“Game of Thrones’” violent, vindictive King Joffrey, played by Irish actor Jack Gleeson, was one of the most atrocious characters on a show chock-full of killers, schemers and lowlives.
In real life, however, Gleeson seems like an absolute peach; In a recent Daily Beast interview, the 23-year-old year old talked about his new projects — starting his own theater company, producing an allegorical puppet show called “Bears in Space” with some college friends, and writing a thesis about Ludwig Wittgenstein — and opened up about the show’s misogyny (which he deftly critiqued with the smarts of a 23-year-old Wittgensteinian scholar).
Addressing the show’s imbalance when it comes to female and male nudity, Gleeson agrees with Anna Kendrick that having the show's male characters show off their junk is a positive development. "I think that is one good thing, to not just objectify women but also objectify the beauty of the male genitalia!" he says. "We’re all objects together.”
Saying that he often found his scenes hard to film, Gleeson tells the Daily Beast that representing misogyny is a tricky thing, and while the show “[never] implicitly condones misogyny or any kind of violence towards women… perhaps it’s still unfair or unjust to represent it even if the gloss on the representation is a negative one."
There has been much debate over whether the show’s many depictions of rape and sexual abuse trivialize violence against women. Gleeson, for his part, seems aware of how fine a line the show sometimes walks.
“Obviously as a 23-year-old man, I can never put myself into the mindset of a woman who has been sexually assaulted, but I think that sometimes you have to represent awful things happening onscreen even if they’re for entertainment because you have to expose the brutality of them, because the chances are you’re not going to see that anywhere,” he continues. "So there’s a chance it engages some kind of empathy but it is a gray area. It might be very traumatic and stressful to watch those scenes.”
Talking about the recent, much-criticized scene where Ramsay Bolton rapes Sansa Stark, Gleeson says “I think it’s always how you represent that kind of treatment: Are you in some way making it cool, or are you making it into an entertainment product, and is that wrong? Or are you doing it in order to expose the problem of sexual assault? I haven’t seen the scene, so I can't say.”
Yep, you heard that right — Gleeson doesn’t watch “Game of Thrones" (although sometimes he will “catch clips,”) citing the difficulty of suspending disbelief one you’ve been a part of the production. And it’s not just Westeros that Gleeson is distancing himself from; the young actor says he has very little interest in a Hollywood life.
As he puts it: “It wasn’t really a definitive thing in my mind; one day I woke up and I was like, ‘I’m not going to do this.’ It was simply just as 'Game of Thrones' got bigger and bigger, it was also the stage of life I was at where I was moving through college and finding new interests.” New interests like feminism, analytic philosophy and allegorical bear-themed puppet shows? Sounds good to us!