Feminism: Disproportionate Responses

[Content Note: Murder, Poison, Unwilling Abortion of a Pregnancy, Racism, Slavery]

We finished watching Game of Thrones last night, because I am determined to be a part of this social conversation even if it wrecks all my nice things, and plus because Husband really likes it. And I'm not going to talk about all the reasons I didn't like it! Because I've already tip-toed around THAT conversation before, and I am not looking for a repeat of:

  1. If you didn't like it, you're wrong because ART.
  2. If you didn't like it, you're wrong because BOOKS.
  3. If you didn't like it, you're wrong because FUTURE BOOKS.
  4. If you didn't like it, you shouldn't talk about it because SHUT UP.

Let's just say I didn't personally care for it, but keep in mind I also didn't like The Princess Bride nor Office Space (there, that should utterly wreck my internet credentials), so this is a personal opinion and not a judgment on you if you liked it. TO EACH HIR OWN, I SAY.

So if I don't want to talk about Game of Thrones, why am I talking about it at all? Well, that's a good question, and the answer is because I want to talk about a recurring racial unfortunate implication that keeps popping up in pretty much everything I watch and I am going to use Game of Thrones as a jumping off point before segueing into Star Wars. So consider this a content note for both of those things.

Here's the quickest recap I can possibly offer for the situation I want to talk about in last night's episode:

BLONDE GIRL saves WOMAN OF COLOR from war-related gang rape. BLONDE GIRL is challenged by the WARRIOR MEN who believe that gang rape is their just reward for being victorious warriors. HUSBAND LEADER fights for his wife's right to save as many women as she wants from gang rape, but sustains a very minor wound in the battle. WOMAN OF COLOR then mentions that she's a healer who knows all about infections, and offers to treat HUSBAND LEADER's wound. BLONDE GIRL agrees, but it turns out to be a trap: WOMAN OF COLOR poisons HUSBAND LEADER and then tricks BLONDE GIRL into a "life for a life" magic spell which leaves HUSBAND LEADER essentially comatose and causes the death of BLONDE GIRL's new baby.

Are you up to speed now? Good!

I hate this so much.

And it took me a few minutes to understand why I hate it so much. Because I absolutely do understand WOMAN OF COLOR's point of view that the HUSBAND LEADER is a dangerous, terrible person who must be stopped. I understand revenge, and I also understand trying to prevent further atrocities from being committed. I understand using the only methods available, regardless of how honorable they are or aren't. And I'm always ready to cry foul when Magical Minorities pledge their abject gratitude and undying allegiance to White People for meeting a bare minimum of decency. So isn't this basically a subversion of that trope?

I don't think it is. I don't think that replacing Disproportionate Gratitude with Disproportionate Malice fixes all the racist implications in that situation, because I think the racism stems not from the gratitude but from the disproportionateness.

Here is disproportionate gratitude:

BLONDE GIRL: I have saved you from rape!
WOMAN OF COLOR: You are a True Queen for this uncharacteristic display of basic decency. I will worship you and serve you willingly even unto my death. I will teach my people and my children to serve you without question.
BLONDE GIRL: Naturally!

That's bad, mmkay? That's bad because it reinforces that White People are exceptional simply for meeting a bare minimum of Not Racist. It's not enough to stand up and say "I think rape is wrong!" or "I don't agree with genocide!" in order to be showered with cookies. And even if the cookies are part of some kind of survival tactic or an attempt to manipulate a puppet leader in place to protect your people, if that's not explicitly clear in the text, then we're back in the Praise The White Peoples territory. And there's so much stuff already on that pile that it's starting to really stink up the place.

Here is non-disproportionate gratitude:

BLONDE GIRL: I have saved you from rape!
WOMAN OF COLOR: Thanks! I appreciate it.
BLONDE GIRL: No prollies!

That's much better, in my opinion, because you're cutting out the OMG YOU ARE AMAZING for not supporting rape and you're also cutting the LET ME SERVE YOU FOREVER life debt baggage that creepily follows around people of color in a lot of works written by white people. Instead, you just have two people who may not be equals in the eyes of society but they're equals in the sense that they're both women in a vulnerable world and they both really, really don't like rape. I'm down with that.

Here is disproportionate malice:

BLONDE GIRL: I have saved you from rape!
WOMAN OF COLOR: You seem like a nice girl, though maybe a little naive and trusting. Do you mind if I brutally exploit that trust in order to poison your husband, trick you into an unwanted abortion, and strip away everything that is keeping you safe in this world?
BLONDE GIRL: Won't that make the WARRIOR MEN retroactively right for saying you are evil and not to be trusted, which was initially chalked up in the viewer's mind as racism and sexism because the WARRIOR MEN are demonstrably racist and sexist?
WOMAN OF COLOR: Yes! But it's okay because after I use your trust to tear away everything you hold dear, I will point at you and cackle and laugh about how now you hurt as much as I do, lulz.
BLONDE GIRL: Okay!

Contrast that with somewhat more proportionate malice:

BLONDE GIRL: I have saved you from rape!
WOMAN OF COLOR: Look, I appreciate that, really I do, but the fact of the matter is that this situation is larger than the two of us. You've been sold as a wife to the clan chief, and I realize that you're trying to make the best of this situation, but despite your personal feelings in the matter I'm going to have to kill him for the sake of the larger good.
BLONDE GIRL: Are you going to brutally abuse my trust and mock my sorrow while you do it?
WOMAN OF COLOR: No, this isn't personal and I'm not doing this to be cruel. If you're willing to accept my help, I'll even try to help you escape back to White People Land once all this starts falling down around us, because you did save my life just now and I don't mind trying to return the favor. But I've still got to do what I think is right.
BLONDE GIRL: Okay!

Is there a difference there? I think there is. For me, there's a big difference between "look, I appreciate this, but..." and "hahahaha, stupid girl, now I keel your happy! [insert mustache twirl]" and that difference is between a morally ambiguous Real Person faced with a barrel full of difficult choices and a cardboard cut-out evil villain who hurts for the joy of hurting.

And you know what? I think that despite how problematic this setup is to me, I think the author was probably trying to FIX things with this. I think that somewhere in the writing process someone pointed out that it's a damn shame that minorities in these books frequently turn around and reward white people with abject gratitude for things that comprise basic decency: not letting them be killed, for example, or saving them from rape. I think the intent with this scene was to show that being saved from rape doesn't mean that you're going to magically stop being pissed off about the brutal sacking of your home village.

But then somewhere after that meaningful insight, everything went horribly overboard and we ended up with a WOMAN OF COLOR exploiting a sweet BLONDE GIRL and laughing maniacally as the tears rolled down her pretty white face. Whooops.

What is particularly sad to me is that this is even a thing that needs rejection in the first place. Whether the issue in a work is disproportionate gratitude or disproportionate malice, I am so freaking sick of it. My heart pretty much sank when I started playing Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic way back in the distant mists of the early 2000s, because the way you get your Wookie companion is by, yes, saving his life and accruing a "life debt". Meaning that he will essentially follow you around for the rest of his life and will consider himself your personal slave-slash-bodyguard. Pretty much the only way to get him to break this life debt, if I recall correctly, is to murder his plucky child-like friend. Anything short of that, and he's still golden.

You almost never see this as a motivation for White People. When game developers want to explain why there's a group of highly dissimilar people hanging around on your ship or in your home base, they get personalities beyond "honor-bound slave for life". White People flock to the protagonist because they're sexually attracted or because they're being blackmailed or because they think it will be safer with the protagonist or because they're bored or because they fancy themselves twelve-dimensional chess players. Those who are there in "service" roles are there to serve because they BELIEVE in something: they promised the protagonist's parents they would try to guide hir on the path of good, or they've been with the family for years and they believe the protagonist has a spark of inner goodness that will win out.

There's more motivation there than just "hi, stranger, thanks for saving me! I'm your slave now!"

And the Wookie life debt basically *is* slavery. When you visit their homeworld and speak to the slavers who buy, collect, and ship out the wookies to the distant parts of the galaxy for manual labor and gladiator fighting and gods know what else, one of the slavers nods enthusiastically if you tell him that your Wookie is there not as a slave, but due to a life debt. "That's so much harder to arrange," he says earnestly (I'm paraphrasing), "but totally worth it, if you can manage it."

