Arya Stark is a complicated heroine-antiheroine in The Game of Thrones television drama series. Her character sparks discussion within published texts (Frankel, 2014) and social media. Arya defies traditional gender roles, as many “butch-girls” and strong female characters before her (Brownstein, 1994; Inness, 1999; Inness, 2004; McCaughey & King, 2001; Neroni, 2005). She challenges patriarchal, socially-defined norms, both within a medieval fantasy world of Westeros, and outside, in the “real” world of viewers. A loyal cherubic-faced girl, Arya manages to “gratify” viewership enough for audiences to return again, even when she dramatically embraces ruthless behaviors. Arya’s dark behaviors provoke emotions of sadness, pity, and disgust. Viewers accompany Arya through her labyrinthine identity formation, shaped by tragic external pressures beyond her control. Like many young females in the “real” world, Arya learns survival while not yet achieving her potential as a young woman. The series incites viewer debate worldwide because most characters apply violent strategies and violence against females, specifically, runs rampant. As in other fanships, viewers become attached to key characters that resonate with triumphs and disappointments in their own lives. Complementing a feminist framework, researchers use media uses and gratifications (Blumler & Katz, 1974; Ruggiero, 2000) and emotion (Buck, 2014) theories to better understand the qualities, strengths, and weaknesses of Arya Stark, during seasons 1-8. Critical analysis will focus on series content and incorporate social media examples.
Diana Rios, University of Connecticut, United States