Reaction: Game of Thrones (1×3)

WATCH OUT, peeps, because shit is about to get real. Littlefinger looks sneaky, Cersei has clearly gone around the bend and is raising Joffrey to have no sense of others’ emotional realities.* Spoilers in 5…

4…
3…
2…
1…

Ned Stark’s buddy, King Robert, has been bankrupting Westeros and letting the whole country go into debt to the Lannisters, who are baddies, except for Tyrion, who they’re all mean to. Meanwhile, back at the ranch Winterfell, Bran, Ned’s son, woke up from the coma Jaime Lannister (Cersei’s brother, secret lover, and secret father of her children) put him in. Someone tried to kill him, so his mom, Catelyn, went to go tell Ned (who’s in King’s Landing) that the Lannisters are not only conspiring against the king, but have also attempted to murder Bran. I gotta say, I really like the casting for Catelyn. She seems age appropriate, and keeps reminding me of Hermione Granger, whose common sense and ability to process information would probably be very useful here. Anyways, this means that in the coming conflict between Stark  and House Lannister, Sansa Stark (who’s betrothed to Joffrey, Cersei’s son and Robert’s heir, because he doesn’t know Cersei’s keeping it in the family) will be caught in the middle. Arya, Sansa’s younger sister, kind of calls Ned out on this when, after he explains to her that the Lannisters are cruel, she asks why he’s making Sansa to marry Joffrey. Arya’s also pretty awesome, because she’s finally allowed to learn fencing. Meanwhile, back at the OTHER ranch across the Narrow Sea, Daenarys is rising into her role as khalessi and Viserys, her abusive older brother, is learning that their power dynamic has shifted. He might have given her away for an army, but she’s more in control than she is.

Ned and Robert are all, JAIME LANNISTER IS A TRAITOR, because he killed the old king by stabbing him in the back. I’ve pretty much decided that Jaime’s theme song is Kanye West’s “Monster,” particularly because the coup/treachery Jaime participated in are what gave Robert the throne in the first place and because Jaime seems to relish in his infamous reputation.

Closing Questions:

1. Is it just me or is there an in-text implication that Joffrey’s tool-ish tendencies are all Cersei’s fault? He’s got two (well, three?) parents here. Really hope that gets fleshed out further.

2. Uhhh. So now that Daenarys has hooked up with her slave, and learned how to do it on top, she’s totally rocking the Khal’s world? As opposed to being his somewhat miserable child bride? That’s a really… troubling narrative about marital rape. And, you know, the idea that the Dothraki are super primitive. I don’t know how I feel about this, besides that it’s really squicky.

Comments

  1. says

    I think the adaptation from book to screen is coming off poorly, when it comes to the women. Some of Catelyn & Daenerys’ agency has been taken away, & that bugs me. Similarly is the fact that Daenerys & Khal Drogo have consensual sex from the start, in the book…so there is that, too.

  2. Maria says

    mordicai:
    I think the adaptation from book to screen is coming off poorly, when it comes to the women.Some of Catelyn & Daenerys’ agency has been taken away, & that bugs me.Similarly is the fact that Daenerys & Khal Drogo have consensual sex from the start, in the book…so there is that, too.

    That’s what I thought!! I had been talking the series up to my girlfriend (she’s the one with the television) and had been really emphasizing the parallel between Cersei (who’s a Queen, but doesn’t want to have sex with the king and does with her bro) and Daenarys (who’s a kind of Queen, but is raped by her brother and loved by her “savage” husband).

    Also, WTF, why do the Dothraki only rarely get lines?

  3. says

    I actually think Drogo *not* being the consensual lover helps Dany’s story (though it harms the Dothraki) since now she learns to control Drogo’s urges, and making the relationship more consensual is a first victory for her. As well, I feel that the forced marriage was portrayed more harmful than in the books, and now Dany is just making the best of it, whereas in the book, it was, “oh, never fear, being married off can be totally cool”. On the other hand, so far, the Dothraki are more savage than before – though the talk between Jorah and the Bloodrider helped in alleviating that, and of course I anticipate this to change, but it might take until season 2.

    We’ve also seen that Jamie’s not a good father, and Robert was a worse one – look at how he treated Joffrey when he was attacked by Arya’s wolf. So Cersei’s the only influence left.

  4. Maria says

    Patrick,

    Right, but those are influences as well. I feel like Cersei gets a lot of in-narrative blame for being an active parent who’s bad, vs. a parent whose benign neglect has also deeply shaped his son’s feelings about masculinity.

