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Steve Law

Men & Masculinities


Dr. Ryan McKelley
November 25, 2015
Game of Thrones Analysis
Intrinsic to almost all forms of contemporary mass media lies a
portrayal of men as a masculine figure, the American series Game of
Thrones is no exception. The series takes place in a medieval era that
maintains a sexual script I would consider a magnification of that in
todays society. Magnification or not, the concept of gender conformity
being depicted has certainly been perpetuated into modern day
America. With this being said, the series does offer slight variations in
gender conformity, one critical variation of which I would consider
analogous to Hilary Clinton running for president. A caveat must also
be noted on my end: I have not finished this series, so my
interpretation and analysis is only up to the point I have watched
(season 3, episode 8). Game of Thrones holds a traditional societal
model where male strength and violence is valued significantly more
than male intelligence.
Violence is to Game of Thrones as alcohol is to an alcoholic.
Without violence the show would not exist. Every facet of violence
appears throughout the show, most shown is men versus men along
with men towards women violence. Consistent with modern day,
violence is almost entirely a mens issue in the series. Our in class
video Tough Guise 2 by Jackson Katz examines male violence as an

epidemic in America, this is harmonious with the male violence


epidemic within the series. America as well the fictional series both
propagandize boys from a young age to believe possessions must be
taken by force (Katz). When children that are conditioned to a life of
violence grow and are thrust into positions of power, or have the ability
to cause harm, ensuing dangers can occur argues Katz. This exact
scenario takes place when a young king named Joffrey takes control of
an entire kingdom. Joffrey seems to be leading them into the ground
because of his violent and apathetic ways. The same can be
hypothesized for the future of America; if men continue down a road of
indifference toward other human beings, an unfavorable outcome is
immanent.
Within the series title, Game of Thrones, lies a rather basic but
foretelling description of the series. Ultimately, several families
compete for the absolute rule of The Seven Kingdoms. With an
exception to a woman named Khaleesi, who was my comparison to
Hilary Clinton, each family is led by a male figure. The aspect of males
competing against each other for resources reminded me of Carlos
Andres Gomezs writing Man Up (pg. 8). In Gomezs piece he talks
about Bloods and Crips participating in a rigged game of roulette we
are forced to play(pg.8). After watching several episodes I struggle to
find much difference between the families in competition and the
battle of Bloods versus Crips.

Although somewhat rare, cultural norms are violated within the


series. I decided to encapsulate the three most recent episodes I
watched in order to have a more concise analysis of these violations. In
my most recent episode a male leader of an army bows down to the
woman Khaleesi, vowing his armys service for eternity. This scene
challenges Glick and Fiskes ambivalent sexism theory, where males
are most often sexist when a woman poses a threat. In another recent
episode a sword-carrying female knight is responsible for a male
captive. Both of these scenarios are examples that differ from
Kilmartins statement that society does not encourage (and often
discourages) cross gender activities, especially for males (pg. 79). The
last bit of the previous quotation, especially for males, is terrifically
important. In both gender non-conforming cases, it is a woman
crossing the line of taboo, why is this? My analysis contains a few
possible reasons. The primary thought I have is that if a male were to
cross gender norms, the predominantly male audience of the show
would feel uncomfortable. From a simplistic standpoint, its just easier
for a female to have masculine qualities than it is for a male to be
perceived as feminine. Having a female in position of power may also
attract a female audience to the show, while not discouraging the male
audience.
Monarchies rule the Seven Kingdoms throughout the series.
Because of this fact, social class and wealth is heavily favored along

with the birthright power of being male. One male character in


particular struggles to find his place throughout the series, the reason
being he was born with dwarfism. The dwarf, named Tyrian, is quite
cunning and intelligent. However his looks often surpass his
intelligence in the minds of others despite being born into royalty. This
illustrates the fact that strength is valued more than intellect, not
dissimilar to present day America where beauty is often valued more
than intellect (Luciano, 2001).
Violence in the Game of Thrones is intertwined within the way
children are taught. They are raised similar to the social learning
perspective talked about in the Kilmartin text (pg. 79). Men are raised
to fight other men for the honor of their fathers name. Wars within the
series are not dissimilar of gang wars in modern day America, where
many soldiers are unsure of the reason they are fighting. While most
often the series follows normal gender roles, there are exceptions.
Exceptions to gender roles are more often made by women, most likely
because it is easier for a woman to be seen as masculine than a man
as feminine. The masculinity portrayed in the American series Game of
Thrones is only a slight magnification of masculinity in modern-day
America.

Citations
Earp, J., Katz, J., Young, J. T., Jhally, S., Rabinovitz, D., & Media
Education Foundation. (2013). Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood &
American Culture.
Game of Thrones Wiki. (n.d.). Retrieved November 26, 2015, from
http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Game_of_Thrones_Wiki
Glick, P., & Fiske, S. (1996). The ambivalent sexism inventory:
Differentiating hostile and benevole. Estados Unidos: American
Psychological Association.

Gomez, Carlos Andres. Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood. Print.


Kilmartin, C. (1994). The masculine self. New York: Macmillan ;.
Luciano, L. (2001). Looking good: Male body image in modern America.
New York: Hill and Wang.