Whereas the latest episode of the HBO series has just been released, a study looking at the distribution of speaking time between the male and female characters of Game Of Thrones has been published. According to the survey results, over the eight seasons, male voices account for approximately 75% of all speaking engagements.
The data was compiled by Ceretai, a Swedish start-up that uses the machine learning to analyze diversity in popular culture. Its algorithm learned to identify the difference between male and female voices in video and provide speaking time duration in seconds and percentages by gender.
As stated in the article by Georgina Pearce and Valeria Perasso for the BBC, the accuracy of this algorithm is around 85%. Actual results may therefore be slightly higher or lower than the study estimates. Despite this margin of error, one thing is certain: in Game Of Thronesmale speaking time is much higher than female speaking time.
Lisa Hamberg, co-founder of Ceretai, told the BBC that by analyzing Game Of Thrones, her team wanted to raise awareness about the broader issue of women’s portrayal in the media. On average, only 30% of speaking time is granted to heroines in films or series, according to a 2017 study on screen inequalities.
It is in the fifth episode of season 4, “First of His Name”, that we find the highest proportion of female speeches in Game Of Throneswith an almost equal distribution thanks to the intrigues centered around Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen.
The seventh episode of the first season, “You Win or You Die”, on the other hand, is the worst of the series, with only a sixth of words spoken by women, including the famous “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die” of Cersei Lannister [«Quand on joue au jeu des trônes, on gagne ou on meurt»].
Visible but silent
Cersei Lannister is also the heroine with the most speaking time, ranking third of the characters in the series, with around 900 lines of dialogue. Ahead of her are Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister, no doubt the most talkative of the show with over 1,300 lines of dialogue.
In total, of the top fifteen characters in the series with the most dialogue, nine are male. Some dead male characters even have more dialogue than still-living female characters. At the end of the seventh season, Ned Stark, executed in the first, thus had more dialogue than Melisandre, still present in season 8.
While the last season seemed to do the pride of heroines, from Cersei to Daenerys via Brienne of Tarth, Arya or Sansa Stark, she is one of the worst in terms of female speaking time. Like the finale which offers 80% of the dialogues to men, against 20% to women.
Stephanie Genz, professor of media studies at the University of Nottingham Trent (England), assures that the presence of women on the screen does not systematically equate to an egalitarian representation. “There is a misconception that because women are highly visible, their bodies are highly visible, that equates to meaningful representation. The heroines express themselves with their bodies, and the public does not necessarily notice how little they actually speak, explains Stephanie Genz. It confirms what we already know about our society anyway: that women’s voices are underrepresented.”