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There are many problems with this series, but subtlety isn’t one of them.
Tags: Monarchy television feminism
Why does it matter if there is a peasant revolt or not? Why does it matter if there is a "Robin Hood?" Or any of the other figures you have mentioned? If you want to write a story where the peons are the victors, go ahead and write your own damn story. "If you want something done right, do it your self."
It is NOT Martins job to tell whatever story you think should be. It is his job to write whatever HE thinks should be. It is that simple.
OK then - so why, in ALL these books, does G R R Martin never have a peasants' revolt?! Or some stirrings of same, or aristocrats expressing fear of same? Why no Wat Tyler peasant leader, who says: "Brethren, we must STOP this?!" Why no John Ball of a rebellious priest?
WHY don't they seem to have any legendary (in their own time!) anti-authoritarian outlaws? Robin Hoods? If Martin has taken the Isaac Asimov principle of borrowing from an empire here and a kingdom there - well, it's very selective borrowing! He seems to have accomplished the feat of making his Middle Ages both shittier and more interminable than the real ones!
Oh and King Zog - however you style yourself - you can't blame *everything* on Chavs, you know! Or on Laurie, for not being "down" wid de folks from the "ill manors". I bet she's interviewed a few in her time.
I think the real problem anarchists have with the depiction of medieval style societies as being rapey and misogynistic is because it makes people wonder what society would be like if they succeeded.
Look at places like Somalia. There's not much in the way of a state and yet it is hardly the sort of utopia that anarchists assure us will come about once the nasty old state has gone. In fact the best hope is that you get a moderately good ruler rather than a horrendously bad one, or more likely constant civil war between ruthless warlords.
Afghanistan is another classic example. After the USSR left there was constant civil war between vicious warlords. Women and children were reduced to chattel. It was so bad that a large minority of men - women's opinions were not considered important - supported the Taliban as a way to end the chaos.
Or - nearer to home - look at the rapes, theft and sexual assaults you get in Occupier camps or squats. Look at what happens on sink estates and ghettos that the police have decided are 'no go areas'. There's lots of crime, lots of rape, and essentially a civil war between gangs. Gang leaders, like medieval kings, are above the law.
The fact is that as soon as the liberal state goes away things get very Hobbesian very fast. Now if you talk to middle class anarchists like Laurie and her friends, this should not happen. People should self organise into anarchist collectives and even people using racist or sexist language should be suppressed. Still look what happens to women in virtually every war (or even natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina) and it is clear that anarchy is not a good place to be a young woman by nature.
In a sense you can see that Laurie understands this. She was out reporting on the student riots which were 100% middle class, but she stayed in her apartment when the chav underclass was stealing flat screen TVs. Odd that, if anarchy (maybe we should call it a Chavocracy) means riots for the wimmins and the gays.
I don't think - in any way - that you could suggest the culture in Song of Ice and Fire is based on any notion of anarchy. It's a feudal society with clear leaders, systems of taxation, and even something of a middle class. The state functions, such as it does, for the benefit of the oligarchs in their big castles and manors while the paupers suffer the indignities of serfdom and, while slavery is officially abhorred by most, there's no doubt who the serfs are working for.
Anarchy is a problematic ideology, and is made more problematic when people conflate it with chaos.
Anarchy literally means "no ruler" aka a power vacuum. My point is that power vacuums tend to be filled by someone ruthless enough to make themselves King. Or President for Life.
The idea that it would be some sort of utopian hierarchy free society is just wishful thinking.
Well said, Andy sir - if that doesn't sound too hierarchical! :)
..such as unequal marriage, divorce, inheritance AND employment laws - in order to underpin that misogynistic philosophy/attitude. And so on.
Interestingly, one of the factors NOT discussed on here that to my mind is most contributory to misogyny is RELIGION: particularly the sort of religion most prevalent in the Middle Ages - and still today! MONOTHEISM. The One God religions. And that one God always, unaccountably (in the monotheistic societies we have sufficient surviving details to know about) turns out to be MALE! Think you can have a fair society like that?! :D
Whereas, the old religions, POLYTHEISMS, had a whole variety of gods, goddesses, and beings androgynous.
Funnily enough - &this is why I don't give GRRM much credence - his world doesn't have Christianity, or much in the way of proper monotheism. The Westereans aren't even proper pagans - they seem more like violent New Agers! Crystal-worship etc. THAT is why I think Mr Martin is on drugs!
