What We Can Learn from Jeyne Poole, Theon Greyjoy, and Ramsay Bolton: Part 2

Massive trigger warnings for rape, bestiality, mutilation, and abuse up ahead.

I don’t think I will ever stop being amazed by how badly Game of Thrones handled its Sansa-Theon-Ramsay plotline. This storyline wasn’t a joy to read about in the book either, but it was something that had a lot of meaning and purpose, and Game of Thrones missed every single point the book made. One of the show’s more glaring problems is that it replaced Jeyne with Sansa.

Sansa Game of ThronesUnfortunately, this switch lead to a lot of arguments about which girl should have been abused—Jeyne or Sansa. On the one hand, Sansa’s already an abuse victim. But on the other hand, so is Jeyne. This conversation can be somewhat problematic, as it can imply that one girl deserved to be abused more than the other. Let me just say that neither Sansa from the show nor Jeyne from the books deserved what happened to them. Not in the slightest. But in terms of which girl should have been the victim if we absolutely had to have a victim, that would most definitely be Jeyne.

Due to Jeyne’s socioeconomic status and the role she was born into in society, A Dance with Dragons opens up a discussion about rape culture that it otherwise couldn’t have had. Jeyne needed to be the victim, because it forces us, the readers, to confront an uncomfortable truth about how we view victims of rape.

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What We Can Learn from Jeyne Poole, Theon Greyjoy, and Ramsay Bolton: Part 1

Massive trigger warnings for rape, abuse, and mutilation up ahead.

With the possible exception of Cersei’s penance walk, the Jeyne-Theon-Ramsay storyline in A Dance with Dragons was both one of the best and also one of the worst reading experiences I’ve suffered my way through. The whole thing is incredibly uncomfortable. I can think of very few villains worse than Ramsay, and his treatment of both Jeyne and Theon is so appalling that it’s difficult to imagine anyone so evil.

Ramsay BoltonGame of Thrones’s fifth season attempted to tackle this subplot. Unsurprisingly, it failed. The show was also incredibly offensive in the process. At face value, this seems like an odd thing to say. What happens in the show is nowhere near as bad as what happens in the books. In Game of Thrones, Sansa replaces Jeyne, Ramsay rapes her, and the whole thing is rather senseless. In the books, Ramsay does a lot more than rape Jeyne. He threatens to mutilate her—her body is covered in his bites marks—and he forces her into acts of bestiality. On top of all that, he rapes Theon by proxy, since he also forces him to help in Jeyne’s torment as well. It’s worse than I just made it sound. Significantly.

Yet A Song of Ice and Fire does not treat this subject matter the same way Game of Thrones does. What happens in the books is awful, but it’s not just for shock value. The storyline tells us a lot about a person’s identity and autonomy, about rape culture, and about the monsters who hurt us. There’s a lot to unpack here, so for this post, I’m going to get into Theon’s issues with identity and then talk about Jeyne and rape culture in a second post.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Where Are My Butch Queer Heroines?

supergirl

The epitome of a female hero?

I love female superheroes, I love female heroes with tragic backstories and redemption arcs. Basically, I love female heroes. They’re great because they don’t conform to traditional female character roles of being quiet damsels in distress, and they show women as complex characters with stories and goals. However, while they break the mold of traditional female character narratives, these characters still overwhelmingly conform to heteronormative societal standards of beauty, gender presentation and sexuality.

So, while we should celebrate all awesome female characters, we should also be mindful of the heteronormative ideas that these characters reinforce and what type of character could challenge them even further. To put it bluntly, I want to see butch queer (super)heroines, but they‘re near impossible to find.

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Magical Mondays: Fantasy Worlds Are Dystopias, but the Real World Is Boring

The_Chronicles_of_Narnia_The_Silver_Chair_39636A while back, Lady Geek Girl and I got to talking about how most worlds we read about in sci-fi and fantasy are dystopias. Other than maybe Narnia, I can’t think of a single fictional world that’s utopian. And even then, when Lucy first travels through the wardrobe, Narnia is blanketed in an eternal winter and ruled by a malicious ice queen. It doesn’t surprise me that fantasy worlds are often dystopias. After all, our characters need some powerful evil force to fight against, and many of the issues our heroes come across in dystopian worlds are things we can relate to—sickness, prejudice, racism, sexism, extreme poverty, so on and so forth. Yet, despite how horrible a fictional world may seem, we as consumers still use these worlds as a form of escapism.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Hebrews and Moneylenders

F. Murray Abraham as Shylock in  Merchant of Venice

F. Murray Abraham as Shylock in Merchant of Venice at Pace University, 2011

There’s an association between Jews and finance that goes back a thousand years into European history. The natural strife between creditors and debtors made moneylending an extremely unpopular profession, so much so that the Third Council of Lateran in 1179 threatened Christians with excommunication if they lent money at interest—expanding a 4th century prohibition against usury. Jews were exempt from this threat—and prohibited from most other trades—and so Jewish communities in Europe filled this loathed-but-needed economic niche.

The union of ongoing bigotry with intense financial resentment laid the foundation for a permanent form of anti-Semitism in the Western world. The massacres of Jews by Crusaders in the 11th century dovetails with conspiracy theories about the 2008 financial crash.

