Lessons You Can Learn from the Women of “Game of Thrones”

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You might have mixed feelings about the last season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” But there’s no denying that the last seven seasons have been full of riveting tales of our favorite characters in Westeros and Essos.

With only a few episodes made for the final season, you might feel like the show is cramming the end of one big fantasy universe all in a span of six episodes. And with “Avengers: Endgame” ending the Marvel Universe only days before the first episode of GOT aired, it’s no surprise that many fans are finding it difficult to cope with the end of two really long series.

Part of GOT’s success is because of all the great characters introduced in the series. Most of these characters aren’t your two-dimensional people you can easily categorize as good or evil, and for me, that was something I genuinely enjoyed. Unlike a lot of stories that have one token leading lady character and a bunch of throwaway female characters, “Game of Thrones” shows different types of women from all walks of life. To quote “A Song of Ice and Fire” (the book series that the show is based on) author George R. R. Martin:

I like how each of the female characters don’t share the same story or provide the same lessons that are important to the women of today. Though every woman in the story has a lesson to tell, these are some of my favorite female characters and what they can teach every Modern Filipina.

Margaery Tyrell: “Women in our position must make the best of their circumstances.”

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One of my favorite characters, I think Margaery could have won the Game of Thrones if she had just left the Great Sept and ran like heck. Although she is just as manipulative and cunning as Cersei, unlike Cersei, who demanded everything happen her way and any sign of opposition was made by an enemy (just like some politicians I know), Margaery understood that she could not control everything around her. And trying to make it so would only lead to consequences she may not be able to handle. So she did what she could, and always found a way to make the best of each situation she’s faced.

Not everything is always going to go the way you’d like. That’s just a part of life.

You really have to change some things in life if you know it’s in your best interests, and even if it won’t be easy. But for minor inconveniences that you know won’t mean the end of the world for you, it’s best to put on Margaery’s easy smile and face these problems head-on using creative means.

Find quick and easy ways to de-stress if you’re struggling at work. Cut back a bit and start managing your finances if the economy is making it harder to spend. And make the most out of your summer with the family with a simple but relaxing staycation in an Airbnb if a trip out of town isn’t practical.

Olenna Tyrell: “I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them.”

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The Queen of Thorns is that tita you love seeing in family gatherings because she’s more interested in how much you’ve accomplished in your field rather than whether or not you have a boyfriend. She has no time to gossip about the other titas who aren’t there and isn’t afraid to start another family feud by speaking her mind about politics. And when she does give you advice, you know it’s not a backhanded compliment about your weight, and she’s actually just looking out for you – even if she is a little harsh.

Olenna is also that woman who ignores the patriarchal standards of men dominating her playing field. She has no time for mansplaining from both men and women and speaks her mind even if she knows she’s going to ruffle some feathers. I know she’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I honestly look up to strong women like her because I prefer talking to people who are honest and don’t beat around the bush.

When you know what you’re saying, don’t be intimidated by others who seek to prove you wrong. Accepting constructive criticism is a sign of maturity, but when you can tell these comments aren’t from a place of genuine concern and is just meant to make you feel insecure, don’t be afraid to ignore these comments and follow your own gut and what you know is right.

Lyanna Mormont: “I don’t plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me. And I don’t need your permission to defend the North.”

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Lyanna (and that little girl in Winterfell who promised to fight for the women hiding in the safe* crypts) proved that young women could be just as capable as the oldest man in the room. Lyanna was a scene stealer from Season Six onwards not because she was a woman who defied lady-like norms (we’ve seen enough from Olenna, Cersei, Arya, Daenerys, etc.), but because she was doing what these women were already doing, but at the early age of ten.

Often, younger people are told to keep their mouths shut when their elders are speaking to them. And when we try to defend ourselves, we’re accused of talking back and being disrespectful. While it’s Filipino tradition to respect our elders, pointing out the mistakes and what’s problematic in the things they say isn’t rude or disrespectful. While I agree it’s important to respect our elders (I was never a fan of that “respect is earned, not given” belief), I don’t believe in staying quiet while older people go on thinking it’s okay to say racist, homophobic, or generally cruel or problematic things when we are capable of telling them why it’s wrong.

Sansa Stark: “I’m a slow learner. But it’s true. I learn.”

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I love Sansa’s character arc. You can see how she develops from a young and shallow girl whose main goal in life is to marry a prince to the strong and enduring Lady of Winterfell. Abused by Joffrey, raped by Ramsey, nearly killed by her Aunt Lysa, and manipulated by Littlefinger, Sansa has one of the most tragic stories yet she managed to find her own strength.

In a time when catcall culture, sexual harassment, and rape is becoming normalized, be a Sansa. Sansa recognizes that her own abuse and rape with two sadists is a part of her past, but she refuses to be defined by it and rises above it. She does not let her abusers win by letting them control how she lives. She gets her revenge one way or another, and then she moves on and allows herself to heal, becoming stronger in the process. There are plenty of women in the Philippines who experience abuse, be it at home or outside of their home. Sansa shows that while it is difficult for a woman to overcome these experiences, it is possible.

