(Note: A few spoilers ahead for those who haven’t watched episodes 3 & 4 of the fourth season)
The web is littered with reviews of Oathkeeper – the latest episode of season four of Game of Thrones. There’s much talk of deviance and departure from original plotlines. Not having read any of George RR Martin’s work I really can’t tell the difference. I must admit that it’s an interesting and almost enjoyable experience not having to compare the original to the adaptation. As someone who refused to watch, and/or be in the company of those who had watched, the Harry Potter movies before I had read the corresponding novels, spending my Sundays evenings consuming something with no existing point of reference is refreshing.
And, yet, I too find in this fourth installment of the fourth season a sort of departure from previous episodes. It is in the absence of many, often unnecessary, visuals of female breasts. If there is a show that seems to have a minimum breast-per-episode quota, I would have to say it is Game of Thrones. I was, therefore, surprised – I’m still figuring out if pleasantly or otherwise – at the tawdry display of the mammary kind in the new episode. Unfortunately, the scenes ‘demanding’ female nudity in the show seem to be tilting from the space of intimate consensual acts (based on emotion, finance or exchange of power) into that of sexual aggression. Need I mention the hair-raising, incestuous, sexual encounter between Jaime and Cersei in the last episode? In Oathkeeper too, the insertion of breasts into screen space was part of the rape and pillage of Craster’s daughters/wives by the rogue Crows. It is a worrying trend, perhaps highlighting the subtext to all wars and struggles for power.
The politics of nudity, the question of consent, or lack thereof, in the Jamie-Cersei scene, and the depiction of women on the show are all themes I could spend wearing out my keyboard on. There is no doubt that the show’s use of women as tools in political, sexual and power games can be problematic, yet, I write this in appreciation of the female torso show that is Game of Thrones. The increasing pressure for women to conform to body stereotypes as perpetuated through different media is usually done through images of clothed women. Barring a flash of boob through sheer clothing on the runway, or the perfect swell of a lacily sheathed set in a lingerie campaign, the idealized female shape is usually depicted clothed, partially or otherwise, leaving standards of normalcy in the breast department to become a largely imaginative exercise. The smorgasbord of naked female breasts on display in Game of Thrones automatically creates a sort of reference chart, a system of appraisal for one’s own endowments, as it were, shape, size and nipple variance all considered.
My suggestion is, therefore, that the use of female nudity, specifically of the bosom-kind, although seemingly excessive, unnecessary and titillating for the most part, is simultaneously subversive in that it is empowering for its female viewers. The different kinds of breasts that are viewable on GoT are mind-boggling. Three seasons, and four episodes into the fourth, I can’t be certain I have seen a pair that fits my idea of the right kind. Of course, most of these breasts are pert, youthful and attached to well-sculpted bodies. Yet, the visual of an ample bosom paired with a reedy frame or a curvy posterior on a small-breasted woman or of awkwardly shaped breasts on a conventionally beautiful woman are all images that refute the concept of the ‘perfect’ female body. And although the breast fest won’t be the only reason I continue to watch the show, the upsetting of ideas of normalcy associated with the female form will spur me on, especially in lieu of my own two.
© Ayesha Sindhu 2014