The Wookies, of course, aren't People of Color. But they're People of Colored Fur, on a planet that is a giant thick jungle, and with a culture of clan chieftains and battles for leadership and dominance and sharp pointed sticks for weapons. They're people who are used throughout the Empire as slaves, and understand intimately and painfully the absolute value of freedom, and yet who pledge themselves as life-long servants to those who merely refuse to kill them. They're silent sidekicks: always there, always ready to help, never in danger of leaving just because the protagonist has decided to behave badly or recklessly or foolishly.

White people, people like Anakin Skywalker, can be slaves too. They can be purchased and given their freedom and they can choose to follow the protagonists in a search for meaning or power or education or religion or love. They can live their lives freely, making decisions that may diverge from those of their saviors, forging their own path for good or evil.

But people of color or of fur, people like Chewbacca, are a different kind of slave. When they are purchased or saved, and then freed, they refuse their freedom. Because honor! Because dignity! Because gratitude! They follow the protagonist, for good or ill, because that is what they do. They abandon their own path and follow someone else's.

It's this kind of disproportionate response -- "You merely didn't kill me at little-to-none personal risk to yourself? MY LIFE IS NOW YOURS NO MATTER WHAT!" -- that I object to, not the actual underlying gratitude. And that's why removal of the gratitude isn't enough to fix this trope, at least not in my mind.

We need to remove the disproportionate part.

146 comments:

JenL said...

Because I absolutely do understand WOMAN OF COLOR's point of view that the HUSBAND LEADER is a dangerous, terrible person who must be stopped.

Does it change your analysis at all that Husband Leader's "magic women" (okay, yeah, there are big issues there too) have said that White Woman's baby is going to be "the Stallion that Rules the World" and that Woman of Color is making the choice to betray White Woman (and kill BabyStallion) specifically to stop not Husband Leader but BabyStallion?

If in fact the magic women know what they are talking about (and I think we're supposed to believe they do, given the rest of the magic and power demonstrated in this world), this baby raises "what would you do to stop Hitler" sorts of questions. Woman of Color is still betraying White Woman, but she's doing it not to stop White Woman's man but to stop the predicted atrocities of the unborn baby.

And then White Woman proceeds to get all "but I saved you from RAPE", as if she had. And as if that's the biggest concern this woman could have after what's been done to her people... So Woman of Color tells WW off, and does her best to cause WW pain while she's at it, because Woman of Color is in fact genuinely hurting right now. Can it be read to reinforce "color is evil"... well, yeah. Unfortunately. I guess I was just more comfortable with that than with Woman of Color being some kind of saint capable of genuinely caring about this girl she's only just met who thinks having stopped the 2nd or 3rd or 4th rape for this one woman means she's a great savior worthy of devotion.

Will Wildman said...

In the specific case of Game of Thrones, I think the moment you're talking about is about the time that the series really solidifies one of its main rules: 'whatever the opposite of the cliche is, that's what happens next'. Since it's not portraying the cliche itself but its goatee-bearing Mirror Universe twin, it's still ultimately ruled by the cliche and thus, I think, kind of inevitable that it still falls into the same mire of Unfortunate Implications.

On the subject of Life Debts in general, I've found them endlessly tiresome for the longest time, for all of the reasons here, but I've got one story where there's just one white guy in the cast (foreigner from a distant land) and now I'm kind of tempted to have him swear a life debt to one of the main characters, thus making everyone deeply uncomfortable. (But given what I just said about Mirror Universe cliches, perhaps I'd best not.)

EdinburghEye said...

When I read the end of the first book of GoT with Mirri Maz Duur killing Drogo and Drogo's heir and reducing Daenerys to (she thinks) helplessness as as widowed khaleesi ... it gutted me, but I got why she did it. Drogo and Daenerys combined were a huge threat to all of the other peoples. If not for the dragons hatching, Duur would have created a peace that would have saved the lives of millions. By killing Drogo, and by tricking Daenerys into aborting her and Drogo's heir. This is Jack Harkness xvyyvat uvf tenaqfba Fgrira ng gur raq bs Torchwood "Children of Earth" - naq gubhtu Wnpx vf qrinfgngrq nobhg vg, ur fgvyy qvq vg. Naq vs nal bgure puvyq OHG Fgrira unq orra ninvynoyr gb xvyy, Wnpx jbhyq cebonoyl unir xvyyrq gung bgure puvyq jvgu eryvrs.

What Duur did to Drogo and Daenerys - I think she even says this explicitly since otherwise by fictional Monkeysphere rules I would probably not have thought of it - is exactly what Drogo and his khal had already done, would have done again if Drogo had survived.

chris the cynic said...

That just makes it seem shortsighted and irrational.

It's like crying out to the heavens above, "You know what you did to Oedipus, do it to THE ENTIRE WORLD! Strike us all down in the most hideous way possible. In order to ensure this will happen, I offer as payment human sacrifice."

There are two possibilities, either the magic was right, if the child had been born he would have ruled the world because that is what FATE wanted. If Fate wants a single person to rule the world then, by definition, a single person will rule the world. That's how Fate works. That's what Fate means.

You see Death take note of you in one city, run all night to escape, and find Death on the doorstep in the next city and as you collapse, dying from exhaustion, Death says, "I was surprised when I saw you way over there yesterday, given that we had an appointment here today."

If it really is true that the only way to stop the young stallion from ruling the world is to kill him prebirth then Fate is very, very concerned with having one person rule happen. This is the "Choose and Perish," moment. Do you want the autocrat to be this person whose personality you might shape, or some random other person whom you will have no influence over?

Throwing rulership of the world out at random to land where it will and take you off guard rather than deal with the one you've been forewarned about is not wise.

Possibility two. Fate has not determined that one person will rule the entire world. Hell, maybe the pregnancy will produce a mare rather than a stallion. Even if it does produce a stallion maybe he can be controlled, perhaps he can be directed into more peaceful pursuits or carefully monitored so that his power never grows too great. Perhaps instead of killing now a wait an see approach might work and he can be assassinated later if such a thing might be necessary.

Either way, forced abortion doesn't seem the right solution. If Fate is involved you want to work within the bounds of Fate because defying Fate just pisses Fate off, bringing ruin upon yourself and everyone you care about for generations to come. And it never quite manages to avert what you were trying to avert. At best it changes its address so you don't know what direction to expect it from.

If Fate isn't involved, then there's absolutely no reason to try the forced abortion in the first place. At worst you have a heightened probability of the world being trampled, and in that case there's all kinds of things that you can do to reduce that probability that don't involve casting yourself in the role of the Terminator from the first movie.

Ana Mardoll said...

Does it change your analysis at all...

No, because -- as I stated above -- my problem is not with the murder of the husband or with the tricked abortion, my problem is the LULZ HAHA YOU HURT NOW, PRETTY LITTLE WHITE GIRL YOUR TEARS PLEASE ME speech at the end of it. In my opinion, the Woman of Color isn't shown as being a genuinely reasonable person trying to save the world; she's shown as an evil woman who cackles over the White Girl's pain just as evilly as the rapists would have cackled over the Woman of Color's pain.

If they'd wanted to have a "look, yes, I know you tried to save me, and I appreciate that, but you don't get a free pass to bear the anti-christ on my watch just because of that", then that would have made her seem propelled by reasonableness, not random evil cruelty.

I guess I was just more comfortable with that than with Woman of Color being some kind of saint capable of genuinely caring about this girl she's only just met

As I said in the OP, I think this was probably an attempt to FIX that usual approach, yes. But I still think they went overboard into Problematic Like Whoa territory.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think Life Debts can be done tastefully -- see Jean from Claymore -- but they pretty much have to occur between equals and I really prefer it not to be a "cultural" thing. If you look at Jean from Claymore, she isn't swearing to serve Claire regardless of ideological, she just wants to pay back the life that Claire gave her.

As opposed to Star Wars, where EVERY WOOKIE IN THE SERIES (that I know of) is under a life debt. Chewbacca from the movies. Zaalbar from KOTOR 1.Hanharr from KOTOR 2. They become almost interchangeable gold fish at that point and that's so problematic.

