Gwendoline Christie: ‘Women have been treated appalling in history’


Just looking through these photos of Gwendoline Christie – Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones – I can’t help but think that she would make a good queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Gwendoline is “regal” all over the place. She is EVERYTHING! She is Queen B(rienne). Perhaps that’s what we were working towards all this time. It was never about Dany and Jon Snow and Tyrion. It was always about getting Brienne on the throne!

Anyway, Gwendoline has a new interview with Entertainment Weekly about this past season of GoT and all of the criticism the showrunners have received. This really was the “turning point” season where it feels like a lot of dyed-in-the-wool Throners just had enough. Following the finale on Sunday, I’ve read about a half-dozen “think pieces” about why GoT sucks and why no one should be watching a show that treats its female characters so poorly. While I read and mostly enjoy those think-pieces, at the end of the day, I pretty much accept the way violence against women is portrayed on GoT. I remind myself that the violence is fictional, that the GoT-era is based on medieval European history and that atrocious, vicious and violent acts against women have happened throughout time and still happen every damn day in the modern world. Which is pretty much how Gwendoline feels about it too. Gwendoline is referred to as “an avowed feminist” and then asked about this past season in particular:

GC on the historical context: “I’ve always been quite clear about my attitude toward gender equality and female empowerment. And a lot of this show is inspired by actual historical events, and that’s what’s occurring with the women. Women have been treated appalling in history. Men have too. Human beings have. What this show is doing is shining a light on women and has an exploration of female characters that has rarely been approached before—and I applaud that. Yes, those scenes are difficult, and they should be difficult. They should further illuminate human consciousness about how we interact as human beings.”

The story is more complicated than the criticism: “Those downfalls and points of agony and pain that affect us so acutely with these horrific events that the female characters go though, those events are not the only things that happen in the show. The show is so dense and so complex. This isn’t just a season-by-season story, we’re looking at this story as a whole.”

GoT is fundamentally about power and the balance of power: “I truly believe this, I truly do. Because people ask me about this all the time. And what’s wonderful about Game of Thrones is it’s a TV show, and in watching it, the show allows us to perhaps adapt our own personal attitudes and create a better reality.”

[From Entertainment Weekly]

Yep, I agree. I also believe that for some viewers, it’s way more complicated, and some of those scenes can be triggers. Which is a valid criticism, except… I kind of think people know what they’re signing up for when they start watching GoT. Sex, violence, retribution, revenge, gore, rape, incest, magic, zombies and dragons – that’s what you’re getting.


Photos courtesy of WENN, Fame/Flynet.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

76 Responses to “Gwendoline Christie: ‘Women have been treated appalling in history’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Lilacflowers says:

    Brienne! Hodor! Wun-Wun! Drogon! Cheez-its!

    In all seriousness, I’ve noticed that more Brits in the acting profession, excluding caveman Gary Oldham, have a better grasp on the concept of feminisism than their American counterparts.

    • Sixer says:

      We have less in the way of identity politics, I think that’s it. It sounds counter-intuitive, but because there’s less dialogue in that vein, there’s less controversy. So nervy and ill-informed young actors don’t have to issue soundbites to please a perceived section of their audience.

      If celeb journos were to start asking their Brit interviewees what they thought about the EU, for example, I can guarantee you that you’d get similarly stupid responses as the ones I read here with young Americans and feminism.

      I don’t think ours are any brighter – it’s just the dog whistles are different.

      Christie looks positively majestic in that first photo.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        “Majestic” describes that look perfectly. Now, I want every interview to feature questions about the EU. I especially want every interview of US presidential candidates to include questions about the EU for the hilarity that will follow

      • s says:

        That’s also my impression about Britain, very rudimentary identity politics talk, and it’s almost PC to cry about PC. The States on the other hand lack a class discourse, because everybody’s middle-class here, don’t you know.

      • Sixer says:

        S: yes. Stateside, it seems that the progressive discourse has fractured into the various incarnations of identity and the anti-progressive discourse attacks them. Here, progressive discourse is still much more about the economics and the anti-progressive discourse attacks on the grounds of economics too. So there’s no identity dog whistle with which to trap young actors into trying – and usually failing! – to say something that will appeal to both sides.

