ONTD Political

"The women are the strong ones, truly." - A Feast For Crows

6:42 pm - 05/07/2012
Spoilers for Game of Thrones, including last night's episode.

'Game of Thrones': The Women Exert Their Power, and Not Just in Bed

"Do you understand? I am no ordinary woman."
–Daenerys Targaryen

When Ned Stark was beheaded in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones' first season, it left a power gap in Westeros—and a main character-sized hole in the show. Some questioned whether or not the series could sustain its narrative thrust without Sean Bean's solid leading performance, but that gap has largely been filled by Game of Thrones' ever-increasing stable of terrific female leads. Last night's episode, "The Old Gods and the New," gives new insight into the struggles of Westeros' women—and the increasingly sophisticated methods by which those struggles are being overcome.

Game of Thrones' second season has centered on "a clash of kings," but it's quickly become clear that the old maxim holds true: Behind every king, there's an even greater woman. Renly had the ambitious, pragmatic Margaery Tyrell, who shrugged off his homosexuality by citing the urgent political need for Renly to "put a baby" in her belly. Stannis owes his success to his puppet mistress Melisandre—the only player in the game of thrones whose attack has successfully killed a king. Joffrey has his mother Cersei, who unsuccessfully advised that he spare Ned Stark's life—a mercy which would likely have kept the Starks from declaring war on the Lannisters. And Robb has his mother Catelyn, who warned that Theon Greyjoy would betray the Starks—a prediction that came true with the siege of Winterfell in "The Old Gods and the New." And even Theon, who has unconvincingly crowned himself a prince, has been outmaneuvered by his sister Yara at every turn—and still needs her "five hundred men" to retain control of his new kingdom.

Though Game of Thrones' strongest women have managed to vie for power through men, in a subtler (though just as high-stakes) clash of queens, they're hamstrung by Westeros' gender politics. Highborn daughters are still treated with political expediency by Targaryens, Lannisters, and Starks alike. For all their differences, Cersei Lannister and Catelyn Stark have at least one point of common ground: They were each maneuvered into political marriages. And their daughters look to be following the same path; even Ned Stark consented to the marriage between Sansa and Joffrey, which would have tied the Starks and Baratheons together and secured the alliance between the north and south. In "The Old Gods and the New," Tyrion's scheme to earn a new ally by marrying off the young Princess Myrcella finally comes to pass as she's shipped off to Dorne against Cersei's will in "The Old Gods and the New." For all Cersei's power, the only power she has against Tyrion taking her daughter is her threats.

Given Westero's lopsided sexual politics, it's unsurprising that the women of Game of Thrones are finding their closest allies in other women. In last week's episode, Brienne and Catelyn Stark swore oaths to one another, with Brienne specifically praising Catelyn for possessing "a woman's kind of courage." "The Old Gods and the New" sees a comparable alliance between Sansa and Shae—two women whose lives are entirely controlled by Lannister men. When Shae warns Sansa that she shouldn't trust anyone, she's speaking with the hard-earned wisdom of Game of Thrones' lower-born women, who have developed their own methods of survival. Earlier this season, Lord Varys explained his method of survival in the cutthroat world of Westeros: "The big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling." In "The Old Gods and the New," the wildling Osha expresses herself similarly about the besieged Winterfell: "The ocean has come to swallow this place. I ain't letting it drown me." But Osha has one weapon in her arsenal that Varys doesn't—her sexuality—and she's not afraid to use it. (It's significant that Ygritte—who vexes Jon Snow in "The Old Gods and the New"—and Osha are the only wildlings we've met who have survived longer than a scene.)

Osha manages to turn Theon's sexism into a weapon she can use. But her sacrifice also shows that from the highest courts of King's Landing to the trials of lowborn life, the women of Westeros are in a perilous position sexually. The threat of sexual violence is constant, as Sansa experienced in last night's horrific riot scene. But sex also can be—and has been—used to gain power by Westeros' women, and not just in the means practiced by Osha in her escape from Winterfell. Sex has also changed Westeros' entire political landscape. By avoiding giving birth to a legitimate heir of King Robert's, Cersei singlehandedly ended the Baratheon reign in Westeros—a feat that none of his battlefield enemies was able to accomplish.

But for all the powerful women in Westeros, the most promising harbinger of female power in Game of Thrones lies across the Narrow Sea. Unlike the rest of Game of Thrones' highborn women (and apart from Melisandre, whose long-term motives can only be guessed at), Daenerys seeks the Iron Throne not for a son or husband, but for herself. And most significantly, Daenerys is powerful in a way directly and singularly tied to her womanhood. "Mother of Dragons" isn't just a clever name—Daenerys hatched the dragons and raised them on her breast milk. The dragons, when grown, will change the entire scope of warfare in Westeros, but they're not her weapons; they're her children, and her love for them is stronger than any political angle. There are three kings left in Westeros, and one would-be queen beyond the Narrow Sea. I know which I'd be betting on.

