Tag Archives: George R. R. Martin

Monthly Reading List III

tumblr_nos8lmrZM71u170y1o1_500

Top image by alphatrashking.tumblr.com.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

And never the twain shall meet

tumblr_lzd06rEF5Y1qjk5mxo1_4001

Rooting for specific relationships happens to be one of my favourite pastimes, and the more absurd and unlikely the better. In fact, if they exist in totally different worlds, that’s ideal. They’ll never meet, and there will never be an opportunity for writers/producers/actors to botch the job and disappoint me. No one will betray their true love, bad dialogue will never ruin the moment, and people won’t die right when things are at their best (looking at you, Whedon). Their love will stay safe and perfect in my brain, where it belongs.

So in honour of all the one-night hookups and epic love stories that will never be—crackships, if you will—here are some of my favourites. (Obvious spoiler warning is obvious.)

tumblr_m7ab03fWg21r6zm9ao6_r1_1280

Like anyone else would suffer them (by justinripley.tumblr.com)

1. Joffrey Lannister and Draco Malfoy

Aside from the aesthetics, aren’t these two a match made in heaven? Annoying, evil, privileged, and spoiled, it just all fits. And sure, Draco ends up reformed and Joffrey ends up dead (thank GOD), but had they met, maybe they would have softened each other’s edges? After a tumultuous (and hot) beginning, they might have given each other the love and support they needed to become just that little bit kinder? Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but at the very least, if they’re busy getting their rocks off with one another, it means they’re leaving the rest of us alone.

 

rormione

Let me clutch this book to my breast as if it were you

2. Rory Gilmore and Hermione Granger

Indulge this grown-up eager-beaver bookworm for a moment. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see these two together? Academic rivals, constantly pushing each other to excel, sniping at each other with vocabularies no one else can understand, forced to work together on some class project, late nights, ink smudges, library stacks… This stuff writes itself. Hermione needs someone on her level, and Rory’s relationship with Paris has shown that she has a great give and take with someone as focused and dedicated to hard work as she is.

 

tumblr_n0k8ewiXeb1qksvrgo1_500

Cool. (By Kazeki)

3. Frozen‘s Elsa and Jack Frost

LONG LIVE THE ICE QUEEN AND KING. I don’t care that Rise of the Guardians was actually a pretty mediocre movie. (It had its moments. Russian Santa Claus using famous composers instead of cuss words? Rachmaninoffing amazing.) I don’t care that Elsa is being hailed as a metaphor for queer sexuality. Jack Frost is a cutie, and Elsa deserves someone who can actually snuggle up to her at night. Besides, “the cold never bothered me anyway” is a great pickup line.

 

brieowyn

Is that a codpiece or are you just happy to see me?

4. Eowyn and Brienne of Tarth

Marginalized lady fighters finding solace and acceptance in each other’s arms is possibly my favourite story that I’ve never actually seen. I lovelovelove Faramir (and I’m more than a little attached to the idea of Brienne and Sansa ending up together) but come on how perfect would Eowyn/Brienne be? Think of the sparring montages! The post-battle bandaging! They are so perfect for one another it hurts. They look amazing as a pair, and they even have the same dramatic helmet removal down pat.

 

MagicSchoolTARDIS

Beep beep and vworp vworp indeed

 5. The TARDIS and the Magic School Bus

Because why the hell not. The TARDIS is sexy and the Magic School Bus has a great sense of humour. Done. OTP.

(Also River Song is totally a young Ms. Frizzle, so this one isn’t even that improbable.)

 

Top image: The meme’s original art is from Hyperbole and a Half, by the fantastic Allie Brosh

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A song of ice and feminism: Part 2

got_women_by_inslee-d6au9o8

Morgan Inslee

Welcome to part two of my rapturous love letter to the women of A Song of Ice and Fire. In part one I dealt primarily with the Starks and women who occupy more traditionally female spaces, but this time, it’s all about the warriors. So unsheathe your sword, draw your bowstring taught, and let’s get right to it. (As usual, spoiler warnings for all the books.)

briennemylove

Pau Norontaus

Brienne of Tarth

“Ser Colen,” Catelyn said to her escort, “who is this man, and why do they mislike him so?” “Because he is no man, my lady. That’s Brienne of Tarth, daughter to Lord Selwyn the Evenstar.”

“A daughter.” Brienne’s eyes filled with tears. “He deserves that. A daughter who could sing to him and grace his hall and bear him grandsons. He deserves a son, too, a strong and gallant son to bring honour to his name… I am the only child the gods let him keep. The freakish one, not fit to be a son or daughter.”

Brienne is the personification of the old adage that women must work twice as hard to be taken half so seriously. A knight and a fighter, she is perhaps the clearest example of a woman occupying a man’s space, and no other character will ever let her forget it. We are first introduced to Brienne mid combat. Though skilled, against the backdrop of a king’s tournament she is hopelessly out of place, and the scorn of the crowd is obvious. Despite the jeering, the taunting, and the bet to take her virginity, Brienne still desperately wants to be a part of the knight’s mythology. She wants that chivalry, that honour, for herself, and becomes first a member of Renly Baratheon’s kingsguard, and shortly after the sworn vassal of Catelyn Stark.

Brienne struggles so hard against the expectations placed on her. She’s at once too much of a woman, and not enough. Too much of a man, and not enough. There is no place where she feels completely herself, this is not a world that will make room for her. She’ll have to push and fight and never stop trying, and she’s fiercely committed to doing just that.

It’s actually fairly difficult for me to write about Brienne, because she is my favourite, and I’m so, so afraid for her. She’s honest, courageous, and without guile, and that’s a dangerous combination to have if your end goal is to survive in Westeros. She’s also one of the characters who best shows the permanent danger of rape. She sleeps lightly, and makes sure there are locked doors before she goes to bed at all. She is keenly aware that, as a woman traveling the world without a retinue of loyal men, she is—despite her height, strength, and skill—a target.

There is a nobility to Brienne, an idealism that persists even in the face of extreme hardship, and it makes her one of the most amazing characters in the series.

cody-vrosh

Cody Vrosh

Asha Greyjoy

“Cunt again? It was odd how men like Suggs used that word to demean women when it was the only part of a woman they valued.” 

“Got to touch one… or two, or ten. I have touched more men than I can count. Some with my lips, more with my axe.”

Proof positive that ASOIAF has a little something for everyone, Asha Greyjoy swashbuckled her way into everybody’s hearts in A Clash of Kings. The last remaining child of Balon Greyjoy (her brother Theon having been sent to Winterfell as ward), Asha has never been limited by her father. Balon sees her as his heir and, what’s more, an heir worthy of the Iron Islands. Let’s take a moment to remember how we’re introduced to Asha. Theon returns to the Iron Islands, pompous and absurd, and Asha passes herself of as a shipwright’s wife so she can get a better sense of who this brother of hers, a brother she hasn’t seen since childhood, has turned out to be. When Theon confronts her, she calmly replies that she wasn’t lying, she does have a husband—her axe—and a suckling babe. And then she takes out a dagger from between her breasts. You guys, I’m dying.

Asha just doesn’t give a fuck about you or your weird, archaic gender roles. She’s going to fight. She’s going to captain her own fleet. She’s going to inherit her father’s title, insisting on calling the entire ceremony “her” queensmoot. She’s quick, deadly, and a natural leader, and she’s so, so very fun.

abb529b3b94a7e31ccf949cc425702ef

Sir-Heartsalot

The Sand Snakes

“Some men think because they are afraid to do.” —Tyene Sand

“Give me back my spear, Uncle. Cersei sent us a head. We should send her back a bag of them.” —Obara Sand

Every once in a while, the books give glimpses of pockets of female spaces that act as havens, powerful sources of support for those perpetually disenfranchised. We see it briefly in the Tyrell gardens, and again among the Mormont women. But nowhere is it as clear as with the Sand Snakes, the illegitimate daughters of Oberyn Martell, Prince of Dorne.

