What’s Really Wrong with ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’

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  1. Avatar Kim says:

    Drogo, and the Dothraki fit under:
    remember, drogo thinks that rape is “fun timez” and that stealing from the lambkin is a good thing.

    I don’t think that rape is quite as prevalent among the Dothraki as a people (raping other villages is one thing, but raping your own is improbable, as it would lead to way too many babies to take care of.)

    Yes, Ned and Dany seem to be our two touchstones for a version of morality… that nobody else seems to share.

    I hate Dany’s storylines, because she is so blasted isolated. Tyrion INTERACTS, so does Sansa, so does Theon, for goodness sakes! Jon interacts, even when he’s *spoiler* *spoiler*.

    Cersei in the book isn’t someone you’re supposed to like. However, I think it is apparent the ways that she doesn’t have power, that if she was a man she would.
    1) If she was a man, she could speak and everyone would obey (they did robert, mind).
    2) If she was a man, she wouldn’t have to hide behind her sons, and get them to do her will. (that she’s good at that is rather immaterial)
    3) If she was a man, she could kill people herself, not have them poisoned or need to rely on champions.

    A man is self sufficient in that society (look at The Blackfish), and a woman is not (normally, Mormont and Brienne the exception that proves the rule)Report

    • Avatar Ryan B says:

      See, I get those facts about Cersei, but she never really sells them. I’m never convinced that her problem is more that she’s a woman than that she’s utterly awful all the way down. And the whole “I wish I were a man, so now I’m going to have sex with a lady?” thing? Egad.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Oh, I do agree.
        But I think Cersei’s problem is that she’s modeled herself after fucking Tywin, who seems to have had all his humor/positive-emotions destroyed when his wife died.Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          And worse, she’s modelled herself after Tywin’s worst qualities – his ruthlessness and indifference to suffering.

          His best qualities – his intelligence and commitment to a goal, you need to look toward Tyrion.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            And Tywin’s restless spinning of plans to undermine his enemies, i.e. everyone who is opposed to or even competes with House Lannister. The main difference being that he’s good at it. Cersei plots against minor or imagined enemies and ignores or even befriends the real ones. Tywin would understand viscerally that the Faith is dangerous. Tyrion would know it from history. Cersei is clueless.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I don’t think that intelligence is really at issue. I think her biggest problem is experience. Her mind seems to kind of work in a vacuum. Given time and proper grooming, I think that she could be a very good leader. I agree that it all comes more naturally to Tyrion. We don’t really know how Tywin was groomed, but we can assume that he was preparing for it with encouragement from a much younger age.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Mind you if she were a man I don’t think she’d have likely been married to the new King of the Seven Kingdoms; she’d probably have been some sort of Jaime clone.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    A question: has it ever been made clear in anything Martin has commented, supplemental writings or even readings of the book that I haven’t thought of how Mirri Maz Duur was involved in Drogo dying? I mean I know he had a wound, it festered and he would have died from it. My question is did she try to heal it and fail, simply not try to heal it while saying she was trying or try to make it worse and succeed?

    As for Daeny, it bears remembering that she was/is a very young woman. I actually kind of liked the Daario subplot in that it showed her consciously choosing bedmates for herself and claiming some agency in her relationships.Report

    • Avatar Ryan B says:

      I’m not sure if Mirri takes credit for killing Drogo specifically, but she certainly takes credit for effing up Dany’s life. She gives that awesome little speech about how the rape wasn’t exactly the worst part of having your people wiped out or enslaved, and then raped.

      The Daario thing strikes me as particularly grody because she’s so submissive. She won’t make decisions without him, she is constantly moping about him, etc. It’s not that she chooses him so much as it’s that she can’t function without him.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Well Daario and Daeny strike me as being somewhat stereotypical of a normal teenage girl thing. He’s her first chosen boyfriend and her behavior about him is kindof stereotypically typical of a teenage girl with her first crush.

        As for Mirri I agree she certainly takes credit for unleashing her revenge on her tormenters. I’d submit that Dany’s life being effed up was more an incidental side effect than a goal of Mirri’s actions.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “Daario and Daeny strike me as being somewhat stereotypical of a normal teenage girl thing. ”

          It did occur to me, reading the first book, that we were basically reading a lengthy treatise on why you don’t let teenagers run the world.Report

  3. Avatar Ryan says:

    I’m not really sure about the implications of Cersei for feminist thought. It’s as if Martin has gone out of his way to show us a character who clearly believes that her “problems” are because she’s a woman. But despite the fact that this is a rather uncomfortably probable belief given the setting, it’s also completely wrong. Cersei’s “problems,” to the extent that they’re real at all, have far more to do with her own incompetence and paranoia than they do with her gender. Yes, people resist her commands, but that’s because the vast majority of the time they’re idiotic. This isn’t that different from what happens to men in similar positions of authority. Hell, Aerys II was overthrown basically for being nuts, gender be damned.

