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How can something so rapey be so good?
June 27, 2012 8:23 PM   Subscribe

“Racist rape-culture Disneyland with Dragons” -- Laurie Penny on the popularity of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire and the critically acclaimed HBO dramatization Game of Thrones. (Hint: Despite the obvious gender-racial-class problems, Miss Penny really likes the show.) posted by bardic (321 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
the Stark family, none of whom have any discernible character defects

Really?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:26 PM on June 27, 2012 [36 favorites]


Ser Gregor, Dunsen, Raff the sweetling, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, Queen Cersei, valar morghulis.

No character defects. Huh.
posted by SPrintF at 8:30 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Post-Fordism
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:32 PM on June 27, 2012


Can we get an early ruling on whether this thread will have open spoilers?
posted by fatbird at 8:32 PM on June 27, 2012


Spoiler alert: everyone you ever loved will die, most probably in an unsettlingly gruesome fashion.
posted by elizardbits at 8:34 PM on June 27, 2012 [33 favorites]


This article seems to be aimed specifically at the show, so I can't say too much without spoiling things, but I have a feeling that the Search for a Good Ruler isn't going to play out with the guy/girl sitting happily on the throne and mending Westeros.
posted by codacorolla at 8:34 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just glad someone's finally -- finally! -- getting around to analyzing Game of Thrones.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:35 PM on June 27, 2012 [29 favorites]


I would not describe GoT as "so good" actually. I stopped watching after S01E06. The underlying story - power games being played by a handful of royal families - just didn't interest me enough. I prefer my political dramas to be more like The Thick of It or the very-promising Veep.
posted by vidur at 8:38 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just glad that Robb Stark is going to win and everything will be fine.
posted by bardic at 8:38 PM on June 27, 2012 [59 favorites]


If it's like past Game of Thrones threads, there won't be spoilers for a day or so, then everyone will try to obliquely discuss future books in a non-spoilery way but be entirely unsuccessful.
posted by painquale at 8:38 PM on June 27, 2012


The general awfulness of what passes for reality means we need least an hour every week where everybody gets lost in a crypto-Medieval saga of mythical beasties, heaving bosoms, court intrigue and buckets of blood.

This is good.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:39 PM on June 27, 2012


Hmm, I guess I disagree with her - vehemently - about the series being a Quest for A Good Ruler, though if you haven't read the books, I can see why someone would think that. In actuality, I feel the books are the exact opposite of that and pretty much represent an entrenched criticism of feudal or hierarchical power structures, especially in highlighting the huge gulf between the warring kings and a populace that just wants some semi-warm gruel.

I do agree with her on this: " It would be nice, though, if those of us who enjoy this series despite its many, many prostitutes problems could just stop making asinine excuses for it" - but I feel most internet-based discussion has absorbed that point and moved on, or remained mired in chauvinism one way or the other.
posted by smoke at 8:40 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


"a man who likes to have sex whilst talking about dragons in the bath."

what is objectionable about this?
posted by Bwithh at 8:42 PM on June 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


Spoiler alert: everyone you ever loved will die, most probably in an unsettlingly gruesome fashion.

Is that just for Game of Thrones or for life in general?
posted by maryr at 8:43 PM on June 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


Someday I'm going to do a feminist textual analysis of all five of the books to date...I am always really perplexed by feminist writers who view Martin as misogynist (though I think I can see some of the racist crits more clearly): he writes incredibly strong and atypical female characters and his treatment of Cersei is in my opinion a pretty meta take-down of how we view the Whore-Bitch trope.
posted by nonmerci at 8:45 PM on June 27, 2012 [26 favorites]


This is an amusing and enjoyable read, thanks for posting.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:45 PM on June 27, 2012


"The clue is in the title."

um, I don't think it's a clue exactly.
posted by Bwithh at 8:47 PM on June 27, 2012


I’m talking about the basic story of the whole saga. I’m talking about one of the oldest stories of all, a story with the power to draw millions of us around the flatscreen just as our notional ancestors gathered around the hearths. I’m talking about The Search For The Good Ruler.

The clue is in the title. Game of Thrones is all about kings and queens, all about who gets to be in charge and how they win and retain power, by violence, by force of will or simply by accident.


They really should have named the HBO series "A Song of Fire & Ice"
posted by the_artificer at 8:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I stopped watching after S01E06. The underlying story - power games being played by a handful of royal families - just didn't interest me enough.

The underlying story? Oh, sweet summer child.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:54 PM on June 27, 2012 [41 favorites]


Or "A Song of Ice & Fire" oops
posted by the_artificer at 8:54 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


the Stark family, none of whom have any discernible character defects

Yeah, since it's obvious she's never watched the show, I'm out.

I'm just glad someone's finally -- finally! -- getting around to analyzing Game of Thrones.

Well, the Prometheus analyses are pretty much all done so...

"All of these people are the Westeros version of the one per cent"

Well, yeah. There's a reason why the show isn't called "Drudgery of Serfs".

Just glad that Robb Stark is going to win and everything will be fine.

That's just mean. I'm really out of this thread now. Fie! Spoiler!
posted by fuse theorem at 8:59 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


The underlying story? Oh, sweet summer child.

Educate me, O Wise One.
posted by vidur at 8:59 PM on June 27, 2012


Educate me, O Wise One.

Rewatch episode one.

Then read the books.

From TFA: 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...

Just, what?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:03 PM on June 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think this is the second GOT takedown thead.

Is there a way to have things Certified Racism and Sexism Free so I can enjoy those and never have to defend it to anyone? I heard Best Served Cold as almost acceptable, but I already read that.

How about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, what is the rapecultureometer reading on that?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:03 PM on June 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


There's a reason why the show isn't called "Drudgery of Serfs".

"You have a shit life, and are then murdered by a roving band of aristocrats" isn't as compelling. Neither is "They took all our crops, and now we will starve."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:05 PM on June 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


From TFA: 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...

Just, what?


Ah, this would be the "if you depict a thing, that means you endorse that thing" school of analysis. See, it depicts rape, and therefore is rape apologia.
posted by kafziel at 9:07 PM on June 27, 2012 [50 favorites]


I’m talking about The Search For The Good Ruler.

This isn't what the story is about at all; guessing she's not really paying much attention. Explains how she's confusing depictions of sexism and racism with "rape culture".
posted by spaltavian at 9:07 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a reason why the show isn't called "Drudgery of Serfs".

That's Arya's chapters.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:09 PM on June 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Ad hominem: I don't think there's anything wrong with defending a work of art to someone--it's good intellectual practice, and a lot of time people seem to have knee-jerk reactions to the surface of things, without actually interrogating the meaning of the work itself (and all that can entail as far as interpretation and analysis). I think it's useful to get to the root of why a person finds Martin's books uncomfortable, and if you're able and have the time/patience, to provide counterexamples. On preview, what kafziel said.

I am also astounded by her misreading of the books/show, but on the other hand, I really feel like the HBO writers have utterly butchered the 2nd book and run it into the ground. They are certainly highlighting rule and more particularly Kings Landing in a way that the books (and specifically the 2nd book) do not do. So while we might call her lazy (misguidedly) for not reading and understanding the books, her criticism of what is I think a terrible show are totally valid. HBO did great with season one, and has totally lost it with the last season. The season finale was so disappointing and laughably weak that it almost puts me off the show altogether.
posted by nonmerci at 9:10 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


So... You know how the made a movie out of the boardgame Battleship? I like to assume that Game of Thrones -- which I've never seen or read or whatever -- is kind of like that, but based on musical chairs.

(Hopefully it is more faithful to the source material than Twister was.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:12 PM on June 27, 2012 [35 favorites]


The hang-wringing, "But I haven't had time to catch up on my Tivo/torrent" no-spoiler internet entitlement Mafia has become too pervasive, too powerful. It stifles legitimate debate or starts each pop culture topic off on an immediate spoiler derail, all because someone, somewhere might learn that Ned Stark dies in the penultimate episode of season 1, as if the book hadn't been out since 1999. Here's an unoriginal thought, if you haven't watched the latest episode, don't fucking click on the review/analytic blog post the day afterwards, much less pretend to have an inalienable right to a spoiler free discussion, or thread-sit demanding of spoiler tags a week, or a month, or a whole damn decade after the fact.

/unfocused rant
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:12 PM on June 27, 2012 [61 favorites]


(Hopefully it is more faithful to the source material than Twister was.)

Oh no, PURPLE, what shall we do
posted by waraw at 9:14 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I said: I do agree with her on this: " It would be nice, though, if those of us who enjoy this series despite its many, many prostitutes problems could just stop making asinine excuses for it" - but I feel most internet-based discussion has absorbed that point and moved on, or remained mired in chauvinism one way or the other.

Sad to be proved wrong about moving on in this very comment thread!
posted by smoke at 9:14 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, this would be the "if you depict a thing, that means you endorse that thing" school of analysis. See, it depicts rape, and therefore is rape apologia.

It would be, except it's not,

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, as is our assumption that the default setting for any generically legendary epic must involve really rather a lot of rape.

What she's saying is that this isn't a documentary (that went out the window with dragons and zombies) so therefore the choice to depict rape is intentional. One can't handwave it away as 'well that's just how it was' so instead one must ask, 'why is it this way?' You can read it as rape apologia (I don't think she is) or you can also read it in other ways, such as the feminist reading mentioned above.

This isn't what the story is about at all; guessing she's not really paying much attention. Explains how she's confusing depictions of sexism and racism with "rape culture".

If you've only watched the television episodes then I can see how one might believe this. After the third book (and certainly after the fourth) that notion begins to go a bit askew.

I'm also not going to make any assumptions about her, but if you don't read fantasy, or don't know the hype about the book series (especially in how it opposes genre tropes) then you might be excused for guessing that this is going to be about a king triumphantly taking the throne from the evil contenders.
posted by codacorolla at 9:15 PM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


The season finale was so disappointing and laughably weak that it almost puts me off the show altogether.

Oh, you're one of those "House of the Undying" fanatics! I've always wanted to meet one of you! So cute!
posted by Justinian at 9:18 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


So... You know how the made a movie out of the boardgame Battleship? I like to assume that Game of Thrones -- which I've never seen or read or whatever -- is kind of like that, but based on musical chairs

If the penalty for losing is death, then yeah, that's pretty much the first three books.

I'm also not going to make any assumptions about her, but if you don't read fantasy, or don't know the hype about the book series (especially in how it opposes genre tropes) then you might be excused for guessing that this is going to be about a king triumphantly taking the throne from the evil contenders.

If you make it to S01E09, you know it inverts genre tropes. After S02 there's no excuse whatsoever.

Relatedly, I cannot wait for the end of next season.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:21 PM on June 27, 2012


as is our assumption that the default setting for any generically legendary epic must involve really rather a lot of rape.

I think a more sexist depiction would be pretending that historically, women haven't been treated awfully. All you did here was repeat exactly what you're trying to refute.

You're telling me that if I wrote a fantasy story set in a world clearly based on the antebellum South and ignore slavery, that would be less racist than if I included not only slavery but substantial depictions of slavery from the point of view of slaves themselves?

This whole line of criticism is absurd.

then you might be excused for guessing that this is going to be about a king triumphantly taking the throne from the evil contenders.

I haven't read the novels either and its patently obvious this is not that kind of story. This article is just lazy.
posted by spaltavian at 9:22 PM on June 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


you might be excused for guessing that this is going to be about a king triumphantly taking the throne from the evil contenders.

The series has some definite heroes. I would not be surprised if that ended up being an accurate description of the series at the end of the final book.
posted by painquale at 9:24 PM on June 27, 2012


Educate me, O Wise One.

"power games being played by a handful of royal families" is not the underlying story; that's the top-most story. "the common people suffer brutally while royals play their power games" is the first underlying level; "power-hungry royals are ignoring existential threats from outside" is the next. "Existential threats aren't always what they're cracked up to be" is under that. "The clichés of fantasy fiction can't withstand even a little political realism" is down there somewhere where "story" fades into "authorial intent". Here endeth the lesson.
posted by nicwolff at 9:24 PM on June 27, 2012 [36 favorites]


What she's saying is that this isn't a documentary (that went out the window with dragons and zombies) so therefore the choice to depict rape is intentional. One can't handwave it away as 'well that's just how it was' so instead one must ask, 'why is it this way?

I absolutely agree with this point; the last word on the subject when it comes to SF was written in 1972 by Norman Spinrad, and anyone arguing against this point are as wrong as flat-earthers.

But how she applies it to GoT is pure nonsense. And it's clear she fails to understand almost anything about the books or the show. The idea that the Starks have no flaws? The entire fscking point is that we are conditioned to see Ned as a pure and good hero... but that depending on the context a rigid adherence to a strict moral code can be a major flaw. The idea that the Lannisters are pure evil is likewise ridiculous. Jaime is one of the most complex characters in the story! Cersei is fairly one dimensional in the books, but show Cersei is far more complex.

So, yeah, she starts from a correct premise that since you can write whatever you want, what you write has meaning. But she applies it in a slapdash and ignorant manner and loses any point she might have had. No, Martin couldn't simply include marriage equality in this story and tell anything like the story he wanted to tell. Do you know how many social and economic changes are implied by women's equality? The entire setting would be unrecognizable.
posted by Justinian at 9:25 PM on June 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


Martin has been pretty blunt about his wanting to blend the idea of historical fiction with a fantasy setting, and to make it dirty and real about how things actually were in a supposed medieval setting*. To say that depicting women being treated terribly in even a fictional setting which is supposed to be based on this world 800 years ago, and to go even further and suggest that it's somehow supporting the terrible treatment of women because of those depictions...

That's a pretty classic case of Not Getting It.
posted by hippybear at 9:27 PM on June 27, 2012 [36 favorites]


Rewatch episode one.

Then read the books.


I was talking about the story as I found it in the first 6 episodes (about power struggles of the elites, and not interesting enough to me). Not sure why I need to read the books to change my impression of the show. The show clearly stood on its own. If the books are awesome, that's fine with me.

And on preview, thanks nicwolff.
posted by vidur at 9:28 PM on June 27, 2012


"the Stark family, none of whom have any discernible character defects

Really?"

Really. They are clearly the better family, the story just has fun in that not meaning anything.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:29 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're saying Robb Stark has no character defects? How about Sansa in Game of Thrones? Cat?
posted by Justinian at 9:30 PM on June 27, 2012


Oh man, guys we had the conversation about the books being sexist like, a katrillion, GOT threads ago. It would be a shame having to rehash them all over again.
posted by smoke at 9:31 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The season finale was so disappointing and laughably weak that it almost puts me off the show altogether.

Oh, you're one of those "House of the Undying" fanatics! I've always wanted to meet one of you! So cute!
posted by Justinian at 21:18 on June 27 [+] [!]


There's no need to be so condescending, Justinian. And yeah, that was one criticism, but only one--the entire episode was horrible, and the second season has been laughable at best.
posted by nonmerci at 9:31 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ok, sorry. I was mostly thinking of people not present here, so I should have addressed them and not you with my sarcasm.
posted by Justinian at 9:33 PM on June 27, 2012


Cersei is fairly one dimensional in the books, but show Cersei is far more complex.

Okay, we're not reading the same books, or at least not the same "A Dance of Dragons." Smoke, I'm sorry you're so tired of this conversation, but it's more or less what the FPP is about, so why are you in the thread if it upsets you so?
posted by nonmerci at 9:34 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're saying Robb Stark has no character defects? How about Sansa in Game of Thrones? Cat?

Not really, no, especially compared to those around them. They are the heroic ideal on GoT, but that doesn't get them anywhere. Martin seems to take delight in that, which is fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:34 PM on June 27, 2012


Justinian--it's cool. But yeah, wtf, the House of the Undying was an amazing book scene, so can you explain the sarcasm? I don't get it. Do you dislike the scene or think it was unfilmable or some such? Or is there something I'm missing? (Genuinely curious.)
posted by nonmerci at 9:35 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What she's saying is that this isn't a documentary (that went out the window with dragons and zombies) so therefore the choice to depict rape is intentional.

There's a lot of daylight between documentary and 100% fantasy world. Adding dragons to a putatively medieval setting doesn't earn Martin a free pass from readers to just mash together a world of individually meaningful choices. Sticking to medieval Europe and embellishing it with bits of dragons and magic doesn't turn every choice into "that's the flavour I like".

Cersei is fairly one dimensional in the books

By the end of the fifth book, Cersei is one of the deepest and most interesting characters in the series, along with Jaime.
posted by fatbird at 9:35 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Why is 'well if it's so historic and realistic why are there dragons and zombies but not gender equality?' so often argued? Would she consider the series LESS problematic if there weren't any dragons or zombies? If Medieval Europe had actually been infested with dragons and zombies, would it have made any difference to the status of women in that society?

Furthermore, for the historical fantasist (history-inspired fantasist?), what are the options for avoiding generating a work that has this problematic nature? I can think of:

1) Show sexual violence, but no supernatural things, e.g. GoT - {dragons, zombies, etc}
2) Anachronistically avoid sexual violence/inequality (which someone pointed out above is arguably just as problematic)
3) Create a supernatural element that would plausibly alter gender politics, e.g. Wheel of Time
4) Don't write historical fantasy because the genre is inherently problematic
5) ???
posted by Androgenes at 9:39 PM on June 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


nonmerci, I think the article is premised on the fact that television series in particular (didn't really see a lot of evidence she's read the books) is problematic in its depiction of women, sex, and rapes (Exhibit A: ratio of Tits and vagina to man-butts and wangs.), but that the point of the article was actually that in spite of the sexism, the series is popular because it's about a familiar-if-not-archetypical trope, namely; The Quest for A Good King, which she even helpfully names.

Now, I happen to disagree with that thesis in both show and books, but that, for me, is what the FPP is clearly about.

Endless debates defending how and why GRRM and the books' and show's portrayal of both race and gender is at best problematic and at worst racist and sexist do not upset me, but they bore me - especially as the arguments on the "GRRM is a master, I enjoyed the books/show therefore nothing in it could be troublesome" are generally hopelessly shallow and rely on an almost monomaniacal close reading without any kind of broader analyses except to assert that peeps were totally raped in the war of the roses.
posted by smoke at 9:40 PM on June 27, 2012


Justinian--it's cool. But yeah, wtf, the House of the Undying was an amazing book scene, so can you explain the sarcasm? I don't get it. Do you dislike the scene or think it was unfilmable or some such? Or is there something I'm missing?

Ok. I agree that House of the Undying was an amazing book scene. But I feel that many of the harshest criticism from people who wish the second season hewed closer to the books reflect a fundamental misunderstand of translating a book to screen. Trying to replicate the visions in the HOTU in the series would do nothing but bust the budget and confuse the great majority of viewers who have not read the books!

The show as a whole has avoided showing almost any flashbacks and visions, with Bran's wolf dreams and such being an exception for obvious reasons. That's because things which work as written words do not always work on screen. You can spend paragraphs describing things in a novel which may appear onscreen for mere seconds, and that means you can get away with far more. As I said, I just think most viewers would be confused as all hell by more visions.

I think the great majority of the changes made by the show guys have been inspired. Arya and Tywin at Harrenhal was incredible and replaced likely unfilmable material. So much of the books are the interior life of the characters and the writers for the screen have to find ways to externalize those lives; this usually requires diverging from the source material.
posted by Justinian at 9:43 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's always interesting to see how much people justify the inclusion of sexism and racism in fantasy.

Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men? Or is the suspension of disbelief to large to swallow?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:43 PM on June 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


fatbird: I totally agree. After I finished reading the 5th book, Cersei went from being a character I had trouble relating to and easily vilified to my favorite character in the series (Jamie was a favorite from book 2). She really does turn the notion we have of her character on its head, and I think that Martin is expressly doing this.

He introduces us to a character we are to hate, largely because of the way she manipulates those around her using her sexuality. Cersei's willingness to spread her legs with whoever is politically convenient seems to be the main reason most spectators and readers can't stand her (and I think that this itself is saying something about us as readers/viewers).

By the end of the 5th book, she is not only more sympathetic, but she is a whole character who we can see as a victim of her circumstances and a woman who is doing the best she can with the limited resources she has been given precisely because of her sex. Cersei has no recourse to real, verifiable political power, and her activity is limited to the underhanded and the sexual--this is not because Cersei is bad or evil, but because Cersei has no other means of consolidating any kind of power akin to what her family and particularly her father and brother would or could have (trying to limit spoilers). Sure, this tells us something about the insidious nature of power relations--because we can say that she 'should have' risen above, if she were a good and moral person--but it tells us more about what it might have been like to be a politically weak woman in a very powerful family, or what it's like to be a politically weak woman in a society that only values a woman's sexual capital (yet punishes her for using it).