Patricia Wrede did a neat society in "The Seven Towers" where a desert race was very "oath" and "debt" focused, but they were not "life debts" in the Star Wars sense but more in the "I owe you one, buddy" sense. And if someone was a Really Bad Dude, there was a ceremony for disavowing them and breaking off any oaths/debs you may owe them. Because that's how reasonable people act.

Maartje said...

(This is not at all meant as a 'you should like GOT!' BTW. I don't like Princess Bride and Office Space either, so we have that in common. ;))

I'm going to have to look it up in the books, because Mirri Maz Duur always struck me as very reasonable - more like 'Well, I see you have your heart in the right place but FYI you didn't actually manage to do as much good as you were telling yourself because, guess what, being saved from rape #4 after your people murdered my entire village isn't really a rescue, and by the way I'm really going to have to do something about that husband and son of yours.' Of course, Dany narrates so her panic and fear and rage seeps through.

I didn't get any 'your tears please me' out of the books, and I bet my fondness off MMD from the book has coloured my perception of her in the series.

*goes off to find books* Ah, in the books, she 'smiles cruelly' once when she explains that yes, Dany saved her LIFE (but not any of the things that actually mattered in that life) and she saved Drogo's LIFE in return (but not any of the things that actually matter). I didn't read that as 'Mwuhahah I love it when a plan comes together, cry now little girl!' because I would've smiled cruelly myself (or bitterly) after just recounting the hell she'd been through.

Also, in the book initially it seems that she's giving it her best shot to heal Drogo after this small wound, but that he made it worse by going to another doctor instead because MMD's poultice was too painful. Could be lying, could be real - seems reasonable to want to stay close to the stallion who mounts the world if you want to make sure he doesn't, and what better way to get to do that than have his parents like you. And it also seems that she was planning to restore Drogo's life but not his mind with the magic (because maybe he wouldn't be as much of a stallion without dear old dad to teach him how) , but that the cost of the pregnancy was unintended, although not something MMD could really regret (because hey, that solves THAT problem). So, I don't know what was an 'evil plan' from the start and what was just opportunistic going with the flow, but she never sounded like a maniacal villain to me.

Now I'm going to have to re-watch that episode, of course, and try your eyes on for size.

----

@Chris, well, Mirri Maz Duur didn't actually have a liberal education that spells out the irony of self-fulfilling prophecies. Most people when asked 'would you kill Hitler' probably have an initial reaction of 'heck yes!' before thinking of all those counterexamples. And after seeing what Hitler's daddy just did to your entire people, that impulse may last long enough to actually do something about it.

Naomi said...

The "Life Debts" thing made me immediately think of "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" in which Kevin Costner played Robin Hood with an American accent and Alan Rickman played the Sheriff and almost managed to make it a worthwhile movie all on his own.

Robin starts out a prisoner somewhere in the middle east (he'd gone on the Crusades) and in the process of escaping, saves a fellow prisoner who's a "Moor" (i.e., he's black). The guy then has a life debt, which means that he will follow Robin around until he succeeds in saving Robin's life.

It's played partly for comedy, iirc, because he keeps not being around when Robin's in trouble and Robin has to save himself.

You are totally right that I have never that I can recall seen a white character follow another character (of any color) around because of a Life Debt. It's totally something Noble Savages do, pretty much exclusively. (And while the Wookies are not exactly People of Color, they sure as heck fall into the Noble Savage category, I'd say.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Since -- I'm told -- the TV Series changed the Dany/Drogo wedding night from Not Rape to Rape, it wouldn't be the first time the TV Series made things more problematic.

Sophia said...

Hm, I actually didn't find that scene where Mirri explained why she had done what she'd done out of proportion at all. I remember thinking, "Of COURSE she would feel this way. Of COURSE she would take delight in hurting these people who ruined her life." I thought it was an extremely interesting moment because Daenerys ends up looking naive for thinking that her tiny act of mercy really means anything, and that it entitles her to sympathy or loyalty from this woman who has been so horribly wronged by her and Drogo.

Ana Mardoll said...

Not having read the books, I'd be interested to hear how Mirri has been harmed by Dany, who has -- as far as I can tell -- no power in the clan whatsoever outside of deciding what she wants for dinner every night.

She may not have saved Mirri's village or saved her from rape entirely, but she did save her as far as she could. And in the TV Series, the *entire* interaction between the two women is:

1. Dany takes the women before Drogo and asks permission to have them be Not Raped.
2. Drogo fights to assert his leadership that the women be Not Raped, and is wounded.
3. Mirri steps forward and volunteers to "heal" him.

So there's no interaction at all in the TV Series for Dany to have even had time to harm Mirri. Maybe it's different in the book and I need to hang a "THIS IS IN REGARDS TO THE TV SHOW ONLY" notice on the post?

kbeth said...

I also didn't get the impression that MMD was a maniacal villain in either the books or the show; like Maartje, I thought her actions were entirely reasonable given her experiences (especially since I also got the impression that this was not the first time such a thing had happened to her or people she knew) , and in her place I'd probably have given that same speech she gave in the show. In fact, I liked how indifferent she was to Dany's protagonist-ness -- MMD was her own person, with her own story, and in a world where vicious cruelty is the norm, there was simply no reason for her to have much regard for a child who appeared to be completely oblivious to how much people were being hurt. I think this is part of the general appeal of Game of Thrones -- it's nice to see the protagonist-aura vanish from the protagonists, so that they end up being hurt just as much as everyone else.

NewScum said...

I agree about the life debt- it always struck me as lazy writing. If instead Chewie had decided to travel with Han out of gratitude, and then the two became besties, that would've required whoever cranks out the Star Wars novels to, ya know. Display two people becoming inseparable friends.

Have there even been any real cultures with that sort of life debt? It seems sort of...shortsighted. A good way to lose a lot of your people pretty quickly, not to mention making it easy for your enemies to get insider information.

TW: Rape and pillaging

MMD didn't just kill Drogo, or the child- she destroyed Drogo's entire Khal. Essentially, she took the largest collection of Dothraki there was, an army that was explicitly set to invade, rape, pillage and burn Westeros- and destroyed it. Sure, they're still alive- but they're not an army. They just go and join some other Khal and continue to be no worse than they were before. Honestly, MMD fights what is probably the most effective battle in the entire series. She destroys an army, stops an invasion, removes a figurehead that could've united ALL the Dothraki into a world conquering horde- and all it cost was three lives, and a girl being yelled at.

I think you're making a very common mistake, and I think it's one Martin wanted you to make because it's the basic mistake of a lot of literature- you're only considering the viewpoint character as "real." Since we see the world through Daenerys' eyes, we automatically take her viewpoint, and therefore consider her actions to be good, just as she does. Its essentially the same mechanism that lets us not care when Luke blows up the Death Star and kills everyone on it- they aren't "real," they're just props to showcase the hero.

But MMD doesn't give a crap about Daenerys. MMD is thinking about what a Dothraki horde united by a messiah would do. We've already seen what the Dothraki consider normal-rape and pillage is explicitly considered part of their due for winning a battle. Daenerys is naive enough to believe that she can just change this worldview overnight, and that she'll turn them into Shiny Knights of Honor, but the rest of the books hammer home the point that the world doesn't work that way.

From MMD's perspective- she discovers the queen is bearing the Dothraki Jesus, and plans to unite all the Dothraki into one army to invade and conquer Daenerys' own people, followed by the rest of the world. "The Stallion that Mounts the World" isn't a subtle title.

That's not "a naive young girl." That's "Genghis Khan: The Early Years." Naive or not, Daenerys is married to and actively supporting the leader of the murderous rape army*, and her child is a prophesied Murder Messiah.** In a world where prophecy WORKS. This isn't murder and betrayal- this is the most logical move for anyone who actually wants stop as much raping and pillaging as possible. Ultimately, Daenerys is just another evil person who doesn't really care how many peasants die on her way to the throne, and MMD is the hero who stops her in a fairly bloodless manner.

*Honestly, by that point its become pretty clear that she's the brains of the outfit.

**also the greatest Christian Death Metal band of ALL TIME.

Ana Mardoll said...

