Game of Thrones: The Subversiveness of Liking Sansa Stark

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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4 Responses

  1. North says:

    I am glad I don’t read a lot of internet chatter about GoT because it’s obvious that there’re some idiotic takes out there about poor Sansa.

    The curious dynamic about building up a formerly groups of people is a common one. Girl power is an example, Gay pride is another, there’re no end of them. You start with society having actively negative views on certain things and simply insisting they’re value neutral doesn’t get you to a value neutral state. If conservatives insisted homosexuals were evil incarnate and you said “no they’re just normal people” then the audience, being disengaged, lazy and hard to move as all masses are, simply would average the difference and think “ok, homosexuals are just kind of evil.” The logical response is pride and affirmation. Average gays are evil with gays are great and the take away average will be gays are ordinary. This is so common across societal history as to be cliché.

    The rub of it, though, is in later stages when your “Gays are awesome!” partisans begin taking things to unnecessary and incorrect oversteps and saying “Non-gays are non-awesome!” that things start going off the rails. It’s wrong and it’s incorrect. Straight people aren’t non-awesome, girlish girls are not inferior to tomboyish girls, people are awesome, full stop. The only defense I’ll make of this overreach is that it’s a damn sight less destructive than the homophobia and oppressions that came in the eras before it and, when confronted cleverly, its partisans very often end up retreating in disorder. It’s not hard to find someone thoughtlessly saying Whites/Femmes/Straights/whatever are bad (especially on the internet or, God(ess?) save us the festering cesspools of twitter) but it’s not so common to find people who’ll passionately stick to that point when challenged to defend it in isolation.

    But enough of that dreary social commentary. Great thoughts on Sansa. She is my favorite character too and, in my opinion, one of Martins most interesting ones. She has no special physical skills, no magic, no dragons but she has to navigate the viscous travails of Martins world using only her looks, her pedigree and her wits. Sure, she starts out as a romantic naïf but, ffs, she’s a pre-teen at the start of the bloody books! Also, you need to start somewhere. Daenerys wasn’t a platinum haired warrior queen at the start of the series either, she was a timid and very frightened girl.

    Sansa is also one of the characters who suffered the worst from the show passing by the end of Martins detailed writings. In the books Sansa is only really starting to come into her own when the books reach their current end. She has suffered, she was watched, she has learned and, in the Aerie, we see her beginning to tentatively flex the observational and mental skills she has developed. None of Martins characters are as poised to accomplish significant things as Sansa is at the end of his latest book. In the abomination of GoT’s late seasons B&W absolutely butcher that transition. At the end of their last book guided season Sansa is in a very similar position as she is in the books and then suddenly, in the next season, the mastermind sells her off as chattel to a psychopath for no obvious reason and she ends up brutalized, marginalized and tortured for interminable episodes. Queue the sad trombones. If feminists want to howl about something the idea that Sansa gained -anything- as a character from being tormented by the grotesque snuff fantasy that was Ramsay should set us all to screaming. There’s nothing I’d rather see B&W horsewhipped for more than their utter failures of scripting for Sansa in the late seasons.

    And this, too, is inevitable. When the world goes from intricate, complex but rational to suddenly lurching and spinning from one Hollywood cliché to the next. When armies and navies suddenly have impossible knowledge and teleport across the globe in instants; when characters turn on a heel for no apparent reason, then of course characters like Littlefinger and Sansa whose superpower is the ability to plan and navigate in a rational social setting find themselves marginalized and powerless. What’s the use of the ability to scheme in a world that goes deranged? Ugh… we can only pray to whatever bleak Gods of literature there are that Martin somehow, for some reason, is inspired to finish his Opus. Or maybe we need to pray for a miracle because that’s what it’d be.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to North says:

      Can I quibble here? Littlefinger’ superpower is tactical, not strategic; the more chaotic a situation, the more likely he’ll find some way to benefit from it, which is why he sows chaos wherever he goes. He couldn’t predict the exact consequences of setting Stark against Lannister (by having Lysa poison Jon Arryn and blame the Lannisters, and himself lying about Tyrion’s hiring Bran’s assassin), but he knew it would create opportunities for a clever, amoral operator like himself. Likewise, trying to set Sansa against Arya was exactly in character for him, but the writers decided that one wouldn’t work.

      Selling Sansa to the Boltons of course made no sense and the writers didn’t even try to create any reasoning behind it.Report

      • North in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I’ll grant your quibble but beneath Littlefingers penchant to profit from chaos was a masterful ability to organize and exploit organizations. He rivalled Varys in intelligence gathering, at least for a while during the late stage of Robert’s reign , and was half Varys’ age and had maybe a quarter of Varys’ time in the profession.Report

  2. It occurred to me recently that Arya has to be understood in the context of her aunt Lyanna. (GRRM’s descriptions makes it clear that Sansa is the Tully daughter and Arya the Stark one.) Lyanna is so badass that she dresses up like a man, enters a tournament, and defeats real knights (if not very skilled ones) all to avenge a family friend. So when Ned sees Arya preferring swordplay to needlepoint, he’s seeing his late, beloved sister; of course he supports her.

    And, as always, there’s irony to be found here. Everyone in Westeros sees Lyanna as a more tragic Helen of Troy; her kidnapping caused a vengeful, highly destructive war, but unlike Helen she didn’t live through it. But Lyanna wasn’t a victim; she was still a badass, who was going to be with the man she loved no matter what, and the hell with the consequences.Report