In "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", Game of Thrones mocks the power of powerful women


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2015/05/17/in-unbowed-unbent-unbroken.html

Game of Thrones was dealt a card denied by history to George Lucas: when everything gets buried in walking, talking and politics, it can always just have someone raped.


#2

“To her mentor, Jaqen, she refuses to abandon the plain truths of her past. He whips her until she drops.”

He was hitting her for lying about her past.


#3

“to be king of the north.”

Warden of the North

“But Sansa is not as dumb and sweet as she appears”

You must be kidding. She gets sexually humiliated by a sociopath son of her mother and brother’s murderer only to serve Baelish’s political agenda. This is her great accomplishment after escaping sexual humiliation at the hands of her father’s murderer through pouting and someone elses political agenda.

If she had run a dagger through his heart at the wedding and her allies had jumped from the bushes to slaughter the rest of the Bolton family she would have been redeemed. We can rest easy that those that victimize her usually end up dead at the end of the season, not because she does anything to make it happen of course.


#4

So the show is increasingly veering away from the novels. I can’t be more specific without spoilers about the novels, but by this summary, several things have changed significantly enough that they will mean that these are essentially two different stories.

GRRM’s novels test boundaries quite often, and on the whole I believe he handles it well, though there’s certainly room for criticism, and there are a lot of parts of the novels that I found difficult to read. The show, however, is demonstrating that it’s willing to jettison important plot details, in order to cram in more violence and sexism.


#5

On the fan forums for the novels, a popular subject of discussion is the subtle development of Sansa’s character, how she’s been finding her own strength, and seems to be moving towards a position where she can outmaneuver Baelish and become a major political player.

Apparently, they decided to jettison all that so they can have another rape scene.


#6

Does it still fail the Bechdel test if the women discuss a gay man? Just curious.

And I felt the final scene was much less about the rape of Sansa (since she voluntarily rode 1000 miles specifically to be impregnated by a man she knows is evil. We just hoped he’d be nicer about it?) and more about Reek. After being tortured, castrated, and having his identity removed, he has to watch the woman he loved like a sister, who now hates him because of a lie, also be tortured by the same man that did it to him. I kept waiting for him to break his programming.


#7

When marxist motifs present themselves in the culture they are discounted from meaning. But when the culture presents less than favorable socialist motifs this is an is an affront.

From this I draw one of two conclusions:

  1. People who write critiques such as this are ignorant.

  2. People who discount criticism of critiques like this are hiding something.

My questions is: Which is it?


#8

Also: RIP Bronn. He got slashed with a poisoned blade, didn’t he?


#9

No, he was hitting her for not lying well enough to hide the fact that it was a lie.


#10

I don’t even understand how the Bechdel test applies to the show. FFS, the story being told is about a male dominated society. That’s a plot point that’s frequently brought up. And good god, the bechdel test is stupid. You could have a story with no dialog that features a strong female lead as the only notable character and it would fail the bechdel test even though it succeeds at what the bechdel test is supposed to highlight: “the sexist way that women are under-represented in films”. Why would you use the bechdel test when we’re capable of critical thought? All it takes is to watch the show to see that women aren’t under-represented as strong and well-developed characters (honestly, I think that many of the women are stronger characters than many of the men).


#11

The fundamental point about the Bechdel test is that it’s such an incredibly low bar that it would take almost no effort at all to clear it – and yet, it’s astonishingly rare that any movie does. It’s simple: there are at least two women, they talk to each other, and it’s about something other than a man. The last clause is critical: it’s not just how many characters are women, but how the lives and minds of women are portrayed. You could pass that test by including two lines exchanged between characters who are women. That wouldn’t even prove, by itself, that the movie wasn’t sexist. It’s too low a bar. If a movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, the creators are not even willing to pretend not to be sexist (and heteronormative).

As it happens, I remember commenting elsewhere that the novels pass the Bechdel test easily. Half the major characters are women, and they have conversations about all sorts of things, and frequently aren’t talking about a man. If I’m not mistaken, every chapter in which the POV character is a woman passes. And of course, even in an explicitly patriarchal society, women actually talk with each other about all sorts of things.

That the show fails to pass the Bechdel test, when the novels did (and easily), is yet more evidence of how the show is distinctly more sexist than the novels on which it’s nominally based.


#12

Even Circe with her full nasty on doesn’t stand a chance against the power of the teenage male hardon. I call bulshit. No teenage male would ever, ever, ever sat quietly as that beautiful queen is lead away in chains. No power in the universe can withstand the onslaught of peaking testosterone. That teenage King should have gone berzerk.


#13

Well, the final scene…served the story better than Cersei and Jaime’s reunion did.

…that’s about all the faint praise I can think of.


#14

Well yeah.

Anyone who wants to learn about powerful women maintaining their positions in pre-industrial, sexist societies is welcome to research the lives of Hatshepsut, or Theodora, or Eleanor of Aquitaine, or Elizabeth I, or Catherine the Great, et cetera.

This sort of reading would likely not appeal to GOT viewers though, due to the near total absence of torture porn.


#15

The Bechdel test itself “fails” — and AFAIK its author says as much — because it was never meant to be some yardstick of feminist orthodoxy, it was meant to highlight how infrequently the conditions that merit a “passing grade” occur in popular media. A work “passing” the test doesn’t mean that work is a worthy standard for women to rally behind, nor does “failing” it mean it’s nothing more than an instrument of patriarchal oppression. Consider: Shopping With The Kardashians (or whatever, Christ, I’m not about to look it up) might pass, while Waiting For Godot fails. Even The Vagina Monologues fails, because they’re monologues!

All that aside, the big plot hole in this episode is that Loras’ squire’s knowledge of his master’s birthmark is completely unremarkable and by no stretch of the imagination evidence of Unholy Perversions. This is the guy whose job description includes putting his lord’s clothes on, fer cryin’ out loud!


#16

I think the whole Loras subplot on the show is handled pretty badly. Turning the sparrows into cartoon American fundamentalist Christians is just clumsy and things like that show how half-baked the whole idea is.


#17

Do you imagine in a male-dominated society that it’s somehow impossible for women to discuss something other than men?


#18

Especially considering the Seven is basically the only major pantheon on the show that has done exactly jack shit for any of its followers. The Lord of Light has given Melisandre assassin-spectre-birthing powers; Daeny’s dragons while not yet an official religion but I could see it happening are a proven asset; the Chess Temple’s omnitheistic trappings empower magic stuff; the Old Gods… well, okay, they haven’t done much but their whole thing is more like a cool animistic philosophy than a supplicant-grubbing religion.

What the fuck has the Seven ever done for anyone except get idiots to dress in rags, mutilate themselves, waste perfectly good alcohol, and persecute queers?


#19

In a male-dominated society, it’s hard for participants in the game of thrones to talk about it without mentioning any of the men who sit on most of those thrones. What should these women discuss, home decorating tips?


#20

The curriculum of assassin school.

But I agree that especially in the much more condensed show it isn’t always easy.