Alyssa Rosenberg on ‘A Game of Thrones’ and that Sady Doyle piece

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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39 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    Alyssa’s post makes me squee.
    I do want to reiterate, for anyone reading, that it is perfectly okay for someone to not want to read about rape. Not All Books need to be written for everyone. If something makes you that upset/uncomfortable that you want to stop reading — do.Report

    • Alyssa in reply to Kim says:

      Right. But I think an important component of this is that people are allowed to like different things, so just because someone likes something that makes you uncomfortable does not make them a pariah.Report

  2. North says:

    That was one hell of a rebuttal. I’m not sure if there’s even one stone left sitting on top of another of its hapless target.Report

  3. Maxwell James says:

    I knew Alyssa would come through.

    And completely agree with Kim – ASOIAF and similar fare are not for everyone, nor should they be. I’m pretty careful about who I recommend them to. But it’s nice to live in a world where both the strengths and weaknesses of this series are being seriously discussed by critics.Report

  4. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Total aside: I predict a 25% skew in normal traffic patterns due to Alyssa’s link.

    That’s a complete fishing guess. I’m curious how wrong I actually *am*.Report

  5. A Teacher says:

    Isn’t this the purpose of Sci Fi and Fantasy? To make us tackle issues that are just too… well ~hard~ to talk about in a traditional media?

    BSG created sympathetic suicide bombers and attacked the abortion debate.

    Star Trek gave us the first inter-racial kiss on network TV.

    Part of the genre isn’t it?Report

  6. Rufus F. says:

    I have to ask: did anybody catch it about a year ago when Sady Doyle tore a strip off of Freddie for roughly the same offense? He wrote something in response to a post of hers that was as critical as Freddie ever is and the crowd went wild! It was definitely a typical internet dust up. In his case it really was a hate fest against him and his post. I remember being struck by the fact that many of the people there wrote like 13 year old valley girls with 50 cent academic words incongruously thrown in. Their anger was also disproportionate to what Freddie actually wrote and he kept trying to find some common ground with them too. I would have quit a lot earlier. Bullies are boring to me.Report

  7. Jeff says:

    I saw this in Alyssa’s essay and went “WTF?”:

    Tywin Lannister forcing his son to have sex with his wife after she’s been gang-raped is as much an assault of Tyrion as it is of Tysha

    No it is fucking NOT. Tysha has been assaulted, physically, mentally and emotionally, in a way that Tyrion can maybe kind of sort of begin to comprehend. I’m sorry for the poor delicate flower, but what he’s experienced in no way whatsoever compares with what she’s been through.

    This is an amazingly stupid and offensive comment in otherwise great essay.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Jeff says:

      Jeff – nonsense. His father forced him to have sex after forcing him to watch the girl he loved get gang raped. Forced sex is rape. I’m sure her experience was worse, but both were rape. Sady wants us to think that Tyrion participated. I’m sorry, but if you’re violently forced to participate in a rape, you’re also a victim.Report

  8. Jeff says:

    (I just realized that you are the author of the quote. Sorry for failing to acknowledge that. I’m a knucklehead at times.)

    Yes, Tyrion was assaulted. He’s been violated. I think the problem comes in “as much”. Stealing a loaf of bread is “as much” a crime as stealing someone’s life savings, but who would put it that way. The acts are similar in kind, but hardly in magnitude.

    If you had said something like “Tyrion was assaulted by the forced sex”, I would agree with you. Making the trauma suffered by the two seem equal spoiled your point.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Jeff says:

      I was not saying the two are the same magnitude, but that Tyrion participating in the rape was as much of an assault against Tyrion as his participation was an assault against Tysha. See what I mean?Report

    • Alyssa in reply to Jeff says:

      That’s a totally fair critique. I may go back in and change that language. It was sloppy. And obviously I don’t mean they’re of equal magnitude.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Alyssa says:

        Okay I’m not sure now if Jeff is referring to my original post on the matter, or Alyssa’s post where she links to my original post on the matter, but I don’t think either of us was saying anything about it being equally awful, just that each person – Tyrion and Tysha – was assaulted.Report

        • Jeff in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          I’ve mostly been avoiding the GoT threads, because I don’t know the material, and I try not to sound too ignorant. So I saw the comment on Alyssa’s essay and only after the fact did I link “Erik Kain” and “E.D. Kain.” D’oh.

          I think now that we’re quibbling around the edges — I get what you were trying to say, and I think you’ll agree with Alyssa that your point might not have stated clearly.