MMD was her own person, with her own story, and in a world where vicious cruelty is the norm, there was simply no reason for her to have much regard for a child who appeared to be completely oblivious to how much people were being hurt.

But Dany and MMD have basically the same past. They've both had their people slaughtered. They've both been raped. They both KNOW that about each other -- MMD *has* to know that about Dany, just by looking at her, that she's either a captured bride or a sold one (she's clearly not a native born into the tribe!), but that she's definitely been raped by Drogo (in the TV Series, that's what he *does*) and that she's lost her people forever.

So you have one woman who has "regard" for another because they share a similar history of loss and rape and another woman who has -- as you say -- no "regard" for the other woman, despite that woman trying to help her the best way she can and risking her position in the clan and the favor of her husband to do so. That's not disproportionate or unfair at all? To show no gratitude, nothing but anger and cruelty, at a child who really did try to help in her own small way?

And on a larger world-building level, we have a setup where a White Woman Who Has Been Raped tries to make the world a better place through reformation and rebuilding, and a Woman Of Color Who Has Been Raped tries to make the world a better place through cruelty and revenge. There's a contrast there, and it's one that makes me very uncomfortable. The person with the capability for pity is the White person. And the person who has not an ounce of pity or gratitude is the person of Color.

Maybe it's just me.

chris the cynic said...

Most people when asked 'would you kill Hitler' probably have an initial reaction of 'heck yes!'

If they were asked that, then perhaps. But they wouldn't be asked that. They'd be faced with either a pregnant woman, infant, or small child. Maybe, but extremely doubtfully, a young man.

If he's old enough to actually be anything that even resembles evil in the least amount then it's a completely different question entirely. The situation you describe isn't, "Would you kill Hitler?" but, "Would you violate this woman's control over her body to override her reproductive autonomy?" which differs from, "Would you kill Hitler?" in more than just the number of syllables.

If one were to wait until after the birth took place, thus removing the need to violate the mother, it still isn't, "Would you kill Hitler," it's, "Would you kill this innocent newborn who has done absolutely nothing wrong?"

Maybe most people would have an initial reaction of, "Heck, yes!" but I'd like to think they'd at least consider whether or not there were any alternatives first. At the very least look to exact wording of the magicy magic stuff. For example, what do you do with unruly stallions*? You tame them. The very word Stallion comes from the stalls in which the horses were kept. Stallion implies, "Can be controlled, need not be a force of destruction."

-

*Yeah, I know we're talking about an alternate reality where etymology is probably different, but when someone says, "For the good of the world kill this baby," I'd like to think most people would be poking around the edges of the command looking for any way to get the good of the world without going down the infanticide route. And since I don't know what they might fall back on in that other world, I am left with using the things one might fall back on in this world and assuming there would be similar but culturally appropriate attempts in said other world.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think you're making a very common mistake, and I think it's one Martin wanted you to make because it's the basic mistake of a lot of literature- you're only considering the viewpoint character as "real."

I've said -- twice already -- that my issue is with the disproportionate attitude that MMD displays towards Dany (who she must know to be a rape victim making the best of a bad circumstance) and not with her actual actions of killing Drogo and child!Drogo.

I've now said it three times. I'm not sure what it is about Game of Thrones that make people stop reading what I write and have them start responding to what they assume I probably wrote, but I would prefer not to have to keep repeating myself. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

Gods, how much do I like this post? SO much. And not just because of the Goldeneye reference at the end, which is SUPERB.

That is not why blowing up the Death Star is considered an acceptable, even laudable act of self defense.

And, ironically, as anyone who has watched "Clerks" knows, there is a LOT of fan debate about the morality of blowing up the Death Star the second time, what with it still being (apparently) under construction and therefore (presumably) staffed by neutral contractors and not just evil participants of mass murder.

So, actually, many fandoms DO talk about these situations without assuming that the heroes were automatically in the right. There have been many, many SW conversations on this blog about problems within the SW universe as perpetuated by the heroes.

kbeth said...

I guess I don't think they actually do have the same past. Dany's family may have been slaughtered, but that was when she was an infant; besides her brother, who she hated, she never really established any ties with anyone before the Dothraki. Nor do I think MMD would necessarily have realized that Dany had been raped; it is certainly what Drogo does, but it would seem pretty understandable to put together "thinks she has a claim to a foreign throne" and "married a powerful man with a large army" and get "consensual marriage/sex" out of it, especially since MMD never met Viserys. Which is of course not to say that rape can't happen in a consensual marriage, just that from MMD's point of view, there's no reason not to think that Dany didn't specifically give her own consent in order to get an army.

Anyway, I can certainly see why it comes across as being racist to you; I guess it doesn't to me because we see so many examples of white people acting cruelly that it comes across more to me as Dany being capable of pity because she's naive and idealistic (much like Robb and Sansa Stark), vs. MMD being a jaded adult (much like nearly all of the white adults).

It sounds like this isn't the discussion you were going for with the original post, though, so I think I'll recuse myself from the rest of it; I agree with the main point of your post in the abstract, but I don't think this specific example is a good demonstration of it, and I'm not sure I can discuss the former without spending a lot of time on the latter.

Ana Mardoll said...

Fair enough. From what I understand you are saying, I think there's also enough of a disconnect that "Having Read The Books" and "Having Not Read The Books" seems to render the TV series an entirely different beast. (Example: In the show, MMD and Dany have zero time to talk together, so MMD wouldn't even know Dany thinks she has a claim to a foreign throne. Apparently in the books, they interact more.)

But thank you. :)

Dragoness Eclectic said...

..and your hypothetical Resistance on the Death Star that didn't happen reminds me of the rebellion that did happen in David Weber's Honor Harrington stories. If you've read the scene, you'll recognize this:

Shannon Foraker: "Oops!"

chris the cynic said...

I have never read those books, but I still recognize that. (Someone had it as their signature somewhere. Probably FireflyFans.net or the sjgames forums.) Didn't know the context though.

sweetcraspy said...

I'm not sure exactly how this plays into her motivations, but I think it's worth mentioning that MMD gives a few instructions and suggestions that Drogo, Daenerys and Jorah don't follow.

CN?: Wounds, premeditated murder, and complications in childbirth

And obviously season 1 spoilers.

First is the poultice. In the TV show, I believe that the first time they pull it off, the wound has already festered. Either the poultice was ineffective, or it was actively harmful. In the book, apparently Drogo doesn't wear it very long, because it itches. So, we get no clear message from the TV show, but Mirri's instructions were ignored in the book.

Second was the pre-blood-magic discussion. Mirri warns that death is cleaner than the spell. She certainly is not open about the spell's full effect, but she does not jump at the chance to cast it. If her only goal was to kill Drogo and the baby, she could have assured Daenerys that this was the right move.

Finally, was the blood magic itself. Mirri instructs that nobody is to come into the tent, especially not a man. When Daenerys goes into labor after being pushed to the ground, Jorah immediately carries her into the tent. What would have happened if the spell had not been interrupted?

Book events reference: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/A_Game_of_Thrones-Chapter_64
Show events reference: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Baelor & http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Fire_and_Blood_%28Game_of_Thrones%29

An alternate explanation for Mirri's anger at Daenerys could be that Mirri has tried to help or counsel her enemies three times and was foiled by them. Now she is being blamed for what has gone wrong, and even though both women are captives, Daenerys still has power of life and death over her. Taking credit for events at least saves her from having to grovel before being killed.

Beroli said...

Haven't seen the show. Will never see the show unless some weird person offers me ridiculous amounts of money to watch it. However, I'm somewhat puzzled by the juxtaposition of "Daenerys had no power and couldn't be blamed for what Drogo had done" with "Daenerys had the power to stop this one woman from being gang-raped, even though Drogo had to fight with his men over the matter." Clearly she had influence over Drogo.

On an unrelated note, and just out of curiosity, when you say you hate The Princess Bride, do you mean the book, the movie, or both?

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Burning to Death

I thought it was stupid that Jorah carried her into the tent too (what, the nomadic tribe has no other midwives?), but I just went back and rewatched the clip and she's pretty smirky with the whole "he'll be better when the sun sets in the east and rises in the west" bit.