Every one of them is cooler than the last. You’ve got warrior Obara, strong and deadly with a spear. “Sweet” and “pious” Tyene who has a terrifyingly in depth knowledge of poisons. Beautiful Nymeria who’s rarely without at least a dozen daggers scattered around her person. Sarella who’s mother was a ship captain from the Summer Isles, and who may or may not be off studying to become a Maester, disguised as a man. And let’s not forget the young ones, including little “Lady Lance” Elia, who always smells like horses.

After the death of their father, the Sand Snakes each speak to their uncle, Doran Martell, urging him to declare vengeance on the Lannisters and King’s Landing. In response, he has them all imprisoned so that they can’t, you know, start a war. That’s just how dangerous they are, how willing they are to go ahead and start a bloodbath.

I can’t properly express how much I love Dorne and its inhabitants. Oberyn in bisexual and intensely proud of his army of daughters. Nymeria was in bed with twins Jeyne and Jenelyn Fowler when she was told of her father’s death. There are just so many wonderful moments, and even the Sand Snakes’ cousin, Arianne Martell (whom I will get to eventually) is great. Dorne seems like the greatest, most progressive part of Westeros, and it also bears mentioning that the Martells and their ilk are the only characters of colour that become truly central to the plot.

snowstorm

Marie Thorhauge

Ygritte the Wildling

“‘I know one thing. I know that you are wildling to the bone.’ It was easy to forget that sometimes, when they were laughing together, or kissing. But then one of them would say something, or do something, and he would suddenly be reminded of the wall between their worlds.”

Heading in the opposite direction of Dorne, we (finally) come to Ygritte, the fire-kissed Wildling from Beyond the Wall. Ygritte, aside from being a badass, knows what she wants, and what she wants is Jon Snow. Jon, a member of the Night’s Watch who has recently joined the Wildlings in an attempt at espionage, cares for her, but is at first unwilling to break his vow of celibacy. Once he gets over that, however, they begin a relationship that is one of the most equitable and caring of the series, though Jon at least knows it won’t last.

When the fallout eventually occurs, Ygritte deals with being dumped in what is perhaps the greatest way possible: She shoots him in the leg and storms his castle. It might have cost her her life, but boy did she not take rejection lying down. All joking aside, Ygritte stands out as more than Jon Snow’s lover. As a woman who has never been exposed to the courtly etiquette south of the wall, she has no attachment to the more traditional femininity espoused there. A spearwife of the North, she fends for herself and has no hangups about her own sexuality. It’s a refreshing change from all the intrigue and subterfuge on King’s Landing, and puts her in sharp (and favourable) contrast to the secret-keeping Jon.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A song of ice and feminism: Part 1

artnouveauiscoming

Hogan McLaughlin

Much has been written about the feminism (or lack thereof) of George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Set in the pseudo-medieval land of Westeros, the series chronicles the intrigue and warfare surrounding the iron throne, the key to controlling the seven kingdoms. On the surface, the story bears all the markers of typical epic fantasy: there are knights, dragons, princesses, and their ilk. The story spans years and includes a sprawling cast of characters spread out over multiple continents. If you stopped your analysis there, the series wouldn’t seem much different from the countless other genre works that deal with similar themes.

And Westeros is a brutal, unfeminist world, that much is certain. Only rich, titled men able to hold a sword hold any real power, violence and rape are threatened daily, and no one, least of all main characters, are safe from harm. This is not a world in which gender equality will be achieved in any meaningful, institutional way.

But what sets the series apart—and, in my opinion, lends it its feminist cred—is how the world is portrayed. There are over thirty point-of-view characters through which we get to see this world, and almost all are in some way disenfranchised. Some are women in a land where they are treated as little better than chattel, some are illegitimate or grew up in abject poverty (and are therefore lacking in the class capital that enables easy movement through the nobility), some have disabilities or deviate from the accepted norm in some other way. The world of Westeros may not feminist, but it never goes uncriticized. We see these characters punished by this world, we see them struggle and fight against it, or see them find clever ways of circumventing its oppressive nature. It is these struggles that make the reading worthwhile, and give rise to a stunning number of characters the likes of which are rarely seen in the genre.

