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Posts Tagged ‘Sansa Stark’

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I want to begin by referencing an article by a man with whom I am proud to share a first name: Daniel Stewart.  In “‘Why is that woman naked?’: Sources of Objectification in Game of Thrones,” he argues that the HBO series portrays sex essentially as a tool of power:

In the world of Game of Thrones, power is the only thing that matters. Love is pointless at best. Honor is a joke. Virtue is an illusion.

(…)

In this world where physical strength, monetary wealth, and political influence are the only qualities worth having, it is no wonder the women (especially poor women) are treated so poorly.  (. . .) [The typical female character] is left with two options; [sic] to suffer terribly at the hands of more powerful men or to use her shrewdness or sexual prowess to try to influence the men around her.

Erik_Erikson Upon reading this, I was reminded of Erik Erikson’s observations regarding sexuality’s roots in very early childhood, as well as the differences in how unhealthy approaches to sexuality — which is nothing more than the excitement of “being on the make” at that age (Erikson 255, parentheses included) — manifest themselves in boys and girls.  “In the boy,” says Erikson…

…the emphasis remains on phallic-intrusive modes; in the girl it turns to modes of “catching” (…) or (…) making oneself attractive and endearing.

(255, italics mine)

However people’s views on sexuality and gender relations may differ, this is clearly the way the “game of sex” is played in Game of Thrones.

GoT-Theon-crying-500x333Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is forced to watch as his foster sister, Sansa Stark, is raped

Think of the prolonged portrayal (mostly via sound), in a recent episode, of the rape of eighteen-year-old Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) at the hands of a ruthless husband to whom she has been given in an arranged marriage.  Clearly, we have the peculiarly masculine form of sexual sin (at its worst) on display here.

Sex as a power tool should appall everyone but astonish no one.  If someone wants to dominate another person, what better way to do so than by rape?  After all, to dominate the body is to dominate the person (at least, as nearly as humanly possible).

As many will have no doubt noticed, the aforementioned scene has sparked outrage among the show’s fans.  While people are indeed right to decry the rape of a young woman (and even, perhaps, its insensitive portrayal in a TV show), part of me wants to cry out: “What did you expect?”  Create a world, populate it almost entirely with characters who are obsessed with power, and mix in the careless — not to mention tasteless — treatment and portrayal of sex, and the latter two are bound to “mate” before long.

MelisandreBut, as my reference to Erikson might suggest, there is a more “feminine” version of this as well.  Think of Melisandre (Carice Van Houten), the seductive “Red Priestess,” who uses her sexual desirability to manipulate powerful men for her purposes.  Here we have the peculiarly feminine form of the use of sex as a power tool.

And then of course we also get, as they say, “all sorts of strange animals in between.”

Which of the above examples has sparked more outrage?  That’s right, the first one.  Again, it should spark outrage — don’t misunderstand me.  But the assumption that only when it involves the aggressive violence of rape is pornographic material objectionable can blind us to the fact that human sexuality is very much like fire: Splendid, beautiful, powerful, and necessary…but also very dangerous, and in need of being “contained.”

Readers and viewers who espouse a more traditional morality will pine for what is often seen as Game of Thrones‘ counterpart in the fantasy/adventure world: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which has nothing like the former’s candid material.  But leaving that aside for the moment, let us note another key difference between the two: Tolkien drew his inspiration primarily from myth; George R.R. Martin, author of the novel series on which Game of Thrones is based, draws his inspiration primarily from history.

These two differences may have more to do with one another than one might think.  I’ll pick up with that in the next post.

Erikson photo from Wikipedia — full reference:

“Erik Erikson” by ?Original uploader was Waveformula at en.wikipedia – http://www.wpclipart.com/famous/psychology/Erik_Erikson_2.png.htmlTransferred from en.wikipediaImage comes from WP Clipart[1] which ONLY features public domain images and provides extensive source information on their “Legal” page: [2]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Erik_Erikson.png#/media/File:Erik_Erikson.png

Remaining images obtained through a Google image search

Reference

Erikson, E.H.  Childhood and Society  2nd ed.  NY: Norton, 1963

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Here is the second in a series of posts on HBO’s fantasy/adventure series “Game of Thrones” (third, if you count the introductory post, which I don’t).  Anyone interested in reading the first post can access it here: https://intothedance.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/kingship-and-power-in-game-of-thrones-robert-baratheon/

Please note that there are some spoilers here.

This installment will focus on the contrast in leadership between Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean), the main character of Season 1, and Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), the young usurper of the High King’s throne.

In contrast to Robert Baratheon with his lazy egotism, Ned Stark shows us the qualities of a good king (even though he himself is only a lord).

Ned
In the show’s first episode, it falls to Ned to execute a criminal.  We can see that he does not enjoy this task, but he does it without wavering.

We might be forgiven for wondering, however, why he did not assign the task to an executioner.  Immediately after the execution, he explains to his young son, Bran, that a man must never pass any sentence unless he is willing to carry that sentence out himself.

joffrey-baratheon-1024Contrast him with Joffrey, who orders a minstrel’s tongue to be torn out after he sings a comedic song in which Joffrey’s mother, Queen Cersei, comes across badly.  Does Joffrey do the honors himself?  Nope.  He has his soldiers do it.

Ned's Execution

And then of course there is the scene in which he has Ned executed.  Joffrey gives the order, but the executioner does the honors.

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It’s possible to interpret these instances in terms of regal propriety, but I think any such delusions are dispelled when we see Joffrey with his new queen, 13-year-old Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner).  Sansa makes the mistake of offending him at one point, and he remarks that it would be improper for a king to strike his queen.

So he turns to the guard accompanying them, and the guard promptly strikes Sansa on Joffrey’s behalf.

Obviously, a lot more could be said about both Ned and Joffrey.  But I wanted to start with this detail because it is particularly important when it comes to authority.  What makes the difference between a good leader and a bad leader here is the willingness to assume the greatest burdens of responsibility oneself.

It is, no doubt, hard to give an order of execution, but it is even harder to be the executioner.  I think this is just one instance of how Ned, as a good leader, ensures that the worst burdens of government fall on him rather than on his subordinates.  Joffrey, meanwhile, dispenses sentences of capital punishment very lightly (which I think is another mark of bad kingship — I’ll revisit that in Part 2), but apparently has no courage to take the burden of delivery upon himself.*

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Ned’s model of kingship reflects the kingship of Christ, who went even further than carrying out the sentence due to mankind’s sins by actually submitting Himself to that sentence.  As the “Lamb of God,” He takes the sins of the world on Himself and becomes the living sacrifice, the offerer and the victim…the Priest of the human race.

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Joffrey’s brand of authority, on the other hand, more closely resembles Satan’s.  Like Joffrey, Satan uses others to execute his enemies — he uses the authorities in Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate, and the Roman soldiers to kill Jesus.

“Rulers” such as Joffrey and Satan, for all their pomp and show of muscle, are cowards at heart.  The magnanimity of one like Ned Stark shows us what a true leader looks like.

*To be fair, I must restate that I have only seen the first season.

Images of “Christ Carrying the Cross” by El Greco and “Depiction of Satan” by Gustave Doré from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search.

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