Given that Dany has (or so she thought) saved MMD's life multiple times now, it seems like "I was wrong" or "It didn't work" would have been more than enough to save MMD again here, no groveling needed. I think her taking credit can be seen as genuine, but YMMV.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Ana, your essay makes me think of an example where POC helping out the White Hero was done right... and why is Robert E. Howard always turning out to be my go-to author for such examples?

In the Soloman Kane story "Red Shadows", Kane first meets N'Longa, a elderly African shaman who has been taken prisoner by a usurping evil chieftain who has also captured Kane. N'Longa get Kane to promise to help him since the two of them have the same enemies, and then frees both of them. Kane helps as promised, and after that, the two become friends. No "life debt" crap, just "the enemy of my enemy may be my ally," and later, "this guy is actually honorable, unlike most of the white slavers and outlaws I see, so maybe worth staying friends with". In later stories, N'Longa is a friend of Kane's, whom Kane sometimes turns to when he has a supernatural problem in Africa--though not always, because Kane is very ambivalent about N'Longa's "black magic", even if the guy is a friend--and N'Longa in his turn sometimes manipulates Kane into being N'Longa's catspaw in cleaning up certain supernatural messes. ("Hills of the Dead" comes to mind.)

Yes, N'Longa is literally a Magical Negro; however, he's not there to help the White Hero accomplish his White Hero goals. As written, N'Longa acts as if the White Hero is there to help N'Longa accomplish his aims.

Ana Mardoll said...

Beroli, as far as I could tell, Dany had no power over where the tribe went and who they declared war on. Once there, and the war-related gang-raping started, she gathered up all the women (not just MMD) and took them to her husband and begged for them to be 'given' to her as a gift so that she can protect them from rape. She has "power", but only in the sense that as long as she pleases her husband (gives him sex, bears him a child), he throws her a present once in awhile. (He only fights for the women's freedom because at that point he's angry at being challenged by one of his warriors.)

Re: Princess Bride, I hated two things (and mind you, it's been at least 12 years since I watched the movie):

1. Buttercup (or whatever) taking the tongue-lashing for marrying her soon-to-be rapist without pointing out to Heroic Whats-His-Face that the situation was more complicated than he realized and he could shove his opinions on her morality up his ass.

2. Buttercup (or whatever) deciding to commit suicide rather than kill her would be rapist, but also deciding to commit suicide when he's right there and ready-and-able to stop it when it seemed like she had time to prepare for it*. The whole thing just screamed WOMEN ARE HELPLESS to me.

I've never read the book.

* At least the girl-who-cannot-accomplish-anything in Dragonheart tried to kill the guy. Go GWCAA!

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Rape

OK, I looked up the conversation in Husband's e-book version and now I am completely distracted by something also off-topic: I continue to be confused by male writers' opinions that women are especially hateful of the "doggie-style" to the point that it apparently is the worst possible way to be raped???

The Lhazareen woman spat. “Three riders had taken me, not as a man takes a woman but from behind, as a dog takes a bitch.

I've read this five times now and I can't understand how to interpret it except to say that rape via doggie-style is worse than rape via (insert alternate sexual position here). Speaking as a rape victim, I can't really understand this sentiment -- I was raped missionary-style on two different occasions and I don't think the positioning involved made a difference as to how it made me feel. At no point was I all "well, at least this is how a man takes a woman and not how a dog takes a bitch so there's that!" Bwuh???? O.o

---

Furthermore, I've known a number of women who enjoy "the lioness position". We've had this conversation on Slacktivist before -- that there's this oddness in literature/movies that male writers assume doggie-style is the WORST as far as womens' opinions go, but I can't find it now. Can anyone find the link for me? I think it was in a guest post I wrote, no less, but I simply cannot find it in google.

ETA: I found it!

sweetcraspy said...

TW: Miscarriage aftermath, especially in the video

Good point. I had not seen the episode recently enough to remember her tone. She is not even remotely trying to distance herself from the outcome, especially with the graphic description of the dead baby.

Here's the whole scene without the gleeful intercuts to Mirri's death.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuXmWY9hxbE

I do still wonder what would have happened if Jorah and Daenerys had not entered the tent. So many of the plot events are driven by things not going to plan. If Bran had not seen the Lannisters in the tower, if Eddard had had the backing of the Goldcloaks, if Joffery had not changed Eddard's pre-arranged sentence, the entire series of events in the Seven Kingdoms would have been completely different. If Mirri accomplished her goals, she is in rare company in this story. And even if she did, surely she didn't plan on the rise of Daenerys with her dragons.

chris the cynic said...

1. Buttercup (or whatever) taking the tongue-lashing for marrying her soon-to-be rapist without pointing out to Heroic Whats-His-Face that the situation was more complicated than he realized and he could shove his opinions on her morality up his ass.

I don't know, I kind of thought pushing him off a cliff was a more measured solution than sitting him down and explaining the facts of life to him. Now after she found out that the guy was her supposedly dead boyfriend in disguise here total lack of, "That thing you did: not acceptable," is definitely problematic.

2. Buttercup (or whatever) deciding to commit suicide rather than kill her would be rapist, but also deciding to commit suicide when he's right there and ready-and-able to stop it when it seemed like she had time to prepare for it*. The whole thing just screamed WOMEN ARE HELPLESS to me.

Just to be clear, are you talking about when she threatened to kill herself, or when she actually was about to try to follow through on that threat? Not saying that I disagree, I'm just not sure which you're talking about and they are rather different things.

The thing that I like least about Buttercup's characterization shows up in the Fire Swamp:

Westly is fighting with the ROUS and she's screaming and being helpless, the ROUS comes after her and bites her dress and she picks up a branch and starts whacking it. So she's not helpless, she just wasn't helping. Maybe it didn't occur to her that she could do something and now that she knows she can... oh, wait, now that the ROUS has turned its attention back to Westly she's back in screaming and helpless mode.

When she's dealing with the prince, or even with her kidnappers, there is a serious power imbalance that makes it so, with the exception of trying to swim away through eel infested waters, she's basically forced to be acted upon rather than act. But in the Fire Swamp none of that is true. Maybe it didn't occur to her until she picked up the stick and started hitting the giant rat, but she did have the power to act there. She could make a difference. And yet, as soon as she was out of personal danger, she dropped right back out of the fight.

It was like it didn't even occur to her that she could contribute to anything other than her own self defense. So far Westly had been saving her, sometimes being an asshole about it, this was her chance to save him. She did nothing. It was as if she refused to step out of the damsel in distress role.

Buttercup does almost nothing, and that always bothered me.

Miracle Max's wife (did she have a name?) was someone who changed the course of human history, or at least the whole story, just by being willing to get into a shouting match with her husband. Buttercup accomplishes what, exactly? I suppose that her decision to surrender may have saved Westly, and antagonizing Humperdinck eventually led to Westly being freed (via torture that made him scream loud enough for the whole world to hear) but I never felt like she did much. I always felt like she was just there.

Ana Mardoll said...

(I'm impressed by your YouTube-fu -- I had a hard time just finding the one with the cuts!)

Ana Mardoll said...

Just to be clear, are you talking about when she threatened to kill herself, or when she actually was about to try to follow through on that threat? Not saying that I disagree, I'm just not sure which you're talking about and they are rather different things.

It really has been over a decade since I watched the movie the one time, but I seem to remember a scene where:

1. Buttercup is in a room with a weapon.
2. She had been alone in the room with the weapon for some time prior.
3. Her would-be-rapist walks in.
4. Buttercup feebly tries to kill herself and he stops her.

My feeling at the time was that if you were committed to the death-before-rape thing, you DO IT and don't waffle around until you can be stopped and then be known as a suicide risk and denied a future chance. And if you're not committed to the suicide thing and the rapist is right there, you kill HIM instead.

Mind you, a LOT of this is me being VERY victim-blaming and it wouldn't be at ALL right for me to feel this way about a real situation, and this was years before I really understood feminism and I was just a kid in college watching some movie my friends insisted was the BEST MOVIE EVAH. I was just really frustrated that the movie wrote this woman who seemed to be completely helpless and more like a MacGuffin than a Person and that was kind of a final straw for me.