    Re: the Dothraki
    But the thing is, instead of it being like, Oh, hey, these people who the Westeros think are primitive aren’t, and Daenarys is getting better treatment as a trophy bride here, from “primitives” than she would with Westeros (like Sansa will), it’s now that magic power of pussy that’s able to tame a cruel husband. That’s… not a better character arc, because it’s more reliant on what she is (white, young, beautiful, not-primitive/savage) and less on what she does (learning to be a khalessi).

  5. Maria says

    Patrick,

    And now when/if Tyrion and Sansa marry, NOT raping your frightened child bride will be stuck on the Westeros/civilized side only.

  6. Attackfish says

    Actually, part of what made me stop reading the books is that Dany and Khal’s wedding night isn’t consensual there either. She says no repeatedly, and he keeps touching her sexually until she gives in and says yes. But this is painted as a good loving thing for him to do. The show just made obvious what was already there.

    • Maria says

      @Attackfish LOL you guys are gonna make me pull out my copies of the books! I don’t remember it being that way, but I remember Daenarys having, like, really complicated feelings of shame and fear that only resolve AFTER she realizes that the Dothraki will back her up in confrontations with her brother. Like, I remember there being a lot of “no”‘s with funky punctuation (like a no! no. no? yes. interchange with Dany saying the yes?) and then orgasms for everyone. I read the book several years ago, though, so it’s entirely possible that the “yes” wasn’t consent but more acquiescence to what Khal Drogo was going to do anyways.

  7. Maria says

    Maria:
    This matches my read:

    http://parabasis.typepad.com/blog/2011/04/game-of-thrones-adaptation-women.html

    I will say, though, that I’d totally forgotten she’s 13, and that because of the extant power dynamics (she just got traded to him by her brother for an army), consent vs. acquiescence to the inevitable are quibbly points.

    I still don’t like how the Dothraki are being shown as uber-primitives able who only have sex doggy style and that can be tamed by introducing missionary and cowgirl sex.

  8. funder says

    Is this a spoiler-free zone?

    The one thing I really wish they’d made clearer in the adaptation is that Daenerys was supposed to marry her utterly psychotic older brother. Troubling child rape narrative, lack of agency, unpleasant racial implications, yes, but it’s all MUCH better than her life would’ve been with Viserys.

    • Maria says

      I don’t care about spoilers, particularly, and put up a spoiler count down… so hopefully everyone gets that there are apoilers ahoy. :)

  9. Attackfish says

    Maria: I still don’t like how the Dothraki are being shown as uber-primitives able who only have sex doggy style and that can be tamed by introducing missionary and cowgirl sex.

    This was among the other reasons I stopped reading. It was nowhere near so bad in the books, but the Dothraki definitely got the “look at the primitives” and “Noble savage” thing there too. Then I got spoiled for certain deaths, and realized he was going to kill off everybody I liked.

    And what’s so bad about doggy style anyway?

    Mostly I just got the impression from that scene that GRRM was saying “Well, she enjoyed it in the end, so it wasn’t rape!” And, yeah, people orgasm during sexual assault all the time, and if it helps them recover from he experience to frame it as something other than rape, cool, but having it as a cultural meme is not.

    • Maria says

      @Attackfish

      I see what you’re saying now. Yeah, you are right. Thank you for explaining so well.

      The doggy style thing in general squicks me out — equating primitivism with sexual positions has kind of a long history.

      (PS Who all is going to die?)

  10. irnan says

    Delurking here to point out that in the novels, Dany is thirteen on her wedding night, and while you could call that one scene dubcon rather than the unequivocal rape that’s shown in the show, there’s also a whole subsequent chapter about how little Drogo cares for her wants and how painful their, uh, sexual encounters, are for her. Then she has a weird dragon-dream, gets Doreah to give her lessons, and voila: TRUE LOVE. Which always reads like a fantasy version of Stockholm Syndrome to me. (Westeros Syndrome?) I’ve always sort of suspected that she subconsciously decides she’s in love with him in order to safeguard her sanity in that situation. Later chapters prove (I feel, anyway) that if she had said no on the wedding night, Drogo would have ignored it. Dany gets an illusion of consent at that point which is pretty quickly taken away again, and she basically twists her own psyche in order to (re)create an illusion that makes the marriage bearable for her.

    So in that way I almost prefer the show’s version, where Dany seemed to make a conscious, deliberate decision to make the best of a really bad situation and is slowly learning to use the agency being Drogo’s wife gives her to fight back against Viserys at the same time.

