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So Game of Thrones won the Emmys

OK. Let’s talk about the Emmys.

Last night, Game of Thrones won 12 awards, breaking the record for the show with the most wins in one night. Among those awards, it won best drama for the first time in its history, and best director and best writer for its season finale, Mother’s Mercy.

The fact that it won for best drama this year is laughable. Even ignoring all the show’s misogyny, its changes to Sansa’s plotline simply for shock value, its overuse of rape as a plot device, its decision to burn Shireen to death so that Stannis could become a villain… even ignoring all of that, Season Five was not a well-written season. Episodes lacked flow, with the sense that we were working through a checklist of “gotta see every character for five minutes before the episode ends.” Character plotlines fell apart. Brienne spent weeks staring at a window. Myrcella lived and died with no discernible personality or characteristics. Everything was misogynistic and nothing made sense.

But the real sting comes from the wins for Mother’s Mercy. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Lena Headey’s nomination for her work in this episode, and how the power of her performance shouldn’t be dismissed because of its context. Lena Headey lost that award to Uzo Aduba — a very worthy surprise winner. But while Lena Headey lost, the writers and director who created that context of misogyny won.

This wasn’t a pointed message from the voters, but its connotations are still skin-crawling. Those who create stories about misogyny deserve commendation. The women who bring those stories to life, who have to experience those emotions and recreate that humiliation, do not.

An Emmy for the man who chose which camera angles to show Cersei’s full-frontal naked walk through the streets. An Emmy for the man who chose to have Cersei descend into shot so we could see her whole body before we saw her face, and who decided what other nudity to have in the scene. Basically, an Emmy for the gazer, the one who constructs how we see Cersei, how we see all of the story.

And an Emmy for the men who wrote the scene. The men who put the words in each character’s mouths. The ones who chose to use misogyny for shock value. Not much writing was needed for the Shame scene, since it was lifted straight from the books and was short on dialogue, but they were rewarded for the writing in the whole episode… killing Myrcella, after a season where she was given no real personality, no apparent goals, no explanations for her actions. Including the Sand Snakes as interchangeable figures where one literally says “you want the good girl, but you need the bad pussy.” Hanging Selyse in grief over her husband killing her daughter. Deciding that Stannis needed to be killed off-screen, because that would be gratuitous.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that this is considered Emmy-winning stuff. These days, “good drama” seems to have become interchangeable with “shocking drama,” the more painful to watch the better. And although Game of Thrones has pulled off major shocks, most notably Ned Stark’s death and the Red Wedding, a really good drama needs to inflict that shock value on women. Nothing is more award worthy than a rape story, especially one where an emotionally broken male character can win his redemption by helping the victim. Showing the screams of a young girl burning to death while her father watches is a powerful way to transform him into a villain, and that’s good TV. And a woman forced to walk naked through the streets for seven minutes of unbroken TV time while a mob screams misogynistic abuse has the triple threat of being painful, shocking TV, being a vivid “critique of misogyny,” and providing the audience with full-frontal nudity. Thanks to our culture’s toxic mix of viewing women as delicate flowers/helpless victims while also treating them with distrust and contempt, nothing is more shocking yet somehow acceptable as seeing a woman forced to suffer, especially if she suffers for being a woman.

And nothing is more Emmy worthy than shocking an audience in a way that they can ultimately feel comfortable with — by mistreating women, erasing their stories, and calling it unpredictable, brutally realistic art.


Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

14 thoughts on “So Game of Thrones won the Emmys

  1. I think it says a lot about the extensive lack of empathy/understanding in the film and television industry that they would CONTINUE to privilege the male gaze despite criticism. It just means that they need to be educated to understand where they’re going wrong in their depiction of women in drama. I think season five was a train wreck–poorly written, poorly thought out, despite the acting and the artwork, and we can see the reason why–the male writers and producers of the show obviously don’t think women are an important demographic that needs to be catered to.

  2. Haters gonna hate lol

    i will just say congratulations to the cast and crew

    and to George RR Martin who won his first Emmy on his Birthday

    1. Why come on here to say this? Go to your Dudebros for kudos. Rhiannon wrote an eloquent essay that was intended to provoke discussion. If you have nothing to actually add to this discussion then go back to Reddit or Watchers on the Wall.

  3. Good points all… on top of that the differences between the book and the Mother’s Mercy script cut out some of the impact, both with female characters (show-Cersei’s body double did not show the middle age or childbirth-wear that book-Cersei was mocked by the mob for) and male characters (Jon Snow’s ambush happening because the-Watch-hates-the-Wildlings in the show instead of planning-to-march-on-Winterfell-in-defiance-of-his-oath in the book). Other changes broke verisimilitude (that whole Myrcella-kiss-right-before-sailing-away thing didn’t seem at all realistic). Too much sloppy writing, full of cheap shocks and fluff, to merit an award!

