The final chapter of Game of Thrones (production designer: Deborah Riley) may be be more than a year away, but it's already off to a sour start. As noted on Twitter by Variety's TV critic Maureen Ryan, Game of Thrones Season 8 has only male writers, worsening its already female-light crew. There are plenty of women represented on-screen — Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, and Maisie Williams are among the show's long-running stars — but behind the camera, GoT falls short.
According to Ryan's calculations, by the time the series ends, it will have aired 73 episodes across eight years. Of those, only 5.5 percent will have been written by women — Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water) penned three from 2012 to 2013, while Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) wrote one in 2011 — and only 5.5 percent will have been directed by women. One woman, to be exact: Out of 19 directors, Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad) is the only woman to have helmed a single episode of Game of Thrones. She directed four from 2013 to 2014, which is also the last time a woman is credited as a director for the show. Yep, that's right: A woman has not written or directed for GoT in more than three years.
That's particularly troubling for a show like Game of Thrones, whose depictions of sexual and physical violence could deeply benefit from a female point of view. Over the years, viewers have leveled frequent criticism against the series for featuring scenes like Sansa's rape and the burning of Shireen, both of which marked distinct departures from GoT's source material, both of which were written and directed by men, and both of which have been chastised as gratuitous. GoT''s storylines frequently hinge upon brutality — that's the kind of world the show exists in — but while that extends to male and female characters alike, things like sexual assault against women are too often reduced to plot devices, and GoT is one of the most guilty parties. If more women had creative input behind the scenes, perhaps GoT could have avoided its more problematic impulses.
That this news comes on the heels of 2017 is especially disappointing. This was the year that women in Hollywood were finally, emphatically heard; the year male privilege at last gave way to consequence; and the one that rolled out projects like Big Little Lies, The Handmaid's Tale, and Keepers — all stories that feel diametrically opposed to much of GoT's storytelling. When they feature violence, it feels purposeful and empowering; when GoT does it, it can feel exploitative. Yes, the series lifts up a number of strong, dominant women, but even its most feminist moments are undercut by the scenes in which it's torn them down, usually for what reads like little more than shock value.
As we head into 2018, now comes the time that we should be highlighting more women behind screen, not burying them in aging credits. So far, the upcoming awards season has predictably shut women out — many of which are behind the camera — and as one of the biggest shows of the last decade, Game of Thrones should be paving the way for change. Instead, it appears to be actively regressing it. This criticism is not new, and GoT has had ample opportunities to do better, but as it nears its final legs, the window for change has dwindled. Now, in its final season, it has officially shut.
Game of Thrones will, for many, be remembered as one TV's greatest epics, but there will remain one glaring stain on its legacy. Hopefully, the rest of Hollywood will take note.
This story was created in support of Bustle's 2018 Awards Season pledge. Read more here.