  11. irnan says

    Weeeeell, I seem to remember – SPOILERS – Doreah dying not much later. Around the beginning of Clash of Kings, I think? There’s no long-lasting ANYTHING in these novels unless it began pre-canon ;)

  12. Maria says

    irnan,

    WAIT, Daenarys’ kinda-friend? SERIOUS FROWNY FACE. Is she going to become a great white queen with no female friends who also better than her chosen family at everything important…?

  13. irnan says

    Maria,

    Well, she stays pretty close with Irri and Jhiqui. And there’s a girl called Missandei later. And a huge part of her story is learning who to trust and how to rule and when she’s being smart and when she’s just being self-righteous and idealistic.

  14. Maria says

    irnan,

    :narrowed eyes:

    Everyone shall face my wrath if Daenarys and Sansa end up with no friends. So far they are my favorite characters. Well, and Catelyn and Arya Stark.

  15. Fey says

    the Lannisters, who are baddies, except for Tyrion

    You did catch that he was the one who sent the assasin into Bran’s room?
    I mean, I agree, that in the scenes he’s in he comes across as incredibly sympathetic, but he HAS explicitely said that he’d do most anything for his family.

    Joffrey’s face irritates me somehow. I don’t know why exactly, it might just be a bad wig or that his eyes seem to glow sometimes? Maybe it’s meant to be implied that he’s braindamaged due to incest-genetics? (I mean, we have no idea whether that kind of thing is a tradition for the Lannisters.) He certaily has nothing of Roberts colouring. But more realistically, I’d say that any kid growing up in the surrounding he did and with people behaving like the ones around him (Cersai does it, but it’s not like the others are any better, she might just actually care to spend some time with him now and then) will probably turn out pretty screwed up.

    • Maria says

      @Fey

      All I’m going to say is that he’s also boasted about how smart he is. Would he send a random dude to kill a noble’s son, give that random dude his swank knife, and tell him to use that? Particularly since we don’t SEE Tyrion with that knife, and only get confirmation that it is his from Littlefinger, who says point blank not to trust him?

  16. says

    Sansa, to me, is one of the saddest and at the same time, one of the most annoying characters in the novels because she is so married to her ideal of knights and courts and songs, but I think her trajectory could make her a very capable power broker.

    Maria, I think there’s a problem for me because I read the books (and listened to them) half a dozen times, so I am pretty versed in the later beats. It’s hard to take single episodes on their own benefit. Dany, for example, is going to become a great leader, and her khalassar will be full of “savages” who really, are not. (There *is* the problem of the white queen ruling the swarthy people, on the other hand.)

    Anyway, when I saw the Drogo scene, I saw Dany taking charge of her destiny for the first time, and the first (tiny) step towards her emancipation.

    I think the Dothraki will probably suffer the most of all of the characters and people from the books. Only Dany’s chapters are there, so the show won’t spend a lot of time with them, and where Martin has the space to show them as not-as-savage, the show will have to cut corners everywhere to fit it into the episode count.

    Attackfish: as I said, especially from Book 2 onward (book one is about Dany and Drogo, mostly), Martin breaks with the stereotypes and the first impressions one might have gotten from the Dothraki as well as the Wildlings as well as several major characters.

    • Maria says

      @Patrick Oh I can see Dany becoming a competant khalessi, for sure in the first books. What I’m saying is that in the series as is now, it’s not because of her claiming agency through what she does but agency claimed through what she is, a commodity.

      I gotta say, too, that I’m disappointed that you’re naming the erasure/diminishment of characters of color as simple cutting corners.

  17. David says

    Fey,

    Tyrion definitely (using book-knowledge) didn’t actually send the assassin. As was mentioned by others, the knife is far too blatant. You have to take Littlefinger’s word that he bet against his family, too… and trusting Littlefinger is unwise.

  18. says

    Maria:
    I gotta say, too, that I’m disappointed that you’re naming the erasure/diminishment of characters of color as simple cutting corners.

    Well, I don’t think someone is actually trying to actively diminish these characters because of their color, but I anticipate that these characters will suffer even more in translation than they already have. This, of course, fits into typical Hollywood processes, and I think it’s a goddamn shame. All I wanted to say above was “get ready for even more of that before it might get better (in Season 2)”. Not that I condone it.