    But then we get to Asha, a character who really does seem to get the short end of the gender stick, but who is nonetheless almost entirely admirable. It’s almost as if Martin is saying that yes, this world really does give women a raw deal, but that this is not a sufficient condition to explain their situations on an individual level. The only reason Cersei didn’t fulfill her ambitions is because she was a fool, not because she was a woman, and despite the fact that Asha’s gender probably will prevent her from fulfilling her ambitions, she remains an important character with the potential for greatness.

    A story that unflinchingly depicts a world where women are socially oppressed yet still recognizes their agency? What are the feminists complaining about?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I saw a few feminists turning off the show with teh comment “too much rape” (first ep. their perogative. it’s not for everyone).
      Then I saw ten million (yes, exaggeration) “I love this new feminist show!” posts.
      Then there was Sady Doyle, who appears to be having a “but there was no knife” argument about Tyrion (social psychology: referencing how much time someone thought a kniferobber ought to get in prison being directly related to how long they thought the knife was. The lenght of the knife not being mentioned in story).
      And then there’s the fifteen people after her, saying “I like this story, lets talk about problems!”

      FWIW, the TV show has been so over the top in it’s sexposition that everyone seems sick of it. And taht includes the people who found it hot.Report

      • Avatar carr1on says:

        “FWIW, the TV show has been so over the top in it’s sexposition that everyone seems sick of it. And taht includes the people who found it hot.”

        Umm, no. Did you see Rome? Deadwood? Spartacus? Not to sound like a perv, but I don’t think it’s over the top. Just my opinion.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          … did you really like the Littelfinger scene?
          (… what’s wrong with being perverted?)Report

          • Avatar Brett says:

            I can sort of understand the point of the Littlefinger scene. It shows that he’s not aroused (hinting at his romantic fixation), and it involves him basically laying out his philosophy on life.

            That said, it is really, really over-the-top. I’m glad there wasn’t another one like that in the rest of the season.Report

          • Avatar carr1on says:

            His speech wasn’t in the book. I thought it was an attempt by the writers to more fully explain Littlefinger’s motives. It seemed a bit contrived to me.

            Did I mind the lesbian scene as the backdrop to his speech? Not at all. 🙂Report

            • Avatar carr1on says:

              Hopefully this won’t make me the target of a feminist blog…LOL.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                sex positive and feminist are not countervailing trends!Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                did you read the books before seeing the show? I’ve been seeing criticism mainly from people getting the story fresh, where “not being able to hear teh talky bits” is really, really aggravating. [may also be getting a lot more female/gay folks, dunno. Certainly it was only the book-walkers who went koala over the Renly/Loras scene (oh, I guess there were a few viewers who said icky, but didn’t seem to be many)]Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              I think one thing that a lot of people objected to,was that the lilty speech was hard to hear over the moaning. also that we got the point of the “background” and wanted to look at littlefinger’s emotions, not the girls.Report

  4. Avatar Brett says:

    Again, the only person in Essos who is ever particularly troubled by the existence of slavery is… Dany (notice a pattern?).

    That’s not true. Braavos (the richest and most powerful of the Free Cities) is explicitly anti-slavery, having been founded by escaped slaves from the Valyrian Empire. That comes up several times in A Dance with Dragons:

    1. Braavosi merchants won’t stop in Slavers’ Bay.

    2. When a ship carrying slaves drifts into Braavos following a storm, all the slaves are liberated and the captain is executed IIRC.

    3. Braavos forced Pentos to give up slavery as part of a peace treaty 100 years earlier (Pentos hasn’t been entirely honest in its compliance).

    She is sort of a white savior, as noted above, but she’s also an idiot, in that everything she touches blows up in her face (Mirri Maz Duur, the freeing of the slaves, sticking around in Meereen instead of pushing through to Westeros).

    These are all very understandable decisions on her part, though (and it’s important to remember that she’s 16, and had basically no experience or training to rule before ending up as Drogo’s wife). It wasn’t all bad, either – she has an army of former Unsullied who will pretty much follow her to hell and back.

    I disagree about Cersei, too. I think she’s entirely understandable . . . even if you think she’s a vile, evil person. She does love Tommen, but it’s tainted by the protectiveness and paranoia that she has developed due to her first son being murdered right in front of her (a murder that Margaery had her part in, no doubt).

    But this is not necessarily the case in the books. We can infer that her relationship with Robert embittered her, but it’s not clear that she ever made an effort either.

    Part of that is true (I don’t think Cersei ever loved Robert, and she was never faithful to him), but it’s not as if Robert was ever really faithful or kind to her. He ignored her most of the time, and then more or less tried to drunkenly rape her on occasion.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Re: Margaery. While it seems possible that young Margaery may have been in on her Grandmother’s plotting (in fact it might speak well of the Tyrells if she is taking after the Queen of Thorns) I don’t recall reading anything that suggests that she did.Report

      • Avatar Brett says:

        At the very least, she knew it was going on. Her grand-mother would have warned her not to drink from the same goblet as Joffrey.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    [Dany] never suffers much for it

    Other than losing her husband and child, becoming sterile, and losing her position as Khalesi to become a refugee, you mean?Report

    • Avatar Ryan B says:

      It’s a somewhat fair point, and I think part of why that stuff doesn’t register with me is that Drogo isn’t really a person; he’s a stereotype. So it doesn’t feel like a loss when he dies.