Arya Stark: “That’s not me.”

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From Season 1, it was clear that Arya was no lady. She was nothing like Sansa and preferred activities that were thought to be men’s activities. She survived not because someone fought for her, but because she fought other men herself. Had she chosen to be a lady and hide in the crypts with other women who were taught that fighting was for men, no one would have been able to kill the Night King. And when it came to Gendry’s proposal, she knew herself well enough to know that she wouldn’t be happy as a lady and refused to set aside her dreams to settle down to make another person happy.

It’s OK to stray from gender norms to find what you do best. You aren’t required to put aside your own goals and dreams to meet other peoples’ expectations or just to make other people happy. You won’t succeed and be happy trying to fill in the role others have made for you.

Let’s talk about Season 8…

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As much as I love Game of Thrones, I hate the way Season 8 portrays these three women.

In the episode “The Last of the Starks,” Sansa has a conversation with The Hound, who tried to protect her whenever he could back in Season 2. They talk about what could have happened if Sansa chose to run away with him when she had the chance during the Battle of Blackwater Bay, with Sansa claiming that if she had never endured the pain Joffrey, Littlefinger, and Ramsay inflicted on her, she wouldn’t be the woman she is today.

You know what that sounds like, reworded? “If it weren’t for the men in my life who abused and raped me, I wouldn’t be the strong woman I am today.” Sansa worked hard to overcome the monsters who made her life a living hell, and these men don’t deserve acknowledgement for making Sansa the person she is in the final season.

Abuse and violence against women is a serious issue that affects thousands of women, and many women who face something similar to what Sansa faced aren’t as lucky. So for the writers (and an all-male creative team) to make it sound like Ramsay and Joffrey should be thanked for making Sansa stronger is a dangerous idea that cancels out a woman’s ability to rise beyond her abusers while congratulating the people who abuse others.

Now let’s also talk about the way they portrayed Arya.

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She was a bad-ass hero, but when it came down to scenes that tried to humanize her, it just fell flat. Back when Tommen, who was 16 at the time of his death, consummated his marriage with Margaery, who was way over the legal age, nobody batted an eye. But when Arya, who was 18 at the time of Season 8, decided to have consensual sex with a legal-aged guy she liked, everybody lost their minds.

Sure, all the actors are of legal age, and we watched Maisie Williams grow up from a child to an adult. But why is there such outrage over a woman unashamed of exploring her sexual curiosity?

And can we also talk about how easy it was for Arya to give up her quest for vengeance? Since Season 2, Arya has had a kill list with Cersei’s name being somewhere at the top with her son. It’s what she’s recited for many seasons, and the whole reason she couldn’t forget her own identity and sail back to Westeros.

In “The Last of the Starks,” Arya leaves with The Hound for King’s Landing, knowing very well that she could die trying to finish her list, and she’s OK with that. But the moment she’s finally there, it takes less than five minutes for The Hound to dissuade her from killing Cersei. This is Arya we’re talking about – the girl who constantly says she’s not afraid of death and, a few episodes ago, killed the Night King. Sure, The Hound had become something of a father figure to her, but would Arya really give up years of vengeance and just run because she was told what to do?

Finally, Daenerys.

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I won’t argue about whether or not George R.R. Martin had intended Dany to become the Mad Queen all along. There were some episodes prior to Season 8 when Dany acted entitled and threatened to burn her enemies, but these enemies were slavers and the people she promised to destroy to “break the wheel.”

After Season 1, she spent six seasons being a champion for the people. Suddenly, there’s a quick 180 and she’s this evil villain who kills both enemies and innocent people. It just came out suddenly with no explanation. If there were better signs pointing to Dany’s madness early on, I (and many others) would understand.

But this came out so suddenly that it sends the wrong message about women in power. Dany was supposed to be kind to the people in contrast to Cersei’s way of ruling with fear. But both women have caused so much destruction that (and I’m just making guesswork for the final episode airing a week from now) the only solution to save Westeros is for a level-headed male leader – Jon Snow – to take the Iron Throne to save everyone. Because even if he repeatedly claims he does not want the throne, the last two women are both so unstable that he needs to (reluctantly) take control.

The lessons we can learn from the women of “Game of Thrones can apply to real life, but it’s disappointing to see how three of the strongest women were handled in the final season. Given that, it’s not hard to see why many fans of the show are complaining about the way the season ruins character development that took seasons to build up.

But if the show ends a big disappointment for most of us, at least we can look forward to George R.R. Martin’s upcoming novels.

About The Author

Justine is a Slytherin who loves cosplay, horror fiction, and puns. She is the certified favorite human of her dog, Pud.

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