Their settings may be worlds apart, but shows
like The Good Wife and Game Of Thrones are both showcases of strong female characters.
CAN women have it all? On television, I mean. Are there strong female characters who have it together in all aspects of their lives? Or does a successful woman necessarily come with dysfunctional personal relationships or a worrying mental illness or both?
Take Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) of Homeland as a prime example. She’s an ace CIA operative whose instincts are almost always spot on. She’s sharp and her thinking process is like no other. But, she is mentally unstable (certifiably so, not just in a matter of speaking). That sharp mind? It’s flawed. And her personal life is a big fat mess – hey, she is hell-bent on catching Nicholas Brody whom she suspects of treason and yet she can’t help falling in love with him? Sex is her undoing? Really?
What about Nurse Jackie Peyton – a 40-something mother of two who is extremely good at her job as a nurse at the emergency room at New York City’s All Saints’ Hospital? Well, it’s only an illusion. She has a drug problem and she’s having an affair with the hospital’s pharmacist which, when discovered, sends her life into a downward spiral. Really, now? Sex again? Is that really the downfall of women?
Thankfully, not all women (on TV) are made equal. We have characters like Brenda Leigh Johnson (The Closer) who, despite her quirks, has her life nicely put together: she is the Deputy Chief of the LAPD’s major crimes division and a happily married woman. She’s feminine and a chocoholic, but can wield a gun and shake down a criminal like nobody else.
And then there’s Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) of The Mindy Project. She’s an obstetrician/gynaecologist who’s hoping her life will play out like a romantic comedy. OK, it seems de-womanising at first, but who doesn’t want a happily ever after? Despite her many bad relationships, Mindy never completely breaks down. I like that about her. And the fact that she has a real woman’s body and isn’t hung up about fitting into a size 2 dress. That’s refreshing. Speaking of dresses, some of her outfits are really cute!
And then we have the women on The Good Wife – Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi), Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Jackie Florrick (Mary Beth Peil).
Seriously, aren’t the men on the show simply insipid (well, except for Eli Gold played by Alan Cummings)? In every instance, the women steal the show. In the relationship between Alicia and her cheating husband, Peter, for example, she’s the dominant one who eventually calls all the shots. It’s refreshing to see Peter doing the grovelling, really.
In the Lockhart-Gardner law firm, Diane is far more in control than her partner Will, who is half the time mooning over former galpal Alicia.
And then there is Kalinda, the enigma who defies definition. Is she a lesbian? Is she bisexual? Does it matter? She is vulnerable but also very steely and she doesn’t need anyone’s help to settle her problems.
In my younger days I tended to look up to women for far more superficial reasons – they looked nice, they dressed nice, they were kind-hearted and helpful, they had nice apartments and perfect families. Cut me some slack ... I was young, after all. These days though, I’m all for female characters who are unapologetic for who they are and what they want. – SI
* I’VE just finished watching Season Three of Game Of Thrones and am very much in the mood to dissect all the womenfolk portrayed in the TV adaptation of the novels in George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire fantasy series.
There are just so many to choose from, and all so differently portrayed, from helpless and docile to cunning, brave and ruthless. They are all beautiful in their own way, except maybe for Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who in my opinion has nothing going for her other than her pretty face.
One of my favourite characters is the tomboy Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Sansa’s younger sister, who from a tender age seemed to prefer trying out archery with
her brothers rather than being cooped up
in a parlour doing embroidery with the
While Arya’s story has turned rather grim, and she’s made her first kill already, I think her character (thus far on the TV show, note that I have not read the books) shows true gumption. She keeps going, and she’s got an agenda. She never cowers in fear and speaks her mind freely. If I’d like to be anyone on the show, it would be gutsy Arya.
I haven’t quite decided if I like Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). I do like some of her qualities. I am fascinated by her ability to speak three languages (English, Dothraki and Valyrian), and her ability to assimilate with all peoples though she was brought up a noblewoman, in pretty much the same way Sansa was, I suppose.
When Daenerys was betrayed by her own brother and married off to the brutish nomad Dothraki Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), she didn’t fuss and whine (like dear Sansa), she pledged herself to him wholeheartedly and theirs became one of the best love stories of the tale. Even after her husband’s death, she still calls herself Khaleesi, which is a Dothraki title referring to the wife of the khal. Things seem to happen too easily for Daenerys though. It is as if the mother of dragons has the gods on her side.
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) is another one of my favourites, and the fact that she earns not just Jaime Lannister’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) trust but his friendship just makes her all the more attractive to me. She stands for everything good, and she never accepts defeat. She is strong and brave and true, always keeps her word, is loyal and fearless.
I am fascinated by both Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli), the romantic interests of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) respectively. I think if I were a man, I would easily fall in love with either, or both, for these women have the ability to love a man so completely it borders on excess, if that were possible. Both eventually are “betrayed” by their other halves – a sacrilege they cannot stomach – and these poignant moments are some of the best, when it comes to the romance depicted on the show. All four actors play out their parts to a T.
As for Catelyn Tully (Michelle Fairley), I initially hated how she treated Jon Snow, the bastard son of her husband Ned. But when she explains herself in a moment of truth to her daughter-in-law Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin, not one of my favourites, but I have to admit she is beautiful), my perception of Cate changed completely. I am not sure that if put in a similar situation I would not have brought up the son of my husband’s lover the same way Cate did. These questions keep me up at night, I tell you!
As for bad women, there’s a whole pack from which to pick – Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and the priestess Melisandre of R’hllor (Carice van Houten) are currently vying for top spot as the most evil. The night is dark and full of terrors, after all, and you never know what you’re in for with these two sirens.
And then there’s Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). While you might think her only crimes are sartorial, Margaery’s wiles are truly dangerous because this is one bad wolf in (very skimpy) sheep’s clothing.
All said, I think Game Of Thrones provides much fodder when it comes to its women, and it gives one a lot to think about what sort of woman one wants to be, whether you are a daughter, sister, mother, wife, politican, priestess or prostitute. – AMC