Culture / Television

Female Empowerment in Game of Thrones

By Anahita Bahri Email Icon Twitter Icon LinkedIn Icon
Published: December 4, 2017

Game of Thrones started off as a male-dominated fantasy drama, but in recent seasons, female empowerment has become a prominent theme. The female character development has been stronger, from Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, the powerful women fighting for the throne, to Sansa Stark and Arya Stark, whose painful experiences have molded them into confident and forceful women.

With Game of Thrones on pause for at least a year, we wanted to explore whether the scripts for the most recent season reflected this theme of female empowerment. We collected and analyzed data from season 7’s scripts to explore how the dialogue was shared by gender and by character.

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In the above graph, we look at the dialogue share for season 7 by gender. Male characters dominated, despite the surge of female characters in power. This trend was largely driven by minor male characters who contributed sporadic dialogue throughout the season. Only 18 characters from season 7 were female, while 50 were male.

Female characters accounted for roughly 36% of dialogue for the entire season, and didn’t really budge until later episodes. Even the iconic council meeting scene with multiple female characters in Stormborn (episode 2) didn’t move the needle.

Surprisingly, the episode with the highest female dialogue share was one that focused on a group of male characters going Beyond the Wall (episode 6). This was driven by conversations between the Stark sisters over only two scenes. In fact, Arya Stark spoke the most words of any character during that episode, thanks to the creepy speech she delivered when her “faces” were discovered by Sansa Stark.

So how did the rest of the main characters contribute?

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Three of the season’s five most vocal characters -- Cersei, Daenerys, and Sansa -- were all women. We see that dialogue shares vary, as some character contributions fluctuate throughout the season, while others, particularly Jon Snow, remain relatively constant.

Tyrion Lannister led the way in terms of highest number of words spoken for the entire season and contributed a fair amount to most episodes. Cersei Lannister, the Queen of Westeros, was the second most vocal character of the season. She had the highest share of dialogue in The Dragon and The Wolf (episode 7) at 22%, which was the most for any character in a single episode this season.

Daenerys Targaryen, another woman in power, didn’t start off with many words in season 7. “Shall we begin?” were the only words spoken by her in Dragonstone (episode 1). Among the season’s 24 recurring characters, Daenerys spoke the second fewest words in Dragonstone. Her contributions to episodes 2 and 3, however, were much larger.

Overall, there’s still gender imbalance in season 7 of Game of Thrones. But it seems to stem from a lack of minor female characters, not from a dearth of female characters in general. Cersei, Daenerys, and Sansa all factored prominently into the dialogue of season 7 and Arya spoke the most of any character in episode 6.

In the next few months, we’ll explore these and other issues over the course of all seasons so far. Stay tuned!


Nerd Notes:

Graphics were created in Tableau.

Some of the ideas for the visuals were inspired by The Pudding’s piece on The Office.

Data was scraped from Genius.com and SpringfieldSpringfield.co.uk.