During an interview a few years ago, Game of Thrones author George RR Martin was asked where his approach to writing complex females characters. His response? “You know I’ve always considered women to be people.”
I love his response. It was funny and spoke to a problem in entertainment: women aren’t represented in the way men are. A young boy will see pretty much every kind of male figure they can become through entertainment. But for women, it’s often an angel, a demon or a damsel in distress.
But with Game of Thrones it’s different. There’s no shortage of diverse women in the Seven Kingdoms and the rest of the world. Maybe that’s why women make up more than half of the series’ fans.
Take a look at some of the strong female characters he creates. They run from an athletic knight who keeps her word at all costs (Brienne), to brave sisters looking to shatter their family’s view of women (Yara), to young highborn women making their way in the world when all their loved ones have been torn from them (Sansa and Arya).
My personal favorite is Daenerys. Dani is ambitious and unwavering, determined to take back the throne stolen from her father, King Aerys, so many years ago. Despite her confidence and strength, and regardless of what she achieves (even freeing an entire slave population), she is brutally challenged and hated on wherever she goes. Nothing is ever easy for Dani. There are betrayals and thieves at every turn. Even her dragons, which were her trump card for so long, mature out of her control.
I love Dani’s spine of steel and unwavering devotion to what she believes. She’s my superhero spirit animal. The next time you are feeling pressured to back down and don’t want to, just ask yourself What Would Dani Do? I kid. We aren’t living in a fantasy world and we don’t have dragons at our disposal, but Dani’s posture and firm delivery are two things I know I could stand to replicate in certain situations.
Another female character I find vastly intriguing, for different reasons, is Margaery Tyrell. The entire Tyrell clan is extremely politically savvy. Even Margaery’s hilarious grandmother, Olenna, is thought to have been the mastermind who seamlessly got away with murdering Joffrey before he could get his abusive hands on Margaery.
While Dani toils away on the other side of the Narrow Sea, Margaery kills it in King’s Landing. She’s smart, extremely adaptable, loyal to her family and knows how to turn her personality on in order to get what she wants. She is skilled at public relations, quickly winning over the people of King’s Landing and coaching Joffrey to do the same. She never misses a beat. Even her spouse’s murder (by shadow, no less!) and her own imprisonment don’t throw her off course.
For fans of the television show who have yet to dig into the books, it may surprise you to learn that Margaery is more of a secondary character in the written version. She is present and functions the same way as her television counterpart does, first as wife of Renly, then Joffrey, and finally Tommen, but she never gets the chance to tell the story from her point of view, as the other major players do.
The Song of Ice and Fire books, for those who don’t know, are told in the first person, but the narrators rotate by chapter. For example, the third book, A Storm of Swords, employs no less than 10 narrators: Jaime, Jon, Catelyn, Tyrion, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Samwell, Davos and Dani (the prologue and epilogue feature minor players), but no Margaery! Even though this is the book that season 3 of the TV series closely follows, where we see Margaery relocate to King’s Landing, win the love of the people, the admiration of Joffrey and the hatred of Cersei, her role isn’t as spotlighted in the book.
In the novels, Margaery is mainly seen through Cersei’s eyes. We can only guess what Margaery’s intentions are and just speculate as to whether or not she is a woman of initiative, as she seems to be on TV, or just the young puppet of the wealthy Tyrell family. Furthermore, Cersei is an obviously unreliable narrator, so Margaery’s actions (or imagined actions, as the case may be) are filtered through Cersei’s jealous and paranoid eyes. We are left guessing as to what Margaery’s personality is really like.
This is one of the few major character discrepancies between book and TV. Martin has done such an amazing job creating fascinating female characters and I am so excited to see if Margaery blossoms as yet another riveting POV personality in his next book, The Winds of Winter.