  19. M.C. says

    Okay, so I haven’t read the books and don’t know the character’s original intentions. But to me that first sexual encounter between Dany and Drogo wasn’t so much a rape scene. The emphasis seemed to be on Dany’s inability to communicate with Drogo and her frustration and despair that her brother had sold her to a man who couldn’t even speak with her.
    Because imo Drogo didn’t act like he wanted to hurt her, and I kept thinking that if Dany was capable of telling him that she didn’t want to have sex, then he wouldn’t force her. Hence her learning the Dothraki tongue was the first step in learning to take charge of her own life.

  20. Maria says

    Patrick,

    Heh, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think that given the tendencies for mainstream media to racebend, whitewash, or remove the agency of characters of color, thinking that this is not an active process is naive, particularly in a story where those people are supposedly an eventual major political force, if Dany really is supposed to be a contender for the throne.

  21. M.C. says

    Maria,

    Well, Dany obviously didn’t want to have sex. I’m not denying that. I’m just saying that the focus of the scene wasn’t on Drogo trying to hurt or dominate Dany, but on how lost she felt. And this didn’t change until she started learning the Dothraki tongue and learned to communicate with Drogo.

    • Maria says

      I’d put that moment more by when she dismissed all the other slave women and kept the one who’d been a sex slave to teach her how to have sex.

  22. says

    Patrick: Well, I don’t think someone is actually trying to actively diminish these characters because of their color, but I anticipate that these characters will suffer even more in translation than they already have.

    Er, let’s not forget that I and quite a few other people have actually been told by film pros and film professors: the lead must be a white man. And the alleged rationale behind it, such as it is? That the audience won’t accept anything but white men because, they claim, while Hollywooders are so Libbral and Enlituned and Stuff, the audience is entirely composed of bigoted asswipes who will boycott something if there’s a chick or a man of color in a prominent position.

    It doesn’t matter whether any individuals are all, “Whooweee, we kept another ***** down today!” or not. They’re participating in the system and profiting from it. That’s why I opted out.

  23. Sally says

    “2. Uhhh. So now that Daenarys has hooked up with her slave, and learned how to do it on top, she’s totally rocking the Khal’s world? As opposed to being his somewhat miserable child bride? That’s a really… troubling narrative about marital rape. And, you know, the idea that the Dothraki are super primitive. I don’t know how I feel about this, besides that it’s really squicky.”

    A friend (male) pointed me to westeros.org’s (http://www.westeros.org/GoT/Features/Entry/On_Race_and_Gender_A_Response_to_Certain_Accusations/ ) attempt to whitewash the series on this.
    I replied

    “On one hand, I don’t want my history sanitized – nor my fantasy either… but this is not a fuddy-duddy History Book (“the bulk of all marriages throughout history … wives submitted to their husbands as vehicles for marital rape”) or a Niche Product that only appeals to Readers of Bodice-Ripping Harlequin Romances or Spotty Roleplayers.

    It is a widely-hyped and very expensive TV series. So I feel that it is disingenuous for the authors of the Westeros article to hide behind either Historical Accuracy or Artistic Licence, especially when there are Very Real, Non-Fantastic People (with loud mouths and deep pockets) in the World of Now who want to re-institute the “Good Old Days” where it was a husband’s ‘right’ to rape his wife.

    PS: I found it interesting that the article felt it necessary to address questions of race *before* questions of gender. And I was most amused by the red herring of Greek ‘homosexuality.’ “

  24. says

    Hey,

    First of all, I just wanted to say that I’m really stoked that someone in the comments thread mentioned my post on Parabasis about GOT’s rapeyness.

    I think there is definitely a dynamic going on in premium cable where respect is built on female bodies, and I find that very troubling. Also, the Dothraki are a hilariously campy racist caricature. i cant’ tell if it makes it more or less racist that the Dothraki are mainly white people with tans and eye make-up to make them look more ethnic. But the Dothraki don’t work in the books either (and Danaerys as a character doesn’t really get interesting until the third book). The thing that Martin does eventually that *could* work is show that the Dothraki and the people of Westeros are very, very similar and it is only our cultural biases that keep us from recognizing that. The problem is, he doesn’t make this overt enough in the text (you actually have to read the texts against themselves to find the critique within). The obvious solution of having a Dothraki POV character is never attempted.

    That being said, it seems to me that these problems in the show are easily fixable. All HBO needs to do is:

    (a) Show some naked men from the front every episode
    (b) have some major characters on Westeros be played by actors of color.
    (c) stop showing ever singly incidence of sex (consensual or otherwise) in the book

    That’s really not that hard. That they don’t do any of those things shows me how deeply embedded various cultural assumptions that we have about male nudity and people of color are. It reminds me of the shameful geek freakout over Idris Elba being cast in Thor, or how people laughed at Donald Glover’s campaign to be the next Spider-Man. I see no reason why many of the characters in Westeros couldn’t be played by people of color other than short sightedness. It’s fantasy, for crying out loud.