And that's even assuming I remember it right.

The other thing I didn't like about the movie is that none of the funny bits made me laugh. So there's that.

Laiima said...

Ana, I'm re-reading your Slacktiverse post (on the Bechdel test), and I see that there are 9 pages of comments. Any idea where the conversation about the 'lioness' position occurred?

Beroli said...

1. Buttercup is in a room with a weapon.
2. She had been alone in the room with the weapon for some time prior.
3. Her would-be-rapist walks in.
4. Buttercup feebly tries to kill herself and he stops her.
Never happened.

She threatened to kill herself to get him to call off the wedding and agree she could marry Westley. He pretended to give in, asking her, if Westley didn't want her, to "please consider me as an alternative to suicide." Later, after he "married" her by having the priest skip the entire section involving her vows (which, as Westley pointed out later, invalidated the marriage), she declared (to the senile old King who didn't process it at all, i.e., to the audience and no one else) that she would kill herself as soon as she was alone, and she was only prevented from doing so by the discovery that Westley was actually alive and there.

Also, Humperdinck didn't plan to rape her--he planned to kill her.

Ana Mardoll said...

Here's the whole scene without the gleeful intercuts to Mirri's death.

And you know what else has occurred to me that bugs me about this?

MMD being vicious and cruel and spiteful to Dany actually *exonerates* Dany for killing MMD. There's a reason why the fans have made "gleeful" (such a perfect word) cuts to her death, and it's because she's easy to hate because she is, herself, hateful.

If she'd been tender to Dany but explained that she HAD to do this for the good of humanity, MMD would have been sympathetic to a lot more people as *well* as more realistic and as *well* as not being an Evil Woman of Color. And if Dany had burned her to death ANYWAY, that would have taken the shine off Dany, White Goddess Of Baby Dragons and we can't have that, can we?

So it bugs me that MMD is disproportionately hateful so that Dany's 'justice' can be seen proportionate in response. That's not a gritty, morally ambiguous writing decision; it's a cop-out so that one of your favorite characters can have blood on her hands without it actually "counting".

In my opinion.

Ana Mardoll said...

Page 2.

sweetcraspy said...

It took a couple tries and "related videos" to find. I was sure the cut video was out of order, and that the nastyness was as escalation of the quieter discussion at the cliff edge. But, no, the reflection on motive comes after the gloating.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah, well, there you go. As I said, it's been over a decade. I distinctly remember not liking it, but have clearly forgotten why I didn't. Tsk.

NewScum said...

TW: Rape, Death

I've said -- twice already, including in the Opening Post where I had a very long hypothetical conversation about why Drogo needs to die -

Right, sorry. reading comprehension fail (I wrote that comment over the course of a few hours too, so I didn't see your second comment. )

(Assuming a "marriage" between a 12 year old girl and a 30 year old warrior can be 'consensual' in MMD's eyes.)

This is, I think, somewhat important to the discussion at hand: Yes, it would be. In medieval society, the first period was considered to be the start of adulthood in women. Consummated marriages at that age would be considered perfectly normal. Were considered perfectly normal until the past few centuries.

Actually, for a real historical example very similar to Daenerys' case- Lucrezia Borgia. She was married right after her 13th birthday, and probably had her first child before she was 18. She would have been seen as possessing full adult agency at 13.

Also- by the standards of the time, what Drogo did wasn't rape. The concept of spousal rape is a very recent one. In the medieval world, a woman was the property of her husband, and having sex was very much seen as a woman's duty. I doubt that even Daenerys would have catagorized it as rape: more as an unpleasant duty. Again, I refer to Lucrezia Borgia- she described her first sexual experiences with her husband in terms that we would consider rape today, but that is not the way she thought of it. She looked at it- I suppose a not too terrible analogy would be a man who'd been wounded in battle. It was painful, awful, miserable- but it was also part of her (unquestioned and unquestionable) duty to her liege lord. Remember, this is a society where duty is the highest calling. It's all that held the Feudal system together, really.

So what MMD would have seen is an adult queen. Which more or less gets into the age old debate about judging people by the standards of their time which is....complicated. It does, however, mean that in her own eyes, MMD was attacking an equal who was loyal to Drogo, not a child forced into marriage.

@Chris:

I could argue the details with you, but that's somewhat tangential to my point. Fandom (IE: People who love Star Wars so much the spend a significant amount of time thinking about it) has come up with these arguments. But they're a tiny minority of the people who have seen Star Wars. Jane Moviegoer isn't thinking about that.

Your explanation still ascribes moral agency to the people on the Death Star- they're people who made bad choices. To Jane Moviegoer, however, I doubt that the idea that there were millions of people on the Death Star, and the moral questions that raises would even cross her mind. I know it didn't cross mine until I saw Clerks. Bad Guys go Boom because that's what happens to Bad Guys. And we know they're bad because they blew up a planet and killed Obi-Wan. (And honestly- which of those two events, as presented, has more emotional impact?)

chris the cynic said...

Actually, that's not from fandom, unless I am fandom all by myself. That's from something I was planning to write in on an entirely unrelated to Star Wars topic as an example of how common and necessary it is to make judgments on what doesn't happen. It may not even be occurring on a conscious level, but how we interpret things depends very much on what we don't see.

Seriously, why are they bad guys?

It's not the armor. Han and Luke wore that.

It's not the affiliation, Leia was part of the imperial government.

It's not the location, every single one of the main characters was on that battle station at some point.

Them being badguys is entirely about negative information: None of them take off a helmet and say, "I'm John Watertreader, I'm here to rescue you." None of them get denounced by Darth Vader saying, "You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a spy." None of them do anything to resist.

With the exception of those tiny few directly involved in shooting at something (planets, ships, people), those non-actions are the only things that separate those on the Death Star when it explodes from the heroes.

Whether people are aware of it or not, they're judging those characters on what the characters didn't do.

Will Wildman said...

Fandom [...] has come up with these arguments. But they're a tiny minority of the people who have seen Star Wars. Jane Moviegoer isn't thinking about that.

While I would agree that the movie certainly doesn't spend any time encouraging us to think about it, I'm not sure we can therefore state that no one who hasn't posted at TheForce.net has ever thought about it or would ever think about it.

blew up a planet and killed Obi-Wan. (And honestly- which of those two events, as presented, has more emotional impact?)

I dunno, Leia and Tarkin do a pretty good job selling the horror and tragedy in the planet-busting scene. I always found Luke's subsequent 'I can't believe he's gone' kind of narmy, given that he met Obi-Wan at most a couple of days earlier, whereas he was evidently able to shake off the brutal murder of his adoptive parents in the time it took to drive into town.

Loquat said...

My perception, back when I first read the books, was actually that Dany was expecting MMD to go the life-debt/eternal-loyalty route, and was shocked that MMD didn't see things that way. It's like she expected all the women she saved to forget that they'd been stolen from their homes and seen many of their friends and family slaughtered, and be loyal to her now that she'd ensured their lives in slavery would be somewhat less miserable.

I mean, if civilization fell and some gang came through my neighborhood, murdering all the men/boys and carrying off the women/girls into slavery to be raped, and the gang leader's girlfriend intervened to stop the raping but made no particular objection to or apology for the slavery or the murder, AND then expected us to be her loyal friends/servants... well, I'd be tempted to cackle at her too.

Ana Mardoll said...

Alderaan busted me up way more than Obi-Wan did, even as a kid.

(Mind you, I identified STRONGLY with Leia, and we've already discussed ad naseum my Susan Pevensie issues with "everyone I know and love is gone" situations.)

But Obi-Wan seemed to kind of... choose his death. In a manner of speaking. And being dead doesn't seem to limit him from speaking roles. Alderaan never saw what was coming. Poor folks. :(

chris the cynic said...

Also consider them from an Obi Wan perspective, which sounds worse?
A) millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
B) I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

chris the cynic said...

I always found Luke's subsequent 'I can't believe he's gone' kind of narmy, given that he met Obi-Wan at most a couple of days earlier, whereas he was evidently able to shake off the brutal murder of his adoptive parents in the time it took to drive into town.