I guess when I said above I'd like to do a textual analysis of the five books, I mostly mean I'd like to do a textual analysis of Cersei's character development. She is amazing.
posted by nonmerci at 9:45 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think Cersei's character suffers greatly from Martin excising the planned 5 year gap. I just don't buy her behavior in AFfC. She needed those 5 years to devolve to that level of paranoia and such.
posted by Justinian at 9:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hate to invoke Godwin's Law here, but I wonder how far the author would take her whole "dragons and equal rights" belief?

If I wrote a novel about traveling back in time and killing Hitler, would I be remiss for writing about the Holocaust? After all, if I'm creative enough to come up with time travel, then I must be able to envision a world without The Holocaust too.
posted by bpm140 at 9:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men?

Didn't Anne McCaffrey corner that market?
posted by bpm140 at 9:49 PM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Okay, should I leave it on my Netflix list or not? What to do, what to do? Something here awhile back convinced me I should give it another try after having been thoroughly disappointed with the first episode because it didn't live up to the knock-out beginning. Now I'm not so sure. There are so many hours in life.
posted by kemrocken at 9:54 PM on June 27, 2012


If I wrote a novel about traveling back in time and killing Hitler, would I be remiss for writing about the Holocaust?

Well, why does your character want to kill Hitler?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:54 PM on June 27, 2012


Not sure why I need to read the books to change my impression of the show.

The article references the books. Although odd how she goes on and on about Dany's blondness, when she's silver-haired in the books.

Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men? Or is the suspension of disbelief to large to swallow?

It's been done. See Anne McCaffrey's Pern books (technically science fiction.) The budget would likely be prohibitive, though.

And on preview, dammit bmp140!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:55 PM on June 27, 2012


and the second season has been laughable at best.

No, at best it was an amazing and daring adaptation of very difficult material.

I love the books, have spent a ton of time talking and reading about them, and your opinion is, well, your own.
posted by flaterik at 9:55 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, why does your character want to kill Hitler?

If you can imagine time travel, you can imagine a world without the Holocaust. Also, time travel.

Can't wait to read that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:57 PM on June 27, 2012


It's been done.

What does this even mean, that no one has to write about it again.
Hell, Dragons have been "done" also, yet people still write about them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:58 PM on June 27, 2012


What does this even mean, that no one has to write about it again.

The original question was if it was possible. The answer is yes.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:59 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men?

Well, I remember there was a big controversy about an alternate history book where the americas were uninhabited, thereby allowing a colonization story to be told without having to deal with the whole genocide thing. It did not go over well.
posted by Pyry at 10:00 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men? Or is the suspension of disbelief to large to swallow?

But why do you need to reference the dragons? If GRRM had left out the dragons, it would deflate the whole argument. Can't I object to reading rape scenes even if there are no dragons?
posted by Androgenes at 10:00 PM on June 27, 2012


Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men? Or is the suspension of disbelief to large to swallow?
----
It's been done. See Anne McCaffrey's Pern books (technically science fiction.) The budget would likely be prohibitive, though.


It cracks me up to think that it would be budgetarily prohibitive to portray a series where women were considered equal to men.

okay that's not what you meant but still, heh
posted by FatherDagon at 10:00 PM on June 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


The original question was if it was possible.

What original question are talking about? Could you link to it, please? I'm not sure what you're referring to.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:03 PM on June 27, 2012


But why do you need to reference the dragons?

Was making a point about how one fantasy element is easily accepted, but not the other.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:06 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What original question are talking about? Could you link to it, please? I'm not sure what you're referring to.

It was the one I quoted.

Which was actually asking if it 'would be so horrible' etc., so I guess the answer should be 'no,' since it has been done to no small acclaim. I also added why I thought it hasn't made it's way to the screen yet.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:08 PM on June 27, 2012


Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men? Or is the suspension of disbelief to large to swallow?

No, it wouldn't be horrible, but that's not the story Martin chose to write, and the fact that he didn't choose to write it doesn't mean he thinks it would be horrible or too implausible or what have you. Martin is writing a story, not the story.
posted by fatbird at 10:14 PM on June 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


Huh. I hated Cersei just as much as ever at the end of book five.

I was just happy to see her crushed and humiliated.
posted by bardic at 10:15 PM on June 27, 2012


Right, so what's the problem in having another fantasy story where men and women are equal?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't I object to reading rape scenes even if there are no dragons?

Absolutely, you can. I think the more interesting discussion of rape and sexism in Martin's world is along the lines of Truffaut's statement, "There's no such thing as an anti-war film." Truffault meant that, no matter how brutal and terrible the depiction of war is, it still excites the same response in viewers that pro-war (or war-neutral) films do. Likewise, it would be interesting to discuss whether Martin depicting racism and sexism and rape in all its brutality and frequency doesn't still reinforce the same patriarchy that produces it.

This discussion of "Why didn't Martin write something nicer?" is what's dull.
posted by fatbird at 10:19 PM on June 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


Right, so what's the problem in having another fantasy story where men and women are equal?

There isn't a problem with that. But that's not what this story is. What's the problem in having a fantasy story where men and women are not equal?
posted by kafziel at 10:21 PM on June 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Okay, should I leave it on my Netflix list or not?

Yes. Give the first season a try, at least. It looks typical at first, but it isn't.

Right, so what's the problem in having another fantasy story ...

I don't think anyone's objecting to that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:22 PM on June 27, 2012


The unfortunate girl’s new husband is a dark-skinned, savage warlord from the Mystical East who, being a savage, is unable to conceive of any sex that isn’t exclusively rape-based, and as such violently assaults the little princess every night. But it’s all ok because a prostitute slave teaches the thirteen-year-old princess super sexy sex skills, and she proceeds to blow the warlord’s mind so throughly that they fall in love. Later in the series she uses her magical blondness and a bunch of baby dragons to free all the slaves in the Mystical East. If the enormous teetering pile of ugly stereotypes here is not immediately obvious, see me after class and we’ll go through it step by step.

So, one of my favorite things about Dany's arc in the first season is how the whole "white savior" trope is pretty effectively undermined when one of the slaves kills her husband and child and she's left with nothing. Am I just imagining that or has this writer totally misread the series?
posted by palidor at 10:24 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


People write fantasy books (with or without dragons, take your pick) which depict gender-egalitarian medieval-esque societies all the time. Sometimes they are quite good and/or popular. This series just doesn't happen to be one of those.

One of George R.R. Martin's premises in writing A Song of Ice and Fire was pretty clearly something like "people are often really shitty to each other, life is full of misery, and nobody is ever truly safe". That means that terrible things happen to people in his books, all the time. Rape is a terrible thing -- I don't think the series is apologetic about it. People in the books are often casual about rape just as they are casual about murder or torture or any number of other awful things, because they are meant to be creatures of their world rather than pure-hearted heroes. There are no heroes in A Song of Ice and Fire. The rapes that happen are not meant to be good things, even if the perpetrators are depicted as protagonists. All that it means is that even the "good guys" aren't really that good, and maybe we should think twice about rooting for them so wholeheartedly.

As for the Stark family being flawless... Jon is arrogant and selfish. Robb is idealistic and overconfident. Catelyn can't see past her need to protect her children. Ned is inflexible and naive. Arya is vengeful and rash. Sansa is naive in the extreme. Bran is petulant and depressed. Rickon is unstable. None of them are anything close to flawless, even though, yeah, their flaws are depicted as more forgivable and more honorable, making them the "good guys" at the beginning. George R.R. Martin pretty much sets them up this way just so that he can thoroughly subvert the idea that their honorableness is going to get them anywhere in his world and so that he can create opportunities for the reader to begin questioning their good-guy status and maybe start sympathizing with the characters that are initially set up as the "bad guys". He paints things as somewhat black and white at the beginning just so that he can have fun mixing it up and making everything nice and gray.
posted by Scientist at 10:26 PM on June 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


. What's the problem in having a fantasy story where men and women are not equal?

There's nothing wrong with it, however I feel that there is something wrong with presenting a fantasy story where men and women are not equal and this is unquestioned, underpinned by the assumption that such development is not historical or cultural, but rather some form of natural state that is inescapable, unchangeable, and perhaps unremarkable.
posted by smoke at 10:28 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


If you add up all the Stark character flaws, I still think they're a drop in the bucket compared to brother-sister fucking and breeding.
posted by bardic at 10:28 PM on June 27, 2012


I do think that Dany's character has some ugly stereotypes to it though and if there's rape apology happening in the series then that's where it is. The depiction of Dany's relationship with Drogo kind of makes me squirm when I read it, and I think that the messianic aspects of her character are sort of tired and, yeah, a bit racist. The bit where she loses everything and is reborn in fire is absolutely just part of that trope.

I also think that Mellisandre is a pretty awful stereotype, though I think in later books Martin does a better job with her. At least at the beginning she is pretty obviously the Pagan Priestess who uses her Female Sex Magic to corrupt the One Honorable Man in the Kingdom. I think that this improves somewhat as the religion surrounding R'hllor is fleshed out a bit and shes gets some POV chapters that show her as a (surprise surprise) more complex and shaded character than her outward demeanor would have one believe. Still though I think Martin could've done better there.
posted by Scientist at 10:32 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's nothing wrong with it, however I feel that there is something wrong with presenting a fantasy story where men and women are not equal and this is unquestioned ...

Brienne and Cersei and Arya question this pretty explicitly.

If you add up all the Stark character flaws, I still think they're a drop in the bucket compared to brother-sister fucking and breeding.

One word: Reek.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:32 PM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


compared to brother-sister fucking and breeding

After book five, how is Jaime and Cersei's relationship any more terrible than everything else that's gone before? When they observe that the Targaryens bred amongst themselves, that's a pretty direct reference to any of several really prominent European royal families who literally bred themselves into insanity, and out of power.
posted by fatbird at 10:33 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the Jaime-Cersei incest thing is pretty unforgivable. That's why it feels so weird when you start to sympathize with them later in the story. Yeah, the Reek thing is even worse though, I don't think Martin is ever going to be able to get me to sympathize with the Bastard of Bolton.
posted by Scientist at 10:33 PM on June 27, 2012


Am I just imagining that or has this writer totally misread the series?

Nope, you've parsed this screed correctly. The writer had a semi-coherent rant about current affairs and big issues and grafted it clumsily onto a hip, current pop phenomenon.

She also seemed to miss how the only Good Ruler in GOT's supposed Search stuck to his high-minded principles and thereby delivered the throne to an adolescent sociopath who mounted his head on a spike. Also didn't seem to notice that the closest thing the story has to a hero and moral centre is a decadent, self-absorbed dwarf with nihilistic tendencies and a sentimental streak.

It's the worst kind of pop-culture criticism - it doesn't actually respect its subject.
posted by gompa at 10:36 PM on June 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


I think that the messianic aspects of [Dany's] character are sort of tired and, yeah, a bit racist

Messianic? How's that working out?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:36 PM on June 27, 2012


The bit where she loses everything and is reborn in fire is absolutely just part of that trope.

I don't follow. Maybe I'm misreading the story but I feel like the "Dany the white savior frees the slaves" plot concludes with her accomplishing nothing except the death of her husband and child. I don't think that's really in line with the trope at all, and like I said actually undermines it, and that her being reborn in fire and receiving her parting gift of dragons is pretty independent of the whole thing.
posted by palidor at 10:41 PM on June 27, 2012


Also didn't seem to notice that the closest thing the story has to a hero and moral centre is a decadent, self-absorbed dwarf with nihilistic tendencies and a sentimental streak.

I thought it was the little girl turned stone-cold killer, but each to their own chapters.

I just want to adopt that little murder machine.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:47 PM on June 27, 2012 [20 favorites]


Yeah, the Jaime-Cersei incest thing is pretty unforgivable.

Seriously? That's the unforgivable part of their relationship?
posted by flaterik at 10:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Dany has an Ender-like quality that I find irritating, and of the major characters, is easily the most vehicle-like for a set of tropes that are unironically sexist and racist.

that little murder machine.

This sounds like a Beach Boys song from the darkest days of depression and chemical dependency.
posted by fatbird at 10:49 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also didn't seem to notice that the closest thing the story has to a hero and moral centre

Oh, but I have such high hopes for Arya. I have not read the books, so if she does not turn into a major badass warrior princess with brains and subtlety I don't want to know.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:51 PM on June 27, 2012


On didn't-preview, what ChurchHatesTucker said. But again, don't tell me.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:52 PM on June 27, 2012


You're saying Robb Stark has no character defects? How about Sansa in Game of Thrones? Cat?

Not really, no, especially compared to those around them. They are the heroic ideal on GoT, but that doesn't get them anywhere. Martin seems to take delight in that, which is fine.
Actually, Martin, in the first book especially, showed what would be considered virtues in other fantasy works: the noble, unbending and loyal aristocrat who puts his morals and duty before his best interests, would in a more realistic world, be vices. Ned Stark in the end was just a moralistic prig who wasn't ruthless enough when it counted, so now his head is on a spike.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:53 PM on June 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yeah, the Jaime-Cersei incest thing is pretty unforgivable.

Seriously? That's the unforgivable part of their relationship?


Yeah, I don't get that. They likely don't understand the dangers of inbreeding or the reasons for the taboo. Ultimately the flaw here is that they are in love with someone that for many reasons they can't actually be allowed to marry.

You know, the same flaw as Robb.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:53 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


They likely don't understand the dangers of inbreeding or the reasons for the taboo.

Actually, wasn't there some dialogue about that; to the effect that they know very well that inbreeding is one way to concentrate strong qualities, as long as you have the stomach to cull. With at least the strong implication that Joffrey shoulda been culled for madness but Cersei can't see it due to mama-love.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:56 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Incest taboos have been around for a whole lot longer than evolutionary theory. It's not like we only started getting squicked out about brothers and sisters fucking when we realized that it caused an increase in the proportion of deleterious recessive alleles in the population. Incest taboos are one of the most nearly universally cross-cultural concepts that there are. The Jaime-Cersei relationship is not considered abhorrent because it can't lead to a legal marriage (and why would there be laws against that, if there weren't underlying taboos also?) but because in the culture of A Song of Ice and Fire, incest is considered super gross and probably makes the gods angry as well.

Also I submit that those who are saying that Dany is a stone cold killer or that she doesn't have many elements of a classic messiah figure haven't read most of the books yet or perhaps have only seen the series on TV. If you've read all the books and you think Dany is a complex character who avoids and/or subverts most of the tropes surrounding her, I'd like to hear about it. I think I could see an argument for her character beginning to deepen as of Book 5, but it'll definitely be at least Book 6 before we can see the results and in any case she's definitely the one character who most clearly looks like a Chosen One. Also George, it's been five books and she's still fucking around on the wrong side of the Narrow Sea with a bunch of people who you've carefully painted as decadent heathen slaveowners of swarthy complexion and highly dubious morals, none of whom has shown a hint of three-dimensionality. What's up with that?
posted by Scientist at 11:03 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also I submit that those who are saying that Dany is a stone cold killer ...

Wrong girl.

If you've read all the books and you think Dany is a complex character who avoids and/or subverts most of the tropes surrounding her, I'd like to hear about it.

Not sure I'd call her complex, but she's constantly screwing up the whole "bringing Western values to the natives (who actually have a much older and complex civilization)" thing.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:10 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"What's up with that?"

Yeah, the Dany stuff is simultaneously some of the most interesting and most frustrating. People literally offer her ships to go to Westeros and she's all like "Noooooooo I'm now mother of all these free slaves I can't bear to actually foward the plot because George R.R. Martin has weird issues with closure, which is funny because he's a writer and all!"
posted by bardic at 11:10 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sometimes I feel like the Dany chapters were written by a totally different writer, one who got his/her start ghostwriting Harlequin Romance novels and who is doing her/his best but is out of his/her depth.
posted by Scientist at 11:18 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


People literally offer her ships to go to Westeros and she's all like "Noooooooo...

Please tell me you're kidding.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:21 PM on June 27, 2012


she's constantly screwing up the whole "bringing Western values to the natives (who actually have a much older and complex civilization)" thing.

The conflict here, though, isn't Dany vs. the wiser natives. It's not a commentary on naive white girl trying to lead the world-wise dark-skinned folk to civilization. Dany has innocent ideals about slavery, and suddenly the power to implement them, and finds out that the world doesn't work that way.

In other words, to the extent Ms. Penny was right, she was right about Dany being trained to be a good King. She's an innocent struggling to realize naive goods in a harsh world. That's why I find her annoying: She's not a character, she's a proposition. Of all the POV characters, she's easily the shallowest, which becomes ridiculous given the number of pages she's received.

I suspect, given how Martin turned around Cersei from being Cruella de Vil, into a player securing both her own ambitions and her children's future, and failing at it, that Martin is saving a big, character deepening reversal for her at the end. But right now I find Dany to be really trite.
posted by fatbird at 11:21 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Please tell me you're kidding.

Sadly, no. The chapters of her struggling to rule as queen are just... you know the scene where Tyrion is literally slapping sense into Joffrey? You wish he was already in Dany's court.
posted by fatbird at 11:23 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men?

It certainly can be done; both Robert Jordan and Ann McCaffrey managed to do this in their fantasy / science fictional worlds with dragons, though neither of these is quite problem free. Lissa is implied to have been raped as a kitchen drudge, while Jordan's portrayal of men and women is somewhat gender existentialist and cliched (crosses arms in front of chest, tugs braids, wonders what Mat or Perrin think about women, they never seem to have problems.)

It's all a question of realism, isn't it, where realism is mud, gore, gritting teeth and mostly brown colours; rape slots in nicely with the torture and the killings, is certainly historically accurate. That doesn't excuse a writer dwelling on it.

What I find objectable to rape in fiction is that it's overused, is so often handled badly, either with no consequences other than giving the heroine some motivation or, at the other hand, treated as a Fate Worse than Death that no victim will ever recover from. Martin for the most part has managed to avoid doing this, in my opinion.

Well, I remember there was a big controversy about an alternate history book where the americas were uninhabited, thereby allowing a colonization story to be told without having to deal with the whole genocide thing. It did not go over well.

That's different. If you create your own secondary world, you're free to imagine whatever you want for its history, but if you use the real world as your model, doing away with native Americans just because you want a nice colonisation story without all icky morality getting in the way, it's a copout.

Another, much more sillier example is that of Krypton, Superman's home planet, which was somewhat caucasian in its depictions: where were all the Black people? Some do gooder writer answered that one by saying there had been no slavery ever on Krypton, so they all stayed in their home island Vahtlo and honest, that's nothing like worldwide apartheid.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:27 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


In other words, to the extent Ms. Penny was right, she was right about Dany being trained to be a good King.

Well, "effective King," maybe, which would be something of an inversion of the trope. It's not at all clear that that's where she's heading (and the last TV episode makes me wonder about it.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:33 PM on June 27, 2012


FatherDagon:
It's been done. See Anne McCaffrey's Pern books (technically science fiction.) The budget would likely be prohibitive, though.


It cracks me up to think that it would be budgetarily prohibitive to portray a series where women were considered equal to men.

okay that's not what you meant but still, heh


Not at all what he meant, and you knew it, so why did you bother inventing that red herring?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:55 PM on June 27, 2012


Because it cracked him up?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:00 AM on June 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Incest taboos have been around for a whole lot longer than evolutionary theory

So has been pushing children out of windows.
posted by flaterik at 12:01 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have read about as much of this article as I have watched the series or read the books (ie almost none of it), but I feel like this belongs here:

From Cracked:

"Right now I'm reading a book from mega-selling fantasy author George R. R. Martin. The following is a passage where he is writing from the point of view of a woman -- always a tough thing for men to do. The girl is on her way to a key confrontation, and the narrator describes it thusly:

"When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest ..."

That's written from the woman's point of view. Yes, when a male writes a female, he assumes that she spends every moment thinking about the size of her breasts and what they are doing. "Janet walked her boobs across the city square. 'I can see them staring at my boobs,' she thought, boobily."
posted by nímwunnan at 12:13 AM on June 28, 2012 [31 favorites]


Can't I object to reading rape scenes even if there are no dragons?

No. Just go and read something else. I only read 2 or 3 of the books because I got tired of the continual gloom and the abusive characters, and also didn't want to be stuck on a years-long cliffhanger waiting for the final installment. I might try them again sometime, but the sexual violence was both offputting and somewhat overused as a plot driver, in my view. But those are the books he chose to write, and they just turned out not to be the books I wanted to read, or at least right then.