One god or seven, the religion in Westeros is pretty clearly based on Christianity...
Well.. not so sure about that.. (I didn't see your comments further down the thread!)
See, Christianity is a MONOTHEISM. You can't have seven gods/esses in a MONOTHEISM. You can, apparently, have a Trinity, which seems to be a little idea, one of many, they borrowed from the pagans! (Polytheists have trinities - lots of them! Brahma, Siva, Vishnu; Odin, Hoenir, Loki.. you get the idea!)
Christianity squares the circle by having three gods in one.
Yeah, the Seven are "aspects" but of what? They're not a pantheon because they don't have proper names - like Odin, Thor etc! They seem to be almost like - archetypes, but not really Jungian ones! Primitive ones, they are, addressed as Father, Mother, Stranger etc.
I'd say his unlikely concoction owes something to Greek Gnosticism, Roman imperialism (all this emphasis on the Father being number one!) and a sort of pagan archetypalism. Neither fish nor fowl..
I know these articles tend to get more comments as soon as someone else - genuinely interested in the topic! - has recently commented, as I suppose it brings the link back to the front page again..
I've already complained about people not replying on here, and the lack of DISCUSSION, and the prevalence of fan-kids - and TORY trolls!
So. OK. I am going to reply to you, Kingzog, sufficiently promptly for you to notice it.
An *anarchist* society (& I'm more of a socialist) is, in simple terms, based on the idea that there ARE no kings, or lords, or warlords: that humanity has seen through its illusions and need to follow these sorts of people: for without followers they could not exist. (No Nazis, no cheering crowds, no complicit bourgeoisie & intelligentsia = no Hitler-Fuehrer. For example. No Emperors, also.)
For there to be misogyny in a society, there has to be a social philosophy encompassing various degrees of misogyny that most people subscribe to. There have to be economic, social and legal factors
Why isn't ANYONE on here - replying/responding to comments from other commenters?? You used to, you lazy trolls!
And all my previous comments stand, including those about fanboys and fangirls - a useless species of vermin!
Honestly. I think TV must be like the new medieval Church: you're all in its thrall!!
And I do also think it interesting that in an era where we have huge real-world problems to solve, instead of the truly thoughtful (some of them) fantasy/sf/historical films and TV series that came out of the 60s and the 70s, we are being presented with and encouraged to cheerlead for, fascist, imperialist spectacle, like this, & Frank Miller's 300, for example.
&we all know how Miller reacted to the Occupy protests! I wonder if Martin thinks the same? They seem quite ideologically alike, to me!
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
"the goodies are the rough, noble Northerners, the Stark family, none of whom have any discernible character defects"
Nedd Stark - Pride/hubris/slow on the uptake
(Refusal to accept others advice, relies on his own sense of honour and justice, blithely underestimates his enemies)
Caetlyn Stark - Rash/poor decision making/Jealousy
( e.g capturing Tyrion. Misdirected anger towards Nedd's illegitamate child)
Sansa Stark - Idealistic romantic/whiney
(Believes life is like a storybook)
Robb Stark - Rash/Idealistic romantic
(Marries for love rather than stategic alliances)
Jon Snow - ...A bit thick
(Not so much in the books, but in the series. Yea gods, CLOSE YOUR MOUTH. You know nothing Jon Snow!)
Arya - Nah, you've got me, I really like Arya...
Bran and Rickon too young really to comment.
Equally, you can argue everything Cersei does is securing her powerbase for the benefit of her children - in her eyes, the ends justify the means, particularly in a world where power for a woman can only be borrowed. (While watching 'She Wolves: England's Early Queens' I was reminded of Cersei. Also Livia from 'I Claudius')
Jaime, likewise, pushing a child out of a tower does not endear the audience/reader to him. Neither Jaime nor Cersei are appealing, but he's not a two dimensional baddie, either. If pushing a child out of a tower was what was needed to protect Cersei and himself, that's what he was going to do. In a way, it's more pragmatism than cruelty. (not that I'm advocating pushing children out of windows)
In all honesty, the only character I am genuinely emotionally invested in is Tyrion - also a Lannister.
"The worst by far of those excuses is “Game of Thrones is based on the Medieval World, and the Medieval World Was Sexist and Racist.” Well, yes, 14th century Europe wasn’t a lot of fun if you were a woman, but nor did it have, for example, dragons, or magical shape-changing witchy-woo assassins."