  4. Don’t forget Emmy-winning is having a pedophile beat young girls to see who he wants to rape, in order to establish him as a villain (when a simple ‘Previously On’ of him killing Syrio and beating Sansa could have worked). And of course that is so much less gratuitous than showing a man die resigned to his fate.

  5. And now the showrunners are even less likely to listen to criticism…

    I can’t believe it won Best Drama. I thought this was the worst season, even if we ignore the misogyny. So many storylines led nowhere, Brienne spent entire episodes gazing out of the window, Dorne was pointless at the end and made everyone involved look like an idiot, Sansa’a character development from earlier seasons was thrown out of the window so she could be a victim once again, and the whole thing didn’t go anywhere.

    Myrcella was no character in her own right. She lived and died so that Jaime could react to her. We never saw what was going on in her mind – in one scene she is mad at Jaime, in the next she is out of nowhere telling him she knows he is her father and is happy about it. And she dies the exact moment she says the words. Honestly? We also have the Sand Snakes and Ellaria, who all have exactly the same motivations and are only distinguished by their weapons of choice. And Ellaria’s conversation with Jaime – what was the purpose of that? To mislead us that she is ready to make peace? I never got what the point was. All the Dorne scenes seemed random and thrown together without any logical flow, which was a huge disappointment as I was really looking forward to Dorne.

    I didn’t buy Shireen’s burning. It had been very heavily foreshadowed since last season, but foreshadowing doesn’t always mean it makes sense. Her warm interactions with her father were there to add to the drama, but they made Stannis’s choice even more unbelievable. First of all, why did he insist on taking her with him while she would have been safer at the Wall? Did Melisandre tell him Shireen needed to be with them? If yes, did he never ask himself why? He seems outraged when Melisandre suggests the burning for the first time, so he hadn’t been planning it all along, but then why did he reject Davos’s plea to leave Shireen at Castle Black? And his following change of mind is too sudden, coming too soon after he had violently rejected the idea.

    Overall, we have many shocking moments that come out of nowhere, with no proper build-up that would make them follow logically. And, as you pointed out, all these scenes seem to be focused on hurting and humiliating women – Cersei, Sansa, Selyse, Myrcella, Shireen, the nameless girl with Meryn Trant. Interestingly, five out of those six events are not even in the books.

    1. The whole thing was just in bad taste. I could see GOT winning for Season1,2, even 3. But the last two years have been dismal in terms of natural story progression and characterizations. And there was no reason for any of this. They had great story lines with Sansa as Alayne Stone in the Vale, Arianne Martell, Cersei growing more paranoid and dangerous, Tyrion having a real downfall not the b.s. we saw this season, Lady Stoneheart, Jaime in the Riverlands( which they are actually going to do in season 6, but who cares at this point), the real Northern story line (which wasn’t just about Ramsay raping his wife but about the Northern lords wanting revenge, Jon sending spearwives to pose as washerwomen to save Arya, Theon reclaiming his identity, him feeling true sympathy for Jeyne Poole, Bran speaking to him through the heart tree( and those Northern lords are actually going to happen in season 6 according to spoilers, and again too little too late), the more involved reasons why Jon is stabbed by his brothers and it’s not just because of his Wilding alliance but because he wants to actually storm Winterfell to save Arya which breaks his NW vows. The actual source material was exciting and interesting. Why not do the story lines in season 5 instead of shoehorning them in next year when it no longer makes any sense? I mean, the Red Wedding happened 3 years ago. Seriously, the time to have done LSH and The Winterfell arc have come and gone.

      It comes down to D and D’s arrogance and believing that they can write a better story than GRRM. Well, they really can’t. Regardless, of what sycophantic emmy voters and critics say.

      1. Yeah, some of the earlier seasons deserved an award, but the last one was the weakest in my opinion, so this win is confusing. The season was weak not just compared to the books; even as a standalone the story had gaps and inconsistencies. Sometimes the writers kept an element from the books but changed or removed everything leading up to that point, so when the thing happened, it made little sense. Jon’s stabbing for example. In the book his brothers betrayed him because he wanted to storm Winterfell, and the show could have easily followed this storyline even with all the changes – Sansa could have sent a raven to Jon asking for help. That would have given Sansa something to do, and the NW would have a sensible reason to turn against Jon. Now it looks like Jon forgot to mention to anyone (except to Sam in private) that an army of Others and Wights attacked Hardhome, and if he hadn’t saved the Wildlings, they would have joined the enemy’s ranks.

        Last season also had weird developments. On the show Shae appears to genuinely care for Tyrion and Sansa, which is all great, but then all this is dropped with no warning and she suddenly becomes her book self and betrays them both. Brienne will do anything to find Sansa, but then she arrives in KL while Sansa is still there and does nothing. The writers should either not make major changes, or just rewrite things completely so there is at least internal consistency within the show.

        Some changes seem to exist for no reason other than “improve” on the original story, but ultimately always resort to clichés and cheap drama. So finding out more information about the Others wasn’t enough to make Jon send Sam to Old Town? So we had to see Gilly’s attempted rape to understand Sam’s motivation? How creative.

