Though Game of Thrones has not been without its controversies, the sprawling ensemble cast allows for the kind of depth and variety of representations that can actually, well, mean something. It's something show star Gwendoline Christie, who plays the doleful but stalwart Brienne of Tarth, would especially know about.
As part a special GOT segment for PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly, Christie explained why she thought the show was important when it came to a larger exploration of female roles on TV. In short, there weren't just a couple of women on the side of the show's story; they were front and center, and covered more than the Madonna/whore archetypes most pop culture consumers can instantly recognize:
"This was a television show that would put women at the forefront. We were going to explore female characters in a way that conventionally doesn't happen.
They wouldn't simply exist as the mother role, the girlfriend role, the wife role, or the sister. They would be people in their own right. I think putting women to the fore is what has changed the platform for television now."
One might think, of course Christie feels this way; her character Brienne gets a flattering badass heroine edit throughout the show. But it's not only explicitly "heroine" characters like Brienne and Arya and Daenerys who get love from fans, as Cersei and Yara and Melisandre show.
And while Game of Thrones wasn't the first show to cast a variety of roles and functions and ages for its female characters, it did so in a way that (generally) honored the story's real thesis: that anyone could exist in, but no one was safe in a dangerous and unpredictable world. Onto season seven!