These intense associations between Jews and financial trades permeate modern pop culture as well, so much so that even works by Jewish or philo-Semitic creators still reflect some of these old elements, whether or not they carry the hostility. These can be physical:

EwigerJudeFilm

Promotional poster for the Nazi film Der Ewige Jude

Long, hooked nose, sunken eyes, payot (sidelocks), swarthy or sallow skin, all connoted a malevolent, alien intruder to European society. Personally, Jews were portrayed as conniving, greedy, and fundamentally untrustworthy. Moreover, they were capable of corrupting innocent Christians, bribing them or otherwise rendering them financially subservient. Corruption carried a sexual element as well, arousing particular fears. We can see a number of these stereotypes in today’s pop culture.

1935 Nazi newspaper cartoon. The text is "Ignorant, lured by gold, They stand disgraced in Judah’s fold. Souls poisoned, blood infected, Disaster broods in their wombs"

1935 Nazi newspaper cartoon. The text reads: “Ignorant, lured by gold,
They stand disgraced in Judah’s fold. Souls poisoned, blood infected,
Disaster broods in their wombs”

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Fanfiction Fridays: So Many Vows by MotherofFirkins

Jaime Lannister and Brienne of TarthMotherofFirkins might not be my favorite fanfiction author, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy her stories. What I really like about this author is her ability to take the world from A Song of Ice and Fire and make it less dark. I already reviewed one story by her, The Treaty, and there were two big things I liked about it: it was a Jaime and Brienne centric story, and everyone got their happy ending. Those same things hold true for So Many Vows, which explores yet another way for Jaime and Brienne to fall in love and be happy.

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The Past was Terrible, the Present is Terrible, and the Future will be Terrible

It’s summer! We passed the solstice on Sunday, and the season finally turned, meaning we can leave behind a nerd culture spring that was unusually dark and full of terrors. The spring seasons of Game of Thrones, Agent Carter, and Orphan Black have all come to a close, and the MCU will pass from the Age of Ultron to the Age of Ant-Man.

And while that list has some peaks and valleys in terms of quality, there has been a real unifying theme: the realms of science fiction and fantasy have become truly effing bleak.

via Hawkeye #2

via Hawkeye #2

In genres long renowned for escapism, we have become obsessed with escaping into nightmares.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: The Sparrows from A Song of Ice and Fire, Christianity, and Women

Cersei_and_High_Sparrow-5x03The Sparrows have been a pretty big part of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, and if there’s one thing I can credit Game of Thrones’s fifth season with, it’s that the show did a semi-decent job of keeping its take on the Sparrows mostly true to their book counterparts. In the books, the Sparrows are a perfect example of people using their religious freedom to abuse and oppress others. This is something that we deal with ourselves in the real world, especially when it comes to equality. Women’s rights are something that many Christian churches have been against for nearly the entire history of Christianity, and this oppression is still alive and well today. The Sparrows and their faith are based on the Catholic Church in the middle ages, and how the Sparrows dehumanize people is pretty indicative of some of our current churches’ backward beliefs.

Trigger warning for rape culture and misogyny after the jump. Also, spoilers for the latest season of Game of Thrones.

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Sexualized Saturdays: More LGBTQ+ Characters in Fantasy!

I don’t know about you, but one of the main reasons I read fantasy is to escape reality. I want to be transported into worlds that are full of magic and excitement. I want to know that I can be an elf with perfect aim or a magician with the power to control the weather. Unfortunately, as a queer person I often run into a problem—I apparently don’t exist in most of the worlds I want to visit. There is enough bigotry and ignorance in the real world. The point of a fantasy world is that it’s different from the real one. But how different is it, really, if there is no place for LGBTQ+ people in it? (Same goes for many other minorities, but that’s a topic for another post, perhaps.) And I’m so tired of it.

fantasy_world_by_liang91

I just want to find myself in there (art by liang91)

I am also particularly tired of people trying to justify the lack of LGBTQ+ characters in fantasy. Setting aside arguments about “the gay agenda” and queer characters being “distracting”, which you see in any kind of fiction, one of the most common and frustrating lines that comes up when discussing fantasy is “labels such as gay, lesbian, etc. wouldn’t make sense in a fantasy world”. All this argument does, in my opinion, is betray a lack of creativity and abundance of bigotry in both the readers and the authors. Not only do these labels make sense, they’re extremely easy to add in.

Spoilers for the Circle of Magic books by Tamora Pierce and Pantomime by Laura Lam below the jump.

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Return to Westeros: “The Dance of Dragons” Review

After last week’s better than expected episode, I have to say that I still held no hope whatsoever for this week’s Game of Thrones, and boy was I not disappointed! That’s the good thing about not getting your hopes up. With what Ace has foreshadowed for me in the next episode, I can safely say that I am ecstatic that this blog will not be reviewing the next season.

So what do we have in this episode? A bunch of plot events that seem incredibly unimportant, and the one that does—the situation at The Wall—I just don’t give a shit about. But let’s get into it before my distaste drips all over everything.

Game of Thrones Fighting PitWarnings for mentions of pedophilia and immolation under the cut.

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