Random not at all serious theory:

Luke needed to go on a galaxy spanning epic journey which would be difficult if he were deep in the throes of grief or shock. So Obi used the force to influence him in the direction of mental stability, soothing his pain and propping him up. Then when Obi died that scaffolding collapsed with it.

In other words: Because Jasper.

Maartje said...

I do think that 'having read the books' precludes 'watching the TV series as it's meant to be.' Only when you mentioned that there were just three occasions in which Dany and MMD interacted did I realize how little time the series spent on that relationship. (So that was really helpful for me as book-reader to get a non-book-reader perspective, though I can imagine it might be too much work to do every time you mention GoT.)

About MMD being tender while destroying Dany's life - I'm not sure that would've been better at all. 'I plan to kill your man and your kid, but I don't mean it in a mean way!' doesn't actually make killing someone's family less mean. I agree that 'I did something horrible but at least I feel appropriately bad about it so that makes it all better!' is an excuse white people get more often, but it's a horrible excuse no matter who gets it. How much is sympathy worth if it doesn't influence your actions? 'I have respect for you as a rape survivor so I'm going to make sure you don't get hurt MORE because of my actions' would be understandable (if very ineffective in the world of GoT) but 'I have respect for what you've gone through and I'm going to destroy you anyway'?

(Veering off-topic: objectively speaking, I hate the life debt as a narrative device and especially as a narrative device that's used so one-sidedly depending on skin colour, but damn if it doesn't push all my kink buttons. Rrowrr. Ahem.)

JenL said...

There are two possibilities, either the magic was right, if the child had been born he would have ruled the world because that is what FATE wanted. If Fate wants a single person to rule the world then, by definition, a single person will rule the world. That's how Fate works. That's what Fate means.

Or a third possibility, where fate is mutable. "This child will xxxx" may be the most likely outcome, or have an implied "unless he's killed while he's still vulnerable" qualifier. It depends on what the magic women were seeing, and I don't think we were ever told enough to know how their foresight works.

But doesn't Game of Thrones lose *a lot* if fate rules all, and they'd have all come to the same end (or at least, died at the appointed time) no matter what choices they made?

JenL said...

Since -- I'm told -- the TV Series changed the Dany/Drogo wedding night from Not Rape to Rape, it wouldn't be the first time the TV Series made things more problematic.
The book is problematic in a different (yet not so different) way. In the book, on their wedding night, he takes time and effort and gets her consent. And then proceeds to ignore consent, or lack thereof, from then on.

chris the cynic said...

I grouped that in with the second case. There might be a world ruler, and this child might be that person. But in that case it seems like there's a lot of teritory to cover before you reach the point of, "Therefore you must die now for crimes you may or may not commit at an unspecified probabilisticly fuzzy point in the future."

Ana Mardoll said...

I think you're almost certainly right about the books influencing the show. (I'm not even sure MMD gets a name in the show.)

But as for whether tenderness would be better... I agree from Dany's viewpoint it might NOT have been. (Of course, canon!Dany has conveniently fallen in love with her rapist and wants to bear his child. Not all 12 or 16 year old girls would do that. So alternative!Dany might really appreciate a kind older woman saving her from all this and helping to take her back to her homeland. MMD -- as presented in the TV show -- doesn't know and doesn't try to find out, because that would require feeling a touch of sympathy for the child who saved her from more rape.)

But from a viewer perspective, I think it does make a difference. If MMD had come off as kind-but-reasonable, tough-but-fair, and genuinely just doing her best to prevent Hitler from being born and NOT smirking over a little girl who had just had a painful miscarriage, then she would be a sympathetic character. Maybe in the books she is, but in the TV show she's not presented that way, imho. And if she were a sympathetic character, then Dany burning her to death would have made Dany's character far more ambiguous.

Dany wouldn't necessarily be a monster -- she'd be repaying an eye for an eye, which a lot of people can get behind -- but we could have a conversation about what that action meant about Dany and whether or not MMD deserved to die since she was a kind old woman just doing her best to save her people.

As it is, I think pretty much no one who has only watched the TV show will remember MMD as a stain on Dany's morality or her reputation. (They probably won't remember her at all, except as the catalyst for the dragons being hatched.) And setting up protagonists who murder people who are disproportionately spiteful and hate-able-by-the-readers and therefore literally "have it coming" seems to be something that this series kind of *does*. Or so I'm told.

Ana Mardoll said...

What.

(So it's a consent-once, consent-forever mentality?)

NewScum said...

TW: Death

Holy crap, the Star Wars universe is full of complete psychopaths. I mean, to start with- innocent farmboy Luke sees an ARM CUT OFF. I mean, yeah, compared to his Aunt and Uncle dying, no biggie but- YOU ever see anyone get their arm chopped off? If so, was your reaction: "Huh. Good thing that weird old dude I hang out with was willing to maim someone in a barfight."? Not to mention he doesn't seem to react much to blowing up however many million people were in the Death Star.

Leia recovered pretty quick from seeing her planet blow up. I mean, sure, put a brave face on it for your captors, but no more than a week later she's smiling and laughing with Luke and Han. Heck, on the Falcon, shes more interested in comforting Luke over Obi-Wan's death than she is in, say, collapsing in complete shock.

Also, while I'm wall-o-texting- I disagree with you about rebellions on the Death Star.

First- there is literally no safe place to plot. I'm presuming that when the paranoid all-controlling emperor had the place built, he put in a few security cameras. And has a droid or two sitting around scanning them. I'm presuming fiery speeches about overthrowing the government get noticed.

Second- this isn't a planet, where you can fight a guerrilla war and disappear- disappear WHERE? Remember- Luke and company only got away because Vader let them. Sure, you can wear masks and blow stuff up- but you have to put the mask on somewhere in between your quarters and where you plant the bombs, and that'll show up on security cameras. Not to mention, you know- microchipping. Mark of the Emperor, lets you come and go- and records where you were. Stick it right in the brainstem.

Third- the modern US army has 10 support troops for every frontline dude. I'm assuming the Empire probably needs, at minimum, 5 to 1. Sure, you've got the Super elite, super loyal stormtroopers, but someone has to run the Death Star Cantina. And, assuming modern military doctrine carries over, a LOT of those people will have their families with them. I mean, it makes sense from any way you look at it. Happier troops, greater stability, longer deployments- and a much, much MUCH lower chance of the very sort of rebellion you're talking about.

The point of the Death Star is to be a massive, free-flying blow-em'-up machine- constantly rotating troops in and out really puts a crimp in your style, not to mention the trouble of orienting new guys every six months. It's not a forward combat position- its a base. Some combination of Cheyenne Mountain and an Army base in Germany. Of course we didn't see any family- the point defenses cover the entire outer shell of the Death Star, you'd put them as far away as possible from that so they wouldn't be in the way. Somwhere deep inside the core of the Death Star I'd imagine.

So it'd be impossible to organize any sort of uprising, and chances are most of the non-stormtrooper personnel have family on board, probably specifically to prevent uprisings when they blew up planets.

Wow. Star Wars is DARK.

Ana Mardoll said...

Moderator Notice
TW: Ableism


Can you please edit your post (or I can do so, if you can't) to find a different term or phrasing than "psychopath", which is generally used as a term indicating a personality disorder and/or a type of mental illness?

Thank you.

JenL said...

The Lhazareen woman spat. “Three riders had taken me, not as a man takes a woman but from behind, as a dog takes a bitch.

I think there was some sort of cultural issue there, where the Dothraki men used that particular position to rape women they considered "beneath" them (something about Dothraki being horses versus this other tribe being sheep, I think) - so these men were intentionally adding insult to injury.

(And I believe one of Dany's slave girls told her that if she wanted Drogo to consider her more than a slave, she needed to assert her power and have sex with him in a different position.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Yeah, the slave girl comment made it into the TV show.

It's just... I... I can't speak for all rape survivors because we're not a monolithic group, alright? But with that out of the way, I'm adding "pissed off over rape position" to my list of "written by a dude" indicators.

It can sit there above "constantly aware of and describing position/size/movement/etc. of own breasts".

JenL said...

(So it's a consent-once, consent-forever mentality?)

