Paper presented at Trans/Forming Feminisms: Media, Technology, Identity, November 23-25, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Serialising Gender, Breeding Race: Biopolitics in Game of Thrones
University of Otago, New Zealand
/University of Technology Sydney
This paper draws on feminist approaches to serial television formats in the context of contemporary HBO dramas, with a special focus on the relationship between sexual violence and racial imaginaries in Game of Thrones (2011-present). The paper firstly asks, to what extent can the gender politics of a “scene” be evaluated alongside, or against, the telos of multiple characters across several seasons? This issue become particularly acute in programs that, like Game of Thrones, profit from spectacular (and heavily criticised) depictions of sexual assault, while also sustaining careful long-term investments in nuanced female characters. Having outlined this tension, the paper argues that sexual reproduction is the biopolitical paradigm through which the serial drama is organised. Sex is the principle by which families are mixed and communities are (un)mixed. But insofar as the sexual capacities of white women’s bodies become the key sites of political tension, Game of Thrones also remains a story about an imagined racial community, its future longevity, and its territorial entitlements. Therefore the investments required of the viewer do not simply concern sympathetic or unsympathetic characters. Across several seasons, Game of Thrones becomes a program about the kinds of bodies that could viably mix in a future social order, those bodies that remain absolute incommensurate, and those that can only mix through acts of sexual violence.
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