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April 9, 2013

’’Game of Thrones’’ and LEAN IN: Rediscovering and Redefining Female Power

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I had only seen the very first episode of the "Game of Thrones" series when all of my friends insisted that I catch up so we could watch the Season 3 premiere together. Over the course of seven days, I immersed myself in the magical and mythical world of the seven kingdoms and every new episode got increasingly better as the separate stories began to intertwine. Midway through it all, I was experiencing the wildest, and incredibly violent dreams full of odd creatures.

I was even beginning to speak in some sort of Middle-Earthian tongue...telling one friend, "look at you, soldier" and referring to another as a "fellow Taurean" (I love horoscopes, and they are big around the office, too). As it all seemed so regal and well stated in my head, these phrases obviously did not translate well in this modern world. But beyond becoming engrossed with the crafty dialogue, the ambiguous accents, the breathtaking scenery, and falling in love with almost every character for all of their intricacies, perfections and flaws, one big thing stands out in this show --- the power of women, and in conjunction, the effortless timeliness of the release of Sheryl Sandberg's LEAN IN.

While I must shamefully confess that I've never read the books (which only a handful of close friends shun me for), I have bought several and they patiently wait on my bookshelf until I am wholeheartedly ready to commit to them. Admittedly, it is not as bad as not having any books in the Lord of the Rings series (for which other close friends told me I shouldn't have been allowed to see the movies until I had read all of them in their entirety). With that said, I watch, read and write from a standpoint that is blind of what to come --- and sometimes,  the unforeseeable future is that much better.

Most of the women of "Game of Thrones" are mothers, prostitutes and wives or fiancees of those in high-class, political positions --- or they are in what we call “suspended leadership” roles --- yet ALL of these female roles are extremely powerful ones. After her husband, Ned Stark, is beheaded at the seat of the king, Lady Catelyn Stark joins the rebellion with her son, Robb Stark, who leads the pending attack on the Iron Throne. Yet, Lady Stark takes matters into her own hands and releases Jamie Lannister, the Kingslayer responsible for executing her husband and who she has been holding captive. Why? It’s a tactical move to get her two daughters back from the tyrannical King Joffrey; she’s plumbing the depths of a mother’s love here. Although much of the show's audience would agree that Lady Stark's move to let Jamie go was not the smartest, she remains a strong voice of reason. This is especially true when she advises her son to not marry Talisa --- the “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” character --- which the audience knows, must negatively impact a chance of a fruitful future for Robb and his leadership. Lady Stark knows her position as the family matriach and isn't afraid to make choices based on the power of this position, even when it becomes threatened. She stands by her choices and thus, she "leans in."

It goes without saying that Daenerys Targaryen, the Dothraki queen and the Mother of Dragons, is the most powerful of all the female characters. Achieving independence from her controlling brother, she learns to embrace her marriage to Khal Drogo, the powerful Dothraki warlord. When Drogo dies, Daenerys turns all of her efforts into reclaiming the Seven Kingdoms that she and her birth family believe is rightfully hers. As the Mother of Dragons and a strong-believer in ending enslavement, Daenerys forcefully pushes her way to the top, proving to those around her that she deserves this, despite her moments of emotional turmoil and ceaseless desire to always act in a humane manner. She learns to not take no for an answer, while simultaneously listening to the wise advice of her guardian. She begins to create the perfect balance between an increasing aggressive behavior and her longstanding passive nature, and I believe it's only a matter of a few more episodes before we get to see this evolving temperament come into full fruition. She makes wise choices, is insistent, but is learning to be ruthless at necessary moments --- she is "leaning in."

There are so many interesting female characters in this series to discuss in light of LEAN IN, and it could take days to get around to talking about all of them. While either siding with the opinion of NY Post's "Dame of Thrones," and arguing that LEAN IN is an unworthy comparison to the power of these female roles or believing that Lady Stark, Daenerys and many others are already asserting their femininism and will continue to do so, we want to hear YOUR opinion on the matter. Share your comments with us on our Facebook page.