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Student researches HBO hit 'Game of Thrones'

November  27, 2013

Christina Kunkel talks about her project with Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow of Communication Studies. (Augustana Photo Bureau/Anh Hoang)

Christina Kunkel, a senior English major from Peru, Ill., presented the findings from her summer research project at the recent Women & Society Conference at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The presentation was a condensed version of Kunkel’s feminist media analysis on HBO’s hit series, "Game of Thrones," focusing on gender, femininity and power relations within the patriarchal context of the show.

Working alongside Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow, associate professor of communication studies, for her project, Kunkel analyzed how women in positions of power are portrayed in the high fantasy genre in contemporary media. Through an in-depth analysis of "Game of Thrones," Kunkel considers what stereotypes and social norms are being represented and reinforced to large audiences, focusing on the prevailing gender hierarchy that continues to disadvantage women.

Kunkel describes the opportunity to participate in the Women & Society Conference as an undergraduate, among mostly graduate students and professionals, as a rewarding experience. In addition to the panel discussion on her own research, she attended other sessions and talked with students and professors with similar interests.

“Apart from the academic experience, I feel that being at the conference was a great experience to develop my public speaking skills through practice and watching the other presentations,” she said.

Kunkel used "Enlightened Sexism" by scholar Susan Douglas as a major source for her research. Douglas argues that the media representations that show women as having true equality to men when it is not an actually accomplished fact in society reinforce the gender hierarchy still present. Kunkel further concludes that the shameless and foregrounded oppression of the female characters in "Game of Thrones" within the medieval and patriarchal society of the show critiques our own society’s continued subjugation of women.

“I am a huge fan of the show,” Kunkel said. “I really loved it prior to doing my research project, but after I critically analyzed the criticism it presents, I have grown to respect it even more.”

Sam Schlouch
Senior Communication Director
(309) 794-7833