There is, of course, an equalizing element to Game of Thrones’s violence: Women, here, are not spared, and this is its own embrace of Jon Snow’s if only half the population is fighting philosophy. But Game of Thrones, it must be said, also gave unto the world the Sand Snakes, three of the most insipid characters not just in Game of Thrones’s universe, but on television, in general. Stubbornly one-dimensional and “exotic” in the most boring of ways, these daughters of Dorne are the stuff of Edward Said’s nightmares—and also of Gloria Steinem’s. They seem to enjoy teasing men, just for the power of it. They seem to enjoy displaying their breasts, for the same reason. “You want a good girl,” Tyene—but it barely matters, as the main thing about these three women is that they operate as a dull unit—whispers to Bronn. She adds: “But you need the bad pussy.” Yes.
So Lyanna Mormont lives in the same universe that finds Tyene demanding that Bronn acknowledge her as “the most beautiful woman in the world” (lest, if he does not, she let him die from the poison she has administered). She operates in a narrative environment, overall, that belies the fearless-girl feminism her character is meant to advertise. In its context, I might be a girl, but I am every bit as much a Northerner as you rings true; it also, however, rings hollow.
And so, in some ways, does that other moment of lady-power sloganeering in Season 7. “The Long Night is coming,” Melisandre tells Daenerys, when the two women finally encounter each other in person. “Only the prince who was promised can bring the dawn.”
“I’m afraid I’m not a prince,” Daenerys replies.
Missandei actuallys the situation. “That noun has no gender in High Valyrian,” she notes. “So the proper translation for that prophecy would be, ‘the prince or princess who was promised will bring the dawn.’”
Daenerys’s adviser—and occasional translator—is providing yet another moment of triumphant feminism for fans to cheer: in this case, of gendered expectations, thwarted. Of egalitarianism, against all odds, winning. The moment is subtle—it’s a matter of grammar, after all—but the show plays it for drama. “The prince or princess.” BOOM.
But that moment, too, has its context: the same context that Lyanna’s moment does. What results in the juxtaposition is the kind of dramatic tension that Game of Thrones is so good at producing: Story versus slogan. Character versus caricature. Treatments of feminine power that are relatively complicated and nuanced (Daenerys’s not-always-successful attempts to be a just ruler, Cersei’s not-always-successful attempts to balance motherhood with power-hunger, Yara Greyjoy’s military ambitions, and Sansa’s struggle to survive, and Arya’s quest both to forget herself and to find herself again) chafing against treatments of feminine power that are the opposite (bad pussy).