Emilia Clarke: Opening up About Going ‘Stark’

Emilia Clarke has thrust Game of Thrones into the spotlight once again as she reveals how, during the first few seasons of the show, the largely patriarchal voices on-set pressured her into performing her infamous sex and nudity scenes, being essentially emotionally blackmailed with not wanting to “disappoint her fans.” This presents a deeply troubling representation of behind-the-scenes conversations, and shows how even in the twenty-first century, a time when feminism and liberation supposedly reigns, women in the arts still feel fundamentally lacking in power and agency to voice their concerns or opinions. Ironically, the UK has recently become the first place in the world to set up laws for the protection of actors whilst performing scenes of this nature. The fact that these are only just being introduced highlights a disturbingly blasé attitude within the TV and film industries regarding nudity, amplifying the extent of which there was previously little to no protection for even the most adored of actresses.

‘Clarke, who had only been on a film set ‘twice before then,’ was completely lost and felt as though she had no right to voice her discomfort because she was ‘not worthy of needing anything at all”

Emilia Clarke was a newly graduated twenty-two-year-old actress, when she landed the starring role of Daenerys Targaryen, with almost no professional experience at that point. This was an opportunity that could not be wasted, and she couldn’t risk damaging her newly founded reputation by being branded “difficult” for voicing her concerns regarding nudity. Clarke herself has said that nude scenes left her feeling “terrified” as because of her newness to the industry she was uncertain of how to communicate that she was not comfortable with the nature of the scenes. New actresses to the industry often have to do scenes that a more seasoned and respected actress would not – or they would at least feel it was their right to be included in a discussion of their own body. Clarke, who had only been on a film set “twice before then,” was completely lost and felt as though she had no right to voice her discomfort because she was “not worthy of needing anything at all” due to being so grateful for this opportunity. This, whilst understandable, is highly disturbing, showing both the sheer weight of sexism within the industry and how changes need to be made. 

This was back well before the TimesUp! and the #MeToo movements became worldwide campaigns, but we are well into the twenty-first century so for Clarke to feel her voice had no power to voice her concerns, leading to her “crying” before shooting these particular scenes is concerning. Many of the sex scenes in Game of Thrones first few seasons felt gratuitous and the nudity especially felt unneeded in certain places. To put actresses through this emotional trauma for no more than a gratuitous sex scene presents another problem, the fact that the sexualisation of women extends from not just behind the camera, but also the viewing audience. The fact Clarke felt pressured to do these scenes in later seasons so as not to let her “fans down” shows how through the male gaze, fans feel they are entitled to her body. This then leads to the want of producers to feed an audience who they believe to want nudity, in order to keep viewing figures up, in turn creating a vicious circle wherein which the audience becomes expectant of a certain amount of sex and nudity, because of the producer‘s belief that the exploitation of the female body keeps a male viewing audience engaged. This emphasises the danger of females being excluded from the conversation regarding the power and control they have over the distribution of their bodies, as it becomes an example of the microcosmic bubble of Hollywood. A Hollywood that seeks to create an idealised, sexualised and damaging version of women. 

Clarke’s feelings have prompted other actresses to come forward about having also felt exploited, thus showing that this is not an isolated incident limited within television, but an indictment of the industry as a whole. Whether coincidence or not, the day after Clarke’s revelations the UK became the first place in the world to set down laws and regulations regarding how sex and nude scenes should be conducted on set, so actresses can feel as comfortable as possible. The implementation of these laws show that the TimesUp and #MeToo movements are having a deep impact on the industry, as it has to assess its treatment of actresses. Hopefully, this is just the first step of many to breaking the chains of patriarchy that still bind the television and film industries.

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