I 've heard a lot of the inspiration came from the War of the Roses (again, I can see that in Cersei) but that doesn't mean it's in any way a faithful representation of a historical era - just inspired by. Dragons, magical shape-changing witchy-woo assassins are pure fantasy embellishment.
They don't neccesarily preclude eachother.
" Westeros does, because Westeros is a fantasy world. If the creator of a fantasy series can dream up an army of self-resurrecting zombie immortals he can damn well dream up equal marriage rights, and if he chooses not to do so then that choice is meaningful [...]"
Yes, of course it's a choice. And of course he could dream up equal marriage rights. But it isn't meant to be feel-good or utopian and the society he did dream up isn't progressive. I'm not sure that makes the author misogynist; representation of something doesn't neccesarily equate to support of it. Writing about a gruesome serial killer in a horror story doesn't mean the writer is endorsing serial killing. Sure he could dream up a story about happy rainbows, but then, it wouldn't be a horror story.
(I will agree it's certainly gratuitous...I don't know if true or not, but I read somewhere that one of the tv execs was watching from the perspective of "a perv" and wanted more full frontal nudity. that could well be tongue-in-cheek though!)
"So it’s interesting that Game of Thrones is reaching its climax just as the Diamond Jubilee really gets under way in Great Britain. "
Type in "Game of Thrones" + "Daily Mash" to read their 'British Monarchy Needs to be More Like Game of Thrones" peice :)
The worst by far of those excuses is “Game of Thrones is based on the Medieval World, and the Medieval World Was Sexist and Racist.” Well, yes, 14th century Europe wasn’t a lot of fun if you were a woman, but nor did it have, for example, dragons, or magical shape-changing witchy-woo assassins. Westeros does, because Westeros is a fantasy world. If the creator of a fantasy series can dream up an army of self-resurrecting zombie immortals he can damn well dream up equal marriage rights, and if he chooses not to do so then that choice is meaningful
So it’s interesting that Game of Thrones is reaching its climax just as the Diamond Jubilee really gets under way in Great Britain.
...ahem. clearly messed up my c+p there. apologies.
For mobile commenters - WHY DON'T THE SODDING COMMENTS COME OUT OK?!?! This is a crapsack system!
Anyway: I can see that the majority of comments on here are negative: and consist largely of attacks on Laurie: who I basically agree with. Sod off, all you fanboys/fangirls. Martin is basically a boring, meandery writer who fucks with his readers: no wonder they chose his work to develop into a manipulative, medieval soap opera!
At least half of you don't understand the difference between "trolling" and "criticism". Laurie is the feminist critic. You are the cave trolls.
..some potentially interesting, barely-mentioned black characters: who are used purely as decoration, high-class courtesans etc. Disappointing. Racist.
(I must say it made me laugh when some feeble Grauniad writers were accusing J R R Tolkien of "racism" a few years back: I suppose the efforts of G R R Fascist put the whole thing into perspective!)
And I certainly don't know why some of you are getting so worked up about this as to call Ms Penny sweary names - mods? Where are you?
She is perfectly within her rights to hold an opinion and say all she has said!
I would only add: another thing that puzzled me is that although so much of it is recognizably medieval European: it is set on another planet to ours (or sth) and their religions are quite different: no Christianity or monotheism: so - why all the emphasis on male power?!
Oh. & Laurie may wish to tie it in with UK monarchy because of the recent jubilee: but it is written by an American: whose psyche is surely reflecting some of tie vices of the US!
..the Mongol-type warlord does in fact gently seduce the albeit 13-year-old princess: he doesn't have to rape her in the book: she's mad for him! (Well otherwise she'd havta marry her brother as that is their family custom!)
But anyway: it's a fairly daft thing! I would question also whether it falls into the domain of true sword-and-sorcery. At the beginning of the stories, magic is very scarce: it is only the return of the dragons that seems to bring it back in their wake, somehow.. the whys and wherefores of it are never explained.. it's not really very logical! I think it's actually an example of what tvtropes.com calls a "crapsack world" - that's my opinion and analysis!
Really liked it, you are such a smart person and i think you are the reason the world is as fair and lovely as it is today! :>
keep up the good work
This is one of the most ridiculous articles I've ever read. Half of it is wrong and the other half is stupid, unfounded conjecture. How on earth are you employed within this supposedly decent medium? Maybe get off your feminism high horse and go to journalism school, believe me, you'll be better off.