  25. Firebird says

    @Maria, as I remember it, *every* POV character from the first book was dead by the third (possibly excepting Dany). Last I remember Sansa was somewhere in the south (?) with someone or other helping her and if I remember, someone was with her – Arya maybe?

    As to Tyrion, I never saw him as good or bad. He isn’t the malevolence that is the rest of the Lannisters, but he isn’t honor and heroism like Ned either; he has his own ends and you aren’t sure what he’s up to, really ever, or what he wants.

    The Dany/Drogo thing struck me really odd when I read it. I read the original marriage night as him being kind and gentle and seducing her and paying more attention to her pleasure than his own – all the things you might want in a consensual relationship if one partner wants it but is nervous, say. Then suddenly he doesn’t care anymore and doesn’t talk to her or take any time with her, and then she takes control. It read like different personalities spliced in to the same character name to make the right conflicts for Dany. Given how young she was and the way others are describing the scene I seem to have taken the wrong way from the books, I don’t really understand the purpose of the scene. That whole relationship has always rung hollow to me.

  26. Shaun says

    Firebird,

    Your memory is off. *Every* point of view character from the first book doesn’t die by the third, not even half of them. But yes, lots and lots of people die. Sansa is in the Aerie last we saw her, Arya is not even on the same continent.

    As far as Tyrion, I think his motivations were pretty straightforward. He is loyal to his family, and trying to keep the Kingdom together and do justice by his responsibilities, and especially by comparison to the people around him do it as a halfway decent human being. Ned is a fool and I don’t know why everyone holds him up as the pinnacle of light and goodness, from his completely shitty personal conduct to his moral inflexibility no matter who it hurts. I’d take a Tyrion in my court any day.

  27. Shaun says

    Well. My first beef is that while everyone in the fandom apparently h8s Catelyn, mostly for really stupid reasons, but often because of how horribly emotionally abusive to Jon she is, I don’t feel like Ned should get a pass on this. He passively allows it, he doesn’t do ANYTHING to mitigate the situation, just tells Catelyn “he is my son and we will not speak of it.”

    Then you find out (this has mostly been implied) that Jon’s not his son at all, but his nephew, and he promised Brianna he would raise Jon as his own (I don’t remember whether the child was consensually Rhaegar’s or not, but either way he would have been killed) AND HE CAN’T EVEN TELL HIS OWN WIFE THIS. Really? It obviously causes her huge distress for years and he couldn’t bring her in on the secret, psst, I didn’t actually cheat on you, he’s our nephew and we must protect him? EVEN when it became apparent Catelyn was going to be shitty to him his entire life?

    I’m really not impressed by his “honor,” particular with the emotional toll it brings to his wife and his nephew, who he’s raising as a son. He doesn’t get points with me for it, because I think holding to an inflexible standard of ethics at the expense of other people is shitty.

    I don’t remember if there was really something else or if I just really dislike the toxic family situation. I’m also extremely aggravated that I hear 1001 reasons why Catelyn is a shitty human being but Ned is apparently a god on Westeros.

    • Maria says

      @Shaun

      Thanks! It’s been years since I read the books. I generally disliked him because I thought he was only a good dad to his manly children, and that Sansa, who’s more femme, just became a pawn.

  28. M.C. says

    Shaun:
    I think holding to an inflexible standard of ethics at the expense of other people is shitty.

    THIS!

    This is exactly the problem I have with many so-called heroes in fiction and why I prefer anti-heroes who might do some shitty things but will always take care of their loved ones.

  29. Shaun says

    @Maria
    Now Sansa is a character I truly despise. I was already throughly disgusted with the direwolf situation (which already aired). Had she told the truth and remained loyal to her family her connection to her direwolf wouldn’t have been severed. But her actions at the end of the first book, where she deliberately betrayed Ned to Cersei, were unconscionable. Even after that, with all the stuff that happened to her, I kept waiting for her to become a decent human being, but her disgusting treatment toward Tyrion, for example really pissed me off. He was the only character, at that point, not beating or using or sexually assaulting her–but oh wait he’s a disgusting dwarf, and everyone else is able and ~so handsome.~

    Sorry I have strong feelings on a lot of characters. XD TBH it’s hard not to object to most of the characters in some way, shape, or form.

    • Maria says

      @Shaun

      Heh, please tell me you’re not blaming a fifteen year old girl whose family traded her to another in order to not be politically embarrassed for not showing more loyalty to her old family, and for not jumping up and down with gratitude once she’s traded to another man several years her senior whose reputation includes treachery and debauchery, and that is one that he deliberately cultivates.

  30. Brand Robins says

    Random thoughts.

    1) The Dothraki were bad in the books in all the ways Central Eurasian typed peoples are always bad in fantasy novels. But in the show they’re worse. They are, in fact, so bad that every time they show them hanging meat out to dry while dressed in their bad-cave-people outfits I have to laugh. Its so ridiculous a type that its funny. Except of course that its not, as the Central Eurasian folks who those stereotypes were made up to diminish are still the subject of near genocidal programs of cultural destruction.

    (For the record, what a Central Asian tribal leader actually dressed like: http://www.siue.edu/COSTUMES/images/PLATE124AX.JPG — which I guess isn’t Conan enough.)

    2. I didn’t like the changes to Dany and Drogo. She became too “magic white sex girl” and he… well, it almost felt like the writers said “Hell, no one will respect the great barbarian warlord if he isn’t rapey enough. Dude is A MANLY MANLY MAN MAN, he can’t be bothered to take any time with his unwilling child bride. Dude should just toss her down and have his way with her. That’s what my inner Barbarian would do! Because being a barbarian is all about the rape bro!”

    ICK.

    3. OTOH, I felt the best balanced and most insightful set of scenes was the back to back scene of the Queen and the Prince and Ned and Arya. I loved the scenes together because they pointed out how very much the same the two sides are. Certainly the Lannisters are creepy and say all the things to make us dislike them (the spoiling, the incest, the selfishness based in greed and privilege). And certainly the Starks talk a good game (familial love, honor, stern and stoic puritanism). But (and let us remember that nothing before the but matters)…

    In the end both parents tell their kid the same thing “There is us, and there is them, and they are the enemy and we will defeat them.”

    Yea, the Lannisters are disgusting. But at least they’re open about the fact that they’re fighting a war to see who will server and who will eat. They know they’re pushing other people down so they can stand on their backs, and they play to it openly. The Starks, otoh, talk a lot about honor and justice… but they’re sill the rich folks living in the castle and lording it over (literally) peasants who are not demonstrably better off than any other peasants anywhere.

    Hell, the show and books even go to lengths to point out how good John, a bastard, has it compared to common folks. He’s the unwanted one, the outside one, the hated one… and he’s still got all the privilege in the world compared to the other Night’s Watch members. How much more does old Ned “one of the three most powerful men in Westros” Stark have?

    And yet we’re always positioned to feel bad for Ned. He’s so put upon by the silly king! He’s so surrounded by the treacherous Lannisters! He’s always having to hurt people he loves to survive with honor! Yea, poor little rich duke who rules with steel and blood over a geographic third of the kingdom….

    While reading the books I used to play a little game. Every time Ned said or thought “Honor” or “Duty” I replaced them with “power” to see how it would make me feel about what he was saying. It seemed appropriate considering how much of what he does to keep “honor” is also about maintaining power and position.

    And in many ways I think what turns out to be Ned’s Achilles heel is that he believes his own rhetoric. Which makes him maybe a moral man in the end, but also causes massive harm to everyone he loves. And when a moral man makes a correct moral choice and it still destroys, it must cause one to question the underlying structural order of the society and its values.

    4. In the middle of the first episode Mo (my wife) says “So is the whole series about destructive masculinity and violence and how they ruin everything for everyone?”

    I think probably yes.

  31. Maria says

    Brand Robins,

    But I think accidentally so — at least according to those fans who really do think Ned’s put upon, who hate Brienne for being ugly and not loving the Lannisters, and who hate Sansa for not paying Tyrion’s kindness with sex.

  32. Shaun says

    Maria,

    Maria,

    OK, so she can be pissed at her family. Did Arya have anything to do with that? Did she not think it might be worth taking her little sister’s side when her charming Prince ALMOST CUT HER HEAD OFF? I’m not a huge fan of Ned, like I said, but the whole conflict was between Joffrey and Arya. That entire time Joffrey wanted to kill Mikah, and Arya tried to defend it, and Sansa was screaming “stop it, stop it?” Yeah, that wasn’t to Joffrey.

    I don’t know anybody who suggested Sansa should repay the “kindness” of Tyrion not raping her with sex, but she could have been a little less “EWWW, he’s so ugly!”

