Spoiler warning. Massive spoilers in this article for both Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3.
There was a time when men held a monopoly over all things nerdy and men and women alike were admonished for doing things ‘like a girl’. Well, not anymore.
After years of unlearning what pop culture taught us about gender roles and its supposed watertight unwavering nature, we’ve finally come around piecing together our own new reality. One in which women are finally being given their due after years of being left shorthanded.
After both watching Avengers: Endgame and catching up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones (Season 8, episode 3), it’s clear that we’ve entered a new era. And era which was paved by the women who fought tooth and nail for sufficient representation and are now getting rewarded for their struggle.
Today, in two of the biggest fictional franchises, women shone through. Not for the sake of tokenism. But even in their own fantasy world, their roles were real and so substantially powerful.
In Game of Thrones, for instance, the latest episode cemented the show as a champion for women in fantasy.
Not only was the battle’s winning blow served by one of the most badass fictional women, but the entire episode (like the series itself) was a hat tip to the character growth each woman has gone through in her own way.
While not the biggest or strongest in any way, Lyanna Mormont proved in this episode that one must not underestimate a David who could, one day, conquer a mighty Goliath. Lyanna is not a token death on the show.
Her heroic demise was a way to celebrate the sheer magnitude of power a little girl like her can unleash if shown the right path and given the right authors to write her narrative.
Powerful in otherworldly ways, Daenerys and Melisandre both played a pivotal part in the Battle for the Dawn. But it was Brienne who, in true GoT fashion, led the battle on ground and fought the fight. After being anointed a Knight, it was fitting that she shone bright as a battle commander of the second line of defence against the army of the dead.
The most incredible moment, however, for women in fantasy and the show, in general, was the anti-climactic Arya twist at the end.
Arya’s murder of the Night King was a culmination of all her years in training, her overcoming the pain she has felt for people and things being taken away from her, and her determination to not be on the sidelines ever again.
While her victory was a bit of a surprise, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say we saw it coming all along.
It may have seemed strange at first, but it was the most fitting conclusion to the battle and it couldn’t have gone any other way.
Game of Thrones does not use its female characters to make a jarring gender statement.
Instead, it adopts a narrative which seamlessly gives women their due, tells their stories, immerses them in conflict — internal or otherwise, and makes them emerge victorious in a way that we all root for them as people and not them as women.
Another huge cinematic event to have graced this generation was the MCU’s magnum opus — Avengers: Endgame. The comic-book world, which was once an all-boys’ club is no longer an invite-only male domain. The gatekeeper dudebro has softened, and the fandom is inclusive to a large audience — men and women alike.
Proven beautifully by several moments in Endgame, women have finally made a place for themselves in the once testosterone fuelled sci-fi world.
In what was one of the most exhilarating moments in Endgame, the superpowered women of the MCU lineup beside Captain Marvel ready to join the fray in epic combat.
Moments later, these badass women — Pepper, Okoye, The Wasp, and Scarlett Witch to name a few — band together beside Captain Marvel after Spider-Man passes the gauntlet to her to keep away from Thanos.
Even Pepper's superhero alter-ego, 'Rescue', is a nudge to the rewriting of the 'women in need of rescuing' narrative.
This moment is an epic reversal that shows just how far we’ve come from the erstwhile five men and one woman group of fighters we often got to see. Women were not outnumbered and neither were they overpowered.
The only glaring absence in this legendary moment is that of Black Widow — the woman who in fact, started it all. Being the first female Avenger on screen, Black Widow has been a pioneer of sorts.
There were many before Black Widow, but none so nuanced, yet complex.
While tragic to a grave magnitude, her sacrifice is the poetic conclusion to an era and the passing of the torch for more significant air supply for women in the future.
Even a nod to the amazing Peggy Carter is the acknowledgement of an ongoing struggle against women’s representation in film which started years before we could've imagined.
It is heartening to see two of the biggest franchises to nurture women’s characters with such care and detail.
We have truly grown from the era of fantasy machismo. And we welcome this growth with open arms, rooting for the women who paved the way and the women who walk on this road with their heads held high.
What a time to be alive.