  2. Mia V. says:

    #TeamBrienne. I want more of her in the next season.

    • Kiki says:

      Besides Danyereas, I really love Brieene. Two of them are my major Bad ass women on GOT.

      • Mia V. says:

        They are the only badasses on the show!!!

      • Kimmy says:

        I’m so tired of people complaining that GOT is anti-women. Look at all the amazingly strong, smart, resourceful women characters that are (and have been) portrayed on this show?! Danerys, Brienne, Aryia, Cersei, Olenna, Margary, Ygritte, Catlyn Stark, and even Sansa is getting there. They have all been put In these terrible situations, but we’ve seen them grow and change and survive (for the most part) in a world where they are meant to be objectified by men and be men’s property.

        I would go so far to say that the female characters shine brighter on this show than the male counter parts.

    • Linn says:

      I want her to actually succed at something for once.

    • Fue McCormick says:

      Brienne is my girl crush! I would love her to take the throne! Or a Tyrion/Brienne throne partnership.
      I hate the violence on the show … and seriously think there’s “something not right” about the author.

  3. Jenns says:

    Yes, we all know that women were treated like crap and are still being treated like crap. But on GOT, after a while, the violence just gets old. There are two seasons left and I want to see more plot movement(and white walkers) and less boobs and violence against women.

    • Elisa the I. says:

      Exactly. The problem I’m having with GoT is that it’s totally over the top when it comes to violence in general, not just against women. Male characters like Theon also have to endure really aweful abuse/torture, the Unsullied are an army of eunuchs, etc.
      What I find especially problematic is the aesthetic way in which violence is presented – and that the nudity shown is almost exclusively female.
      I haven’t seen the latest episodes but according to your statement this obviously hasn`t changed…

  4. Crumpet says:

    I just started reading the books. I had never heard about them before all this. I can’t imagine the series holding up to them.

  5. Patricia says:

    * appallingly

    I’m an asshole

  6. maybeiamcrazy says:

    So true. GoT’s mistreatment towards women is not something that came out of the blue. It is unfortunately our own past. It is uneasy to watch but it is supposed to be this way.

    • a cut above says:

      Except GoT isn’t supposed to be medieval Europe, exact recreation. Did the real medieval days have snow zombies, dragons or magic? OH, no? It’s such a weird line to draw. Dragons? Cool! Fire magic? So pretty! Independent, strong women with agency, who are not sexually assaulted at the drop of a hat?? THAT IS SO UNREALISTIC, *fanboy tears enough to re-fill the oceans*.

      Because what does it accomplish? NEWS FLASH, there was lots of rape in history. Rape is bad. We all know this. You do not have to narratively threaten every woman character on the show with rape, for it to make an impact or for us to know that women are often threatened sexually. It would also help, though, if all of the women characters weren’t so controlled by the male characters, or just seemingly on-screen to add depth to a dude’s ~emotional~ journey.

      • maybeiamcrazy says:

        Except, GoT IS medieval Europe with dragons and magic. Secondly your second complaint is just stupid. GoT is not any more sexist than other shows for its depiction of women as individuals. Please tell me how Brienne is just a tool for some dude? Women characters in GoT have as much personality as men. Obviously GoT is not perfect nor is it ‘feminist’ and yes, its depiction of women as sexual objects is not acceptable in MODERN world. It seems you people are shedding lots of tears for something that is not even relevant.

      • a cut above says:

        “Secondly your second complaint is just stupid.”

        LOL. A great way to have a discussion. We’re going to have to agree to disagree, but thanks for your input.

    • Caz says:

      Equality between sexes and classes is a modern thing. TV & movies such as this which are supposed to represent the olden days (real or imagined) can’t be totally viewed with a 2015 mindset, agreeing with others.

  7. Lindy79 says:

    She is exquisite.

  8. GingerCrunch says:

    Just LOOK AT HER! Fierce as hell. I love it.

  9. Kiki says:

    It is uneasy. But just like injustice of Slavery and discrimination against race, women at that time were not treated with the rights as a human being, but again just like slavery, women at the medieval times were treated like property.

    • Gretchen says:

      @Kiki True, but speaking for myself, the issue I have with it is not the fact that awful sexual violence occurs, but how the GOT folks often present it and female sexuality in general.

