Sansa’s EW(ww) cover and what HBO keeps getting wrong about the story and power

jonconsredbeard:

This was released this week:

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I remember the end of Season 4 when she first appeared with her fugly dress. I didn’t like it.

A few posters in ASOIAF disagreed. I don’t really remember how it was (nor I can’t find the thread, sorry!), but I do remember some defending it. I get their reactions, seriously: women do get judged by how they dress. The fact Sansa would chose a revealing outfit shouldn’t be subject of criticism, and many defended the symbolism in her outfit  despite the symbolism of such contradicts what Sansa is supposed to represent.

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(Yes, there is a reason why the “Evil Queen” is always dressed like this, while the “Princess” is less sexually portrayed. And not, it’s not due to sexism or trying to impose virginity (it’s the other way around!), but that’s a topic for a different post).

HBO wanted to show Sansa being “empowered” by showing she had realised Littlefinger had a thing for her and she could use that on her favour (or that’s what the scene implied then). If this were any other story, I wouldn’t have any problem with a female character using her sexuality to survive. I couldn’t blame her either. Damn, if I was a captive and I know that sleeping with my captor would keep me alive, I wouldn’t doubt it.

Yet, this is not some other story.

It would be foolish to pretend that Sansa and sex can’t go together: Sansa’s story is about sexual awakening. We can’t forget either that
Sansa has been raised in a world in which sex and love are not things
people have the freedom to choose: people get married for duty and
obligation. For mostly medieval people, both men and women, sex is
something they have in order to procreate, and love is not a
requirement. They learn to love their partners or at least, respect
them. Of course, some never do and find comfort in other people, but the
cases were rare. Sadly, these cases have sparked the awful stereotype
that all medieval women were abused and all medieval men were wanton.

 

What Sansa is realising about sex and love is that, despite her social obligations as a lady will require her to marry someone she might not like, she still can claim things for herself. Here, her lust for Sandor is a part of her rebellion: he’s a man she shouldn’t have feelings for, and she is having those feelings. Sandor is a man she was taught to not look at, and she dreams of him on her bed. This is how she’s getting power. Not by force, not by leading armies, not by speaking badass oneliners. She’s learning to separate her duty from her personal wishes and learning how this makes her an individual with a certain independence.

HBO skipped all that and showed us this:

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David and Dan came to me with the idea of a transformation for Sansa. They wanted her to be her own woman rather than this victim… I liked the idea that after this, she doesn’t want to sew anymore. The metal piece is really a miniature of Arya’s sword, Needle, and the idea is that there’s a ring that you stitch through and then that’s her weapon (source: Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 3 & 4 – Page 148).

First, the idea of Sansa’s development being rushed and packed into her wearing a more provocative dress is a insulting simplification of Sansa as a character. It’s also insulting that her “feminine” role is something they see as “being a victim”, which is how they have defined the position of all women in GOT:

“Yes, it would have been hugely satisfying [for Sansa] to have a shiv up her sleeve and gut Ramsay, but that’s not Sansa,” Cogman says. “We can’t all be Arya (Maisie Williams) and, in fact, most people aren’t Arya. (source)

Had Sansa had a real weapon, like Arya, she could have slit Ramsay’s throat (something Arya DID do later that season). This is, of course, a very stupid conclusion. First, if Sansa had done this, it would have been suicidal. Roose would have gotten her killed. And second, this implies that the only reason women are raped is because they don’t carry a weapon? Then explain why many women in military forces are raped. Or why men who are physically stronger than their abusers get raped too.

And it gets even more insulting if you remember that they gave her this figurative weapon that served for nothing because she was raped anyway due to it not being a REAL weapon. What purpose did it serve, then?

I used the image saying Sansa has “entered the game” because that’s an ongoing idea whenever a new season starts. It’s like they are always promising Sansa will have power this time, despite she has already showed power: she manipulated Joffrey into saving Dontos and she was able to lie in order to save LF and having his ass being owned by her. This is not, by HBO’s definition, a proof of power.

I keep saying there is one reason why HBO chose to keep the show being called “Game of Thrones” instead of “A Song of Ice and Fire” as it should. It’s mostly because they are more interested on the politics of Westeros than the real struggle of the Others (which is also cheaper to film, tbh). But of course, it’s because they also seem to honestly believe the story is about the “game of thrones”.