I don't think there is any justification or value in complaining about this sort of thing unless it's straight up pornsploitation. If a literary work is any way serious and some of it turns you off, then just read something else or skip the bits that make your skin crawl. you don't get to ask for an edited version of the world that includes cool stuff like dragons and grand intrigues but leaves out things you don't like. You might as well ask for something that doesn't involve people betraying each other or which doesn't depict the inherent inequalities of feudalism.

I'm sick to the back teeth of things being described as 'problematic.' More often than not, this is just a pseudo-objective way of expressing one's personal dislike or aversion to something, and an excuse for broadcasting one's views. If you personally have a problem with some creative work you encounter, you can always put it down or turn it off or walk out on it, and if anyone questions that it's perfectly OK to say you don't like it because you are distressed by depictions of rape/homophobia/racism/whatever it is. Your preferences are perfectly valid, and you don't need to defend them if someone else suggests you get past them because they're silly or X is a great work of art or the objectionable stuff is just a subplot. If something about the work makes your skin crawl - it's your damn skin, and there's no reason you should feel obliged to sit still if your subconscious is telling you to get out of there. But when one gets into talking about things as 'problematic,' that can easily tip into telling everyone else that they should look at and feel about things the same way you do, which is both doomed to failure and frequently counter-productive (because it can frequently end up foreclosing worthwhile discussions about the issue that bothers you, and interfere with others' ability to learn more about that issue at their own pace).
posted by anigbrowl at 12:16 AM on June 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


Isn't the current popular theory that Jon Snow is going to be Azor Ahai reborn? That means Dany really isnt the messiah; she might end up being just the fedex guy delivering the dragons north and then dying in some horrible way.

My favourite theory is that the whole world is actually just a computer simulation, and Bran realises that when he plugs in via his wierwood throne (it turns on noclip). He ends winter by fixing a bug in the weather rendering code and then ascends to a higher existence led by some dude in a trenchcoat.
posted by destrius at 12:18 AM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


"That's different. If you create your own secondary world, you're free to imagine whatever you want for its history, but if you use the real world as your model, doing away with native Americans just because you want a nice colonisation story without all icky morality getting in the way, it's a copout."

It's not different, though. I think this is exactly comparable and our culture has a weird and toxic blindness where epic fantasy is concerned.

Here's what's going on with fantasy and these books:
  1. Tolkein was deeply conservative and wrote a set of books that were basically an indoctrination to pre-enlightenment values of authoritarianism, aristocratic classism, xenophobia, patriarchal sexism, racism, pastoral luddism, and numerous related stuff as elaborated in a medieval, feudalistic, crypto-European setting. This became terribly popular, partly because it's deeply reactionary and partly because it's a good story. Because of this, it eventually gave birth to a fully defined genre that structurally relies upon all the values that Tolkien deliberately propagandized even though most of the writers and readers are unaware of this and take it for granted.

  2. GRRM, based upon numerous conversations with his partner, friends, and fellow writers, decided to deconstruct and critique epic fantasy by showing how all these values are implicit and, without the whitewashing, are endemic to a horrifying and extremely unjust world where almost everyone suffers, bad shit constantly happens, the good guys (if there are good guys in such a society) don't win, and all the adolescent notions about chivalrous princes and blissfully happy princesses is not a Noble Lie but, rather, a Big Lie that disguises evil.
Similarly, the western is a genre that depends upon being set in a place and time that structurally embeds certain values that are directly involved with the genocide of Native Americans. Modern audiences enjoy(ed)westerns that elided the genocide because we found it uncomfortable. But the western existed first and foremost as a cultural tribute to those ideals, to a defense that the genocide was necessary and just. Later authors and audiences were uncomfortable with this and conveniently elide at the most superficial level what is necessarily still there below because you can't have that world and those values without the genocide. And even if you could, in our world this imagined world serves as an apology for the genocide, intentional by individual authors, or not.

People like this author and many others weirdly think that what makes what we understand as fantasy the fact that it contains magic and/or specific fantastical creatures like dragons. But that's not true at all. There is a small — very small — group of contemporary writers who work within the epic fantasy model but attempt to utilize something that isn't medieval and isn't European. And they have managed some success. Still, the difficulty in doing this reveals how much what we think of as epic fantasy is rooted in a social structure that is, essentially, medieval and feudalistic. Because those are the parts that are still there, even when these renegade authors succeed. And it's worth wondering why it is, then, that what we think of as "epic fantasy" is so tied to a particular socioeconomic structure. (And, before anyone mentions him, Campbell's premise is flawed specifically because it's eurocentric.)

But it is tied to a particular socioeconomic structure, that structure is extremely unjust, it's ugly, and in writing uplifting tales about noble and beautiful people being Good and fighting Evil and restoring order within that socioeconomic structure is reactionary propaganda of the first-order.

In another thread I mentioned that a particular genre is what it is not because it has certain superficial tropes associated with the genre — in this case, dragons and swords (it's revealing that the author defines GoT as "sword and sworcery") — but that it has all the genre elements that functionally make the genre what it is. To some degree, it usually or necessarily includes those tropes because those tropes have some functional use inside the genre machinery — magic because fantasy has an anti-technological value system implicit and that's one of its functions as a genre, for example. More fundamental, per my previous paragraphs, is the feudalistic socioeconomics.

The claim that because it's made up, that it's not real, means that it could be anything seems to me to be a deeply stupid and unreflective claim. Because that's true about all fiction, not just fantastical fiction. But, obviously, all fiction is not just any random string of words, it's all built around a certain kind of agreed-upon worldview. Some things are entirely independent of what's implicitly agreed-upon, other things have wide latitude, and still others are required. As I wrote in the other thread, you don't write a mystery where the detective solves the murder by divine revelation.

And you don't write epic fantasy that isn't essentially epic fantasy. And that essence includes — arguably is — medieval feudalistic socioeconomics. And in that, it has to include some things and has to exclude others.

With regard to the patriarchy, misogyny, and rape-culture, what this means is that a writer can attempt epic fantasy without the explicit and most obvious results of these things — such as explicit patriarchy and rape — but those structures are still there, implicitly, and removing only their most explicit manifestation is a lie. You can't have gender equality in a society with this structure. You will have rape and other sexual violence against women in a society with this structure.

I would have hoped that audiences and critics would have understood ASoIaF and GoT to be anti-fantasy, a deconstructive critique, of epic fantasy in the same way that anti-westerns were understood to be what they were. But this has mostly not been the case. A stumbling block seems to be that what people think is the essence of epic fantasy is that it's fantastical (where westerns were, in contrast in this context, realist literature) and not, as is actually the case, directly comparable to westerns in being about a cultural need to tell a certain kind of story about a certain time and place to serve a certain contemporary cultural function (whitewashing and satisfying reactionary impulses).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:23 AM on June 28, 2012 [113 favorites]


"Sometimes I feel like the Dany chapters were written by a totally different writer, one who got his/her start ghostwriting Harlequin Romance novels and who is doing her/his best but is out of his/her depth."

Hmmm, you didn't notice that that was deliberate? I noticed it in the book, and the tv series makes it really really obvious.

(when I was a kid and ran out of books I used to read my grandmother's harlequins. I've read hundreds of them)
posted by lastobelus at 12:24 AM on June 28, 2012


I just jumped back from Earth-2 and, boy, guys you should see the massive fight going on at SuperFilter over Martin R. R. George's 'Song of Snow and Sun' series based on an article entitled "Idealised Equality in Westerlands: Why Do We Whitewash The Historical Treatment of Women in Fantasy?".
posted by PenDevil at 12:28 AM on June 28, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thank you Ivan Fyodorovich for thoroughly explaining why that article is like the worst thing I've ever read about Game of Thrones.

I've heard so many people who have read the books talk about how wonderful they are at deconstructing and undermining fantasy tropes, and maybe that's colored how I watch the show now. But reading that article, and actually a lot of press about the show, it feels sometimes like a lot of people Just Don't Get It. It's possible it's more subtle in the show than in the books, though.
posted by palidor at 12:35 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mostly I'm tired of articles that lead off with

When a TV series crams horse beheadings, frozen zombies, dragons, sword fighting and naked prostitutes into nearly every episode, it’s hard for a single actor to make a grand impact.

All of that crammed in every episode? Really?

It's like, if I didn't already watch the show, I'd probably avoid it because most of the press for it makes it sound like trash.
posted by palidor at 12:40 AM on June 28, 2012


it’s hard for a single actor to make a grand impact

The Emmy Awards get no respect these days...
posted by PenDevil at 12:52 AM on June 28, 2012


If you add up all the Stark character flaws, I still think they're a drop in the bucket compared to brother-sister fucking and breeding.

Yeah, I think you better prepare for some Stark brother-sister fucking before the series is over. I gua-ron-tee it.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


One very cool thing about the books, if we're going to do the political deconstruction of them (which I tend to loathe, and is one big reason why I didn't dip my beak too far into Marxist/fem lit crit) is the total awesomeness of the "broken things" (Tyrion, Bran). As a fellow broken thing, I say, amen brother.

But if we were being real, Bran would have died post-fall pretty damn quick, and would a dwarf have been Hand, even if he was a Lannister? Seems unlikely.
posted by IwishIwasFordMaddoxFord at 12:57 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think what people like Brandon Blatcher miss is how much written SF is a conversation with itself. Martin isn't writing in a vacuum. His work a specific response, as Ivan Fyodorovich points out very astutely, to what has gone before in the genre. So, no, he couldn't just write a less violent and patriarchal story any more than Joe Haldeman could have had everything happy and unchanged whenever Mandella returns home in The Forever War, and asking for it is completely missing the point.
posted by Justinian at 12:59 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tolkein was deeply conservative and wrote a set of books that were basically an indoctrination to pre-enlightenment values of authoritarianism, aristocratic classism, xenophobia, patriarchal sexism, racism, pastoral luddism, and numerous related stuff as elaborated in a medieval, feudalistic, crypto-European setting.

Er...it's a good while since I read Carpenter's biography of Tolkien, but I seem to recall he was a considerably more complex figure than that. As a Catholic in England, he faced considerable discrimination, encountered disapproval for marrying his sweetheart at a young age, and served in the trenches in WW1, where most of his friends were killed and which left him with a very negative view of war and militarism. This characterization of his work seems far more appropriately applied to CS Lewis than to Tolkien.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:05 AM on June 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would have hoped that audiences and critics would have understood ASoIaF and GoT to be anti-fantasy, a deconstructive critique, of epic fantasy in the same way that anti-westerns were understood to be what they were.

I think that's an excellent insight, IF. I also think, though, that the analogy could be extended and you've elided in your comparison some of the critical reaction to revisionist western cf most obviously Peckinpah - there was (and still is, to a small degree) very much a critical conversation about the violence of what he was portraying and what it meant intra-and-supra genre. A conversation with itself, very much like Justinian says of fantasy.

Part of that conversation was talking about the acceptability of what came before, too, but it resiling from Peckinpah's West didn't mean an automatic adoption of the non-revisionist western.

Pursuing your analogy further, much like Westerns did, GOT/ASOIAF has broken out of the people familiar with the discourse of its genre and is thus presenting to a lot of people without the complexity and nuance that Martin may have included. I think the HBO show - for all it's narrative skill in doing what Martin largely hasn't - exacerbates the issue somewhat. The thing is that Martin - like Peckinpah - is perfectly happy to leave as many things not deconstructed as otherwise, and again it calls back that conversational element; he's not reinventing the genre (though god, the way some people go on you'd think he was).

I guess, whoever was complaining up there, this is what I mean by problematic. It's ambiguous, complex, three dimensional and I think worth having a conversation about. A lot of fans that I see (not so much here, but some here, and up to wherever on the broader internet) are not interested in engaging with this deconstruction or conversation, and do the equivalent of ramming fingers in ears and screaming that sexism doesn't exist and peeps got raped the war of the roses so it's okay.

Which I think does both texts - show and books -, their author, the genre, and I'd like to think its fans, a disservice. Conversations about these things - especially in a genre that is like a bloody illustrated history of chauvinism and racism are worth having, and if Martin was deconstructing things, surely he would want people to have them.
posted by smoke at 1:14 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


How about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, what is the rapecultureometer reading on that?
DON'T YOU ANY ONE OF YOU TRY TO RUIN SUSANNA CLARKE FOR ME

Because, really, that's impossible, anyway.
posted by byanyothername at 1:19 AM on June 28, 2012


It's not different, though. I think this is exactly comparable and our culture has a weird and toxic blindness where epic fantasy is concerned.

Yes and no. I think there is a difference when you take actually existing elements of our world and use them in your fiction, you have to be slightly more respectful in your appropriation, but that doesn't mean of course that anything goes in a secondary world. Sexism is still sexist.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:20 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I still think they're a drop in the bucket compared to brother-sister fucking and breeding."

It amuses and sort of saddens me that even mefites talk about that incest as if it were as similarly self-evidently wrong as, say, pushing young boys out of windows or rape. It's a good example of how certain kinds of taboos run so deep in a culture that they are almost literally unquestionable.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:29 AM on June 28, 2012 [13 favorites]


The thing about Tolkien is that his works are an exegesis of his personal philosophy. If he had believed in equality for all he would have happily written his books that way. My take is that his books are a meditation on honor and duty and the obligation of nobility. But that is this minute, I could change my mind later.

The point is that Tolkien's characters were set peices for his morality plays. He did not think " what would Frodo do in this situation?" he simply constructed events that would cause Frodo to do Frodo stuff. He created events that would let Aragorn do his duty towards the people as nobility should. He created events that let Sam do his duty towards Frodo, as a servant should.

A lot of Fantasy and SF is like that, characters and plot are made up to prove a philosophical point. Some elements are fantastical, some mundane. Dick is infamous for having stories about things like perfect human replica androids selling insurance door to door and going home at night to a meatloaf TV dinner.

So what happens if some of these fantastical elements appeared in a book that was not "fantasy" with strawman characters. What if a legit novel had dragons.

GRRM does not really write fantasy as write alternate history. Ignore everything else but the characters. The characters are us. They are simply put into an fantastical setting. From what you know of humans, if we had magic and dragons would we have had equality?
posted by Ad hominem at 1:36 AM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


It amuses and sort of saddens me that even mefites wouldn't realize that Martin sets up the Lannisters very early on as pretty much the worst. family. evar. via the use of incest. Trying to murder Bran kind of seals the deal.

But I don't approve of cannibalism or pedophilia either, so I must be some fusty old conservative.
posted by bardic at 1:42 AM on June 28, 2012


"It amuses and sort of saddens me that even mefites wouldn't realize that Martin sets up the Lannisters very early on as pretty much the worst. family. evar. via the use of incest. Trying to murder Bran kind of seals the deal."

Well, yeah. GRRM doesn't examine the taboo, he utilizes it deliberately. He has exactly the same mindset about it that I'm criticizing.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:49 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which is why he's a novelist, not a sociology professor.
posted by bardic at 1:52 AM on June 28, 2012


Is that why he's a novelist and not a sociology professor? I'd always wondered. Good to know.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:59 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


"...via the use of incest."

And yet Jamie is faithful to Cersei, while the same can not be said of Ned.
posted by PenDevil at 2:23 AM on June 28, 2012


PenDevil: It's pretty heavily implied that Jon Snow is not actually Ned's bastard and that it's a lie Ned told to hide his actual parentage. Admittedly this isn't made obvious until once the characters are more thoroughly established.
posted by DRMacIver at 2:27 AM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


True it is implied. But Ned is still willing to be labelled an adulterer. And according to Robert going off to war and coming back with a kid was a common enough occurrence.

And I wouldn't be surprised if Martin changes things around further to mess with everyone about Jon's heritage.
posted by PenDevil at 2:35 AM on June 28, 2012


Metafilter: everyone you ever loved will die, most probably in an unsettlingly gruesome fashion.
posted by eurypteris at 2:43 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sick to the back teeth of things being described as 'problematic.' More often than not, this is just a pseudo-objective way of expressing one's personal dislike or aversion to something, and an excuse for broadcasting one's views.

Fucking THANK YOU. "Problematic" is such mealy-mouthed passive aggressive question begging bullshit. Problems have to be solved, opinions don't.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:47 AM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I didn't personally notice anything especially off when I read the first three novels; obviously there is rape and violence toward women, but I assigned that to the "realistic" depiction of a medieval society in which women had low status and violence was common. A female friend pointed out that there was a lot of rape in these books but I didn't think much of her complaint until the fourth novel came out and, yeah, just rape-rape-rape-rape all the way through. That and the voyeuristic humiliation of Cersei through King's Landing were seriously off-putting.
posted by eurypteris at 2:49 AM on June 28, 2012


Needing to see your every personal aspect (gender, race, class, sexual orientation, political leaning, etc) reflected back at you from every angle is narcissism, not social justice.
posted by gsh at 3:47 AM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think there is any justification or value in complaining about this sort of thing unless it's straight up pornsploitation. If a literary work is any way serious and some of it turns you off, then just read something else or skip the bits that make your skin crawl.

And here's my problem with this: Game of Thrones is a very popular television show and the books are a very popular franchise of fantasy novels and of course people should be allowed to complain about novels which they find objectionable or "problematic", if they really feel this way. I'm not talking about censorship, but I am talking about people having every right to criticize a series (TV or literary) which chooses to demean and degrade women when the author could just as easily choose to depict women - and the relationships between men and women - in a more enlightened and/or progressive way. "Read something else" - that's a mealy-mouthed argument, analogous to ignoring a problem rather than speaking up.

I don't particularly like the article in the FPP; bringing in the jubilee and real-life monarchy didn't do the author any favours. But I think there is something (critical) to be said for the way GRRM depicts women in his series - and it's entirely justified to question why he chooses to write them that way. I almost feel like The Tudors depicted women in a more interesting and fully-rounded way that Game of Thrones does. Maybe The Tudors played with history a little, but GOT seems to deliberately ignore how far society has progressed since then. Sure, maybe GRRM wants to depict an anti-fantasy world that resembles the War of the Roses, but why are women marginalised by both fantasy and anti-fantasy novels. (The argument that other fantasy novels are more progressive doesn't absolve GRRM for pandering to rape culture with his bitch-whore-prostitute pantheon of female characters.)

Even if I agreed with the "historically accurate" argument (which I think is entirely bullshit), I am pretty worried with how GRRM views women in general, given this review of The Avengers:

"I think they wasted the Black Widow... Scarlett Johanssen looked great in that outfit, but she seemed to be there only as eye candy. The shot in the middle of the battle where she pulls out a pistol was silly. I don't know who this Black Widow was, and I don't think the screenwriter did either. She wasn't the original comic Black Widow, the Russian femme fatale who seduces Hawkeye into trying to kill Iron Man. She wasn't the later comic book Black Widow, who dons a costume, comes over to the good guys, and teams with first Hawkeye and then Daredevil. She was just... there."

Wait, what? Did he watch the same movie I did? Did anyone watch this film where Black Widow was only "eye candy" and "just there"? She was almost the heart of the film, since the other characters had had their own films for set-up. And we got to see her through varying displays of competency, both active and intellectual, as well as seeing a vulnerable side.

But GRRM thinks she was just eye candy. Yes, okay. And I think his female characters are either victims of rape or future victims of rape.
posted by crossoverman at 3:58 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did anyone watch this film where Black Widow was only "eye candy" and "just there"?

Try this thread.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:18 AM on June 28, 2012


It amuses and sort of saddens me that even mefites wouldn't realize that Martin sets up the Lannisters very early on as pretty much the worst. family. evar. via the use of incest. Trying to murder Bran kind of seals the deal.

The people that GRRM sets up as the worst ever at the start of the first novel tend not to stay there for very long. Rhaegar is portrayed from the very start as the worst of entitled princes, in contrast to the valiant Robert Baratheon fighting for independence from the evil empire. There is constant inversion of tropes.


I'm not talking about censorship, but I am talking about people having every right to criticize a series (TV or literary) which chooses to demean and degrade women when the author could just as easily choose to depict women - and the relationships between men and women - in a more enlightened and/or progressive way.

But that choice you are describing is not the story he is telling. And it wouldn't be easy to write stories about women dealing with living in a feudal patriarchy without a lack of enlightened progressivism within that world. It's not inherently misogynistic to write about a misogynistic world. I'm not disregarding your 'right' to argue that point, but I don't see that you have.


I think that it's also difficult to appreciate what has been written in the books by reference to the TV series regarding women - I found that the series fell too much into the easy "we're on HBO, boobs in every scene!" trap and I couldn't get through the first season.
posted by chiquitita at 4:50 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think what people like Brandon Blatcher miss is how much written SF is a conversation with itself.

