media shapes the way in which we see the world. These things would perhaps not be so problematic if they weren’t tropes that were repeated over and over again in all forms of media, often to the exclusion of other representation.