“Game of Thrones” returned after an almost two-year hiatus on Sunday. I binged the entire show in February, and it has become one of my all-time favorites. From the music to the production to the acting to Jaime Lannister, there are few television programs that leave me as excited or awestruck.
One of the things I enjoy the most about the show is the gender politics. “Game of Thrones” began as a show about men killing each other over power and revenge. Most of the characters’ awful decisions result from men being overconfident in their masculinity — like Robb Stark marrying Talisa against his mother’s advice or Joffrey Baratheon executing Nedd Stark out of sheer ignorance. When one man messes something up, more men rise up to take advantage or try to stop the damage from spreading. Something invariably breaks again, because these men’s solutions aren’t much better than the ones made by men before them.
Then something happened in the sixth season. For the first time, every major female character still alive found their agency. Danaerys Targaryen reclaimed her title of Khaleesi by killing all the men who threatened to enslave her. Sansa Stark single-handedly won a battle her brother would have lost by correctly assessing her enemy, taking back her home and feeding her abusive husband to a pack of dogs as a bonus. Cersei Lannister gathered all her enemies in one place and blew them up, then asserted herself as the first queen in Westerosi history.
This was by far my favorite season of the show for those reasons. Men ruined the world countless times and, finally, women rose up and tried doing things on their own terms. Westeros isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination going into Season 8 but, for the first time in ages, their world has a chance to be better (so long as Cersei doesn’t stay on the throne by the end).
This weekend also marked another event — a little festival you might have heard of called Coachella. In recent years, the festival and others like it have been called out for promoting male headliners and featuring male-dominated lineups. This trend goes hand-in-hand with how pop music and the Grammys in recent years have been dominated by men, with female artists being told to “step up” if they want the same success and recognition. Men created an industry to pedal other men so we could get a half-dozen oversaturated Drake rip-offs and Ed Sheeran-type love songs without much in-between.
Yet, 2019 has the makings of a different narrative, and Coachella reflects that. Ariana Grande has dominated the pop scene, setting records with her album “Thank U, Next.” This year, she will also become the youngest, and one of the most anticipated, headliners in Coachella history. Then, there’s the recently released Beychella documentary commemorating Beyonce’s own historic headlining set, which made her the first black woman to headline in 2018. Her set has been talked about as one of the best in festival history — from its tight choreography to its extensive production design.
Kacey Musgraves won Album of the Year at the Grammys for “Golden Hour,” all in spite of country music tastemakers’ insistence on promoting male acts over hers on radio. Her set trended worldwide on Twitter, cementing her rise as one of the genre’s elite. K-pop girl group Blackpink became the first Korean group to perform at the festival, coming off of an electrifying EP released earlier this month.
Women are experimenting and pushing boundaries in exciting new ways this year. Like the leading ladies in “Game of Thrones,” real-life female artists have played the game with their male contemporaries and decided they want to play by their own rules instead. Hopefully, what’s being represented at Coachella is a turning point for greater change in the music world. The industry is far from perfect, but if this weekend is any indication, it’s looks better than it has in a while.
Baylee Shlichtman is junior writing about women in music. Her column, “F Sharp,” runs every other Monday.