Care to explain what you mean by "people like Brandon Blatcher"? Or why you're talking about SF when I was talking about the depiction of women in fantasty?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:55 AM on June 28, 2012


GRRM is a deep comics geek - and he was blinkered by the comics character - which to be fair is poorly used in comics as femme-fatale eye candy - with the movie character, who is actually closer to Mockingbird than the Black Widow, a super-spy female character you're expected to respect and admire more than desire. I don't think he saw more of the movie than the trailers.

(On the other hand, when BW pulls out her little pistol, it's still more intimidating than Mockingbird pulling batons out of her sleeves. Until she starts wailing on people with them, at least.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:00 AM on June 28, 2012


Yay! Another posting in the Blue about this unfinished trilogy in four parts. There is so much left to be said.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:15 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's five parts now, for one.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:23 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would not describe GoT as "so good" actually. I stopped watching after S01E06. The underlying story - power games being played by a handful of royal families - just didn't interest me enough. I prefer my political dramas to be more like The Thick of It or the very-promising Veep.

Angle bracket Malcolm Tucker close angle bracket

I'm sorry, I appear to be in the wrong kingdom. I thought I was in Westeros. But I appear to have arrived in Wankeros. SO FUCKING SORRY TO DISTURB YOUR DAY, JOFFERS. Now, why don't you take your Hand - who is considerably less useful to the running of this Le Fucking Creuset collection of feudal TOSSPOTS than MY WANKING HAND, and piss off to play with your My Little Ponies while the grownups sort out this Westeromnishambles? Have Pinkie Pie shag her brother or something? That's about the speed of this administration, right? A pink horse having consanguine relations. New heraldic badge of the Lannisters RIGHT THE BOLLOCKS THERE. You! Get it printed! We're running with it tomorrow."

Angle bracket slash Malcolm Tucker close angle bracket.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:30 AM on June 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm constantly enraged about GRRM's poor treatment of farms and farmers. He spends so much of his time describing characters eating and drinking and feasting, but never talks about the actual process of growing and transporting all this food. Where the hell is all this food coming from? I insist there be at least three chapters per book featuring Galum the Farmer, a new POV character, who slowly and carefully explains the past hundred years worth of agricultural history. His wife Smelda can add in some observations about animal husbandry as well, so we better make it four chapters. Oh! And pottery! Cousin Waldwin can be a potter. Five chapters, then. Six if he includes Waldwin's attempts to convince his daughter Waldwina to follow in his footsteps rather than become a cooper (but not after we get a good description of coopering, so seven chapters). Although, thinking about seven chapters without any gore, that's not really a good fit for Song of Ice and Fire. So let's add in three more chapters featuring tanning hides for some scatological fire, butchery for blood and guts, and, I dunno, the rise and fall of a prominent frog catching family from the swamps.

I know people might complain that books with already notorious pacing problems would be bogged down by ten chapters of new characters and menial tasks getting in the way swordfights and dragons and ice zombies and stuff, but if we can imagine a world where shadows can kill people and there's a disease that turns folks into stone, we can imagine a world where reading all that stuff is remotely interesting.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:36 AM on June 28, 2012 [18 favorites]


Ivan F., when you say epic fantasy relies on medieval socioeconomic structures, are you talking about kings and knights and so forth? Basically people with way more power than any concept of democratic rule would allow?

I can see why you'd say that's necessary for epic fantasy--it's kind of pointless without suitably epic contrasts between epic characters leading to epic struggles, those struggles being exactly the kind of thing that democracy is supposed to prevent.

I guess it's true in some sense that any fantasy story that appeals to that epic power differential is going to come off as regal to people who like kings and knights and stuff, even if you're talking about, say, Dragonball. But I don't think that works very well as a critique against epic fantasy, because "epic power differential" is a really generic trope. It's characteristic of superhero stories as well, and many of those, X-Men for instance, go out of their way to reflect current political structures and problems, rather than pre-Enlightenment ones.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:41 AM on June 28, 2012


Maybe The Tudors played with history a little, but GOT seems to deliberately ignore how far society has progressed since then. Sure, maybe GRRM wants to depict an anti-fantasy world that resembles the War of the Roses, but why are women marginalised by both fantasy and anti-fantasy novels. (The argument that other fantasy novels are more progressive doesn't absolve GRRM for pandering to rape culture with his bitch-whore-prostitute pantheon of female characters.)

I need to be vague, but here's the moment that convinced me that GRRM is feminist and is fully, fully aware of how screwed and evil the world he is writing is:

Here's a camp-hanger on living in a castle that changes hands a few times. Mr. On-a-Redemption-Arc had previously met her and turned down her advances (implied as the best way she has to survive). He comes back to see her bruised, with missed and broken teeth, probably raped, and definitely the object of an attempted rape.

The (attempted) rapist attempts to justify his actions with what is effectively the 'village bike' defense.

Mr. Redemption Arc beheads the (attempted) rapist in what is seen as a scene of justice. The woman in question smiles for the first time since he saw her broken face.

GRRM: if you rape someone, especially if you try to justify it, I will behead you.

Then we get to a character in Book 4, who goes insane for a few reasons (some people close to her have died in not-very-nice ways, her fear of displacement, etc.), and she goes on extended thought-bubble monologues about how perhaps her situation wouldn't be so incredibly fucked up if women were granted any power. There's at least two Houses whose main line is in danger of ending because they refuse to give power to women. Meanwhile, a female character is being trained in such a way that I wouldn't be terribly surprised if she winds up playing the Game better than anyone, and securing female rights for some (if not all).

This meditation of the nature of female helplessness in a patriarchal society is set up in contrast to Dorne, which is effectively the Basques of Westeros, complete with absolute agnatic primogeniture (meaning, women inherit on the same basis as men, which even England doesn't have yet in the current world--although they're working on it). Admittedly, a female Dorne character screws the pooch quite badly, but only because she's second-born and wasn't privy to details reserved to the first-born (the heir), and made assumptions based on an unfortunate overheard snippet of conversation. Also because the first-born was literally the only family member to be physically able to go on a certain diplomatic mission...

As for the virgin-whore-mother paradigm (I know that's not what you said), I'd argue Martin is also playing with it--Cersei is a mother first and foremost, but golly she does have a sex drive. She's not evil so much as terribly tragic: she is the product of an environment that constantly failed her. (Admittedly, if the fan interpretation of the Maegge the Frog scene is to be believed, she was a terrible child, to boot). If her father hadn't been so set on her taking her proper place 'as a woman,' as a tool to gain alliances via marriage, she might have turned out far less evil and fucked up. Instead she was fit into a mold that doesn't fit her. Dany considers herself the mother of, well, a lot of people, but she still enjoys sex. There's only two real 'virgins' (Brienne and Sansa), and I suspect interesting things will be done with them.

A brief meditation on Brienne-Arya, just because we're discussing female characters: people like to discuss them as though they're both the same archetype. They're not, though--Brienne is far more like Sansa than Arya. Brienne is naive, and truly believes in all the noble virtues of chilvarous tales. She just wants to please. She wants true love. She wants acceptance. Much like Sansa. Except unlike Sansa, she's ugly and is terrible at 'girl' things--and trying to fully her noble duty in another way only results in her being heaped with scorn and disgust. She's not the smartest character, but she ain't dumb: she's the only person to care about the 'little folk' during a tour of the countryside she takes. She clings to her name, her identity, like it's her only anchor. That's why she believes so fondly in oaths. Arya, on the other hand, doesn't care much for noble deeds or the honour of her name--she wants what she wants, and is becoming quite a force to be reckoned with because of it. She also found an organization that treats her the same as any other, ignoring her sex. She's much luckier than Brienne, but her life's been much easier (in that her path has always been clear to her, while Brienne struggled with defying society publicly.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:46 AM on June 28, 2012 [17 favorites]


Apropos of nothing, I was in my kitchen just now, making coffee and thinking about this thread, and my eyes came to rest upon a certain counter-top appliance, and I had the flash of a comedy skit... "Introducing the George R.R. Martin Grill! The lean, mean trope-inverting genre machine!"
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 5:56 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Spoiler alert: everyone you ever loved will die, most probably in an unsettlingly gruesome fashion.

or as it's put in the book "When you play the Game of Thrones, either you win or you die." and no one has won yet.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:29 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


GRRM, based upon numerous conversations with his partner, friends, and fellow writers, decided to deconstruct and critique epic fantasy by showing how all these values are implicit and, without the whitewashing, are endemic to a horrifying and extremely unjust world where almost everyone suffers, bad shit constantly happens, the good guys (if there are good guys in such a society) don't win, and all the adolescent notions about chivalrous princes and blissfully happy princesses is not a Noble Lie but, rather, a Big Lie that disguises evil.

Point well taken. But if that's the point then I don't really need to read the books (or watch the show, of which I've seen only the first episode). I can acknowledge the critique without actually having to read thousands of pages of rape and murder. In fact, I don't see the appeal at all. If I want to read endless stories of rape and murder in a feudal society I can pick up a history book.

In fact, not only do I not need to read the books, they don't need to have been written. Martin should have just written a few thousand word essay on the subject or, if he couldn't contain his verbosity, a non-fiction book. It would have been just as effective (as you point out, most of the audience seems to miss the point anyway), and there would have been far less celebration of rape and murder. Because I guarantee you that a lot of people will read the books and (especially) watch the TV show and they will celebrate "bitches getting what's coming to them" and "righteous kills." They will celebrate powerful men exercising their power, and they will ogle a lot of breasts. They won't just fail to get the point, they will enjoy it at face value. In that way, by writing his critique as fiction, Martin has harmed the very people he is allegedly supporting through his deconstruction of the fantasy genre.

Of course, writing his critique as fiction has also made him far more money than an essay or non-fiction book ever would have, so I suppose I can understand why he did it. They say "write what you know," and Martin clearly knows venality.
posted by jedicus at 6:42 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I prefer my political dramas to be more like The Thick of It or the very-promising Veep.

I dropped into this thread all this time later to say that if you look at Veep as a promising political drama, you're not doing it right.
posted by kbanas at 6:50 AM on June 28, 2012


Seems to me that the central quote of the first book is:

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends, It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

I like Laurie Penny well enough, but this piece really needed sharpening up. Too many weak arguments undermining a basic thesis that Martin plainly agrees with.
posted by howfar at 6:51 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know you're joking, robocop is bleeding, but: in a world where winter can last for years, where DO they get their food?
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:03 AM on June 28, 2012


and there would have been far less celebration of rape and murder.

That's not what the series is about.
posted by panboi at 7:04 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]



You certainly can write a fantasy that simply posits gender equality with no other alterations to a pseudo-medieval setting. Elizabeth Moon does it (less artfully than Martin) in her Paksenarrion books.

One of Martin's huge themes is that the strong prey on the weak. The dragons are window dressing. It's predators and prey: The rich on the poor, the physically strong on the physically weak, the treacherous on the naive, the smart on the stupid. So, most of the characters are simultaneously victim and victimizer. You begin to feel sorry for people you hated or upset by the actions of people you once liked as people take advantage of each other in every way they can.

It blunts the edge of that to simply take whole categories of bad behavior and put them off limits with a hand wave.
posted by tyllwin at 7:08 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's not what the series is about.

That wasn't my assertion. I don't really care whether it was Martin's intention to celebrate rape and murder or not. My assertion was that "I guarantee you that a lot of people will read the books and (especially) watch the TV show and they will celebrate "bitches getting what's coming to them" and "righteous kills." They will celebrate powerful men exercising their power, and they will ogle a lot of breasts. They won't just fail to get the point, they will enjoy it at face value."

If the books and the TV show are to be defended on the basis that they demonstrate a critique of the fantasy genre, then that defense is only valid to the extent that the readership and audience actually recognize the criticism. If people treat it as a book or a show about tits 'n killin', then it hasn't just failed in its project, it has achieved just the opposite.
posted by jedicus at 7:17 AM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I really don't think people are consuming this show as a deconstruction of anything. People who draw back from the use of the word "problematic" (see above) are not in it for the uncomfortable message it is sending about our white heteronormative male fantasy worlds.

From what I can tell people are consuming this story as a cool show, in which the characters they are rooting for are in real danger (rape, death, horrible losses of various kinds).

I'm not saying there's no room for more complicated analysis, but I think TFA gets closer to the reason for the popularity of the show than do the comments above.

The smarter you are the more elaborate the structure you can erect in defense of the show, and deny that you are being pandered to and distracted by a rollercoaster of artificial highs and lows. I think it's particularly wrong to think that this show is forcing people to confront something more real than is genre-typical.

It is a fantasy story with broad appeal in our current culture because we like this sort of fantasy.
posted by ServSci at 7:17 AM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I know you're joking, robocop is bleeding, but: in a world where winter can last for years, where DO they get their food?

See? That's why we need my compulsory chapters. There has to be at least a dozen on food preservation alone.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:28 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really don't think people are consuming this show as a deconstruction of anything.

The show? Doubtless some people are not. This is a problem with inherent in the medium. You can disengage and just enjoy it on a surface level.

It's a little tougher to avoid it in the books, however.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:34 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Jaime-Cersei relationship is not considered abhorrent because it can't lead to a legal marriage (and why would there be laws against that, if there weren't underlying taboos also?) but because in the culture of A Song of Ice and Fire, incest is considered super gross and probably makes the gods angry as well.

Also because it makes family relationships hard to describe and disorienting: at the end of season 2, after the battle at Blackwater, Joffrey is putting his court back in order. He says one line to the effect of "And the office of the Hand of the King once again shall be occupied by my grandfather, Tywin Lannister." Cersei must have been thinking much what the viewers are: "Dude, he is both of your grandfathers."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:38 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would sort of like to read those compulsory chapters. In part because I look forward to having a few characters who I do not yet hate or find intensely boring. (Right now the list is Jon Snow, maybe Sansa, maybe Samwell.)

I think it's reasonably clear what GRRM was trying to do in his books, though I think you can argue how successful he is at it. The tv show -- though I only watched the first season and then episode 1 of season 2, as I decided to wait and watch season 2 all at once instead -- is not so deconstructiony, though it did very well at making Cersei an interesting character from the start. And though the books issue with rape rape rapey rape rape is not as much a deconstruction as just a lot of rape, the gratuitous nudity is all HBO.
posted by jeather at 7:42 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would sort of like to read those compulsory chapters. In part because I look forward to having a few characters who I do not yet hate or find intensely boring. (Right now the list is Jon Snow, maybe Sansa, maybe Samwell.)

I don't really like Samwell, but I have to give GRRM credit for creating an author insert character whose defining traits are being a fat coward.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:43 AM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


See? That's why we need my compulsory chapters. There has to be at least a dozen on food preservation alone.

If you haven't you should read the unabridged version of Moby-Dick, which includes, e.g., chapter 32 'Cetology,' which recounts, in straightforward non-fiction fashion, the current state of the art in whale biology complete with references to real books. It's rife with that kind of thing.
posted by jedicus at 8:03 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


G-to-tha-RU(?)-Tolkein just needs to introduce rotors as a literary device.
posted by panaceanot at 8:04 AM on June 28, 2012


[Comment deleted; taking gratuitous insulting potshots at other users is not how we play this game of threads.]
posted by taz at 8:04 AM on June 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


I read this review last week and very quickly concluded she had either only read the book covers or had an intern summarize it for her because there wasn't a single plot aspect she actually got more than superficially right.

The problem is that her critique could accurately apply to a lot of fantasy fiction. Just not Game of Thrones.

BTW if you are looking for similar intelligent genre bending stuff that highlights implicit assumptions I recommend Stephen Hunt's steampunky fantasy books. A bit less sophisticated but on the plus side he writes them faster.
posted by srboisvert at 8:34 AM on June 28, 2012


See? That's why we need my compulsory chapters. There has to be at least a dozen on food preservation alone.

A room of ice and pickles?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:36 AM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


That wasn't my assertion. I don't really care whether it was Martin's intention to celebrate rape and murder or not. My assertion was that "I guarantee you that a lot of people will read the books and (especially) watch the TV show and they will celebrate "bitches getting what's coming to them" and "righteous kills." They will celebrate powerful men exercising their power, and they will ogle a lot of breasts. They won't just fail to get the point, they will enjoy it at face value."

I don't think you can provide any guarantees there tbh. You're stating your opinion on your view of a series of which the total episodes viewed comes to 1. Whether the series is a critique on fantasy is secondary to the narrative.

The series has a few brutal scenes, but the strength of the writing is that those scenes come across as pretty horrible. You don't really come away with the impression that they're celebrating anything.

The analysis of the female characters explored upthread is also quite odd. I notice for instance that the criticisms swerve right around the women of the Stark household as they don't fit that convenient 'bitch-whore-prostitute' label.

Asking a writer to pander to the demands and expectations of individual viewers/readers views on gender politics is just plain bizarre. There's no rules against writing your own stories with those viewpoints.
posted by panboi at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really don't think people are consuming this show as a deconstruction of anything. People who draw back from the use of the word "problematic" (see above) are not in it for the uncomfortable message it is sending about our white heteronormative male fantasy worlds.

Thanks for saying it better than I could have.
posted by codacorolla at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2012


You know, it's not like there's more rape in GRRM's world than there is in, say...the real world. The only difference is it's shoved in your face in GRRM-land.
posted by corb at 8:44 AM on June 28, 2012


Ivan, I think it's possible for every word of your fantastic comment to be true, and at the same time for people to be justified in criticisms such as these:

* Martin may think he's being feminist by refusing to whitewash the inevitable consequences of patriarchy, but he in fact writes rape scenes that are prurient and that fetishize rape in a creepy way.

* It looks like maybe some people enjoy the TV series because they enjoy watching the rape stuff, and that's disturbing.

(I'm not myself making either of these critiques, but I think they are compatible with Ivan's defense of the series.)
posted by straight at 8:51 AM on June 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


After book five, how is Jaime and Cersei's relationship any more terrible than everything else that's gone before? When they observe that the Targaryens bred amongst themselves, that's a pretty direct reference to any of several really prominent European royal families who literally bred themselves into insanity, and out of power.

Leaving aside the broader question of whether incest taboo is a cultural universal, incest definition varies widely between cultures and across history. Cleopatra was the product of a line of brother-sister marriages, that tradition being generally reserved for royalty in Ancient Egyptian culture in that place and period
posted by Bwithh at 8:54 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really don't think people are consuming this show as a deconstruction of anything. People who draw back from the use of the word "problematic" (see above) are not in it for the uncomfortable message it is sending about our white heteronormative male fantasy worlds.


I am a counterexample to your assertion.
posted by flaterik at 9:02 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


The only thing I would say Martin actually fetishizes in these books is food.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:06 AM on June 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


It looks like maybe some people enjoy the TV series because they enjoy watching the rape stuff, and that's disturbing.

warning warning tvtropes: Truffaut Was Right

/that's still the article name to me, dammit.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:09 AM on June 28, 2012


The only thing I would say Martin actually fetishizes in these books is food.

Cooking Ice and Fire
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:11 AM on June 28, 2012


See also The Inn at the Crossroads.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:20 AM on June 28, 2012


Haven't read the books but I do think there is something to the charge that the show depicts rape in a male gazey and occasionally fetishistic way. The women raped or facing the danger ,; of rape are, for example, mostly young and beautiful. Which isnt historically realistic and is, yes ,problematic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:32 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Haven't read the books but I do think there is something to the charge that the show depicts rape in a male gazey and occasionally fetishistic way. The women raped or facing the danger ,; of rape are, for example, mostly young and beautiful. Which isnt historically realistic and is, yes ,problematic.

I have read the books and watched the first season, and I'd say that of the two the show is more "male gazey" and fetishistic, in large part thanks to casting and filming choices.

But to Mr Martin's credit, and as people have said above, he balances the titillation with consequences -- it's not just action, but also reaction. An awful lot of fictional rapeyness that I've read (including that writen by and sometimes for women, like many romance novels, the Story of O, etc) just has the prurience, and leaves out the consequences and reaction.

There's no problem in skipping Game of Thrones (or any other book or tv show) because of a lack of interest in seeing yet another set of rapey depictions. But it would be an error to think that it is uniquely so, or totally unselfcritically so.
posted by Forktine at 10:01 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The women raped or facing the danger ,; of rape are, for example, mostly young and beautiful.

Well, I wouldn't call Mirri Maz Duur either but otherwise, yes. Everyone got prettier for the show, and the prostitution is way more in your face front and center. They seem to be trying to use Ros (a show invention) as a sympatetic figure to balance that to some degree.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:15 AM on June 28, 2012


The season finale was so disappointing and laughably weak that it almost puts me off the show altogether.

Oh, you're one of those "House of the Undying" fanatics! I've always wanted to meet one of you! So cute!