Ma'am, you are simply a blubbering ignorant thunderous cunt, and I wish for you to cease breathing.
What's wrong with your brain? There are so, so many points in this article that are either plain wrong or just down right idiotic. I think you need to look the term fiction and understand the concept works well for fantasy stories, but not articles.
I've been having discussions with friends about some of the problems I have with Song of Ice and Fire (beyond the obvious issues of race and gender). I just wonder why the entire world has been culturally and technologically stunted.
Wrote something here: http://apostrophien.blogspot.ch/2012/06/its-time-for-revolution-in-kings...
Your blog looks interesting, Andy Chanelle. I shall read forthwith!
Yes: I wondered why Martin's world stayed medieval for millenia: though they seem to have more of a problem with the precession of the equinoxes - or something - than our world does!
I thought on reflection that it was because Martin's medieval analogue did not contain a "China" - a big nation full of successful, intelligent, cultured yellow people - to give "Westeros" some gunpowder and make its Ipods for it!:)
Marco Polo and China in our own middle ages - THEY were/are the key!
I do like this article, I like the writing and I like LP's honesty.
But, there's always a but, I also think it's a nice illustration of feminist thinking and critique. There are moments in GoT (I've only watched the first few episodes) where men, particularly low born men, suffer the most horrific violence and death in a matter of fact way. In scene in which a man is eviscerated for the entertainment of the upper classes, LP's problem is that some women have their tits out in the background.
It's when this same 'one eyed' view of the world hits reality we have problems. Where I see 100 people with cancer, a feminist sees 40 women and demands more resources for those 40. Where I see a 100 homeless people, a feminist sees 20 homeless woman and demands housing for the 20.
GoT isn't great telly, it's telly that's had a very big pile of money thrown at the screen, and if you want shout 'rape culture' OK, but you should be shouting 'murder culture' at the same time. Unless you think men meeting early deaths is acceptable that is?
Your comment is spot on, I'm so tired of everybody ignoring the story as a whole and just exploiting the little things that will get people to read their articles. 'Oh no women are being used as sex objects and slaves in this series' Come on look at Cersei she uses every an around her to get what she wants, they even made Renly gay with Loras but no mention of that here. Again you made great points in your comment if only everybody else would look at it as a whole.
Hows it going, comments section. Thought this was a pretty good article, going to send it to all my friends. Very convincing analysis, nicely written.
Y'all seem like you've spent a lot of time posting derogatory comments to the person who wrote this article. Good for you. I'm sure it was a valuable use of your time. I also see that the gender norms police are out in full force. Cool! Always glad to receive manhood instructions from 40-something divorcees. What a valuable thread. Clearly the author has elected not to reply because she was stunned by the brilliance of your counter analysis and was unable to formulate a response. There is no other explanation.
Also, those of you who think that GoT is "realistic" are pretty deluded. It's been pointed out to me numerous times by more knowledgeable people that medieval Europe was pretty diverse and took place over a substantial period of time. GoT selects a hodgepodge of those things and presents them through a lens almost certainly invented a long time afterwards. Your "realism" is merely a resonance with stories you've been told about a world in the past, congruence to norms in representing the medieval world. Even in selecting particular elements to combine, the authors create a fantastical representation. Those of you confusing this for history baffle me.
Interesting you think all of the people having a pop out our LP are men, as if that devalues thier comments?
Putting aside the internet law, that anyone posting on a forum with a womans' name is actually a 48 year old lorry driver called Dave, the are quite a few women in these threads who've been less than supportive of LP and her views.
That's interesting. Where did I say someone was male? Female 40-something divorcees can't give out manhood instructions on the internet?
I only have one thing to say and that is I couln't give a shit about American television. Please, spare us.
With regard to Daenerys, you forgot the "White person becomes most powerful member of other culture" trope.
Crying fans, suck it up. She's spot on. Welcome to the colonial undertones that exists in all mainstream fantasy.
The series flits from one upper class person's perspective to another, and we try and figure out which one will make the best ruler. Screw that, start a revolution.
If you want sophisticated epic fantasy where breasts /=/ characterization, read Steven Erickson.
Feminist Activist says it all really ?? have you ever suspended belief to enjoy a work of fantasy or is it just another thing you can scream injustice at?