  33. Brand Robins says

    Maria,

    Valid points.

    I think a good part of the fan base’s reaction can be based on their inability to distinguish what people say from what people do/the effects of what people do.

    So when you say things in a way that makes them sound nice but actually has horrible implications or outcomes, that makes you nice. But when you do the exact same things but say it in a way that sounds horrible, that makes you horrible.

    Which leave me unsure about how the authors (book and show) feel about it. Did they mean to show those scenes as “Ned is awesome because he sounds nice while Cercsi is a bitch because she sounds wicked?” Maybe.

    Chances are good, either way, that you’re right about how the fans are going to take it. For the majority the fact that Ned said “We’re going to destroy House Lannister” in nice language is enough to make it a good thing.

  34. Rhii says

    Sally,

    I hate how they play that having-it-both-ways game in that article. In regards to the Dothraki, they say “Guys, it’s fantasy! GRRM didn’t have to make it like the real world!”

    ** ” I do not want to read fantasy stories where issues of race (or gender) from the real world are allowed to dictate what can or can’t be done.” **

    But then in regards to Dany they say “Guys, it’s historical! If it wasn’t rape, it wouldn’t be realistic!”

    ** ” But I think that it is dangerous to apply such an argument to pre-modern societies; we might have to consider the bulk of all marriages throughout history where wives submitted to their husbands as vehicles for marital rape. I don’t think such an application of the modern, more informed view of women’s rights to pre-modern times is wise or appropriate.” **

    Gag me.

  35. Maria says

    Shaun: I don’t know anybody who suggested Sansa should repay the “kindness” of Tyrion not raping her with sex, but she could have been a little less “EWWW, he’s so ugly!”

    Duru talks about some of those fan reactions here:
    http://thehathorlegacy.com/whats-with-all-the-brienne-hate-among-george-rr-martin-fans/

    But I gotta say… considering the WEALTH of misinformation about Tyrion and what it’s legitimate to expect Sansa to know, it’s not unsurprising/incomprehensible to me that she would react that way, especially considering that her parents raised her on a steady diet of bardic tales where ugly —-> villain.

  36. Maria says

    Brand Robins,

    And I think the thing I find most troubling about this scene as a feminist is that the character who you’re NOT invited to identify with/sympathize with in those scenes is Sansa, the femme who’s now a pawn. I don’t think she’s going to be invited to the big Stark victory party, if you know what I mean, on account of having been expendable, and having that femininity be the thing that most strongly visually differentiates her from Arya. Her girliness comes to stand in for her flightiness, her lack of loyalty to her family, and her shallowness, much like how in Narnia Susan’s nylons are a metonym for her no longer having the innocence or purity of heart of her younger self.

    ETA: Sorry, I dropped flailed and hit post too soon.

  37. Shaun says

    Maria,

    Thinking about it you have a good point. Based on Tyrion’s reputation I would have been terrified to be married to him too, considering marital power dynamics in this setting and as much else as Sansa has already gone through.

    I still cannot reconcile her willingness to sacrifice her sister in favor of Joffrey, though but I think I see your point about characterization.

    And that’s some disturbing shit about Brienne. I’ve actually never heard anyone hate on Brienne, although a couple people have wished she was written as attractive or feminine.

  38. Shaun says

    Brand Robins,

    I’m not a fan of Ned but I wouldn’t go so far to say that commoners in the North aren’t any better off than in the rest of Westeros. Despite the fact that the series hardly focuses on anyone who isn’t noble or at least a knight, I can think of a couple examples off the top of my head:

    1) Ser Jorah Mormont was pushed out of Westeros for his involvement in the slave trade; if he hadn’t left Ned Stark would have executed for him. This shows that Stark believes commoners have rights (however few) and that he’s willing to execute a noble for violating those rights. I cannot imagine any of the southern kingdoms (possible exception: Dorne) doing this–look at the total lack of reaction to the execution of Mikah, a child.

    I feel compelled to acknowledge that girls traded to brothels are slaves, and if they are at brothels in the North this would be sexual slavery. But we don’t know that they are, or whether or not this practice is opposed in the North.

    2. In one of the later books a man who stole food because he was starving faces losing a finger for the theft. He stole bread from a church. The southern lord who sentences him says that because he stole from the Seven he’ll lose /seven/ fingers, and orders any seven be taken, excluding the thumbs. There is no hint that Northern “justice” involves mutiliation.