I didn't have so much of a problem with the depictions of sexism in the books, but Season 2 of the show really lost me too. When I realized I was falling asleep during the second time I tried to watch an episode, I gave up.

Wake me up when the dragons start fighting.

Why is 'well if it's so historic and realistic why are there dragons and zombies but not gender equality?'

Brienne? Her character is not realistic per our Middle Ages, I would not think.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:17 AM on June 28, 2012


What's the problem in having a fantasy story where men and women are not equal?

The same problem with Starbuck's on every corner.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:18 AM on June 28, 2012


The only thing I would say Martin actually fetishizes in these books is food.

And sexual submission. Come on.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2012


The same problem with Starbuck's on every corner.

Gender inequality causes bad coffee?
posted by Forktine at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2012


Therefore... gender causes coffee!
posted by Edison Carter at 10:40 AM on June 28, 2012


No, it's like saying, "what's wrong with a TV show focused on men?" i.e. they all are already.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:49 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The series has a few brutal scenes, but the strength of the writing is that those scenes come across as pretty horrible. You don't really come away with the impression that they're celebrating anything.

Again, I don't care what the author intends to celebrate. I care about what readers and audiences (as a whole, not individuals) come away with. Lots of people enjoy horrible stuff, and those people are apt to take A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones at face value.

Asking a writer to pander to the demands and expectations of individual viewers/readers views on gender politics is just plain bizarre. There's no rules against writing your own stories with those viewpoints.

Martin can write whatever he wants. That doesn't mean that it's good, that we have to like it even if others do, or can't criticize it if we don't like it. This is not a call for censorship or a demand that Martin change his writing; it's just criticism.
posted by jedicus at 10:55 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no idea whether or Starbuck's is good or bad coffee. They get plenty of business without me. That's the point. I'd rather see a few different sorts of coffee houses. (I refuse to pay retail for coffee anywhere, except when necessary (breakfast and falling asleep driving).)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:56 AM on June 28, 2012


Again, I don't care what the author intends to celebrate. I care about what readers and audiences (as a whole, not individuals) come away with. Lots of people enjoy horrible stuff, and those people are apt to take A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones at face value.

That is really the "Chappelle Show" rub right there - is the sexual exploitation of women being taken critically or do viewers just enjoy seeing women getting sexually abused? And does it matter?

I'm not sure I have anything close to a coherent answer.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:00 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


(and I'm not sure the author of the original link did either ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:00 AM on June 28, 2012


Again, I don't care what the author intends to celebrate. I care about what readers and audiences (as a whole, not individuals) come away with. Lots of people enjoy horrible stuff, and those people are apt to take A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones at face value.

I'm not okay with a world where it's not okay to create fiction that depicts horrible things, regardless of intent or context.
posted by flaterik at 11:08 AM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


The women raped or facing the danger ,; of rape are, for example, mostly young and beautiful. Which isnt historically realistic and is, yes ,problematic.

Wait, why does the fact that women get casted young and beautiful if they're going to be on television make the series problematic? Women don't get cast young and beautiful if they're going to get raped. They get cast young and beautiful if they're going to be on television, with very few exceptions. Same goes for males. As a society, we like pretty things to look at.
posted by corb at 11:10 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not okay with a world where it's not okay to create fiction that depicts horrible things, regardless of intent or context.

Neither am I. But I'm also not okay with a world where it's not okay to criticize fiction that depicts horrible things.

(Clearly we need more negatives in here).

They get cast young and beautiful if they're going to be on television, with very few exceptions. Same goes for males.

'Same goes for males'? Hardly.
posted by jedicus at 11:19 AM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


>The only thing I would say Martin actually fetishizes in these books is food.

And sexual submission. Come on.


Can I borrow your books?

Lots of people enjoy horrible stuff, and those people are apt to take A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones at face value.

This seems to be a criticism of people, not art. Unless you're saying that everything should be dumbed down, which I don't think you are.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:29 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Brienne? Her character is not realistic per our Middle Ages, I would not think.

Call from a ms. of Arc on line 1. Shall I put her through?

Turns out our actual middle ages were not terribly realistic either.
posted by srboisvert at 11:38 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not ok ay with a world where it's not okay to create fiction that depicts horrible things, regardless of intent or context.

Neither am I. But I'm also not okay with a world where it's not okay to criticize fiction that depicts horrible things.


The only way in which these things are mutually exclusive is if you are criticizing that fiction simply because it depicts these things.
posted by kafziel at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


If we're doing realism, I want to see some 5'2" actors (malnourished, not due to achondroplasia) with rotten teeth and pox scars everywhere. Solved your Male Gaze problem for ya.
posted by biochemicle at 11:45 AM on June 28, 2012


If we're doing realism, I want to see some 5'2" actors (malnourished, not due to achondroplasia) with rotten teeth and pox scars everywhere.

In Smellovision™.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:52 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


What Kafziel said.
posted by flaterik at 12:14 PM on June 28, 2012


Sebmojo: ""I'm sick to the back teeth of things being described as 'problematic.' More often than not, this is just a pseudo-objective way of expressing one's personal dislike or aversion to something, and an excuse for broadcasting one's views."

Fucking THANK YOU. "Problematic" is such mealy-mouthed passive aggressive question begging bullshit. Problems have to be solved, opinions don't.
"

I'm pretty exhausted of people telling me what my intentions are when I use a certain word. I'm also pretty exhausted of being told that there are only certain axes along which I'm allowed to criticize pop culture, or to just get out of dodge if I have a problem with something depicted in something. I don't expect other people to solve my problems, but I think I'm allowed to have them. (Or is the situation that I'm just not allowed to talk about them?)

I've read the first 3 books and seen both seasons of the TV show. I stopped reading mainly because I didn't feel investment in some of the characters anymore. I knew that there was going to be a long stretch without any chapters with Arya and that Cersei would be roundly humiliated pretty soon, and I just wasn't super interested in the constant darkness of shit happening to everyone all the time. But I enjoyed it while I was reading it; I didn't slog through 3,000 pages because there was nothing in it for me.

I'll admit that prior to reading this thread I was pretty solidly on the side of being "this gratuitous sex thing is a little tiresome, dude". Some of the comments in this thread have convinced me that there is another, more deconstructionist take on the books, and that maybe Martin has better intentions than I previously ascribed to him. That's fair, and I'll concede that.

However, I take issue with the idea that the complaint of sexism is always gaslighting, or always passive aggressive somehow. I use words like "problematic" because that's the most neutral way I can think of to say that something made me feel alienated for being a minority, or for being a woman. I say "problematic" so I don't have to say "sexist" or "racist", because that tends to put people on the defensive because they think I'm attacking them for enjoying a piece of work. (I'm not; I enjoyed it, too.) I use the word "problematic" because I'm trying so damned hard not to make the people that I talk to feel uncomfortable about the fact that, yeah, there's some questionable choices made in the book. I'm not clamouring for the books to be rewritten according to my specifications; I'm explaining why I couldn't enjoy certain parts of the books wholeheartedly and trying to do so in such a way that doesn't step on the toes of people who did enjoy those parts.

Just as you are allowed to present your deconstruction of the characters in the book, I'm allowed to say that certain rape scenes in the book, and a lot of the nudity-driven scenes in the show, made me feel really uncomfortable. Again, I'm not saying to change everything--or anything--but I don't see why I can't say, for example, that Danaerys' plot line has some colonization themes that I find problematic in context without being told to shut up and just stop reading the book already.

As this thread (and countless previous threads) have shown: oftentimes it's really difficult to talk negatively about a piece of work without all of the focus being directed to the people making the comments. I think it's equally valid for one person to say that they found the Dany/Khal Drogo storyline quite touching, and for another person to say that they found it rather creepy, but those two persons can't seem to meet in the middle and accept differing interpretations of the same work without accusing the other of being passive aggressive, of not having bothered to read the source material, of being lazy, of pushing an agenda, or whatever. And that really sucks.

I'm a fan. I enjoy deconstructing things I like and picking it apart and thinking about how it could've been better. Sometimes that happens from a storyline and pacing and character perspective, and sometimes that happens along a political perspective. Pointing out flaws in a piece of work doesn't mean I don't enjoy the original work, and I'd prefer not to be attacked because my criticisms differs from someone else's views.
posted by Phire at 12:19 PM on June 28, 2012 [17 favorites]


I know you're joking, robocop is bleeding, but: in a world where winter can last for years, where DO they get their food?

See? That's why we need my compulsory chapters. There has to be at least a dozen on food preservation alone.


Honestly, I don't know why the hell they're fighting over a pointy throne. You can't eat a pointy throne in the winter. They should be fighting over an enormous granary.
posted by LN at 12:36 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only way in which these things are mutually exclusive is if you are criticizing that fiction simply because it depicts these things.

I still don't think that's mutually exclusive. I can criticize a work for containing a thing simply because it contains that thing yet still completely support the author's right to create such works. "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

But in any case, I'm not criticizing the books and TV shows simply because they graphically depict rape and murder. I'm criticizing them because a) if the point was to deconstruct the fantasy genre, then the same point could be accomplished via an essay or non-fiction book without the problem of some readers or viewers enjoying the rape and murder (or others being wholly turned off by it) and b) I personally find such graphic depictions both unappealing and wholly unnecessary for any narrative purpose. They serve only to shock or titillate, which is a purpose, but not a narrative purpose, and I don't really enjoy either.

So, to sum up: deconstruction of the fantasy genre? Yes, please. The overall narrative of the books? Sounds very interesting. The gratuitous nudity (in the show) graphical depictions or rape and murder (in the show and books)? Utterly unnecessary, make me uninterested in reading the books or watching the show, and turn the show (and to a lesser extent the books) into more violent, misogynistic grist for the rape culture.
posted by jedicus at 12:39 PM on June 28, 2012


Care to explain what you mean by "people like Brandon Blatcher"?

What do you mean "you people?".

But seriously, I meant people who say things like
Would it really be so horrible if a story included dragons AND a society where women were considered equal to men? Or is the suspension of disbelief to large to swallow?
You know... people like, uh, Brandon Blatcher.

Or why you're talking about SF when I was talking about the depiction of women in fantasty?

In this context SF is generally read to mean "speculative fiction" not "science fiction". Speculative fiction is the meta genre which includes both science fiction and fantasy. It's a long standing convention. There are often attempts to separate the two genres but they, without exception, fail spectacularly.
posted by Justinian at 12:43 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, why does your character want to kill Hitler?

Eveybody wants to kill Hitler.
posted by homunculus at 12:45 PM on June 28, 2012


Utterly unnecessary

I disagree strongly. The deconstruction happens by lulling you into a sense of "oh I know this kind of story", and then showing that you didn't understand the implications of the world you have idealized. As someone who entirely fell prey to idealizing fantasy genre worlds as a child, that layer of the books was rather meaningful to me.

Do you know what I would never have been able to care less about, and what I - and many others - would have never read or been influenced by? An painfully earnest essay explaining this to me.

make me uninterested in reading the books or watching the show

I don't particularly care if you, or anyone else (well, other than to the extent that I'm glad it's popular because that means it will keep being produced) want to read or watch it.

and turn the show (and to a lesser extent the books) into more violent, misogynistic grist for the rape culture.

Necessary but not sufficient.
posted by flaterik at 12:49 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I disagree strongly. The deconstruction happens by lulling you into a sense of "oh I know this kind of story", and then showing that you didn't understand the implications of the world you have idealized. As someone who entirely fell prey to idealizing fantasy genre worlds as a child, that layer of the books was rather meaningful to me.

Ah, so the only way the deconstruction could happen for you is if the rapes and murder were depicted exactly as graphically and brutally as they were? Anything less and you would still think you were in an idealized fantasy world? And you needed several thousand pages of this to get the point?

Because if it could have been less graphic and less brutal, or if it could have been shorter, then our only disagreement is a matter of degree, not kind.

Do you know what I would never have been able to care less about, and what I - and many others - would have never read or been influenced by? An painfully earnest essay explaining this to me.

Do you know what I would have read? A well-written (i.e. not painfully earnest) essay or book explaining it. You know what I didn't read? The books as written. Thus, I criticize the books.

I don't particularly care if you, or anyone else (well, other than to the extent that I'm glad it's popular because that means it will keep being produced) want to read or watch it.

So you don't care if people read or watch it and enjoy the rape and murder? What if you were the only reader/viewer who didn't enjoy those parts? If there is any number or proportion of people who enjoy it at face value that would bother you, then we disagree only in degree, not kind.

Necessary but not sufficient.

So nobody enjoys the show at face value? Everyone who watches the show or reads the books recoils in horror at the rape and murder and understands that Martin is simply critiquing the fantasy genre?
posted by jedicus at 1:00 PM on June 28, 2012


Now that I think about it, I did read several painfully earnest things telling me that what I liked was crap and that I should feel bad for liking it. I know that's not what you mean he could've written - that probably wasn't even really what I read, just what I perceived - but that's how it always comes off.
posted by flaterik at 1:00 PM on June 28, 2012


I'm just honestly puzzled. Yes, the books depict rape and misogyny, certainly. Racism, probably. But, umm, why are those the evils that are especially worthy of comment in a narrative where children are flung casually out out of windows, people are beaten and sold into slavery. mocked and hated for physical disabilities, tortured, maimed and murdered? Do we think the rape is somehow worse than the torture and murder? Or that Martin paints it in a more positive light?
posted by tyllwin at 1:06 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


a) if the point was to deconstruct the fantasy genre, then the same point could be accomplished via an essay or non-fiction book without the problem of some readers or viewers enjoying the rape and murder

This art needs less art.

Also, it's very odd to critique a work based on the imagined reactions of a hypothetical depraved third party.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:06 PM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


If the books and the TV show are to be defended on the basis that they demonstrate a critique of the fantasy genre, then that defense is only valid to the extent that the readership and audience actually recognize the criticism. If people treat it as a book or a show about tits 'n killin', then it hasn't just failed in its project, it has achieved just the opposite.

So what would you have then? That no one ever attempts to write novels or produce television shows that subvert genres, because a lot of people will miss the point? That these novels and shows should eliminate any ambiguity and bash people over the head with moralizing speeches at every turn of the plot, just in case some people aren't getting it? Why should any kind of art be dumbed down so as to be effortlessly comprehensible to the lowest common denominator?
posted by keep it under cover at 1:08 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


tyllwin: "I'm just honestly puzzled. Yes, the books depict rape and misogyny, certainly. Racism, probably. But, umm, why are those the evils that are especially worthy of comment in a narrative where children are flung casually out out of windows, people are beaten and sold into slavery. mocked and hated for physical disabilities, tortured, maimed and murdered? Do we think the rape is somehow worse than the torture and murder? Or that Martin paints it in a more positive light?"

Heh, funny you ask that. I just spent considerable time talking about this earlier this week. The short answer: Because lots of people are A-Okay with racism and sexism in a way that they're not with murder and slavery and child abuse. I don't feel the need to point out that killing is wrong because not a whole lot of people are telling me that it's cool. I do, however, feel the need to point out why treating women as secondary citizens is wrong.
posted by Phire at 1:10 PM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do we think the rape is somehow worse than the torture and murder? Or that Martin paints it in a more positive light?

No, not necessarily, but I didn't want to give a laundry list of 'bad stuff' every time.

So what would you have then? That no one ever attempts to write novels or produce television shows that subvert genres, because a lot of people will miss the point? That these novels and shows should eliminate any ambiguity and bash people over the head with moralizing speeches at every turn of the plot, just in case some people aren't getting it? Why should any kind of art be dumbed down so as to be effortlessly comprehensible to the lowest common denominator?

Subverting a genre is fine. But I think Martin (and HBO) unnecessarily engaged in gratuitously graphic depictions of [insert laundry list of bad stuff here]. The result, for me, was that I am not interested in reading his deconstruction or enjoying the overall narrative. The further result is that some people will actually enjoy the graphic depictions of [laundry list of bad stuff], which if people are trying to defend the book as, for example, feminist, is exactly the opposite of the allegedly intended result.

This art needs less art.

So can art always be improved by the addition of graphic depictions of rape? If not, then we disagree only in degree and not kind. I might have watched the rest of the series or picked up the books if it weren't obvious from episode 1 and all of the discussions I've read online that it's chock-full of that kind of stuff. For me, the art is worse for it, in many ways.
posted by jedicus at 1:17 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


If people treat it as a book or a show about tits 'n killin', then it hasn't just failed in its project, it has achieved just the opposite.

The project of deconstructing a set of fantasy tropes is not the same as the project of getting people to abandon their taste for those same tropes. Perhaps the show does the former without the latter, and I don't see anything wrong with that.

I might see something wrong with the fetishism of rape/torture/general unpleasantness in another context, like if it's being peddled as family entertainment--actually maybe that is happening? I think I may have seen it displayed next to the LotR and Harry Potter movies at some point. But if you're going to take the view that it's bad to fetishize that sort of thing generally, you're getting into thoughtcrime territory, and I don't cotton to that.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:18 PM on June 28, 2012


So, Phire, if I read that right, you think it's a problem less because of what's in the material, but more because of what's in the audience? Because some viewers enjoy the rape scenes and see them as no big deal in a way they don't see torturing captured prisoners as OK?
posted by tyllwin at 1:21 PM on June 28, 2012


But if you're going to take the view that it's bad to fetishize that sort of thing generally, you're getting into thoughtcrime territory,

No. If I believe it is bad to fetishize rape/torture, it doesn't mean I think those people are bad people, or that those thoughts should be illegal, or that anyone who does so should be forced into a re-education camp.
posted by jeather at 1:25 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


So can art always be improved by the addition of graphic depictions of rape? If not, then we disagree only in degree and not kind.

You were suggesting that this art could be improved by replacing it with something artless.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:26 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, further on the use of subtexts in his deployment of violence: the treatment of one character in the last book seems entirely aimed at a "so you wanted someone to pay, huh? happy now?".

I think everyone for whom more details wouldn't be a spoiler knows who I mean...
posted by flaterik at 1:31 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


You were suggesting that this art could be improved by replacing it with something artless.


There is no art to an essay or non-fiction book? There's no art to a fiction book that just happens to have less graphic (not even necessarily fewer!) depictions of rape, murder, and so forth? Because those were my suggestions.

But anyway, it would be improved for me. As is, I won't read the books or watch any more of the show. But I would read that essay or those books. I would watch a television series based on those fictional books.

And, to the extent that the existing books and show contribute to rape culture and the culture of violence in the United States (and elsewhere), then I think it might well be better for society. Note, for like the third time, that this is not a call for censorship.
posted by jedicus at 1:33 PM on June 28, 2012


There is no art to an essay or non-fiction book?

Not the way you made it sound.

There's no art to a fiction book that just happens to have less graphic (not even necessarily fewer!) depictions of rape, murder, and so forth?

Of course, and I have no problem with anyone saying GRRM could have dialed it back and not lost anything. I'd just disagree.

HBO, OTOH, could have done just that to the sexposition. That got a bit silly.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:43 PM on June 28, 2012


Y'know, the sexual violence in the books isn't nearly as graphic as people who haven't read them seem to think it is.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:45 PM on June 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Different people have different thresholds for how much sexual violence they consider to be too much.
posted by Phire at 1:49 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course, and I have no problem with anyone saying GRRM could have dialed it back and not lost anything. I'd just disagree.

So, in your opinion, the books have precisely the right amount of rape, murder, etc and precisely the right level of graphicality? That's a pretty stunning endorsement of his authorial skills. Is there anything at all about the books you don't like?

Y'know, the sexual violence in the books isn't nearly as graphic as people who haven't read them seem to think it is.

I suspect that's pretty subjective. Anyway, some people who have read the books have indicated that it's too graphic, or in some cases at least more graphic than I care to read, even if they didn't mind it.
posted by jedicus at 1:49 PM on June 28, 2012


"Ivan, I think it's possible for every word of your fantastic comment to be true, and at the same time for people to be justified in criticisms such as these:"

I agree. As I think I might have mentioned in my comment in the thread that brought me back to MeFi, I spent months arguing the position on TVWoP that there was problematic sexism and racism stuff in the books and especially the television show.

Martin isn't entirely successful at the deconstruction he's attempting in these books and the tendencies of Hollywood-style popular filmed entertainment have exacerbated his missteps.

That's partly because Martin isn't primarily didactic in temperament or style. He's primarily an entertainer, less a serious author, and still less a social critic. He wants to succeed in writing epic fantasy as audiences understand it, and he wants to succeed on the deeper critical level, as well. As he's not primarily a social critic — any sort of social justice theorist — and because he's deeply enmeshed in genre, he's internalized a whole boatload of stuff that is problematic that he's, at best, only vaguely aware is problematic. And, more to the point, regardless of whether he's personally internalized these things, he's certainly internalized them into his authorial toolkit.