Source will take what is hers

I know there are GoT stans here at _p. I feel the need to talk about the newest episode and my feelings. And general feelings about how the women are portrayed in the series vs. the books. And the neckbeards in the fandom. Please use spoiler tags/warn for spoilers when talking about stuff in the books that hasn't happened.

[Feels]I know that the show loves showing sexual violence but the scene last night with Sansa was unnecessary imho. But there are so many neckbeards who hate her, so I honestly get why the show felt that they had to show her in that danger so the fanboys would shut the fuck up. Sexism (and racism) (and homophobia) in the GoT fandom is the worst. Ugh.

I feel like they're taking away a lot of Catelyn's political cunning in order to make her into more of a mother figure, which pisses me off. Cersei too is shown as being less capable than she was in the books, Tyrion shouldn't be able to undermine her so easily. Dany's characters is also suffering. But I honestly love all the women in this show. Arya and Sansa are just wonderful, as are Cat, Brienne, Dany, Melisandre, Ygritte (Jon's manpain at their spooning was delicious), Irri (thanks for killing off another woc, GOT, srsly, thanks), Osha, Asha, Margaery &etc. I can't wait for Brienne and Jaime's Road Trip though.


angstbunny 8th-May-2012 12:18 am (UTC)
I LOVE Sansa. Sansa haters to the left and off a cliff.

[spoilers for last night's ep]That whole attempted rape scene is so fucking unnecessary. I hate everything. I can't believe people who want to justify that scene by saying that, well, this way, people who dislike Sansa will now sympathize with her. THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS.

evilgmbethy 8th-May-2012 12:31 am (UTC)
urgh, that scene was really painful. I was really afraid they were going to go all the way with it, I was so relieved when the Hound intervened. But I also thought it was unnecessary, especially since it's now the second scene where this (16 year old!) actress gets her clothes ripped off this season.

I was indifferent to Sansa during the early parts of the first season but I've also grown to love her. Her characterization is too subtle for some people to really catch on, I think. Sansa haters take what she says and does on the surface as being indicative of what's going on in her head, but tbh I think she's one of the smartest players in the game, as does Tyrion, obviously. She's in a position right now where she's powerless, but put her in a setting where she has more control and she would be a force to be reckoned with.
beoweasel 8th-May-2012 01:33 am (UTC)
The thing is, that all happens in the book. Joffery often has Sansa stripped and beaten by his guards for his amusement. In fact, I think they toned down the level of abuse Sansa has suffered, and elected to instead create the scenario involving Joffery with the two prostitutes.
evilgmbethy 8th-May-2012 01:41 am (UTC)
meh, well I haven't read the books but from everything I hear there's more violence and whatnot in them. Which isn't surprising, fantasy books are often ridden with those things.

But, even though they tone it down, I still don't know how necessary it is to the story. It's not like we need that much convincing that Joffrey is a monster, you know?
nikoel 8th-May-2012 02:32 am (UTC)
I get that they don't have Lollys in the series, so they're smooshing some of the story into Sansa's, but the near-rape scene was just over the top. She could have been grabbed by the villagers and had the Hound save her before it got to that point and still have it be scary and dramatic, but it's HBO and they enjoy really terrifying their heroines.
ferlingmule 8th-May-2012 12:58 am (UTC)
I love love Sansa... I get some flak for that sometimes but I think she's trying to figure out how best to make her moves and is playing it safe/innocent for now, and I think she will be kicking major butt later on.

I was saddened that she wasn't in ADWD. AND at the Onion Knight's last chapter. FUMED AT THERE BEING NO MORE.
othellia 8th-May-2012 01:08 am (UTC)
I didn't like that scene because - not only was it gratuitous - but it MADE NO SENSE. Sansa got separated from the rest of the royal group and got lost. In a city. In a riot.

And Sandor is magically able to find her in all of this? And he managed to find her before anything happened? Sansa wasn't even out in the open. I get that he's the "hound", but he'd have to be physically part bloodhound.
sankaku_atama 8th-May-2012 01:27 am (UTC)
Sansa got separated from the rest of the royal group and got lost. In a city. In a riot.

And Sandor is magically able to find her in all of this?

That's actually how it happens in the book, though. If there's one thing HBO has been fairly good at in their translation, they keep to the books a lot closer than many adaptations I've seen.

As far as Sansa's characterization, well, there's a lot of story to go...
othellia 8th-May-2012 01:41 am (UTC)
True, though I'm pretty sure that in the book she was on a horse out in the open. In the episode she was on foot, wandered through several alleyways, and ended up in a vacant barn.
sankaku_atama 8th-May-2012 01:45 am (UTC)
Well, stylistic changes like that might be dependent upon a variety of things; though the overall 'theme' stays the same. I do sometimes wonder what it was that made certain directors go with the choices they made.
nikoel 8th-May-2012 02:35 am (UTC)
Naw, she was totally out in the open and was pulled off her horse. He saw where she went int he book and did NOT have to go hunt her down in a shop.
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