#GameofThrones 1.02

Obligatory recapBran is still unconscious from his fall, Jon and Tyrion are riding north to the Wall, King Robert and Ned are riding south towards King’s Landing (along with Sansa, Arya, the Lannisters and of course The Hound); Catelyn gets some help from an assassin-eating direwolf and does some sleuthing. Danaerys finally takes control of her sexual agency, Joff is a little shit and Arya finally gets a needle she can wield.

Some moments I really loved in this ep – Tyrion teasing Tommen and Myrcella at breakfast, after slapping Joffrey around, and Arya’s farewell to Jon, panning up the wolf pelts and past the real wolf curled up by Bran’s side – and others I found less compelling.

The added scene between Catelyn Stark at Bran’s bedside and Cersei, a whipped up concoction of mother-bonding, felt…weird. It needed a reaction shot of Cersei walking away and wiping off fake tears, something to remind us of what we love-to-hate about the Lannisters. They are steel and whipcord – they are not wrapped-in-a-shawl vulnerable.

An imperfect example of problematic misogynistic language pops up when Ned and King Robert are talking of Dany and her marriage.  “Soon enough that child will spread her legs and start breeding,” Robert says, fearing that this Targaryen heir will soon have children who will grow-up to defeat him.

The line might seem fairly innocuous to most of youse – more like character development for King Robert than an anti-woman red flag. And sure, now that he’s expressed this thought this way, we know with a little more certainty that Robert is uncouth, unchivalrous, vulgar. But he’d just finished talking about the *ahem* endowments of an old mistress of his, so we knew that already. His gaucheness is a foil for Ned’s restrained closed-mouthedness about Jon Snow’s mother.

“Spread her legs and start breeding” is such a graphic, insulting, dehumanizing way to phrase it. “Soon enough that child could be the mother of dragons,” would be too poetic for Robert. “Soon enough that child will give birth to dangerous offspring” would be just as illustrative without the animal imagery and implied slut-shaming.

A minute later when King Robert talks about Viserys he says “If the Targaryan boy crosses with a Dothraki horde at his back, the scum will join him,” and Ned replies “If he does, we’ll throw him back into the sea.”

Notice how they’re not dehumanizing their rival, or planning to combat his insurgence with degrading or sexual violence? Funny how men are men, and women are animals….especially when men are doing all the warmongering.

Yadda yadda yadda, double standard, Tyrion can joke about the brothels that’d go bankrupt if he went celibate, while a married royal scion is fodder for animal comparisons….Oh, and a prince of the realm calls a girl about to kick his ass at sword fighting “the c word.” I’m so glad that along with the printing press, social equality has made such progress!

If I, a feminist, were writing this book, I would be more interested in finding creative ways to illustrate that some women are strong and some men are vile than in trotting out the same sexist tropes that frat boys and fashion magazines still use today. Just sayin’.

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12 Responses to #GameofThrones 1.02

  1. braak says:

    I still don’t think this is precisely fair. It’s one thing to say that you don’t think that Game of Thrones, as it stands, provides a sufficient set of examples of empowered women or non-misogynist men; but simultaneously, it’s purposefully created to evoke a socially-backwards and abhorrent social condition. Yes, the printing press has brought literature a long way — but Game of Thrones is a world that exists before the printing press. It was a shitty time for women, and men treated women in a shitty way.

    And it’s Roberts dehumanizing, sexually degrading contempt for Danerys that is belied by what we know about her character — the narrative doesn’t degrade the character, Robert degrades the character and (presumably, we’ll see how closely the show hews to the book) that contempt and dehumanization is belied by every scene that Danerys is in. The narrative is humanizing and empowering, and it’s specifically meant to exist in opposition to a prevailing opinion that was both common in preindustrial societies and is patently wrong.

    • mkpheartsnyc says:

      That is a really great way of putting it – the narrative as empowering, the culture within the narrative is degrading. It’s so interesting to revisit this as an older reader and in a new medium simultaneously. What I took away from the books – even more so the first time I read them, but I’m still experiencing it – is difficulty separating the narrative itself from the culture within it.

      GRRM created this world and wrote his characters into it SO they’d experience that toxic culture, and when I read fantasy I tend to take it very personally, for better or for worse. When Robert starts shooting his mouth off about Dany I want to rise to her defense; when every male character has something derogatory to say about every woman they meet, I feel like there’s no place for me to be safe in the book.

      I think the HBO series is doing a great job of emphasizing the women’s experiences, of spending time in their world, and making the first person chapters feel equally weighted (which I didn’t always feel was the case in the book)

      • braak says:

        It’s challenging, especially because, as you say, Martin could have written a fantasy in which the culture wasn’t toxic. It was his fantasy story, he could have written whatever he wanted. And it’s sure fair to just not like it because of how problematic you find the culture he created; I still maintain that it is, in its way, a kind of feminist answer to similar sorts of stories (*cough*lordoftherings*cough*) that accept a cultural misogyny by default and romanticise the notion of a preindustrial gender relations.

        (By which I mean, LotR has powerful women, and isn’t sexually degrading to any of them, but in that respect it sort of flinches away from the verifiable fact that Barbarian Dayes were pretty shitty when it came to the lives of women.)

      • Kim says:

        I feel like the trip to TV has really degraded Dany. I don’t believe — I disbelieve, in the very idea of a 17yrold as the type of victim that she NEEDS to be.
        She needs to be 13 (and yes, you can do that with a 23 yr old. grab the gal from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.)

        A 13 yr old can have the utter lack of agency, and real perception of rape — without it being Drogo’s fault. I can believe that someone new to sexuality in general, just learning, isn’t having fun. Particularly with a rather, ahem, large and vigorous partner. That she feels forced into it, and that her entire world has just changed.

        This makes the whole journey of “Dany taking agency” work, in a real way. It’s no longer her “triumphing over a beast” (ala beauty and the beast), but more of realizing that she has opportunities, a new culture, etc.

        And Drogo can adjust (fairly happily) to her wanting to be a queen, and not just a shivvering little child.

        Someone at 17? Just no. I expect someone at 17 to act like a young Cersei, someone who knows, and has been taught, what her role is. Not a scared little shivvering puppy.

      • mkpheartsnyc says:

        I feel like maybe it’s just too hard to watch a child in that situation-as a producer I would feel a commitment to her transformation from victim to Queen without needing to have that hat transformation start from a place of childhood. And from her perspective it is Drogo’s fault, from his he’s just breaking in a new Queen. At least in the book you get a sense of mutual respect and affection that’s not coming through the screen yet

      • Kim says:

        sorry that you’re feeling so upset inside the book. I think it’s great that you’re empathizing with the characters that much, though. 😉

      • mkpheartsnyc says:

        Haha, yeah I’ve never suffered from a lack of empathy for book people :). I’m really enjoying the new (safer) experience I’m having in this reread tho. Thanks for all your comments!

  2. mkpheartsnyc says:

    Well said! Lord of the Rings fails the Bechdel test so hard that if there were a view process it’d get dropped way below “Middle” Earth. Not that the female characters (all three of them) aren’t interesting in their own way, but they’re not going on quests (except for Eowyn’s battlefield vacation), they’re not providing comedic relief, they’re hopelessly outnumbered and underwritten, sigh.

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