Sexualized Saturdays: The Life-Changing Magic of Being Not Like Other Girls

As I recently read S. Jae-Jones’s YA novel Wintersong, I noticed something troubling. The book seemed designed to appeal to me: it was a fantasy romance with strong (really strong) inspiration from both the movie Labyrinth and my favorite poem, Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market. However, something about Liesl, the main character, bugged me, and it took me a while to figure it out. Not because it wasn’t obvious, but because I thought that, in this, the Year of Our Lord 2017, we had done away with the “not like other girls” trope.

It’s a tale as old as time: a girl who’s just ~not like~ the other girls around her, against all odds, wins the day. These stories are appealing to us because these girls are framed as the outcasts; we can relate to their being bookish or plain or unpopular. But a problem that uniquely affects the female characters who fit these roles is that they often succeed or achieve victory at the expense of other women and girls, or by denigrating traditional femininity (or both). Liesl is an on-the-nose example of this trope: she is terribly jealous of her sister’s physical beauty, a trait Liesl lacks and constantly laments. Liesl is a genius composer, but her skills are downplayed or overlooked because of her gender. Meanwhile, it feels like her gorgeous sister is set up to be resented, as she at least can win men’s attention with her looks.

The cup of a carpenter is not like those frilly other cups. (via indygear)

However, when offered a beautiful fae gown by the servants of the Goblin King, Liesl instead chooses a plain dress, and this is played like Indiana Jones correctly picking the right Holy Grail. But instead of just rejecting the wealth and majesty of the other dresses, it reads as though Liesl is casting a value judgment on the majority of the other women in the book, who did choose to wear frills and finery.

This is just the latest example of this issue, rather than the only one. Pop culture has a long and varied history of celebrating these not-like-other-girls, from formative Disney flicks all the way up to watch-at-your-own-risk premium television like Game of Thrones. These portrayals enforce a terrible message: that there’s only one right way to be a girl, and that it’s totally acceptable to tear down other girls who don’t meet those standards. Continue reading

Stark Justice IV: Sansa is Not a Disney Princess

I honestly did not plan to come back to this series; I figured that I capped it off by jumping from Westeros to an Avenger. But damn if Game of Thrones didn’t imagine Sansa with the sovereign powers of Winterfell this year, at least briefly before Jon Snow was declared King in the North. And so, it’s time again to look at another member of House Stark take on the affairs of law and justice.

sansabrienne

Unlike her predecessors, Sansa has no experience in statecraft; her parents spent their entire adult lives in powerful positions, and Tony’s been around for the entire Cinematic Universe. Not only does she lack experience, but she was not educated to become a ruler. Instead, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of the fairy tales of her people, and five grueling seasons of torture at the hands of, well, everyone.

She acts harshly, and many writers have seen this as evidence that she has given into the latter, and that the gentle Northern girl has been corrupted. But Sansa is still living out a fairy tale, and her severity comes from those tales as much as her naivete once did.

Since we’re talking Game of Thrones, beware of spoilers (through Season 6) and triggers (torture and sexual violence) below the line.

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Ramsay Might Be Dead, but Game of Thrones Is Still Awful

Game of Thrones Daenerys sitting on chairGame of Thrones’s sixth season ended up being a vast improvement on the series after the abysmal catastrophe that was Season 5. However, being better is not the same thing as being good, and if Season 6 is any indication, the show still has a long way to go. While many of the scenes throughout the season were fun to watch, the plotlines that we get fall apart the second you really start to think about them. Thankfully, the silver lining to all this is that the misogyny is less apparent. The downside to that, however, is now there’s review after review proclaiming Game of Thrones to be a feminist masterpiece, and I find myself once again questioning: are the other reviewers watching the same show I am?

Spoilers and a trigger warning for suicide and discussions of rape and sexual assault up ahead.

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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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Return to Westeros: “Mother’s Mercy” Review

Game of Thrones Mothers Mercy“Mother’s Mercy” was by no means this season’s worst episode, and I even found myself partially invested in it. Hell, there were a few things about it that I actually liked. Unfortunately, Game of Thrones really went to shit this season, and a twenty-minute epic battle at Hardhome doesn’t change that. Not as bad is still a far cry from good. At the very least, I can say that Sansa and Theon get a semi-happy ending, but I’m not sure I can forgive the show for all it’s done, especially since Ramsay is still alive.

Trigger warning for sexual harassment and violence up ahead, as well as spoilers.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Game of Thrones and the Sansa-Theon-Ramsay Atrocity

When Game of Thrones’s fifth season started, I knew that there’d be some things about it that I wouldn’t like. That’s true for any story—you have to take the good with the bad—and that’s been especially true for Game of Thrones. When Game of Thrones is good, it’s pretty decent, but when it’s bad, it’s fucking horrible. The unnecessary Jaime-Cersei rape scene comes to mind. But while I knew that the show would continue to have its faults, I didn’t think it would be this bad.

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For those of you who don’t know what happened, Game of Thrones dug itself into yet another hole with the episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”. That episode’s ending scene is the worst thing ever. It’s so bad that I’m not even sure I can accurately represent my rage and disgust logically. Instead, I just want to scream and set things on fire. The hole the show just dug for itself is so deep, I’m not sure that it can climb back out again. I’m also not sure that I want it to. It deserves to rot down there.

In case you couldn’t tell, there’s a trigger warning for rape and abuse up ahead.

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Return to Westeros: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” Review

If last week Game of Thrones was “heading into darker territory”, this week the show did a kick flip off the deep end into some terrible shit. Admittedly, I spent the first ten minutes trying to remember which house’s motto used the episode title “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” (it’s the Martells, by the way), and in all honestly I wish I could have spent the entire hour pondering that rather than actually watching the episode. I was tricked by some interesting aspects of the Arya storyline into paying attention, and all I got for it was me seriously debating whether or not to drop the series entirely.

Me after watching this episode. (via kellimarshall.net)

Me after watching this episode.
(via kellimarshall.net)

Spoilers and a content warning for rape under the cut.

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