Its a harsh world its set in get over it if it was a political drama set in modern times then your article might actually have some relevance instead its just cheap journalism you should be ashamed
i am follow
I Am an avid fan of Game of Thrones and Penny's article has helped me greatly in still coming to the conclusion that I haven't a clue what it is all about apart from as she writes, tits and prostitutes, goodies and baddies (I still haven't worked out who) and lots of hangings, torturing and absolute skulduggery.
The final ending of the second series this week leaves us all puzzled over what next?! The Dragon girl is a mystery so is the bloke (the only goody?) who apparently can kill people at ease setting the young girl free. Where the dwarf fits in the jury is out!
Is there anyone out there who can give an idiots guide to tis series? I can't wait for series 3 but some serious revision is needed on series 1 and 2.
Spartacus was a lot easier as we know who the "goody" is and plenty of tits and orgies, plus blood and guts. I am ready for a spot of Bambi therapy
Says nothing, this article, does it? Uusal long winded Penny drivel. Makes one feel (again) she's just writing for writing's sake - or for the fee.
Where's Spud Middleton to take this tripe down from a working-class left perspective?
Read the books then complain. Miserable woman.
Right, lets check out episode 1.
2 men killed on the pre-title sequence.
Another threatened with death, because he questions masters orders.
10 year old boy no good at archery, his sister is immediately better than his in one of those, "girls are better at everything than boys" set pieces.
Man beheaded, being treated as the property of the lord.
A feast is being prepared. A woman is giving orders a man.
Semi naked young men are preparing for the party.
soldiers ride ride into town, some cool outfits. The king arrives.
Oh! Blond dudes and dudettes.
Ah! This must be the horny dwarf.
31:01 Breasts - praise the lord.
Down south, really blond dudes and dudettes.
Brown slave in a metal color.
Breasts! Young woman made to show body to man, then has a bath. Her slave warns her about a hot bath.
Brown dudes arrive, all muscles and leather trousers.
Young woman don't look to happy at brown dude, only OK as slaves I guess.
Made clear to young woman that she is a possession to be used as a means to an end.
Right, I think I've got the measure of this.
Laurie Penny doesn't mind drama that depicts white lower class men being slaughtered like cattle, as long the women and brown dudes meet meet the current doctrine.
I think you're watching it with one eye shut.
Oh! At the wedding, some woman have their tits out. A man is litrally gutted and then has his throat cut....given the choice I'd take my top off every time.
Young bride is raped.
And a young boy is thrown off a tower.
I'd rather hear about your 'damsel-in-distress - rescued by Ryan Gosling - crossing-the-road' crisis .... LOL
Strangely similar to the opening scene from the film 'Closer' with Jude Law and Natalie Portman ;-)
Laurie, if i may address you directly, i have a quick question for you.
it has to do with the first sentence of this article. actually, the first half of the first sentence.
what DO you "love" about Game of Thrones?
(sorry 'bout the shouting, i don't know if these comment windows can handle html)
Well, I suppose this article is highly suited to the weekend, like the BBC coverage it's full of mistakes, all over the place and wetter than the weather.
I can't help but feel that you're approaching the entire Game of Thrones series from the wrong direction. Having decided to set his story in a realistic(esque) Medieval world, Martin goes out of his way to include a range of diverse and interesting female characters who use all the tools at their disposal to make their way in the world as best they can. He takes a medieval world which is culturally accurate and uses a wide range of tricks to lever women into positions that they don't need to hold (as far as the story's concerned).
As for the idea that it's a cartoonish story of Good vs Evil, we must be watching different shows. I wouldn't feel comfortable picking any family and claiming "These are the good guys", and (aside from the ice zombies) I definitely don't think there are bad guys. There are certainly people we like and people we dislike, but the Starks do some nasty things and the Lannisters all act out of understandable and relatively realistic motivations (except Joffrey, granted), so it's far from black and white.
If you were going to take the show to task for shoe-horning tits into every other scene then I'd agree that it's senseless and just there to boost ratings, but when you're complaining about the roles of the female characters, racism and the fact that Martin didn't decide to set his story in a feminist paradise I find it hard to side with you on any of the points. Apart from "I'd rather watch Game of Thrones than the Jubilee", of course.
P.S. Danny is a child bride in the books, but not in the TV show. She's also not raped in the books, but is in the TV show, so claiming she's a 13 year old rape victim is inaccurate. Not that it means the assault in the show is any more justified, it's obviously not, I'm just pointing out the mistake in the piece.
Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman.