Blood, Battles, Beheadings, and…Feminism? Part 1

9 Apr

by Amy Wiggington 

It’s hard to imagine a show about gladiators and revenge being very feminist, but Spartacus is.  Generally, women are slaves or essentially enslaved to their husbands, but the show treats women and women’s issues with seriousness and gravity.

In the first and second seasons, the Roman women are shown conniving and intellectually strong.  Ilithyia and Lucretia use their cunning and their privilege to get what they want.  Generally, they know what they can get away with, and they make it happen.  While their husbands rely on their station and brute force, they are smart and imaginative enough to be powerful in their own subtle way.  However, they usually use this power to fight each other.
Naevia, a slave who eventually joins the rebellion, is a fully-fledged-out character, showing both feminine and fierce sides of herself.  While she first relies on her partner Crixius, by the middle of the third season, he is following her desires.  She is trained similarly to the male ex-slaves, and is seen as similar in station to them in Spartacus’s army.
Already a fierce warrior when introduced, Saxa quickly rises to becoming perhaps the highest-ranking woman in the rebellion.  She is also the character through which the audience gets to explore bisexuality, polyamory, and open relationships in a nonchalant way that makes all of it feel natural and normal, as it should (although male same-sex relationships are given much more focus).  While, she has a regular partner, she does not rely on him for military aid or sexual pleasure.  She is, in essence, a bamf.
One of the best parts of Spartacus in terms of showing women’s issues, is Stephen deKnight’s (the writer) portrayal of rape and survivors.  He gives multiple full plotlines to the issue to show that rape is about control and not sexual gratification, correcting a common misconception of media and society.  Then, instead of focusing on the rape or ending the storyline there, he shows the continued effect on the survivor as she (or he) works to process and deal with what has happened to her (or him).  I greatly appreciate deKnight’s willingness to deal with such a subject and giving it the seriousness and time needed as each of these plotlines developed throughout the seasons.
Spartacus easily passes the Bechdel test, and leaves me wanting more.  Unfortunately, we’ve only got one episode, dvds of previous seasons, and our fond memories left.
Even though I ship Nagron all the way, the women hold their own on this show.
P.S. If you were thinking from the title that this was going to be about Game of Thrones, wait until part 2 😉
#nagron #spartacus #goatsgoatsgoatsgoats #naevia #saxa #wotd #feminism #bechdel

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