Talking Back to Sexist Fan Reactions

For this project, I decided to do a video for Game of Thrones with the song “Run the World” by Beyonce. Game of Thrones has many interesting and multi-faceted female characters that wield varying levels of power and who use subtle (and not-so-subtle) negotiations with men to exert influence in a male dominated world. However, many of the show’s viewers dismiss these characters for existing within a traditionally feminine role. For instance, thirteen-year-old Sansa Stark is hated by a sizeable percentage of viewers for being too much of a stereotypical teenage girl and for using courtesies and traditional femininity to survive, while they praise her younger sister Arya for being a tomboy that subverts such expectations. Neither view fully understands the characters; Arya would be dead if she were in Sansa’s position and vice versa. Cersei, who is queen and then queen-regent, is another character that is often hated by fans. There are reasons to hate Cersei, she is positioned by the narrative as one of the antagonists to the designated moral protagonists the Starks and has done many bad things, but many of the reasons fans hate her are gendered. They hate her because they view her as a bitch or as overly manipulative. She is manipulative, but no more than many of the male characters who do not receive such hate, and her supposed bitchiness is often her way of showing her frustration with the limits her world places on her because of her gender. Viewers who hate Cersei seem to have confused hating a character’s actions with hating the character herself, something that does not generally happen with morally questionable male characters.

Because the female characters in Game of Thrones are so frequently misunderstood, I decided to make a vid exploring how women in the world of Game of Thrones exert influence and power, and how they use either feminine or masculine roles to survive in their circumstances. My vid is thus less a critique of the subject material, as is common among vids, but a critique of the fan reaction to the subject material. I decided to use Beyonce’s “Run the World” song to demonstrate how the women in Game of Thrones actually exert a great deal of power with very limited resources, and how even if they use power by utilizing traditionally feminine gender roles they are still strong and worthy characters. As Game of Thrones is a visual narrative, a vid is a good medium to address these things. With my vid, I can take clips from the show and place them within a context that more easily demonstrates why a character’s actions were a sign of power, even if viewers may have interpreted them as passive or weak within their original context. However, a visual format was at times not adequate to get all I wanted to across. Many of Sansa’s exertions of power are extremely subtle out of necessity. Her only outward sign of power is her continued survival in a hostile environment, and that can be hard to convey through a vid format.

I think DIY is very effective in this instance. As fan reactions are DIY, making a vid talks back to their reactions within the same context and reaches about the same audience. As Francesca Coppa explains, “in vidding, […] music is used as an interpretive lens to help the viewer to see the source text differently. A vid is a visual essay that stages an argument” (Coppa). My vid is a visual response to sexist critiques of female characters demonstrating why the female characters in Game of Thrones are awesome and powerful, especially the commonly hated ones.

Works Cited:
Coppa, Francesca. “Women, Star Trek, and the early development of fannish
vidding.” Transformative Works and Cultures, 1 (2008). Online.

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