    3. Worship of the Seven definitely seems to have an inherent misogynistic construction, and it’s a foreign belief to the North, forced on them by the occupation that united the Seven Kingdoms. Given the situation of women in the North is hardly awesome one can conclude the old religion of the First Men also does not rock, but we haven’t seen enough to know how it affects women.

    Some of these points are shaky and rely on the complete lack of illustration of the lives of commoners in the North, but from what points we CAN infer it does seem to be better, by degrees. I would also question Ned’s primary motivation is power–why do you think Robert is King? Jaime is the one who killed the Targaryen, and while Robert may have led armies so did Ned. Ned controls 1/3 of the continent and more soldiers than any other single lord. If he were so interested in power he could have taken it for himself.

    I think rather that Ned has a very strict construction of how things Should Be, and this construction is an extremely conservative interpretation of the world. Lust for power is far from the only force promoting misery in the world and it’s probably not even the most dangerous (there’re only a few Roberts and Cerseis and Viseryses, but how many Neds holding up the whole system?).

  39. Sally says

    Rhii,

    I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you!

    Apparently Historical Accuracy is important because it gives the fanboiz a hard-on.

  40. Maria says

    Shaun: I still cannot reconcile her willingness to sacrifice her sister in favor of Joffrey, though but I think I see your point about characterization.

    But again, think about what we know or don’t know about marital dynamics, and how her parents have given her away/”allowed” her to marry a Lannister, and how later her intuition that placating Joffrey is a defense comes up again when Robb’s army defeats, like, Ser Safford/Stafford or whoever, and Sansa’s beaten for that.

    We know in-text that Arya and Catelyn’s treatment is unusual — Ned AFAIK has never forced them (unlike Robert with Cersei, Drogo with Daenarys, and Lyanna with one of the Targaryen) or hit them (unlike Robert with Cersei, Daenarys and her bro, Lyanna who gets killed, and the girl Tyrion loved who his father has killed? I think?)…. so. Yeah. IDK what I would do in that situation, but I think she did the best she could in the show by saying she didn’t remember, and that she wanted EVERYONE to stop it, not just Arya.

  41. irnan says

    One of the things that shouldn’t be forgotten about Sansa’s betrothal to Joffrey is that he’s not just a Lannister – he’s also King Robert’s son and heir to the throne. Catelyn points out in the novel – and quite rightly – that refusing the crown prince of all the Seven Kingdoms as a husband for Sansa would give even Robert, much as he loves Ned, reason to be suspicious of the Stark’s loyalty to the throne. She’s not a pawn in a malicious scheme her parents are cooking up so much as the price they might have to pay for the survival of the entire family.

    Personally I think Sansa understands this on an instinctive level, and that towards the end of AGoT she does actually think she’s working for the preservation of her family in the only way she knows how, which is within the confines of that role as the loyal betrothed of the new King whose gracious pleas for mercy he is supposed to grant/be swayed by. It’s Joffrey who’s not playing along with those roles.

    • Maria says

      Lol @ irnan– you know that you just said the definition of a pawn, right? It’s a piece you sacrifice to win a game, and, if it’s lucky enough to survive the journey across the chess board MAY potentially ransom another piece. It’s expendable.

      But besides that you’re right –Sansa is trying to make a shitty situation work using courtly ballads as a guide and it’s going poorly for her

  42. irnan says

    The point I was trying to make was that Ned and Cat – in the novels at least – don’t want to put Sansa in that situation. By reason of it being Robert who made the offer for the betrothal, they haven’t got any other options. It’s really not about sacrificing her as a form of one-upmanship. The political system is built on personal loyalties reinforced by marriage ties; if they refuse the marriage then they’re not loyal, and if they’re not loyal, they’re traitors. And traitors die.

    I’m not claiming it isn’t an awful situation to put an adult woman in, let alone a child; just that they don’t actually have a choice in the matter. Robert made the offer and now the Starks are stuck unless they get absolute, irrefutable proof that the Lannisters murdered Arryn and sent a man to kill Bran.

  43. Brand Robins says

    Shaun,

    To clarify, I don’t think Ned lusts for power.

    I think, in fact, the fact that he doesn’t is what kills him.

    Ned lives power, embodies power, and through his conservative social constructions ensures that he and those like him will sit at the table and those over there will serve. He is the good guy holding up a bad system.

    And its the very fact that he’s trying to do good in a bad, broken system that kills him. You can do good in a good system, you can do evil in an evil system — but try to do good in an evil system and you are systemically fucked.

    Maria,

    Yea. Sansa to is fucked by the system that she loves and upholds.

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