Now, I'm not saying that only a more serious and didactic writer could succeed, and only by not attempting to be successful at writing the superficial level. Rather, I think that GRRM doesn't quite have the skills to keep all these balls in the air. But that's fine, because this is, ultimately, genre and on average skills are low, anyway. I'm pleased with what he's accomplished and see it as a success in context.

Also, one thing that I suspect that even many of the books' fans don't know, is that GRRM hasn't been, in his career, primarily a writer of fantasy. Prior to ASOIAF, he'd written more horror than fantasy. He has a very strong affinity for horror, I think, and part of what's going on in ASOIAF is that he's — as he's often accused of being — sadistic. He often wants to horrify the reader simply to horrify them, full-stop.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:53 PM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Different people have different thresholds for how much sexual violence they consider to be too much.

Sure, and I wouldn't recommend the books to people who have a low threshold for that kind of stuff. But it's hard to argue the narrative usefulness of such content with somebody who's just going by what they imagine the books to contain, and have decided sight unseen that it's excessive.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:54 PM on June 28, 2012


And sexual submission. Come on.

If anything it's more the incest thing that comes through in his writing. I mean come on. Jamie and Cersei are presented as being in love, regardless of the results, it's not close to the most evil thing about them. Martin also wrote this you know, about an author visited by characters from his book. I'm not sure it can be confidently stated that Martin only writes this stuff as subversion/for realism and doesn't intend some titillation.

He woke suddenly, in darkness, to the light touch of skin against his foot.

Cissy was perched on top of the footboard, a red satin sheet wrapped around her, a long slim leg exploring under his blankets. She was playing footsie with him, and smiling mischievously. "Hi, Daddy," she said.

Cantling had been afraid of this. It had been in his mind all evening. Sleep had not come easily. He pulled his foot away and struggled to a sitting position.

Cissy pouted. "Don't you want to play?" she asked.

"I," he said, "I don't believe this. This can't be real."

"It can still be fun," she said.

"What the hell is Michelle doing to me? How can this be happening?"

She shrugged. The sheet slipped a little; one perfect red-tipped eighteen-year-old breast peeked out.

"You still have eighteen-year-old tits," Cantling said numbly. "You'll always have eighteen-year-old tits."

Cissy laughed. "Sure. You can borrow them, if you like, Daddy. I'll bet you can think of something interesting to do with them."

"Stop calling me Daddy," Cantling said.

"Oh, but you are my Daddy," Cissy said in her little-girl voice.

"Stop that!" Cantling said.

"Why? You want to, Daddy, you want to play with your little girl, don't you?" She winked. "Vice is nice but incest is best. The families that play together stay together." She looked around. "I like four-posters. You want to tie me up, Daddy? I'd like that."


Anyway, am I the only one that noticed Robert Jordan had a domination/submission thing going on? Switching/spanking constantly mentioned, public humiliation with nudity or other methods on multiple occasions to punish/control/break usually proud people, magic control collars to reduce people to the status of pets...it's all over the place.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:55 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


prize bull octorok: "Sure, and I wouldn't recommend the books to people who have a low threshold for that kind of stuff. But it's hard to argue the narrative usefulness of such content with somebody who's just going by what they imagine the books to contain, and have decided sight unseen that it's excessive."

I totally agree with that. I'm just saying that there are people who have read the books who find it to be too much as well, whose opinions do bear some measure of weight.
posted by Phire at 2:03 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what would you have then? That no one ever attempts to write novels or produce television shows that subvert genres, because a lot of people will miss the point? That these novels and shows should eliminate any ambiguity and bash people over the head with moralizing speeches at every turn of the plot, just in case some people aren't getting it? Why should any kind of art be dumbed down so as to be effortlessly comprehensible to the lowest common denominator?

Somehow this seems completely upside down to me.

You know how the Dothraki are depicted? those big festivals with the topless hip-hop dancers and the throat cutting fights with the victor getting to bang the girl there in the middle of the wedding or whatever it was...?

I don't feel like that artful scene needed to be dumbed down so much. I doubt anyone missed the point there.

I really don't think the people saying that there are problems are really claiming it's all too subtle.
posted by ServSci at 2:14 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm watching it because I read the books. It's as simple as that.
posted by Chuffy at 2:24 PM on June 28, 2012


Just to state where I'm coming from, I've read all the books through to A Dance With Dragons, which is on my Kindle but I got sort of burned out and haven't started it yet.

The issue I have with the books isn't the amount of sexual violence in them per se, but the way in which it's portrayed and in particular how it's portrayed in combination with the rest of the narrative, and the general narrative voice/tone that's used throughout the books.

The presence and amount of violence, sexual and otherwise, is admittedly a pretty effective, gut-punchy takedown of the fantasy / swords-and-dragons genre, and I'll give GRRM the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is his intent, and it's not there just as snuff porn. As a literary device, drawing you a few hundred pages into what you naively assume is going to be a straightforward good-family vs. bad-family novel, and then showing the characters you've come to love be murdered and defiled despite their best efforts, simply as a consequence of the world that they live in, is damned effective. A lot of fantasy has a heavy dose of Mary Sue in it (whether there's a male or female protagonist), and GRRM does a pretty good job of making sure that you'd never, ever, want to wake up as one of his characters.

That said ... there's some pretty uncomfortable stuff going on in how the female characters in particular are portrayed. And I don't mean that they're one-dimensional (which sometimes they are) or that they play into stereotypes (which sometimes they do); both of those could be excused, since the series is unfinished, as GRRM intentionally setting up the reader for a takedown later. But the icky stuff is in the leering, male-gazy narrative POV. Pretty much every female character has her boobs described, just by way of introduction, as though this is critical knowledge that the reader must have in order to proceed.

It would be one thing to do this if GRRM were building up towards an unreliable narrator, or if there were some sort of frame story that put the narration into an in-world POV or context. But there isn't. The narrator is -- unless there's a big reveal at the end -- outside the Westeros universe looking in, and thus there doesn't seem to be an easy justification for the implied sexism, like there is for the actions of characters within the story itself.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:28 PM on June 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


With regard to jedicus's argument, I'm not really able to engage because I am about as invested, intellectually and emotionally, in the opposing position as I could possibly be.

That's not to say that I hold the most extreme opposing position: I think that there are numerous legitimate things that art does besides primarily subverting the audience's expectations and comprehension.

But I am, and always have been, primarily and extremely interested in aesthetically subversive art. (Note: not subversive art in the particularly political sense of subversive, which is how most people use that term. But subversive in the largest sense.) This kind of art is by its nature a metacommentary. It is both what it is commenting upon and its comments. Its most important meaning is found in the relationship, the dialogue, between the work, the art it is commenting upon, and the audience's reaction to the work and the art the work is commenting upon. It forces the audience to develop at least a minimal perspective on itself as an audience.

I think that the most interesting things that art can accomplish are achieved in this mode. I might even argue that all art is subversive in this sense, that this is the essential of art. Maybe. But, even if that's not the case, it's certainly the kind of art I'm most interested in and I think it's valuable, even vital.

To make an anti-war movie — to take up Truffaut's point — that is not in some sense pro-war would in some very true sense miss the point of making an anti-war movie. Put another way, if there weren't a pre-existing tendency for war movies to provoke a pro-war response, the filmmaker wouldn't have a context within which to make an anti-war movie qua anti-war movie. Because, not to put too fine a point on it, an anti-war movie isn't a movie arguing against war, it's a movie arguing against movies which argue for war. Or, alternatively, it's a movie arguing against whatever it is in us to have a pro-war response to war, whether in movies or real-life.

Because what's vital here isn't some inside baseball discussion about certain kinds of books or films or paintings. What's vital is that art is an expression of a viewpoint that is experienced, or arguably realized, by an audience — it's a sort of dialogue we have with each other about ourselves. In that, our response is essential and therefore all art is metacommentary on itself.

It's important, worth intense notice, that we're culturally titillated by rape — there's no real way to directly engage this without directly engaging the titillation itself. Otherwise, it's all merely by reference. It's having an argument with someone by imaginary proxy. Subversive art (as I'm using the term here) brings everything to the table.

And that's extremely cool.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:28 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, in your opinion, the books have precisely the right amount of rape, murder, etc and precisely the right level of graphicality? That's a pretty stunning endorsement of his authorial skills.

Oh, no. I think he could have gone further. He could touch on the aftermath of these things more, although I think he's trying to avoid providing POVs of the smallfolk intentionally.

Is there anything at all about the books you don't like?

Sure. Dany's arc starts to drag. Tyrion is too obviously his favorite. Etc.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:31 PM on June 28, 2012


It would be one thing to do this if GRRM were building up towards an unreliable narrator, or if there were some sort of frame story that put the narration into an in-world POV or context. But there isn't. The narrator is -- unless there's a big reveal at the end -- outside the Westeros universe looking in, and thus there doesn't seem to be an easy justification for the implied sexism, like there is for the actions of characters within the story itself.

The chapters are largely the title character's POV and are not completely reliable. There's a current fan theory that hinges on two different observations of a woman's hips, and whether the fact that one was by a man and the other by a woman matters.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:37 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It would be one thing to do this if GRRM were building up towards an unreliable narrator, or if there were some sort of frame story that put the narration into an in-world POV or context. But there isn't. The narrator is -- unless there's a big reveal at the end -- outside the Westeros universe looking in, and thus there doesn't seem to be an easy justification for the implied sexism, like there is for the actions of characters within the story itself."

I was with you right up to this point, where I came to a screeching halt, baffled. Because the POVs in these books is very much not an omniscient, external narrator. They're subjective to particular characters, just not written in the first-person.

This has a lot of relevance to the Dothraki stuff. In the books, at least initially, how the reader experiences the Dothraki is through Dany's eyes — through her cultural limitations and inexperience. That they are an example of orientalism othering is arguably excusable as being an authorial choice to underscore both something about Dany and about conventional epic fantasy. I think that as the books go on this possible defense of GRRM becomes less and less credible; but, at least initially, it's arguable.

In contrast, in filming the Dothraki wedding scene the audience is moved out of being restricted to Dany's POV. But, more importantly, while I generally strongly disagree with Andre Bazin's claim that the strength of film is its realism and therefore it should strive for realism, I do think that it has very strong realist connotations to the audience and it's very hard to get an audience to see something on the screen as being very subjective rather than objective. Specifically, all that "savage" othering that is arguably a product of Dany's subjective experience becomes on the screen objective truth. Even if all the filmmakers involved had endeavored to make it clear to the audience that what we're seeing is partly a product of Dany's mind, that would still have been very muted and most people wouldn't have understood that message.

But that's not what happened, anyway. Because most or all of the filmmakers had various ideas about the Dothraki that were then realized on the screen. Those ideas were even more othering than GRRM's, they were positively steeped in all the hoary stereotypes about people of color, of Africa, of "savages" that have a long history in the US and elsewhere.

GRRM is pretty careful about the subjectivity of his POV characters and they're not totally reliable. And this is partly how he's been effective at his subversion (which, really, is a key part of all such subversion). But this doesn't translate very well to the screen because filmed narratives have a strong connotation of objectivity.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:49 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dany's arc starts to drag. Tyrion is too obviously his favorite.

Really? I could never get interested in Dany as a character to begin with, because Martin was more interested in describing her pubescent breasts than in making her a fully fleshed out character. She got slightly more interesting in the later books, but I still only skimmed her chapters because of the squick factor involved. (For those that don't know, most of the young characters are shown as several years older in the show than they were originally written, and I believe Dany was written as a 12 or 13 year old)
posted by peppermind at 2:50 PM on June 28, 2012


It's important, worth intense notice, that we're culturally titillated by rape — there's no real way to directly engage this without directly engaging the titillation itself.

If that's true, then an important part of that "noticing" process is conversations like these in which people argue, "fetishizing rape is bad for us--as a culture, if not as individuals--and we should oppose whatever it is that makes us feel entertained by watching it."
posted by straight at 2:55 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's HBO. Shocking drama is their bread and butter. Almost all drama on non network TV includes nudity gratuitous or otherwise. The idea is to get eyes on the screen more subscribers etc. Rome and Gladiator have set a pretty high shock factor in both sex and gore. Hit&Miss is doing male full frontal in a story about a preoperative transsexual hit"man".

Stories have to "raise" the stimulus level. Porn has been or is on the road to mainstream it has become hip to be cool with porn. This is just a pendulum swing in societal mores that tend to oscillate between Libertine and Puritan outlooks.

Does the story entertain? Does the sex or violence upset you enough to tune out? The experience is consensual a partnership if you will . No one will force you to watch or read ASOIAF. You are certainly entitled to an opinion if you dislike it, but it is like an atheist arguing about religion. Why?
posted by pdxpogo at 2:55 PM on June 28, 2012


You can like parts of a book/show and dislike others, and want to talk about it. You can also dislike the fact that gratuitous nudity objectifies women, or that a shock culture desensitizes people towards real violence, the same way that you can dislike the way that a religion which is not yours might affect the legislation of the country you live in. This argument is bizarre; culture doesn't exist in a vacuum.
posted by Phire at 2:59 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


"If that's true, then an important part of that 'noticing' process is conversations like these in which people argue, 'fetishizing rape is bad for us--as a culture, if not as individuals--and we should oppose whatever it is that makes us feel entertained by watching it.'"

I completely and strongly agree.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:59 PM on June 28, 2012


Oh, no. I think he could have gone further.

Obviously he could have (the books are not, apparently, straight-up snuff porn), but, in your opinion, should he have? Does the book fail to deconstruct the fantasy genre because it isn't graphic enough in its depiction of the horrors of a realistic fantasy setting?

You are certainly entitled to an opinion if you dislike it, but it is like an atheist arguing about religion. Why?

Well, speaking as an atheist, I would quote Douglas Adams:
I am fascinated by religion. (That's a completely different thing from believing in it!) It has had such an incalculably huge effect on human affairs. What is it? What does it represent? Why have we invented it? How does it keep going? What will become of it? I love to keep poking and prodding at it. I've thought about it so much over the years that that fascination is bound to spill over into my writing.
In this case, I'm interested (I wouldn't say fascinated) by the books and show because so many people are interested in it and seem to enjoy it. My interest is the same as Adams's interest in religion.
posted by jedicus at 3:03 PM on June 28, 2012


I doubt that many mefites objectify women. It is not objectifying to admire men or women in the buff. That sex has interest to human beings does not define human beings. Now if your only thought about the character is the next time he/she appears nude I'd say you were stuck in a prepubescent frame of mind. As far as shock culture desensitizing people toward real violence I'd have to say it will depend on the individual. I have seen some bad things in my life and while you might be able to suppress your urge to get sick nothing on the screen compares with reality. It would take a sociopath to remain untouched by real violence. I don't think you can produce a sociopath they are broken people that develop on their own.

Disliking something is your right but doing something (besides talking) is the way you fix things. You are not going to argue a true believer out of their faith. You prevent religionists from passing laws by electing secularists. Engaging in debate with people suffering from a mental illness is rarely productive. There will come a day when people will consider religionists as troubled individuals. You just keep them away from things that they can hurt themselves or others with.

Arguing whether HBO should tone it down or not is pointless, society has moved past the idea that fantasy can change reality. There is enough of an audience for pornography and violence to be a legitimate business model. A boycott of HBO is more effective than all the meta-discussion in the world.
posted by pdxpogo at 3:20 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then read the books.
posted by palidor at 3:20 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's HBO. Shocking drama is their bread and butter. Almost all drama on non network TV includes nudity gratuitous or otherwise...Stories have to "raise" the stimulus level.

I think the fact that so many people see depictions of rape as just a more shocking version of depictions of nudity or consensual sex, different in degree rather than in kind, is a big part of why people object to it in entertainment.
posted by straight at 3:23 PM on June 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


I need to go back and rewatch the series while I am sure there were rapes I can't for the life of me remember one. Several attempted rapes yes but none that I can remember seeing on screen. The ugliest sex I remember was Theon with the captains young daughter she was skinny and dirty and terribly young looking but as far as I can tell she was a "willing victim" of the degraded sex as her character was incredibly naive and wanting to escape her fathers ship and follow Theon. Theon tosses her aside to her dismay. This done to cement the evil Theon is to represent. I don't condone rape or its depiction but is this a case of people being forced to witness rape scenes a deliberate attempt to make rape acceptable? The house beyond the wall where the father marries all his own daughters and kills the male children is a depiction of man losing civilization and degenerating into an animal existence where the alpha male has the right to procreate. One can assume that his daughters are forced to submit to his sexual demands but it could be a "normal" event for them never having known a regular human relationship. In that case it is incest and not rape.

This is clearly a dark fantasy. Edgy using stereotypes and a direct assault on our own morals and taboos. It is manipulative complex and entertaining (for me). If your position is that HBO/GRRM goes too far then nothing will make your point better than to walk away from it after sendibg the creators a letter explaining why you left.
posted by pdxpogo at 3:43 PM on June 28, 2012


pdxpogo: "I doubt that many mefites objectify women."

Actually, we've had to had lots of discussions to reach a point where the instinctive response to a pretty girl isn't "I'd hit it". The reason Metafilter is now a friendlier place for women is because we have repeated conversation about what is and isn't okay.

"Disliking something is your right but doing something (besides talking) is the way you fix things."

One way to fix things is by pointing out to other people that it's broken.
posted by Phire at 3:45 PM on June 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Then read the books.

As I mentioned before, one of my objections is that they are (likely to be) deeply unpleasant to me. Besides, I think Ivan's precis upthread is adequate to understand the critique of the fantasy genre. I don't need a few thousand pages of shock and horror to get the point.

Beyond that there's just the overall narrative. I'm sorry to be missing out on what is apparently a pretty good story, but I'm not going to subject myself to hours and hours of unpleasant reading just to be able to engage in a slightly deeper conversation on the topic, especially when my present level of interest is more at the social commentary level (i.e. what people's enjoyment of the book/show says about society rather than what the book/show itself has to say about society) than about the details of the plot.

If your position is that HBO/GRRM goes too far then nothing will make your point better than to walk away from it after sendibg the creators a letter explaining why you left.

I'm sure Martin would give my letter careful consideration right after he finishes depositing his latest gigantic royalty check from HBO.
posted by jedicus at 3:49 PM on June 28, 2012


So the perceptions of sociopaths and misogynist idiots are the only ones that matter? What about all the intelligent adults who can see rape and cruelty depicted in fiction and understand it's not some kind of implicit endorsement of a set of values?
posted by palidor at 3:52 PM on June 28, 2012


So the perceptions of sociopaths and misogynist idiots are the only ones that matter?

When the work is so popular and the populace is so full of such people, yeah, unfortunately.

What about all the intelligent adults who can see rape and cruelty depicted in fiction and understand it's not some kind of implicit endorsement of a set of values?

Some of them might understand that and still not care to read or watch such things. I'd like to think that's the group I fall into.

Also, there's a difference between reading a work of fiction not being an implicit endorsement of those values and the work itself not being an endorsement of those values. For example, reading Mein Kampf doesn't make someone a Nazi, but it's definitely a Nazi book. In particular, I'm not saying anyone here who likes the book endorses misogyny, but on the other hand I'm not convinced Martin is a particularly feminist author.
posted by jedicus at 3:58 PM on June 28, 2012


(And the people in charge of the television show certainly aren't.)
posted by jedicus at 3:58 PM on June 28, 2012


"I doubt that many mefites objectify women."

I occasionally do. I also like to be objectified. "Mistress, turn me into an airport kiosk!"

What about all the intelligent adults who can see rape and cruelty depicted in fiction and understand it's not some kind of implicit endorsement of a set of values?

I think that's what's under debate.

I need to go back and rewatch the series while I am sure there were rapes I can't for the life of me remember one.

Me neither.

One interesting detail:

"... for the most part, the novels privilege the stories of assault victims, and of people who feel the collateral damage of sexual assault. Perpetrators don’t get the same space to justify themselves. Victims’ stories largely get to stand uncontested. It’s an interesting structural decision, and I think a revealing one."
posted by mrgrimm at 4:00 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


"So the perceptions of sociopaths and misogynist idiots are the only ones that matter?"

When the work is so popular and the populace is so full of such people, yeah, unfortunately.


I should clarify that their perceptions aren't the only ones that matter but they matter a lot.
posted by jedicus at 4:05 PM on June 28, 2012


I don't need a few thousand pages of shock and horror to get the point.

I think you are running away with something of a misconception here. These are frequently dark books, but they're not grim unrelenting horrors.

