When demographers play the Game of Thrones
When demographers play the Game of Thrones
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The Body in Game of Thrones


Fig. 1: Cersei LannisterCersei Lannister
chance of death:
sentenced for incest - ©HBO

You might note that we always start our articles the same way, but we insist: screenwriters aim to either appeal or disrupt. Therefore, TV shows tell us something about society and its expectations. Now, bodies are everywhere in Game of Thrones. But what are we being shown? Only statistics can allow us to break free from shocking or titillating images.

1. Medieval fantasy and gender discrimination

Game of Thrones depicts a fantasized version of the Middle Ages. And it was "inappropriate for a woman to go to fight or to rule" [SourceJ. de Cessoles, (XIVème s.) "Jeu des échecs moralisés".].

Therefore, isn’t it normal for the show’s universe, which depicts fights and power plays, to be male? There are 3 times more male characters! They are 5 times more likely to fight and twice as likely to play a political role. When you know these are also factors of mortality, this doesn’t sound quite as lucky…

Therefore, isn’t it normal for the show’s universe, which depicts fights and power plays, to be male? There are 3 times more male characters! They are 5 times more likely to fight and twice as likely to play a political role. When you know these are also factors of mortality, this doesn’t sound quite as lucky… 1 “political woman” out of 4 is only so through marriage (in season 1, Cersei, DaenerysDaenerys Targaryen
chance of death:
and Catelyn StarkCatelyn Stark
chance of death:
are all “wives to”). This isn’t the case for any of the male characters, even though JorahJorah Mormont
chance of death:
would do anything for Dany. Thus female characters are less visible. Moreover, while the male bodies are used for domination, female bodies are submissive (we’re talking about statistic norm here, not the few heroines standing out!).

Indeed, female characters have a lower social rank. The female body is to be owned in Game of Thrones as 1 in 4 female characters is subservient (servant to a lord, prostitute working for or being owned by a pimp, slave to a master…) against 2% of male characters. This is a case of objectification. And finally, women are often victims to sexual violence.

Tableau statut occupation

Fig. 2: Women as subservient characters - ©HBO

After watching the show, we have made the hypothesis that the body influences probability of dying (fighting brings to dying, so why wouldn’t other practices of behaviors?). Here is a quick overview of qualitative observations and statistic elements:

Photo des fesses de Jon

Fig. 3: Butts and golden spirals: the reasons of perfection - ©HBO

2. Nudity and violence: "Leave her face, I like her pretty" [1]Joffrey telling Meryn Trant to beat Sansa

Photo des fesses de Jon

Fig. 3: Butts and golden spirals: the reasons of perfection - ©HBO

Women are also objects of desire. Half of female characters are 25,5 years old or younger, against 32,5 years old for their male counterparts. They are younger, and their bodies are also shown more: 26% of the actresses appear naked at least once (only 11% of actors, but Jon SnowJon Snow
chance of death:
’s perfect butt makes up for it... [2]Mymy, (2017) "Le bouli de Jon Snow est 100% authentique, car le monde est beau". In: Madmoizelle.) - Fig. 3.

Women are the exclusive victims to sexual violence (except for TheonTheon Greyjoy
chance of death:
). The story of Cersei being raped by Robert breaks the myth of Westeros’s liberator. JaimeJaime Lannister
chance of death:
raping his sister in a sanctum and by their son’s (and nephew’s) body, throws all ethics out the window. Daenerys’s rape during her wedding night reveals her brother’s treason by selling her (Khal DrogoKhal Drogo
chance of death:
will later try to make up for it). SansaSansa Stark
chance of death:
’s rape by RamsayRamsay Bolton
chance of death:
is an act of war against the Starks. Being a woman in Westeros is unsafe indeed.

Photo Joffrey

Fig. 4: Admit it, you loved every second of it when JoffreyJoffrey Baratheon
chance of death:
died - ©HBO

3. Condemned forbidden love: "He marries his daughters, and they give him more daughters" [3]Eddison Tollett about Caster (episode 203)

Photo Joffrey

Fig. 4: Admit it, you loved every second of it when Joffrey died- ©HBO

Characters whose sexual practices are considered deviant in the show (to clarify, we’re not the ones calling them deviant! That would be normative and not very constructive) appear to have a shorter lifespan. These practices are severely repressed in the show. Against all odds, could there be some morality working to punish sadists? Indeed, compared to a character whose sexuality is considered normal, a character with practices considered deviant is 3 times as likely to die rather than not. It can also be noted that sexually deviant characters are 4 times more unpopular.

Photo Robert

Fig. 5: Everyone take shelter, RobertRoi Robert Baratheon
chance of death:
is getting mad! - ©HBO

4. Mocking corpulence: "You should eat the fat one" [4]Craster about Samwell Tarly, to the Night’s Watch (episode 304)

Photo Robert

Fig. 5: Everyone take shelter, Robert is getting mad! - ©HBO

Could Game of Thrones be discriminating against overweight people (5) ? One thing’s for sure, we don’t want to have Samwell TarlySamwell Tarly
chance of death:
’s courage (before his role evolves), Mace TyrellMace Tyrell
chance of death:
’s intellect, Xaro Xhoan DaxosXaro Xhoan Daxos
chance of death:
’s integrity or RastRast
chance of death:
’s manners… Robert Baratheon, though he’s supposed to be the worthy warrior who freed Westeros from the Mad King’s tyranny, is depicted as an impotent drunkard prone to anger. With a risk of 7%, we can say (all things being equal) that a character corpulent above average dies more than a character of average corpulence. He would even be 2 times likelier to die rather than not.

Photo Dany et Tyrion

Fig. 6: TyrionTyrion Lannister
chance of death:
the dwarf, alone but alive… for now - ©HBO

5. Disability and turning over stigma: "Wear it like armor" [5]Tyrion giving Jon Snow some advice (101)

Photo Dany et Tyrion

Fig. 6: Tyrion the dwarf, alone but alive… for now - ©HBO

The show is full of characters with visible disabilities. These characters straying from your “average Andal” are largely exposed to stigmatization. This paints a dark picture but stigma, the visible trace of disability, can also be a strength! Like the old man’s cane can hit the snickering kid. The mark of stigma doesn’t doom individuals to suffer their conditions, but rather allows for emancipation. If we accept a risk of 6% we can say (all things being equal) that a disabled person (not counting bastards) is less likely to die: he is even 3 times less likely not to die rather than die, compared to an abled person.

Modèle de régression corps

Reading (type 3, fighter): All things being equal (allegiance, nobility, cohort, number of episodes appeared in and average screen time per episode appeared in), a disabled person (other than bastard) dies less than a person without a disability. The risk taken in this statement is below 10%! Compared to a character without disability, a disabled character (other than bastard) is 4 times less likely to die than not to.

Fig. 7: Body in front of death

We have thus shown that when it comes to bodies, Game of Thrones idolizes masculinity and supposed normality (why supposed? Are skinny hairless bodies normal to you?). Female characters are often subservient and don’t have access to higher functions (yes, we know: Cersei and Daenerys bla bla bla… but they only represent 2% of female characters!). Those who stray from supposed normality are exposed to a death quicker (see the lifetests; we’re running out of space) and more frequent (see overweight and so-called deviant characters). But beware the turning of the stigma! Will Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister succeed in changing the rules of a masculine world?

To be continued! In 2019…


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