          Does that sound right to you?Report

  9. Kris says:

    Does she think the series (and the whole genre, for that matter) is classist, too?

    Rich lords = Awesome heroes like the Starks
    Poor people = Barbarian idiots, whores, etc.

    That’s a ridiculous reading of Martin, and one could argue the opposite is true, too, i.e. that Martin is showing us the true Norris of a classist-feudal world.

    Really, the valid critique is not that Martin is sexist or classist, or that he’s morally high-handed in the opposite direction. Rather, it’s not clear that Martin has anything to say at all about race, class, etc. He depicts an interesting world with political intrigue, some psychological insight, some gritty realism. But what is he trying to say? I don’t want a simple Aesop-style moral of the story. But I want these books to be about something(s) or express some novel insight as great sci-fi and fantasy often does.

    Indeed, is A Song of Ice and Fire about something? Or is it just a very cool, dragon-infused soap opera, set in war times?Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Kris says:

      It seems to me to be a meditation on the cost of war. In that sense, it might be called a soap opera, but I’d distinguish the two. A soap opera presents emotional drama for its own sake; Martin is presenting emotional drama for the sake of illustrating why war is indeed as awful as it is. Any work about the awfulness of war is, to some extent, a plea for peace; this also seems to be to be a plea for understanding and sympathy and healing for those who pay these awful prices. The multiple points of view, from combatants on different sides of the conflict, underlines to me that everyone — rich and poor, enemy and ally, on the battle front or on the home front — must pay their share of the price.Report

      • Kris in reply to Burt Likko says:

        That’s interesting, and maybe right. Certainly his use of perspective to move our sympathies is well done and insightful. And I haven’t read all the books, so what do I Norris, anyway?

        I don’t agree that the primary message is about the horrors of war though. (though war is depicted as horrible, obviously) There seems to be more about politics and feuds than out an out war and it’s aftermath on people (it’s mostly ordinary folks who suffer in war, and these books are mostly about nobles, no? I get the sense that you could cut some of the actual war and still have a pretty similar set of books in theme and character.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to Kris says:

          I think it is narrowly a critique of feudalism. More broadly it’s a critique of war, and certainly a critique of power. But I think even more broadly it’s a deconstruction of the romanticism and nostalgia that often accompanies the genre.Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            Feudalism? Or warrior culture?Report

            • Trumwill in reply to Burt Likko says:

              Maybe some of the latter, but definitely the former (absolutely so if we expand it to say “consolidation of power amongst tightly linked people and groups of people”). The Targarian incestry, all of the evil done by the Lannisters for their household names & consolidations. The degree to which the little ones are pawns to the powerful families. And so on.Report

            • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

              Ned is a soldier, not a warrior. He says so himself. This isn’t (much) deconstructing Borderlander culture, or even Viking culture (though that gets more use as a trope in the story).Report

    • Kim in reply to Kris says:

      ASOIAF is a full meditation on power, what it takes to rule, and, most importantly, how a good ruler isn’t necessarily a good man.

      The first book deconstructs “divine right” and “honor as ideology”
      The next few deconstruct “Nietzchean selfishness”
      The most recent book deconstructs “trying to do good for the small folk”

      … can you deconstruct all ideologies and come out ahead? I think so — it’s a very scientific/empirical viewpoint — and I think, at the end of the day, that’s what Martin is trying to get us to see. And more importantly THINK about our actions and their consequences [not that he’s a strict utilitarian, at ALL, but he seems to argue most heavily against Kantian ideals.]Report

      • Maxwell James in reply to Kim says:

        One big reason why I love ASOIAF, despite its flaws, is that I see it as pretty much the only epic fantasy that is resolutely anti-war. At least that I’ve read.

        Martin takes the prototypical fantasy antagonist – evil supernatural force rising in the [geographical region] – and transforms it into a MacGuffin for telling the real story, of a tragic, brutally destructive war instigated by politicians with limited foresight. His skill at creating flawed yet interesting & sympathetic characters, and his willingness to kill them on occasion, are really important ingredients for telling a story like this in a compelling way.

        While I have little doubt that the “fantasy war” aspect of the story will move to the forefront before the end, Martin’s clear focus on the human war and its costs is exactly what makes the series so moving. As he keeps saying, the human heart at conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about.Report

  10. Kris says:

    That should say “true nature” not “true Norris.” Chuck Norris has invaded my nouns, now. Damn Norris.Report