I'm not convinced Martin is a particularly feminist author.

I'm not sure he was writing to convince anyone of that. I'm prepared to bet his whole HBO paycheck he wasn't writing to convince people who think that Mein Kampf is a good comparator for a fantasy series they haven't read, and are judging based on inaccurate hearsay. I happen to have read both, and I can assure you, you've no idea what you're talking about.
posted by howfar at 4:11 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that's what's under debate.

Not from me. Or at least, not their freedom to consume (very nearly) whatever media they like. Or, indeed, anyone's freedom to consume (very nearly) whatever media they like or anyone's freedom to produce (very nearly) whatever media they like.

But that's a separate issue from whether the books/show are good (I think they aren't, for the reasons explained above) or whether their popular consumption is a net benefit to society (I'm not so sure it is, for the reasons explained above).

To analogize: I think drugs should be legal, but that doesn't mean I think crack is a useful substance or that taking up a heroin habit is a good idea.

Anyway, it's 108º here, I've got a terrible headcold, and I think I've said enough, if not more than enough, so I'm going to bow out.
posted by jedicus at 4:12 PM on June 28, 2012


Particularly when you consider the real problem with rape is the obsession with patrilineal descent and parentage. The horror and bother surrounding it is the trouble it causes for the people to whom they women belong and whose honor they represent.

The false subversion of controversial rape depiction never challenges or even alludes to the problem of why rape is such an effective titillation for the audience.

I'd bet 99% of people think the threat is to the women, belying this idea about medieval realism, and completely avoid confronting anything that subverts their expectations.
posted by ServSci at 4:14 PM on June 28, 2012


I agree with you jedicus that it's really valuable to criticize the way rape or other acts of cruelty are depicted in a work of fiction. What bothers me is your implication that the decision itself to depict the act(s) is "questionable." When you suggest Martin should have written an essay instead of a work of fiction, it's hard for me not to interpret that to mean that no works of fiction should ever depict rape or cruelty, lest some part of the audience (the misogynist sociopath part) gets off on it. That's troubling to me. And I don't mean to imply you're calling for censorship or anything like that, but you're making a moral judgment here ("benefit to society").
posted by palidor at 4:16 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crud. sorry for the non sequitur I intended to quote the discussion above regarding the discussion of the titillation of rape.
posted by ServSci at 4:19 PM on June 28, 2012


And sexual submission. Come on.

Can I borrow your books?


You can borrow Chapter 65 of ADWD.

Or Chapter 32 of ACOK.

... or many, many more scenes.

"George R. R. Martin’s favorite thing to do with Brienne is to surround her with guys who attempt to gang rape her, at which point, she requires rescue. By Jaime. The guy who pushes kids out windows. On whom she now has a crush. Yeah, I KNOW."

"Enter Ye Myne Mystic World of Gayng-Raype: What the 'R' Stands for in “George R.R. Martin'"

I'd forgotten all about Tiger Beatdown. Well done.

"The savage mystical barbarous brown Eastern people: Always gang-raping!"
posted by mrgrimm at 4:24 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Does the book fail to deconstruct the fantasy genre because it isn't graphic enough in its depiction of the horrors of a realistic fantasy setting?

I didn't say that either. Regardless, the recent travails of one character in particular make me fairly sure he is going to continue to ramp up the icky stuff. Get back to me after the next book and I'll reassess.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:26 PM on June 28, 2012


Reader, here are the things that George R. R. Martin changed about Ye Olde Medieval Europe, when he set out to write A Song of Ice and Fire: Religion. Geography. History. Politics. Zombies. Werewolves. Dragons (ed: no mention of Weather?). At one point, when asked why his characters were taller, healthier, and longer-lived than actual Medieval people, George R. R. Martin explained that human genetics and biology do not work the same way in Westeros as they do in the real world. So George R. R. Martin considered that he could change all of that while maintaining “authenticity.” Here’s what he left in, however:

Institutionalized pedophilia.

posted by mrgrimm at 4:30 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, one more, just because it's a pretty egregious misreading of my point.

I think you are running away with something of a misconception here. These are frequently dark books, but they're not grim unrelenting horrors.

I didn't say they were grim unrelenting horrors. Do you dispute that the books contain shock and horror? Do you dispute that they are thousands of pages long? My point is that, insofar as the books are a critique of the fantasy genre, the point can be made in a non-fiction paragraph, as done upthread, and could be done in a fictional short story. I don't need an epic fantasy series to get the point, and I certainly don't need multiple graphic accounts of rape, murder, torture, whatever.

I'm not sure he was writing to convince anyone of that.

No, but people have defended the books on that basis.

people who think that Mein Kampf is a good comparator for a fantasy series they haven't read

I wasn't comparing Mein Kampf to the books. You've completely misunderstood my analogy.

it's hard for me not to interpret that to mean that no works of fiction should ever depict rape or cruelty, lest some part of the audience (the misogynist sociopath part) gets off on it.

No, they can depict it, I just think that graphic depictions are rarely, if ever, justified in service of a narrative as opposed to pure shock or titillation. Shock and titillation have their place, but I think using things like rape and murder to shock and titillate are problematic, especially in the quantity and degree that the book/show use such things.

I mean, if you take an unobjectionable work of art (e.g. the Mona Lisa) and put enough graphic depictions of, say, rape on it, does it not lose value as art? I'm just arguing that the book/show go too far, whether the point is to deconstruct fantasy, to tell a good story, or even to tell a shocking story. Other people can disagree, but I think it's a conversation worth having, particularly in the context of society as a whole rather than in terms of individual taste.

I didn't say that either.

I didn't say you did. It was a question, but I assume the answer is no, then.
posted by jedicus at 4:32 PM on June 28, 2012


"Particularly when you consider the real problem with rape is the obsession with patrilineal descent and parentage. The horror and bother surrounding it is the trouble it causes for the people to whom they women belong and whose honor they represent."

Well, I suggest you look into pater est, quem nuptiae demonstrant.

I don't disagree that a patriarchal culture's aversion to rape is primarily motivated by patriarchal interests. But the historical culture in question (and others) has a doctrine that partly/mostly sidesteps the issues you raise.

With regard to the second part of your comment, I don't really see what your point is. Deconstructing the patriarchal politics of a misogynist culture as a genre criticism no more requires that Martin detail to the reader exactly why the culture is the way it is, or exactly how it all works, but simply rather to present the culture in a fashion which reintroduces some of the most important ugly truths of it which have previously been carefully avoided.

For example, perhaps we have naive ideas about the construction of the western US railroads by Chinese laborers. A critical re-presentation of that inaccurate myth need only to show how it was extremely exploitative and extremely brutal. The audience doesn't need to be told the actual economics of it, the conditions in China, or even the long-term consequences of it. All it needs to do is restore an essential truth that was been traditionally removed to make the enterprise seem very different from what it was.

A scholarly article about the subject such as jedicus advocates would include the things you're mentioning, and much more besides. But that's because such an article is intended to accomplish something distinct from what the fictional narrative is attempting to do. The fictional narrative is about showing us something that is very familiar to us in a new way, and that we will learn something specifically from the contrast between the two. It's about the relationship. The article is not about that relationship.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:43 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'd forgotten all about Tiger Beatdown. Well done."

No, that was crap.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:45 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can borrow Chapter 65 of ADWD.

OK, we have different working definitions of 'sexual submission' then. Your point is made, but I don't see either of those as gratuitous. Maybe they could have been humiliated in other ways, but those made their degradation (important for both characters) very visceral.

George R. R. Martin’s favorite thing to do with Brienne is to surround her with guys who attempt to gang rape her, at which point, she requires rescue. By Jaime. The guy who pushes kids out windows.

Did he do that more than once? I'm blanking on anything other than his rescuing her from Hoat, which was important, again, for both characters.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:49 PM on June 28, 2012


As I wrote at the time in the MeFi post on that article.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:49 PM on June 28, 2012


I wasn't comparing Mein Kampf to the books. You've completely misunderstood my analogy.

I think I understand the analogy quite well, actually, if not necessarily in the same way as you do. The analogy serves the purpose in your argument of reducing the importance of the opinions of people who have actually read the works in question, by saying "the fact that you don't respond to it as Nazi/misogynist doesn't mean it isn't so". The reason that you use Mein Kampf is that it's a book that it's possible to have a clear opinion about without having read it. The analogy functions, and only functions, by inviting comparison between Mein Kampf and Martin's books.
posted by howfar at 4:50 PM on June 28, 2012


Not comparison of their ideological content, I should add, but rather of the ways it is reasonable to respond to them.
posted by howfar at 4:51 PM on June 28, 2012


I'm just arguing that the book/show go too far, whether the point is to deconstruct fantasy, to tell a good story, or even to tell a shocking story.

Don't you think it's kind of silly to be arguing this without having read the books or watched the show? I mean, I've only watched the show, but if I went by all the secondhand descriptions of it, I'd think it was horrible and would avoid it. I'd be wrong to do so...

Other people can disagree, but I think it's a conversation worth having, particularly in the context of society as a whole rather than in terms of individual taste.


... But I'm only speaking for my own taste. I think it's dubious trying to argue whether one particular work of art is or isn't good for society. mrgrimm and others are citing their own specific examples of Martin's "questionable" writing without having to imply that society as a whole might be better off if the books had never been written.

I don't want to be a dick, arguing with your methods of argument and stuff. Just trying to explain why you're meeting some resistance (from me at least)
posted by palidor at 4:51 PM on June 28, 2012



Right, so what's the problem in having another fantasy story where men and women are equal?


there's nothing wrong with having another one. you should write it.

the violence, including gender violence, in the novels/show create a world where there is lots of danger, which means there's something to loose, there's something at stake, which makes it more interesting. by making it so "rapey" the author is making it more interesting.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:54 PM on June 28, 2012


I don't need a few thousand pages of shock and horror to get the point.

Beyond that there's just the overall narrative. I'm sorry to be missing out on what is apparently a pretty good story, but I'm not going to subject myself to hours and hours of unpleasant reading just to be able to engage in a slightly deeper conversation on the topic, especially when my present level of interest is more at the social commentary level (i.e. what people's enjoyment of the book/show says about society rather than what the book/show itself has to say about society) than about the details of the plot.


"A few thousand pages of shock and horror"? I'd call that a pretty comical misreading... if you had actually read it. This isn't a discussion about "plot details" -- it's a conversation about the imagery, language, staging, and tone of the books and show. It makes total sense to say "from what I've heard about them, I can tell I wouldn't be interested" -- we all do that, all the time. But it makes zero sense to be so proudly and loudly uninformed, and to be making grand pronouncements about the series that are completely divorced from fact.
posted by Forktine at 5:00 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised that I independently wrote mostly the same comment twice, almost a year apart.

When I linked to that comment just now, I'd not re-read that comment and I'd thought that I'd written more at length about the craziness of arguing that because Martin changed all these things from actual historical reality, then his leaving in misogyny and institutionalized pedophilia is implicitly an endorsement of it. Or at least egregiously unnecessary.

But these things he's leaving in are the things that have traditionally left out. And which are endemic to the society as it's depicted without them, like portraying the socioeconomics and culture of the antebellum South but without slavery. And which, elided, make the culture much more attractive than it really is. And which, elided, make the depiction a sort of advertisement for a set of values which includes things like slavery, though things like slavery are hidden. The whole point is to leave those things in.

And the genre itself is defined by being an idealized version of a particular culture at a particular time and place, minus the abhorrent bits, plus dragons and magic and the like and so those unrealistic elements are necessary.

So to implicitly argue that the fantastical stuff is optional, and the horrifying realistic stuff is optional, and that to make this particular work with this particular intent one or the other could be absent, is to be hopelessly obtuse, perhaps incompetent.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:04 PM on June 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Reader, here are the things that George R. R. Martin changed about Ye Olde Medieval Europe, when he set out to write A Song of Ice and Fire: Religion. Geography. History. Politics.

It's not actually *set* in Europe, and he did include all those things. He did make them different. That's like rule 101 for High Fantasy.

Zombies. Werewolves. Dragons (ed: no mention of Weather?).

The undead of various stripes, werewolves and dragons are all familiar to medieval Europe. He made them real real, instead of perceived real, but it is a fantasy.

The weather is new.

At one point, when asked why his characters were taller, healthier, and longer-lived than actual Medieval people, George R. R. Martin explained that human genetics and biology do not work the same way in Westeros as they do in the real world.

I think this is another of the High Fantasy tropes that Martin is incorporating to subvert other ones. Targaryans tend to have silver hair and violet eyes, for example.

So George R. R. Martin considered that he could change all of that while maintaining “authenticity.” Here’s what he left in, however:

Institutionalized pedophilia.


What? No, pre-pubescent betrothals, and marriage after flowering. I'm not sure how common the first actually was but the second was common enough.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:08 PM on June 28, 2012


The analogy serves the purpose in your argument of reducing the importance of the opinions of people who have actually read the works in question

No, I was making a distinction between whether a work is bad and whether a person is bad for consuming it. I did so in order to point out that, while I'm not judging anyone here for reading or enjoying the books/show, I am still judging the book/show itself and (to a lesser extent and bearing in mind my limited knowledge of his work) the author.

Hence, "I'm not saying anyone here who likes the book endorses misogyny, but on the other hand I'm not convinced Martin is a particularly feminist author."

The reason that you use Mein Kampf is that it's a book that it's possible to have a clear opinion about without having read it.

No, it's just a well-known book that most people would regard as embodying a morally repugnant value system. There aren't a lot of examples that most people have read because most people don't read books that they think embody morally repugnant value systems.

The analogy functions, and only functions, by inviting comparison between Mein Kampf and Martin's books.

Only to the degree necessary to make the point that reading a bad book doesn't make the reader a bad person. I'm not saying the two books have anything else in common.

"A few thousand pages of shock and horror"? I'd call that a pretty comical misreading

Then you misread me, just as another commenter did. I'm not saying the books are nothing but shock and horror for thousands of pages. I'm saying they are thousands of pages long and contain shock and horror, more than I care to read, more than I need to read in order to get the point about the fantasy genre, and (in my opinion) more than makes for good art.

There, having made only comments regarding my own prior statements, I hope I can now actually leave the thread.
posted by jedicus at 5:24 PM on June 28, 2012


Not before promising you will read the first book or watch the first season of the show and write a blog about it! Do it! Seriously, I'm not being sarcastic, after reading your arguments in this thread I would enjoy reading about how the series plays out against your expectations of it. Not without a little hope that you end up surprised by it, of course, but I think my motivations in wanting this are mostly pure lolololol
posted by palidor at 5:34 PM on June 28, 2012


What's the problem in having a fantasy story where men and women are not equal?


Because then it would take away from the fantasy, wouldn't it? I ALREADY deal with men who think they're better than women. I ALREADY deal with guys who say, "get over here, cunt" to women. I ALREADY live in a culture that believes most rape victims were asking for it. Including these aspects, just 'cause you can - not for any real meat, ruins the escapist aspect of reading.

I have a visceral reaction when anyone claims Martin writes complex female characters. He does not. Anyone who thinks he does doesn't actually know many women very well. He uses stereotype after stereotype. Brienne! She's soooo amazing! And such a great fighter! Which she became cause she lurvs Renly, but too bad she's ugly and overly body-conscious. Cersei is one-dimensional - she uses sex to get what she wants....but it never freakin works.... If Martin gave me even a mildly competent female antagonist, I'd be over the moon. But he didn't - Disney villains are more complex than Cersei.

Arya? Yeah I suppose Arya's pretty cool, but it's also pretty clear Martin's writing her as a boy. She hates everything related to girls...because writing a girl that wants to swordfight AND doesn't mind wearing dresses would be too complex.

At first I thought Dany's, "I'm just a naive little girl, what do I know!" statements were a clever ploy...but then it turns out that is how she's behaving. She's got a nation behind her and she's still as weak and petulant as a child. Because Martin does not know how to write a woman differently.

Anyone who truly believes Martin creates strong female characters should take some classes on character designs. It will become apparent pretty quickly that he's merely painted a few pictures of women. Some men in the story do, some men react. All the women react.

Also, in terms of rape - Martin is obviously doing it because he likes it, not because he's trying to be sympathetic. If he were trying to be sympathetic by this point - in a world he created where a woman can't go five feet from her door without being raped - had one of the main females raped. But he hasn't. Why not? Because then he would have to actually deal with the impacts of rape from the victim's side. He is only dealing with it from the victor's side - conquest! Yay!

It would be akin to Ned's head being taken off and all of a sudden we don't get anymore narrative from the Starks. No more chapters from Cate or Bran, etc. But we do because this was something terrible that happened that affected people - we need to hear about it. Robb's death affected many people, and we read about that, too. But no main female's been raped because then - boo hoo - we'd have to listen to her whine about it and that just wouldn't be sexy.

You can make a good book that doesn't degrade women to the extend Martin does (and shut the "but it's totes historical" cause last I checked he was able to change "history" to include dragons). I understand that a story where women aren't essentially shat on every five pages is not the story he chose to tell. But I don't understand how people fail to see that this CHOICE says a lot about Martin.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 6:29 PM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


If he were trying to be sympathetic by this point - in a world he created where a woman can't go five feet from her door without being raped - had one of the main females raped

I'm just going to ask if you read the last book. Not because he did that, exactly.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:46 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


the series being a Quest for A Good Ruler

Naw, its the futility of being a person in a chaotic world regardless of whether you are a peasant or a noble. Winter is coming. Winter will always come, even if you make it through This Winter. The survivors, though, keep on hoping that their descendents could just only make it through yet another Winter. Maybe its best just to live for the moment, be responsible to the future - true - , but that doing whats important now and/vs (?!) taking joy in the present is all that anyone can do.

Yeah, I'm on Jaime's side ever since he started the long absence from her. Whatcha want?!
posted by porpoise at 7:28 PM on June 28, 2012


**the violence, including gender violence, in the novels/show create a world where there is lots of danger, which means there's something to loose, there's something at stake, which makes it more interesting. by making it so "rapey" the author is making it more interesting.**

Meh, it was the usual gender violence. Having a large amount of female on male rape or even male on male rape would have been an interesting twist.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:31 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is more sexual violence against men in this series than in any other fantasy series I've read.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:41 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the books or tv?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 PM on June 28, 2012


There is more sexual violence against men in this series than in any other fantasy series I've read.

Yes, but it's far outweighed by the sexual violence against women.

Also, the idea that "more male rapes" fixes the "lots of women getting raped" problem is ludicrous.
posted by crossoverman at 7:50 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well in the TV show so far there is Varys having his genitals mutilated/removed as a child but the other stuff I'm thinking of is in the later books, including a main POV character which is what I assume CHT is alluding to above.

Yes, but it's far outweighed by the sexual violence against women.

A realistic depiction?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:52 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


A realistic depiction?

Isn't the entire discussion of this thread about the fact that GRRM can choose what he writes and doesn't write and maybe choosing a "realistic depiction" is lazy?
posted by crossoverman at 7:58 PM on June 28, 2012


Okay, so he chose to write more sexual violence against men than any other author I've read has chosen to write in a fantasy series making him pretty not-lazy by that standard. It seems lazy to me to write a story that tries to whitewash the idea that sexual violence is a much bigger threat to women in this kind of brutal society than it is to men. It's true even in our "civilized" society and this story definitely is not about people more enlightened than we are.

It's not like that means the life of men is easy or safe in the series, there is male infanticide present for example, and male main characters constantly ending up dead in power struggles or personal disputes, and some men suffering sexual violence, or being forced into marriages they don't want, or having to hide homosexuality, some sold into slavery for military purposes or for sex.

He writes about a lot of brutal issues, and I don't think he does it lazily, no.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:06 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know what I didn't read? The books as written. Thus, I criticize the books.

Um...



Guess what: every story every written is "problematic."
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:17 PM on June 28, 2012


Also, the idea that "more male rapes" fixes the "lots of women getting raped" problem is ludicrous.

I don't think anyone else said "fixes." It certainly gives an alternate, often overlooked, viewpoint.

Also, the series ain't over yet.

Isn't the entire discussion of this thread about the fact that GRRM can choose what he writes and doesn't write and maybe choosing a "realistic depiction" is lazy?

Ugh. That's half of it. The other half is, "No, that's the point."

Wash, rinse, repeat.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:34 PM on June 28, 2012


I don't really care whether it was Martin's intention to celebrate rape and murder or not. My assertion was that "I guarantee you that a lot of people will read the books and (especially) watch the TV show and they will celebrate "bitches getting what's coming to them" and "righteous kills." They will celebrate powerful men exercising their power, and they will ogle a lot of breasts. They won't just fail to get the point, they will enjoy it at face value."