        I was sad Arianne was cut, but I thought her Queenmaker role would be given to Ellaria, the Sand Snakes, or at least Trystane. Instead, the whole storyline was scrapped and we got a complete mess. I have no idea where this thing is going. If Cersei kills Trystane for revenge, making Doran side with Dany and give the “Fire and Blood” speech, it would only make him look stupid instead of the patient chessmaster that he is in the books.

        And, as you say, the Riverlands and Northern storylines don’t make much sense at this point. It’s like the writers have taken storylines from the book and thrown them into the show in random order, disregarding causes and consequences.

        And, of all possible episodes, was Episode 10 really the best written? The person who wrote the “bad pussy” line got an Emmy for writing?

  6. I also do not understand why this season of all seasons is the one that gets all of the awards. D & D seemed to do a good job of adapting Martin’s material, but when they have to start making things up for themselves? Ugh, for almost all of the things you mentioned above.

    That said…am I the only one who liked Myrcella? Everything else about the Dornish plot was disappointing at best downright stupid at worst, (I was so sad to see Keisha Castle-Hughes reappear only to be put in that terrible role) and I don’t think she was particularly original, but I really liked her attitude of “Um, so while the rest of you were still thinking of me as a political pawn/target, I actually grew into a teenager with my own opinions and I’m not going to just let you haul me back to King’s Landing!” (Not that “I’m not leaving my boyfriend” is anything new, but still). And I loved her father-daughter moments with Jaime. I just also loathe that she died because… Mwahaha, look how evil and crafty Ellaria is? Don’t get me started….

    I can definitely see the problem with the writers getting an award but not Lena Heady, but I also can’t think that its a bad thing that the actress award went to Uzo Aduba. I haven’t actually watched OITNB, but women of color need to get awarded for their work far more than they do currently, so I’m not gonna fault the Emmys for that one.

  7. If that’s any consolation, I think the explanation for GoT winning so many Emmys but Lena not winning is different and much simpler and can be summed up this way:

    “You want the credible award, but you need the HBO money.”

    Since seeing the nominations, I’ve suspected that HBO has “lobbied” very hard (how I love that euphemism, “lobbying”) – incidentally, the head of Starz recently (before the results were announced) accused Emmys of being all about that – so the voters just voted for GoT in almost every category. However, they had two actresses from GoT in the same category, so that split the vote. “Hm, should I vote for the chick with the dragons, or the one that walked naked?”

    I’m sure HBO and Benioff and Weiss knew the win was ensured – why else would they nominate the most widely criticized, controversial and offensive episode (UUU) for Best Direction? And not only did it include Sansa’s rape, it also had a fight scene that was widely ridiculed for terrible choreography and editing. Or nominate Mother’s Mercy for best writing even though it contained the infamous line “You want the good girl…”? It really looked like they were being deliberately brazen. It’s no surprise that Benioff celebrated the win by giving the finger (literally, I’ve just seen the photo).

    Emmys have been a joke for many years, but this shows just how much of a joke they are.

  8. Game of Thrones 2015 Emmy Wins & Other Awards

    1. Outstanding Pornstar Casting for a Television Series
    2. Outstanding Directing for a Rape Fantasy Series
    3. Outstanding Torture-Porn Shock Drama Series
    4. Best International Rape Culture Drama Series
    5. Outstanding Special Sexual Effects
    6. Outstanding Writing for Weiss’ pedophilic MRM Drama Series (this win will surely help his push to strip down sweet sixteen year-olds for Season Six!)
    7. Outstanding Prosthetic Make-Up for “The Children”
    8. Outstanding Rapist-Induction Design for a Fantasy Program (for Bound, Bent, & Broken: Building Men on the Backs of Bitches)
    9. Outstanding Visual Effects in a Misogynistic Effects-Driven Photoreal/Live Action Porncast Program
    10. Outstanding Female Gluteal Cleft Cinematography
    11. Costume Designers Guild Awards for Outstanding Nubile Full Frontal/Back/Sideways/Upended/Contortion Nudity for a Fantasy Television Series
    12. Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Action Performance by a Brothel Ensemble in a Drama Series

  9. This is a very odd piece of criticism, from my point of view because I really don’t see how Cersie’s walk was misogynistic. The show didn’t revel in it, and I thought it was very impacting showing Cersie’s reaction to it. Humiliating, cruel, certainly. But not misogynist.

  10. THIS. This, this, this, thi-thi-this – THIS. Is exactly what I have been feeling about this show. Yet every time I talk about it (these days I’m so sick of it it’s just mentioning or explaining in a sentence why I don’t watch it, or even just the two words “endless rape” possibly followed by “women constantly getting naked because.. wanking?”). I only watched a few episodes from season 2, and I was so disgusted I couldn’t bring myself to watch any more. Extremely well put. I’ve read your blog several times in the past, but this is the first time I’m commenting. THANK YOU for sharing your very well written thoughts!

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