Game of Boobs: What’s the Point of Nudity in Game of Thrones?

Everyone who watches Game of Thrones quickly learns that in order to love this show you have to be comfortable with the female form, if you know what I mean. The women on this show tend to get very naked, very regularly. It can be easy for the casual viewer to overlook. After all, we’ve also seen a few of the dudes’ butts lately, and it’s just being true to the books, and that’s just how it is in that time period, and it makes sense for that character to be naked in that scene, and what’s the point of watching HBO if you don’t get to see someone’s knockers? …to demonstrate some of the more common explanations.

But no matter how much sense a scene makes for the show, the setting, the character, or the network, we have an obligation to watch our TV shows critically. And part of that is asking the question: what exactly is the point of this scene?

This question applies to more than just nudity. I would also ask the show writers to question the point of the many scenes depicting Theon’s torture, for instance, or the horrific shot of Ros’s body impaled by arrows. But the nudity in Game of Thrones tends to be more frequent in its gratuitousness, and more unequal in its gender representation.

Natalia Tena, who plays Osha on the show, has certainly noticed. “I think it’s really unfair, every actor, any actress has had her t-ts out. Every single actress I know,” she said in an interview with The Independent, “Blokes it’s like, let’s see some c–k! Do you know what I mean? Let’s make it more even.” But she goes on to say that she doesn’t mind getting naked if the scene calls for it. But that’s just it. Which scenes call for nudity, and why do the writers of Game of Thrones seem to think that it’s called for so much more often with women than with men?

Tena’s nude scene, where she is shown full-frontal while her character attempts to seduce Theon Greyjoy in order to distract him so she can help the Stark boys escape Winterfell, is an example of nudity used well. Osha’s naked body was a symbol of her power in that scene, of her wiles overcoming Theon’s resolve. For the record, Tena’s only disappointment with the scene was that they didn’t allow her to wear a pubic wig, and she maintained that Osha should have had, “a massive bush… like a muff coming down the thighs.” (I’m with you, Natalia.)

I felt that Talisa’s nudity in the scene where she tells Robb Stark that she is carrying his child was similarly well-done, though in a different context. The whole scene was very appreciative of her body, almost reverent, making her dialogue with Robb even more intimate and heartfelt. Her actress, Oona Chaplin, summed it up in an interview with The Telegraph: “If it’s done in a beautiful way, in a way that honours the female form, then I’m always happy to see it.”

But even in these scenes, where I believe female nudity was appropriate and justified, I don’t trust that the show was completely on the same page with me. It wasn’t really necessary for Osha to be shown full-frontal when a more conservative angle would have had the same effect, and it would have been more equal if Robb had kept his clothes off in the scene with Talisa so that they would have both been naked when she delivered the news. It’s the same with a lot of Melisandre’s scenes – her frequent nudity may be part of her power and allure, but the way the camera engages with her body sometimes gets really male-gaze-y. And even my favorite nude scene of them all – Daenerys’s rise from the flames with her newly-hatched dragons – wouldn’t actually have been made any worse if Dany’s immunity to fire had somehow extended to her clothes.

And then there are the scenes that no amount of tasteful shooting and editing could have saved, the scenes that were clearly written and directed to use female bodies for the purpose of titillation instead for the furthering of the plot or characterization. A lot of the scenes that take place in Littlefinger’s brothel serve this purpose, as does the scene with Theon having sex with the anonymous girl on the boat on his way to the Iron Islands, and the scene where Lady Arryn breastfeeds her grown son (which has the added insulting bonus of coding a maternal act as evidence of depravity). The truth is, you don’t have to look far to find a scene in Game of Thrones where a woman is naked for no good reason.

The most recent and most obvious example is the scene where Daario Naharis confronts Daenerys in her own camp. It was necessary for him to take her off-guard so that he would have enough time to explain why he had come and pledge his army to her cause. It was most certainly not necessary for Dany to be bathing when he entered. That is clearly a case of a writer being faced with a choice of how to present a character in a certain scene, and choosing to present her in a context that would require her to be naked. It is the definition of gratuitous.

It has been reported that one of the actresses in Game of Thrones has asked not to appear in any more topless scenes. There’s been speculation that the quote was referring to Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen. I have to say that if this is true, I do not blame her for her preference. Nor would I blame any woman on this show who made that choice, nor would I blame any woman on any show who made that choice.

Because we can quibble about which scenes used nudity well and which didn’t, but I hope we can all agree that a nude scene in which the actress didn’t wish to appear nude is not only gratuitous, but also abusive.

Author: Christina Kim

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