For their part, whether you love to hate them, or hate to love them (because they will undoubtedly be sacrificed in the next chapter), the women of ASOIAF are wonderful, fully fleshed-out characters, each with her own skills, desires, and motivations. Each is compelling in her own unique way, and instead of writing an ode to every character individually, I thought I’d wax poetic about the collective greatness all in one sitting (or two).

(Note: It goes without saying that spoilers will abound, so make sure you’re up to date.)

aryaaaa

Thomas Humeau

Arya Stark

“Every pain is a lesson, and every lesson makes you better.”

As much as crowd-pleaser Arya is one of my personal favourites, her character could have very easily fallen into the Strong Female Character trap. Little, tough, and unfeminine, it was clear from very early on that Arya was never going to be the modest and well-bred lady. Very quickly, she had to learn how to survive outside of a castle’s walls, passing as a boy in order to move more freely through the countryside. She’s one of the more wish-fulfilling characters in the series, but thankfully, Arya has her limitations. As much as she’d love to be a no-holds-barred, sword-swinging force of nature, she’s nine years old, has had little combat experience, and is physically very small. When she gambles, she loses as often as she wins, and her growth as a character is the richer for it.

Arya shows the consequences of being on the front lines of so much death and bloodshed. Even as she flees to the free city of Braavos, her experiences change her. Though she makes the best of it, it takes a certain kind of damaged human being to begin training as a Faceless Man, a religious order of assassins with the ability to change their appearance. She begins to sublimate her entire identity (an identity that the violence of Westeros has forced her to reinvent more than once) to become a honed killer. Arya is the tomboy, but without the innocence that makes tomboys seem unthreatening. The little lady she was taught to be would not have survived, so Arya became someone different, someone who, with a little more training, will be very fearsome indeed.

sweetsansa

Hannah Alexander

Sansa Stark

“My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel.”

“Their dreams were full of songs and stories, the way hers had been before Joffrey cut her father’s head off. Sansa pitied them. Sansa envied them.”

Sansa Stark begins the series as a naïve, spoiled brat who lies and aligns herself with Monster King Joffrey in a vain attempt at a fairytale ending. At the start, she’s untrustworthy and unsympathetic, but that doesn’t last for long.

How do you know Sansa’s a badass? She’s still alive. What eleven-year-old realistically has the self-possession to navigate the Lannister minefield of King’s Landing? One who’s clever, intuitive, and can sense threats better than most adults. Sansa is magnificent, but because her weapons of choice are kindness and courtesy, her strength is so often overlooked.

She’s grown up listening to tales of brave, virtuous men who would take care of her, of tournaments and beauty and courtly love. She drank the misogynistic Kool-Aid in a big way (as a child is wont to do) and, after the death of her father, her awakening is understandably rude. But she so very quickly learns to manage, to survive, to fend for herself in an environment that is just as perilous as the one her sister Arya is facing, and she does it much more successfully than her father ever did. So yes, Sansa is a girl. She’s even a girly girl. She loves dresses and lemon cakes and sweet smelling things. But who exactly decided that was a bad thing, a weak thing?

girls_of_westeros___catelyn_by_martinacecilia-d568xh8

Martina Cecilia

Catelyn Stark

“You have courage. Not battle courage perhaps but… I don’t know… a kind of woman’s courage.”

Clear-headed and intelligent, Catelyn stands out as the character who is most consistently aware of the political clime in which she operates. Whether counselling her husband or her son, she offers solid advice based on her experience and resourcefulness, advice that, due to her very conservative roles of wife and mother, often go unheeded. Her son Robb’s dealings with both Theon Greyjoy and Walder Frey would have been vastly different if he lived in a world that hadn’t taught him to consider taking his mother’s advice a sign of weakness. Eddard Stark could very well still be among the living if he’d spent a little more time considering his wife’s point of view.

