Strong but silent: 'Game of Thrones' women drowned out by men

Sonia Elks, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Posted at May 22 2019 07:33 PM

The character Daenerys Targaryen is seen on an advertisement screen before the screening of the final episode of Game of Thrones on a 20-meter-high screen at RZD Arena in Moscow, Russia. Maxim Shemetov, Reuters

LONDON -- "Game of Thrones" may have been lauded for strong female characters but men still took the limelight with about three quarters of speaking time, according to a new analysis of the blockbuster television series.

Men spoke roughly three times as much as their female equivalents -- and they dominated the final season most of all, according to a report by data research firm Ceretai.

"The results were actually worse than we expected," Matilda Kong, the chief executive of Germany-based Ceretai, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It tells us that it does not really matter how women are portrayed as strong or that they have power: what they think and what they say is still not (seen as) important."

"Game of Thrones" has been praised for showing tough female characters but also faced criticism for scenes of sexual violence and brutality against women.

Women had about a quarter of speaking time in the first series of the show, the analysis conducted for the BBC found, reaching a peak of just under a third in the penultimate seventh season before dropping to 22% in the final season.

A record of more than 19 million U.S. viewers watched the series finale this week on HBO, a unit of AT&T's Warner Media , the cable channel said.

The speech data was compiled using artificial intelligence to identify whether a male or female was speaking. The system's accuracy is about 85% so the exact split may be slightly higher or lower, said Ceretai.

Women are known to be consistently under-represented on screen. They took only 40% of all speaking characters in US primetime television in 2017-18, according to research by San Diego State University.

Kong added that she hoped the analysis would bring awareness of gender bias in popular culture.

"We are not aiming to tell people what to watch," she said.

"We want to create awareness that when we consume popular culture it gives us an unfair representation of the real world and we are unconsciously biased by that."