      On the one hand they say they want to depict the reality of women being treated as objects and property, but on the other, they do the exact same things themselves. The unnecessary relocation of scenes to Littlefinger’s brothel, the background rapes in the Dothraki wedding scene, the background rape at Crastor’s keep, the excessive boobage of female characters (like Dany in the first season and Melisandre and Tyene Sand this season), the pointlessly time consuming sexual escapades of Pod and Theon, the final torture-porn shot of Ros after being cross-bowed by Joffrey…the list goes on.

      I wouldn’t object so much to their claim that they are critically depicting the reality of women being objectified and subjugated if they weren’t also so guilty of perpetuating it to titillate the male gaze.

      • Elisa the I. says:

        hear hear!

      • Nymue says:

        Thank you, Gretchen! Exactly my thoughts. I hate the way they portrayed Sansa this season. Just as a weak victim, a body with no head on his shoulders. No one expected her wedding night to be fun for her, but there is a difference between not fun and brutal rape with Reek watching. What a waste of a character. And I always liked her and looked forward to her storyline after last year’s season.
        I also agree with all your examples.

      • JenniferJustice says:

        Agreed. Sometimes I get the feeling GOT’s target audience is sexually violent men who get off watching what happens to women on that show.

  10. NUTBALLS says:

    I can’t see Gwennie without thinking of Hiddles. She’s so badass, I imagine that she owned him back in their Cymbeline days.

    • Lindy79 says:

      I get the impression she would own anyone really. She’s fab.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Me either. Is it wrong that when I picture them together, I get hot and bothered. I love her!

      • NUTBALLS says:

        I can’t unsee that snap of her giving him a birthday lap dance! *fans self*

      • TotallyBiased says:

        And then, of course, there’s the MySpace conversation screencaps still floating about in the internet ether.
        Yeah, I think he was totally her puppy during that show — and loved every minute of it!

      • NUTBALLS says:

        Where are those, TB? I’ve only heard about them, but never seen them. Do you have a link? I wanna see it for myself.

      • TotallyBiased says:

        Wait, Nutballs, I’ve read both this comment and on the Hiddleston CP poster thread–do you mean MySpace screencaps, IStL stage pic, or both? You will have to search for the screencaps, they are def out there but get harder every year to find.
        See Hiddleston thread for further.

      • NUTBALLS says:

        I was talking about the screencaps. I’m not one to search all over the internet for them — just curious if you had a link. I’ve only heard-tell about ’em.

      • TotallyBiased says:

        Sorry, Nutty–I’ve read them a couple of times, but no links. They’re out there somewhere, but I first saw them in 2012 before they started disappearing.

    • Bridget says:

      Well yeah – just look at her. She’s glorious!

  11. InvaderTak says:

    She needs to be in an epic adaptation of Boadica. That’d be fun.

  12. QQ says:

    I Honestly couldnt read anything: as Soon as the pic loaded I was like: BITCH…HOW/// When will your Fave??? How Could you?? When will I ever???! I want to study at your feet

    and then when i was done queening out i came to post

    Now I’m gonna read LOL

  13. smcollins says:

    My girl crush has just intensified. I’m in complete awe of her.

  14. Bridget says:

    I love that she’s a tall girl who carries herself with such poise and confidence. Love her. And I really want Brienne of Tarth to get her redemption – she’s one of the good characters!

    The violence in Game of Thrones is difficult regardless of gender. It was actually Theon’s torture and mutilation that threw me over the edge.

    • Size Does Matter says:

      Equal-opportunity sadists, I’ve said before. There are way more castrations than rapes (Unsullied) but those didn’t happen onscreen.

      Advice on my pregnancy thigh situation? Walking (jogging a bit), trying not to eat like a human dumpster, squats and lunges and grin and bear it?

      • Bridget says:

        @size: get out and move, but also give yourself a break and realize that sometimes our bodies do crappy stuff during pregnancy. If you truly need to get moving, find a great pregnancy exercise class or video.

        Of course, I type this as one of my children is trying to jam his dirty hand in my mouth, after I had to schlep the kids around all day on their first day of summer vacation. Yay?