This is some of the times the phrase is used in text:

Jorah (aGoT):


It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are.

Cersei (aGoT):


When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

Varys (aGoT):

[..]why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?

Stevron Frey (aGoT):


Wait, let these two kings play their game of thrones.

Old dude (aSoS):

But the old wolf’s dead and young one’s gone south to play the game of thrones, and all that’s left us is the ghosts.

Meribald (aFfC):

It is being common-born that is dangerous, when the great lords play their game of thrones

Tyrion (aDwD):

No, thought the dwarf, he plays the game of thrones, and you and Griff and Duck are only pieces, to be moved where he will and sacrificed at need, just as he sacrificed Viserys.

Doran (aDwD):

Things can change quickly in the game of thrones.

Barristan (aDwD):

The worst were those who played the game of thrones.

The phrase seems to be of common use in Westeros, like an idiom. It means the “game” nobles play when they want to get in power, just like the “dance” of Dragons was a fancy world for a Targaryen civil war. No one literally danced. Also, notice how mostly people talk about it in a dismissive or negative way and while others use it seriously, they aren’t talking about a REAL game. None of them actually talks about the game as something they want to do.

The only one who actually believes the game of thrones is a real game is Petyr Baelish:

I might have to remove her from the game sooner than I’d planned. Provided she does not remove herself first.“ Petyr teased her with a little smile. “In the game of thrones, even the humblest pieces can have wills of their own. Sometimes they refuse to make the moves you’ve planned for them.

Baelish speaks of games, players and pawns, like he has actually assigned those roles on real people in a way that is not symbolic: he literally believes he can move people in the way he wants. This is nothing but a romanticised notion of how he’s manipulating people to do his will, even if this means he has to kill them when they become inconvenient for him: “he was a weak piece, so I had to remove him!”. We aren’t supposed to take this idiom seriously. Littlefinger does.

And also do D&d.

D&d believe Game of Thrones is a story about people desperately trying to have power, and they believe Sansa’s storyline is also such. They believe Sansa’s character needs to be participant of the story by trying to claim political power.

It’s Baelish the one making her believe she’s part of a literal game. Yet, Baelish romanticising “the game” is not different from when abusers tell their victim that they are playing a game in order to soften the impact of the actions. This is why their plot failed so much when they tried to make Sansa “play” the game by willingly going to a marriage that meant little for her own development. They believe that jumping into the fire is “playing the game”. With that in mind, then Ned Stark was a top class player of the Game of Thrones.

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After all the criticism HBO deservingly got about their terrible portrayal of women, they decided that the way to prove us they have learned their lesson was to show how empowered their women are. “Dame of Thrones”, “Women on Top”. They show their main female actress as though they are telling us “look! we have women with power!”.

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Look at the pictures: these women are supposed to be powerful because HBO says so, they are playing the game:
Emilia is showing her matronly dress, Maisie, Gwen and Sophie “rape? what
rape?” Turner are sporting weapons in their hands, Lena is just there,
and Natalie does the one thing she was hired to do in this show: look
sexy and mysterious.

These are the empowered women of Game of Thrones.

 

I see no power, though. I see a Dragon Queen that needs to be saved by all men around her despite she has three real dragons, a girl who can’t never be raped because she hates femininity and says “ewww, girls!”, a “lesbian” who goes around beating and abusing men and it’s rude to everybody, a maiden who walked herself into her own rape by her own choice and couldn’t do nothing about it because she can’t hold real weapons, a Queen who has done nothing wrong and it’s a constant victim, and a thirty something woman who sexually abused a kid.

We’re supposed to forget all of this because HBO says so. Because they are telling us they have learned the lesson and take criticisms in consideration. “Sansa has a weapon, now!”.

This is very sad.

You can achieve power through sex, though.

You can be sexy and send a positive message. You can even power through being raped and use sex as a weapon to be on top again. Sex and love. It’s all about how you do it and who you put in this situation. Neither Claire or Jaime were 14 years old girls who jump into a marriage they couldn’t control to get revenge.

 


This is an scheduled post.

Pretty illustrative look on perceptions on the facade.

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