Despite knowing what the repercussions of her actions will be, she is fiercely committed to the safety of her children, and that in itself is bravery. Time and time again she displays a single-mindedness that, once she is brought back to life and adopts the mantle of Lady Stoneheart, becomes obsessive and potentially destructive. But it is Catelyn’s imperfections that make her so human. Being a devoted mother doesn’t immediately sweep away whatever pettiness and prejudice she may have (and nowhere is that more clear than in her treatment of John Snow). And wanting the best for her children, not to mention vengeance when she believes them all lost to her, blinds her otherwise good judgement. In a perfect world, Catelyn would have been able to protect her brood, but even an undead leader of a band of outlaws can’t anticipate how cruel and unyielding Westeros can be.

hearmeroar

Azim al Ghussein

Cersei Lannister

“Tears, the woman’s weapon, my lady mother used to call them. The man’s weapon is a sword. And that tells us all you need to know, doesn’t it?”

“She had played the dutiful daughter, the blushing bride, the pliant wife… all the while promising herself that one day it would be her turn.”

Let’s be real, Cersei Lannister is fun to hate. Selfish and greedy, perhaps her only redeeming quality is the loyalty she feels for her family. When grasping ambition is coupled with a complete disregard for the welfare of others, you’ve got the makings of a spectacular villain.

For Cersei’s whole life, she’s been taught that her value lies in her youth and beauty, and it’s telling that its in her middle age that she begins to push for something more tangible. She’s fearless, she’s bold, she’s recalcitrant. She’s been denied the true power she thinks she deserves (and she’s right to say she’s her father’s most suitable heir) and it’s made her bitter, resentful, and reckless. And not being able to command true respect has made her unable to know when enough is enough. She’s totally unprepared for the demands of the throne. Coupled with her grief over her family dropping like flies and her growing alcoholism, once she gets her hands on the Iron Throne she becomes a paranoid, ruthless monarch who’s going to alienate the very allies she needs. When, invariably, her kingdoms do fall into ruin, Cersei’s comeuppance is sweet.

True to ASOIAF fashion, Cersei only becomes a point-of view-character once she is no longer the perfect, golden queen, once she has been thoroughly defeated (or so her enemies think). But even time in jail, a naked-and-shorn walk of shame through the city streets, and an impending trial-by-combat can’t cow the lioness.

olenna_redwyne_by_duhi-d5axkie

Duhita Das

Olenna Tyrell

“All these kings would do a deal better if they put down their swords and listened to their mothers.”

“‘Grandmother, why do they call you the Queen of Thorns?’ The old woman patted her on the cheek. ‘My dear girl,’ she said, ‘what else is left after the roses fall?'”

Though definitely not a primary character, Olenna Tyrell steals every scene the minute she crops up in A Storm of Swords. Clever, sarcastic, and utterly unafraid, it doesn’t take long for the Tyrell matriarch to establish herself as the character to beat when it comes to political machinations or verbal sparring. You aren’t just given “the Queen of Thorns” as a nickname. You have to earn it.

Her family is powerful, wealthy, and has consistently backed the Lannisters into a corner, a fact of which Olenna is perfectly aware. In the later books, there isn’t one King’s Landing plot that, seemingly, doesn’t involve the Tyrells, and under the guidance of Olenna, the family isn’t shy about exerting its considerable influence.

The Tyrells also stand apart for their network of female relationships. Headed by Olenna, there always seem to be several Tyrell nieces and friends there for solidarity. It’s one of the loveliest support systems in the series, and one that is in place due to the respect commanded by the Queen of Thorns. Olenna is too old to waste time and equivocate, and for her no-nonsense attitude, she’s perhaps the most enjoyable character in all the seven kingdoms. (Plus, she is potentially Joffrey’s killer, and that in itself is enough to earn her my undying devotion.)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekend Reading List: Filmography and Faerie Queen Costumes

FaerieQueen

Top image: “Queen Mab and the Ruins,” James C. Christensen.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,