      • Size Does Matter says:

        School year runs late in your neck of the woods. My kids have been out for a week and a half, which seems late to me because we always got out the first or second week of May.

        Thanks for the tip and encouragement. Seems as if there is an ongoing conspiracy keeping me from being as active as I would like – sick kids, horrible weather, traveling husband. This too shall pass, right?

      • Bridget says:

        It shall indeed 🙂 Enjoy your pregnancy and know that you’ll have plenty of time to battle the thighs when the baby comes. It seems like a really useless thing to say, but the truth is that the time will go quickly.

  15. whatwhatnot says:

    I’ve always viewed the violence on women on the show of exactly how it would have been back then and even now in certain areas of the world. Realistic. When Joffrey tells Cersei that women should just keep quiet and do as their told and she has to quietly stand there and take it. When Oberyn tells Cersei they don’t hurt girls in Dorne, to which she responds, “they hurt girls everywhere” it always hit me as a sad truth. That’s not to say they spare men. Theon was almost raped when Ramsey set him “free” by a soldier only to bring him back to be tortured. Varys mentioned that he thought his own abduction as a child was going to be something along the lines of what some older men liked to do with young boys until he was castrated. Even the way the characters speak on homosexuality is completely in une with how things were/are. But the show gives us characters like Brienne and Arya who say “screw tradition” and carry on without caring about not fitting in to the stereotypical gender roles. Then you have the Cercei’s Margerey’s and Olenna’s who basically let the men think they are running things, but are actually the ones pulling their strings.

  16. JustCrimmles says:

    Unsure on those billowy wardrobe choices, but she is stunning. SHARE YOUR SECRETS, M’LADY!! Her skin! That can’t be just really good makeup, right?

    • Dara says:

      Gwen is stunning isn’t she? And her skin looks flawless from head to toe – damn her. I’m on the fence about the wardrobe too, but she is fierce and fearless when it comes to wearing clothes so it works. Given her height and how she carries herself she could easily wear basic black and still stand out, but that’s not how this fabulous woman rolls. Love her.

  17. jesb says:

    She looks stunning in that gold dress and that white thing. My gawd what a beautiful woman.

  18. “Women have been treated ‘appalling’ in history”? Is English her second language? Her clothes are appalling.

  19. Micki says:

    What I like about GoT is that the show doesn’t chop and chew some moral sermon and rib it under my nose. The moral is being questioned and the “good” die as often as the “bad”.
    And because women have not being abdicted, raped and murdered in my neighbourhood, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen somewhere close by. And I’m not pointing to the third world countries. That’s the sad uncomfortable fact.
    After a steady diet of Hollywood happy endings I’ve turned to japanese, korean and so on films, which usually end with everybody dead. And I admit I found it refreshing. Then came GoT.

  20. rainy17 says:

    My problem with fantasy worlds of this type is that you are free to imagine anything. It is a cop out to say it is based on medieval history to justify the horrific exploitation of women onscreen. If you can imagine a world with dragons, you can imagine a world where women have some agency.

    • JenniferJustice says:

      This. That’s why I worry much of GOT’s audience might actually be violent men who hate women and love seeing them raped and otherwise oppressed, degraded, etc. I’m waiting for a male dragon to rape a female dragon.

    • Wren33 says:

      But, I think in GoT’s case, it tries to be more realistic and more specific (War of Roses) as opposed to just be generically medieval-ish. The problem I have with the shows as opposed to the books, is how naked women are a prop piece. Lots of scenes take place in brothels where they don’t in the book, extraneous naked women are everywhere. I see that as a different issue than just portraying rape in a few scenes, which while controversial, is sort of integral to the plot.

      • InvaderTak says:

        This^^. Portraying history is one thing, but we are way beyond that.

      • Bridget says:

        That really turned me off too. It was just so over the top and gratuitous. I was pleased that they showed far fewer boobs this season.

  21. Tracy says:

    Oh for chrissakes, can’t anyone speak the language properly? “Women have been treated appalling in history.” No, they haven’t. They’ve been treated appallingLY in history. Smart arguments just get dumbed down if you can’t speak the damn language correctly. Pet peeve of mine… ::::smoothing hair and straightening skirt::::: Thank you. I feel better now…