Though I think there’s some risk inherent in pitting such completely different shows against each other (even if they’re on the same network), this deconstruction of the representation of women in “Game of Thrones” and “Girls” is great. In particular, the point about SFF being way ahead of modern, “realistic” portrayals of women is important, given that defenses of “Girls” so often center on how great it supposedly is for advancing the cause of women in media.
It is, of course, sad that we still don’t have anything approaching parity in media representations of women in any genre. We still get a lot of female roles that boil down to formless girlfriend/wife/mother/harridan paper dolls. We have more roles with women professionals these days, but even then, they tend to be one-dimensional. How many female cops/doctors/lawyers on procedurals are more-or-less interchangeable (not that their male counterparts aren’t, of course)?
But it’s not like the landscape is so utterly devoid of interesting female characters that we need to fall all over ourselves in celebration of the four wretched antiheroes heading up the cast of “Girls.” Just in “Thrones” alone there are a dozen women and girls (with more to come in future installations), all of whom are full, unique characters with their own lives and stories. And yes, it has female antiheroes, too: see Sansa and Cersei, for instance, and Yara (Asha) as we’ll see more of later on. SFF, and especially SFF TV, is, in fact, florid with such complex women. Yet, things are still so bad that we need to support a show like this? Is the cause of women in TV so critically weak that we need to promote a show that’s so horrid on class and race issues just because it’s centered on women?
The only thing I can take from this is that the critics and audiences who are bouncing with glee about “Girls” have never ventured into SFF long enough to see that we’ve been doing the strong-women thing for decades, so they don’t know that this stuff is already out there. Heck, we’re even being told that Lena Dunham is somehow a pioneer as a co-EP on the show, as if Jane Espenson, Amy Berg, Gillian Horvath and Michelle Lovretta don’t exist. (And even in mainstream entertainment, we have Diablo Cody on “United States of Tara.” Does she not count?) It does indeed suck that the list of women in power positions in the industry is so very small, but we don’t need to prop up the careers of selfish, spoiled twits just because they don’t pee standing up.
So, no, we don’t need this show. Really. We can afford to throw it onto the scrap heap of vanity projects where it belongs without worrying that we’re somehow killing the progress of women in TV. Just as we weren’t setting back women in politics by pointing out how truly unsuited for power Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are, we’re not setting back women in TV by telling Lena Dunham to stop making her navel-gazing diary entries into TV episodes. Acting as if she’s some miracle to whom we should genuflect denigrates the work of the hundreds of women who are already busting their asses in the industry, and doing it without stomping on the backs of other marginalized groups.