Because if there's one thing art must do, it's present itself in such a way that it cannot possibly be interpreted differently than the author intended.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:54 PM on June 28, 2012


You certainly can write a fantasy that simply posits gender equality with no other alterations to a pseudo-medieval setting. Elizabeth Moon does it (less artfully than Martin) in her Paksenarrion books.

But still has poor old Paks assaulted and almost raped in the first two books (haven't read further yet). Which annoyed me greatly, because these were largely only there as plot devices, something to put the protagonist in danger that would not have been used if she had been male.

It's rape as plot motivator, attempted rape as the equivalent for female protagonists of a man with a gun coming through the door, rape as tool to show just how grimdark your world is (and you'll never, ever get as dark as what really can and does happen in the real world), that's the problem.

With George R. R. Martin I don't think he's been using rape this way, but the problem with him is that he's currently the only fantasy author with his own HBO series and the visceral impact of what you see on the screen is of course going to leak out into the books. Rape in text is different from seeing rape on screen, especially in the "we're HBO, we know you want to see boobies and buttocks, not so much swinging weiners" context in which it takes place.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:05 PM on June 28, 2012


We saw swinging weiners!

Hodor.

HODOR HODOR HODOR.
posted by Justinian at 11:22 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you read the book, Tyrion's weiner is as much a major character as Tyrion himself.
posted by destrius at 11:26 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, it's just a well-known book that most people would regard as embodying a morally repugnant value system

You are thus saying SOIAF embodies, rather than describes, a morally repugnant value system. There is a difference.
posted by flaterik at 11:28 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see how you can write a story about the ways in which power can be abused, with the intention of showing how standard fantasy novels whitewash the horrific conditions of feudalism, without setting up common tropey situations then applying realism to them. Rape, murder, slavery, corruption: if you want to critique them, you have to show what's wrong with them. The fact that some people will miss the point is unfortunate but hasn't stopped any other artist in any other medium in any other genre - and it never should.

I object to Martin's male gaze descriptions of how his female characters look; but the rape is more realistically depicted (in terms of circumstances and consequences) than just about anything I've ever read. It's not just a plot point to make the male hero start a revenge quest, it's not a fill-in-the-blanks background story to explain why a female character is less compliant than male characters expect (until she learns to love and trust again, preferably with the male hero). It has consequences to the psychology of the characters, and complex effects on the plot. It's not stranger-in-a-dark-alley after the female character has behaved foolishly; it's a tool of war, and an expression of patriachy and violence within the home/castle.

Honestly, I see ASIOF as the more serious equivalent of the Discworld. Pratchett looked at fantasy novels and saw a lot of silly silences and elisions, and brought many of them to light in a way that makes me laugh; Martin saw a lot of disturbing glossing-over of what it means to have a monarchy that entrenches gender inequality and requires an almost constant state of war, and wrote about them in a way that makes me wonder if I can ever innocently enjoy a fantasy novel again.

And as for the the dragons and so on - they're on the same level as natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanos, they're just dressed up in Tolkein styles.
posted by harriet vane at 11:42 PM on June 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


And now that I think about it, I wonder what the Society for Creative Anachronism types think of the books? Playing at patriachal feudalism looks a lot less like good clean fun if you've been reading Martin instead of Tolkein. Which person gets to play a character like Shae, or Craster, or Roose Bolton?
posted by harriet vane at 11:49 PM on June 28, 2012


I'm curious what people would think about "Ash: A Secret History," which is also a 1000+ page sprawling, brutal, bloody, rapey, horrifically violent Medieval fantasy – but written by a woman. Mary Gentle actually acquired an MA in war studies during the writing of "Ash," and it shows; it's definitely not for the squeamish. But it's among my top ten favorite books. I also enjoyed "A Game of Thrones," though I've held off on reading the rest of ASoIaF, because I dislike waiting for the next installments.

I don't know what to say about that. I love SF/Fantasy, but I'm frequently left underwhelmed by most of the traditional fantasy tropes; I tend to like darker, grittier, layered stories with at least a few upended expectations, deeply flawed and preferably complex characters, cynical observations, etc. I'm not a fan of gore or sexual violence at all, and go out of my way to avoid books and films that focus on these as driving narratives, yet many of the books I love do contain these and other problematic aspects. I can't say where the bright line is for me, but like anything personal, I know it when I see it. There are many books I've left mid-sentence because of rapeparty, or "Janet walking her boobs across the square," or whatever (*cough, dude get your kiddie porn bondage kink out of my peanutbutter*), but I can't say that my justifications for enjoying the ones I do like are always supported by my personal philosophies. I liked reading "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever," for example, just because it was so antithetical to every fantasy hero convention. (I've met more and better antiheroes since (*waves to Severian*), but this was the first I encountered, as a wee lass.)

The short answer is that while my beliefs will certainly inform my opinions on the books I read, I don't just read the books that conform to my philosophies. Reading all sorts of books and sorting through that massive info dump is precisely what helped me develop my own belief system to begin with, so for me it's sort of a circular riddle, and deeply personal. There are books that I would never dream of reading now that provided good chewy grist for my intellectual mill at an earlier point in my life, and whatever tweaks me toward either rejection or tolerance of problem situations, POV, ethics, etc. in fiction is based on the shifting sands of my individual interests and development.

So, yeah, for me, while this conversation has been extremely interesting (more so than the original article, which was kind of an anemic GoT/Jubilee mushy mashup), and I feel that a lot of the criticisms certainly have merit, I don't really sift my literary consumption through my philosophical filter to any meaningful degree, though sometimes they do happily coalesce. Everybody has their own approach to such issues, which is how life should be.

And wow, I'm so grateful it occurred to me to mention "Ash," since it led me to that Tor link that reveals – woo – Mary Gentle has a new book. Bought. Downloaded. Locked and loaded. wheeee!
posted by taz at 1:58 AM on June 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey Taz! I read Ash (from a recommendation here); I didn't like it - but more from a writing perspective, less from a gender relations perspective (why was everyone "grinning" all the time?! YOU CAN'T TALK AND GRIN AT THE SAME TIME UNLESS YOU ARE A VENTRILOQUIST, IT IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE SUBSTITUTE FOR "SAID". ALSO, THOSE JOKES DO NOT WARRANT SUCH LAUGHTER, RAWR!).

Ahem. I think, despite surface similarities, they are very different books. Ash has a main character, for one, right from the title. It's focused in a way ASOIAF is not and also I would argue - despite my criticisms - it's also historical and historically accurate in a way that ASIAOF is not (at least until, you know, happens - but even after that, the battles etc bring a level of accuracy to bear that puts ASOIAF into the dust).

I might have reservations about Ash's resilience in the face of some of the things she endures, especially as a child. She's almost freakishly well-adjusted, really. And the, hmmm, main "romance", if you could call it that never really did it for me, but I felt like Gentle then preceded to undermine and investigate that in kind of interesting ways (though again, some of the plotting with doppelgangers etc felt a bit weak to me).

But I thought its gender relations were rich for analysis and worth thought however they didn't/don't trouble me the way GOT did, and I didn't feel the book had any of the race relations issues of ASOIAF, in particular.

Then again, if HBO made a series of Ash, I would predict the number of tits would rise exponentially, and the number of penises similarly decline... I feel like ASOIAF has troubling, but complex gender relations; HBO kept the trouble and ditched 90% of the complexity, imho.
posted by smoke at 2:15 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, hell. This is the Tor link on Mary Gentle I meant to include.

heh, smoke, I do have to concede that you are right about some of the writing. Still! I luv!
posted by taz at 2:34 AM on June 29, 2012


Mary "pass me another elf, this one has split" Gentle!

Yeah, she does all the grim and grittiness what Martin is accused off but much better and ten years earlier and makes you smell the shit.

I mean, Ash starts with the ten year old girl protagonist offering her asshole to a soldier while he pretends she is a ten year old boy. That's as vile and nasty as anything Martin has ever done and it's on the second page.

It would be interesting to see anybody who dislikes Martin for his perceived offences read a Gentle novel and see what they'd make of it.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:41 AM on June 29, 2012


I say "problematic" so I don't have to say "sexist" or "racist", because that tends to put people on the defensive because they think I'm attacking them for enjoying a piece of work.

The honest problem with that is that it's a dog whistle, and it's a dog whistle that everyone has figured out. You're not saying "Sexist" or "racist", but everyone can hear it. And they can hear that you're deliberately not saying the words, but saying another word that covers for those words, but isn't as confrontational, but that will let everyone "in the know" know that you really meant those words.

I think the fact that so many people see depictions of rape as just a more shocking version of depictions of nudity or consensual sex, different in degree rather than in kind, is a big part of why people object to it in entertainment.

See, and this I don't get. Because it is fiction. It is fiction in the books, it is fiction on the screen. No real women were harmed in the making of these episodes, and that's always pretty clear. Even if they were Rapey McRapinator, (which I don't believe), they are not positive depictions of rape. No one comes out happy with the rape. If anyone reads GRRM's books or watches the show and comes out with the idea that rape is a good thing and that they should engage in it, they are mentally deranged.

But no main female's been raped because then - boo hoo - we'd have to listen to her whine about it and that just wouldn't be sexy.

Cersei has been raped, for one. And, uh, yeah, lastbooks are handy for more. We do see POV characters who are raped. People complain about Daenerys being raped, upthread, though I wouldn't qualify it as rape in the books-as-written. (Though I understand they do it in the show.)
posted by corb at 3:14 AM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


And... I'm going to stop now, but I just thought of another good, really (differently) rapey SF book by a woman, another Mary: The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Also, RELIGION. Alot. Everyone flee!

And my point is not that intelligent, thoughtful women authors also use some of the same problematic plot devices and therefore one should not criticize a male author, blahblah, but that for me, at least, and some authors whom I feel very sure have a deep personal investment in a more equal and just society, the literary landscape does not necessarily reflect that ideal for various reasons, which (leaving out simple pandering titillation) may exist anywhere along a continuum from pure storytelling in which the possibility or reality of awful things happening is a necessary device, to "look at this surreal dystopian depiction of your own actual reality; see it?" up to "look deeply into the abyss so that you may contemplate higher truths." &tc. I read pretty much the whole range, insofar as they align with my tastes and preferences, and I guess I resist the idea that stories should cleave to overarching social/philosophical ideals in their depictions of fantastic worlds.

(And of course, if there's one thing all this reading has done for me, it's to assure me that if such a world were drawn, it would surely be a pretty camouflage disguising some of the worst impulses mankind (or "beingkind") has to offer.)
posted by taz at 3:24 AM on June 29, 2012


Anyone who truly believes Martin creates strong female characters should take some classes on character designs. It will become apparent pretty quickly that he's merely painted a few pictures of women. Some men in the story do, some men react. All the women react.

Dany reacts? Are you fucking kidding?
posted by Summer at 4:53 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"or whatever (*cough, dude get your kiddie porn bondage kink out of my peanutbutter*)"

You know, I don't even really remember what you're referring to. But when I read those books I thought that a) the protagonists were 16-18 (and therefore fully sexual) and b) not actually human adolescents, anyway, but rather ancient beings of enormous power.

Not to say that I'm not mistrustful of everything Wright writes. He's a fellow johnnie, I'm happy whenever any of we few are that successful, but from the first chapter of his very first (SF) book, I was on my guard because I immediately realized that he was basically in what I consider sort of the enemy camp within the St. John's community — that is, a conservative cultural chauvinist for whom classical values and name-checking is entirely self-justifying. He rubbed me the wrong way immediately. (And I wasn't entirely surprised when he wrote that hateful homophobic blog entry. And then not surprised that he sorta-kinda backpedaled in a surprisingly rational manner.) So, as it happened, I didn't read the rest of that trilogy. I did read that other fantasy duology he wrote, which, as in the case of the Orphans of Chaos, has the considerable virtue of being fantasy that's not Tolkein-esque.

I also thought that OoC was quite reminiscent of Heinlein's juveniles, which was part of the intention (either specifically or generally). That's both good and bad, obviously. I read Heinlein's juveniles when I was very young, so I have a kind of fondness for them and his other books, while being fully aware of all their problems. Incidentally, my two favorite Heinlein juveniles were Star Beast and Podkayne of Mars and, really, Pokayne was my favorite and that I identified at that age with a adolescent female character probably had some sort of formative influence on me, given that I was about eight and the cultural norms at the time (early 70s).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:17 AM on June 29, 2012


That it was one of Heinlein's female characters, alas, also probably had an unfortunate formative influence on me. But at least she was pre-sexual.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:19 AM on June 29, 2012


I am reading an article from a few issues back in the New Yorker right now about the phenomenon of sexual violence in South Africa, especially of "corrective rapes" of lesbians. That's real-life sexual violence, just like starving children are real-life in our world, and there's absolutely nothing in Martin's depictions that comes even near the horror and grotesqueness of real-life violence.

And that's ok, because he isn't writing his books based on real-life violence, but rather in contrast to the classics of the genre, all the Tolkien imitators, where no one swears, no one really gets hurt, and there are no consequences. He's taking genre conventions and adding in a touch of violence and dirt. But even at his most gritty, he's still presenting a cleaned-up and prettified piece of escapist literature.

That's what makes it a great read, especially in the early books, because he subverts the genre just enough to make it interesting, without taking out what makes genre work. A lot of the critiques of the series tie directly to HBO's choices, not Martin's. Smoke wrote above:

I feel like ASOIAF has troubling, but complex gender relations; HBO kept the trouble and ditched 90% of the complexity, imho.

I agree totally. Martin was knowingly subverting the genre, but the tv series has fit it snugly within the established pattern of tits and violence on cable. There's nothing different or subversive about the show, and I think the critiques of it as "rapey" and highly problematic in terms of gender presentation definitely have traction.
posted by Forktine at 7:19 AM on June 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


You know, I don't even really remember what you're referring to. But when I read those books I thought that a) the protagonists were 16-18 (and therefore fully sexual) and b) not actually human adolescents, anyway, but rather ancient beings of enormous power.

That's . . . not an accurate recollection of the first Chaos book at least, which is where I stopped, because ew. The "ancient beings" of enormous power change their ages frequently during the book; at times, they're twelve or fourteen, at others, twenty. The ages seem determined by how sexual the scenes in question are as much as anything else. But regardless, Wright has a female character thinking constantly about how she wants to be sexually dominated by her brother. Then the girls don French maid outfits and are spanked by the hideous groundskeeper. Amelia also thinks with unrealistic frequency about her own skimpy outfits and hot bod. It's over the top porntastic and probably more driven by the male gaze than anything I've ever read.

At the very least, it's unrealistic for a female narrator. It's like gross old man porn. I can't even talk about it without getting myself worked up into a froth, because it's easily one of the most objectionable books I ever read from a feminist perspective and it was a fucking Nebula finalist "because physics!!!" or something but I don't know it's just really, really gross.

(Which is a shame, because it had potential. But ugh, the execution.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:25 AM on June 29, 2012


I think I sort of blocked all that because I liked the other stuff.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:26 AM on June 29, 2012


Apparently even I blocked out the fact that Amelia and her "sister" are "forcibly decked out in a skanky dress[es] and makeup and chained to a wall with a big metal collar for said gardener’s pleasure" as one GR reviewer put it and also that she crows on and on about how she deserves to be spanked. All of this was a sizable chunk of the novel from what I recall.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:35 AM on June 29, 2012


I probably skipped the porny paragraphs. I recall being annoyed but liking the premise and wanting to know what was going to happen next, so I kept reading. And I read really fast, so I probably read all three books in a couple of days. Thinking about the books now, I really can only remember a few scenes and they're all after they've left the school and they all mostly involve them discovering more about their true nature. The premise really is very cool. The gender and sexual stuff was crap, but, you know, I grew up reading Heinlein, as I mentioned, so I've learned to selectively block stuff out if I otherwise find the material interesting.

This bothered me more than other stuff like it would have, though, because Wright really does write didactically and much of the stuff in his books are propagandizing his actual values. I'd just read his previous fantasy duology, which was better than I expected, and he's a johnnie, and I found the premise of Orphans really interesting, so I had more incentive to keep reading than I otherwise would have had.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:53 AM on June 29, 2012




The problem for an author who tries to 'invert the tropes', is...

You can never invert ALL the 'tropes'.
For example, the sexism, racism, and classism of your culture, that is then reflected in it's fiction, is so pervading and invisible (since we live in it, like fish in water), that if, in your fiction, you try to invert some of those tropes, you will

Therefore, in every work, there will be attempts to rise above the culture of the time, that can be admired, as well as flaws that can be criticised. For example, Robert A. Heinlein. Flawed? Like whoah. He can be admired, because for his time, he was less sexist, and less racist, in many ways. But he also screwed up, because his less sexist, and less racist, still includes a lot of racism and sexism (Females are tough, smart, and can fight for themselves! Woohoo! But in practice, if they are surrounded by honourable men, they should never, ever have to fight. HmmMMmmm.... ).

However, by playing the inversion card, you DO get a fun game, where fans try and guess whether an author was 'ironically using/inverting' a trope, or whether the author just missed the significance.


I do respect the honesty of writing fantasy feudalist culture with all it's flaws. It is one of the main problems I have with fantasy, that, and the idea that we shall have massive, culture changing technologies/magic, and we shall proceed as if everything would be exactly the same as every other fake-feudal-europe fantasy novel.
Science fiction is slightly more about, what are all the ripple effects, and ways society would change if you had even a slight change here?
Writing feudalism, and not exploring the consequences, is an effect of that genre problem in fantasy.
There is of course, science fiction with the same problem (ewww), and fantasy that avoids it (yay!).
posted by Elysum at 5:49 PM on July 1, 2012


Gah!
you try to invert some of those tropes, you will...

inevitably, obliviously write, and miss the implications of, other problematic tropes and stereotypes.

No work is perfect.
posted by Elysum at 5:52 PM on July 1, 2012


The problem for an author who tries to 'invert the tropes', is...

You can never invert ALL the 'tropes'.


You could, but it would be a very different work.

The point of inverting *some* of the tropes is to draw readers into what *looks* like a typical bit of genre, and then hit them on the back of their heads.

Martin is notable for doing this repeatedly in the same series.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:12 PM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Martin is notable for doing this repeatedly in the same series.

Yeah I can't believe he got me AGAIN recently.
posted by flaterik at 10:58 PM on July 1, 2012


Yeah I can't believe he got me AGAIN recently.

Was it A Storm of Swords? I love watching people read that. You can tell when they're halfway done, because they throw the book against the wall.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:25 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can borrow Chapter 65 of ADWD.

OK, we have different working definitions of 'sexual submission' then. Your point is made, but I don't see either of those as gratuitous ...


Reek and Jeyne Poole. Epic fan fiction will be written ...

Did he do that more than once? I'm blanking on anything other than his rescuing her from Hoat, which was important, again, for both characters.

Rorge, Shagwell, and (those Dothraki again) Zollo.

Yeah I can't believe he got me AGAIN recently.

I would guess that would be the end of book 5 (one small spoiler).

I realize that the undead are a part of it from the very beginning, but it gets a bit chinzy once everyone and their mother are coming back as walkers.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:24 AM on July 2, 2012


Reek and Jeyne Poole. Epic fan fiction will be written ...

Fair point on both counts. *shudders*

Rorge, Shagwell, and (those Dothraki again) Zollo.

That's one.

Really, if there's a favorite thing that Martin likes to have Brienne do, it's repeat "I'm looking for a highborn girl..."

I realize that the undead are a part of it from the very beginning, but it gets a bit chinzy once everyone and their mother are coming back as walkers.

Yeah, that's gotten a bit long in the tooth, but it does show the ascendency of magic and all that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:19 AM on July 2, 2012


Nope, Church, MrGrimm has it right. I didn't want to be more specific because even saying that something surprised you at a certain point is kind of spoilery.
posted by flaterik at 12:19 PM on July 2, 2012


Nope, Church, MrGrimm has it right.

Oh. Well, that one seems to be less... final, shall we say?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:10 PM on July 2, 2012


Oh, quite. I'm just surprised that I still got caught up in "oh man there's totally some comeuppance coming soon I mean it had to happen eventually, alright let's OH SHIT NO THAT'S NOT THE UPPANCE COMING I WANTED"

Which should be totally expected by now. But the fact that I can still get absorbed is why I keep reading.
posted by flaterik at 12:20 AM on July 3, 2012




After reading about Martin's comments on the series at Comic Con, I'm a little more squicked out by the books than I wasa. I still want to yell "Shut up and get back to writing!" at him though.
posted by peppermind at 11:19 AM on July 14, 2012




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