      Also, she’s almost certainly not sterile any more.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Oh? Why do you say that? Did I miss the chapter in Dance where the seas dried up and the mountains blew around like leaves?Report

        • Avatar Ryan B says:

          Yes, apparently.

          “When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east” = Quentyn Martell

          “When the seas go dry” = the Dothraki Sea dying at the end of ADWD

          “and mountains blow in the wind like leaves” = the destroyed pyramid in Meereen

          All that answers the prophecy, but more importantly, she pretty clearly miscarries at the end of ADWD.Report

          • Avatar Ryan says:

            If Martin goes with that kind of weaksauce literalness in Maz Duur’s prophecy, I will be so annoyed.Report

            • Avatar Ryan B says:

              Right, I have no idea. And, of course, it’s worth pointing out that the prophecy says “When all this happens and then you have another baby, that’s when Drogo will come back to life”, so it’s not exact anyway.

              In any case, she does really seem to miscarry at the end of ADWD, so she doesn’t seem to be sterile any more.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                miscarriage == sterility?Report

              • Avatar Ryan B says:

                Miscarriage implies the egg was fertilized, or at least implanted. Which in turn implies “probably not sterile”.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … I think this is overthinking a fantasy a bit (the idea of Lysa being “sterile” because of so many miscarriages… I guess I think of sterile as “can’t have babies”). Maybe Martin wants you to do that, maybe he doesn’t.Report

              • Avatar Ryan B says:

                Even Dany comments on how weird it is that she hasn’t had her period, right? I’m not really pulling at straws here, I don’t think. Her whole last chapter basically screams, “Dany is going to have a baby!!!!111!1”Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Ryan, your reading of the text isn’t the issue. My issue is “sterile” as interpreted as “can’t have babies” may mean “always miscarries.”
                GRRM may or may not have meant that meaning.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I totally missed all o’ that. Really changes the dynamic if she can still have kids.Report

            • Avatar Brett says:

              Why? Prophecies have always been rather vague and prone to misinterpretation in ASOIAF. Think of the “sea rising up to Winterfell” that Jojen saw in ACoK.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Davidson says:

                Yes, but that was a pretty straightforward metaphor which, if Jojen had been a little more mature, he probably could have figured out for himself. Either way, it was clear that something bad was happening and the metaphor was clearly intended to mean something about the future.

                But there’s no real reason to read Maz Duur’s saying as a prophecy at all. It could be read as simply meaning “You will never bear children.” And going all homophonic on “sun/son” is just weak. One thing symbolizing another, okay. But word games like that? Martin’s a better writer than that.Report

              • Avatar Brett says:

                I’m not sure what you mean. Quentyn is the “sun” in the prophecy because he’s of House Martell, whose sigil is the Sun on their banner.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Yeah I think it’s pretty damn clever personally.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I don’t know if it says more about Martin or me that her shaming in ADWD left me completely cold.

    What struck me is that the worst part of the shaming for Cersei is that people realized that she’s starting to look middle-aged. I hadn’t realized before how much of her hatred of Margery is not wanting to be supplanted by a younger woman as the beautiful queen.Report

    • Avatar Ryan says:

      I thought that was pretty clear. She’s been obsessed with that fortune teller’s prediction for at least half her life at this point, the key line of which was “Queen you shall be . . . until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”Report

  7. Avatar Pavel says:

    Just read your post, which I think is interesting, but I have a couple criticisms.

    A. I thought Dany’s objection to slavery had more to do with personal experience of essentially being sold by her brother than being “white” or westerosi. Notably both Viserys and Jorah enthusiastically participate in slavery and they are significantly more westerosi than she is.

    B. To a certain extent the dothraki are more “barbaric” than westeros, but by the same extent Qarth and Braavos are shown to be more advanced. Further the dothraki have certain customs that seem preferable to westerosi ones, the idea that the khal is chosen by merit, unlike kings and lords who are chosen by birth. That a culture can have more raping and pillaging then westeros isn’t necessarily wrong, no more than that other essos cultures seemed to have less.

    I totally agree with what you said about cersei however. I enjoyed the character in the first book, but found her portrayal especially in book 4 to be really weak.Report

  8. Avatar LarryM says:

    I think that’s what missing in this discussion is the extent to which Martin’s treatment of women is part and parcel of his overall approach, which is to subvert the reader’s expectations & the conventions of the genre. He has been prasied for this, and also (rightly, IMO) criticized for doing these things almost gratutitiously. But the depections of women would, I think, be more objectionable in an otherwise more conventional fantasy novel.

    Along the same lines, the whole series represents a pretty cynical take on humanity & human nature generally. Women simply aren’t exempted from that vision.Report