Yeah, pretty much. Best description I can give is that in the book, at the wedding he sees her reaction to his gift of a horse, and he ... well, he really *sees* her. And takes a few minutes, at least, to try to reach out to her. And so when he is about to have sex with her, he asks her and she consents.

And after that night, she's now his possession, his wife. So she gets on that pretty horse, and she rides all day, and she's sore and hurting, and that night he doesn't bother to talk to her, or to ask her permission. Or any night after that. It actually is part of her character arc, that when she's feeling so powerless, she sort of reaches for her inner strength, which she sees as (or maybe *is*, in the terms of the book), the dragon inside her. And she then starts to physically improve, and then she asks one of her girls for advice, and the girl basically tells her to take control of the sex. And she does - so even when it stops being a matter of him walking in and taking her whether she's ready or not, the lack of consent is "addressed" by her initiating the sex.

But as pointed out by others above, in the context of the described society (and in SO many real societies over so much of human history), a married woman's consent was a non-issue. She's her husband's property, or a legal extension of him. What doesn't really make sense in this context is that he asked her consent that first time.

Ana Mardoll said...

But as pointed out by others above, in the context of the described society (and in SO many real societies over so much of human history), a married woman's consent was a non-issue. She's her husband's property, or a legal extension of him. What doesn't really make sense in this context is that he asked her consent that first time.

I'm not comfortable with that framing. Just because many cultures believe that marriage equals consent (indeed, I believe we still have some states in the USA where it's not possible to prosecute marital rape) doesn't mean that all men within those cultures buy into that mentality to the point where it wouldn't "make sense" for them to seek consent from their bride.

Now, I'm fully on board with arguing that it's strange for *Drogo* to get consent the one time and then never again: that's inconsistent and inconsistency should be addressed within the narrative if at all possble.

But to blanket argue that it's strange that he would want to get her consent the first time (which is possibly not what you are saying, but here I am speaking to the TV executives who, iiuc, used this as the reason why they changed the TV series from the book) is very misandric and insulting to men (as well as to People of Color, because we most often see this portrayal in POC cultures even though as noted above the attitude still exists in our MODERN culture). Many men live in rape cultures; they don't all turn out to be rapists.

JenL said...

As it is, I think pretty much no one who has only watched the TV show will remember MMD as a stain on Dany's morality or her reputation. (They probably won't remember her at all, except as the catalyst for the dragons being hatched.) And setting up protagonists who murder people who are disproportionately spiteful and hate-able-by-the-readers and therefore literally "have it coming" seems to be something that this series kind of *does*. Or so I'm told.

The series seems to be able to portray "good" characters as shades of gray. They make mistakes, sometimes they outright commit wrongs. They'll do the wrong things for the right reasons, and the right things for the wrong reasons.

But I can't think of too many "bad" characters who get that kind of nuanced character. There are a few characters who do bad (horrible) things, but then are later portrayed as ... tortured souls? People who have more basic human decency than the outright psychopathic characters. But by and large the "bad" characters are really beyond the pale.

Ana Mardoll said...

The series seems to be able to portray "good" characters as shades of gray. They make mistakes, sometimes they outright commit wrongs. They'll do the wrong things for the right reasons, and the right things for the wrong reasons.

Really? The nuance is not coming through in the TV show for me.

I can't imagine most viewers thinking Dany a bad person for burning MMD to death -- indeed, it's the catalyst for her to hatch the dragons, so it's presented as a very good thing indeed. And if there's anything else bad that Dany has done, I can't imagine what it would be -- she's been carefully established as kind to slaves, strongly anti-rape, and of course she's a rape victim herself.

We're not to the point where Tyrion kills Shae yet, but she's already being set up (imho) as an unsympathetic character in our Nice Guy culture because she openly said she wouldn't feel bad if he died in battle. (When OMG he's being so nice to her!) And given how nigh-impossibly generous he is with everyone who even smiles at him, it's pretty clear we're supposed to think he's the bee's knees.

I can't think of anything morally ambiguous Jon Snow has done except attack the teacher-guy who wears an I AM EVIL tee-shirt and was openly provoking Snow as much as possible.

I'm not seeing the shades of gray. But see above about why I didn't want to get into the series as a whole because it seems to be some kind of cultural Rorschach phenomenon: everyone I speak to views it VERY differently from everyone else.

Ana Mardoll said...

Back on the topic of life debts, are there any SW Wookies in the games, EU books, etc. who aren't involved in the plot because of life debts?

I've only seen the 6 movies, and played KOTOR 1 and 2. Which was 3 for 3 on life debts.

chris the cynic said...

Is the life debt thing actually in the movies though? Is it in the movies, or is it just something we all sort of picked up from the EU?

Ana Mardoll said...

I only know about it through the Wiki link in the OP -- I was writing this post and got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and went to check on Chewbacca and there is was. So I don't know where that data point came from.

depizan said...

A bit late to the party (and only capable of participating in part of the conversation as A Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is ever so very much not my thing), but, hey, I can hop into the Star Wars part of it!

Re: The Death Star and those on it.

There is actually a Star Wars EU novel, entitled, appropriately enough, Death Star that does deal with much of what Chris brought up. I don't remember it in great detail, but it's about some people on the Death Star who end up fleeing it and/or actually being partially responsible for the heroes' success because they do object to blowing up defenseless planets.

Re: Wookiees and Life Debts

Some Star Wars EU books (at least the trilogy written by Brian Daley) do portray Han and Chewie as equals and friends. And make it clear that they have saved one another's lives so many times over that, if anything, the Life Debt is more of an excuse given that Han has some problems with admitting he's a decent person and capable of stuff like friendship. (Daley's books are set slightly before the movies.)

Also, and perhaps more notably, SW:TOR actually discusses the whole Life Debt = slavery thing. Your smuggler character saves (-ish, the Wookiee is hardly a passive party) a Wookiee from gladiator-slavery and the Wookiee joins his/her crew. They have a discussion that mentions the Life Debt and the Wookiee is explicitly not coming with you because he feels he has a Life Debt to you. He compares it to another form of slavery and you have the option to agree.

So some people are thinking about these things and addressing them. Which I think is awesome.

depizan said...

Good question. It's in some of the earliest EU stuff, which makes me think that it's probably mentioned in the movie novelizations and is official.

I'm 99.9% positive it is never mentioned in the movies, though.

Ana Mardoll said...

They have a discussion that mentions the Life Debt and the Wookiee is explicitly not coming with you because he feels he has a Life Debt to you. He compares it to another form of slavery and you have the option to agree.

How happy am I to see this? It's like, progress! Yes!

JenL said...

Really? The nuance is not coming through in the TV show for me.
Sorry, did not clarify that well at all. I meant they were nuanced in the books. The series seems to be far more simplistic in character depictions. You're definitely right about people interpreting things differently - for one, I had Tyrion mentally slotted as one of the few bad guys with character and nuance. Yeah, he's one of the main POV characters, and he knows how to work a crowd - but in the book, it's pretty clearly stated early on that he would not only allow his brother to get away with anything, but help his brother get away with it if necessary. To me, all the good things Tyrion did are weighed against the fact that he's explicitly willing to support his brother pretty much no matter what his brother does.

depizan said...

Indeed!

I love that they didn't just have a Wookiee join your crew for assorted reasons, same as the other characters who join your crew - they actually specifically addressed the point. Someone was on the ball there.

And for all that you're theoretically in charge, what with it being your ship and all, none of your crew - Bowdaar (the Wookiee) included - seem shy about telling you if they disagree with you. Unlike in the single player games, companions don't leave*, but you do get and lose affection points depending on your actions. (You can also bribe companions with gifts, a feature they pretty much had to include since in at least some classes the "wrong" alignment would rapidly lead to serious negative affection with one or more companions.)

SW:TOR isn't perfect, but it's probably the most inclusive version of Star Wars (outside, perhaps, of tabletop gaming). Some effort was made to avoid bad tropes (though some slipped through - much as I like Qyzen, he is an unfortunate stereotype) and some thought was given to the whole innocent bystander thing. I feel a lot better about wrecking stuff if I'm given the option to get workers and the like out.



*Though I really wish they'd figured out a way to allow for that, because there are some companions that I think should leave some characters, depending on how you play them. Their sticking around just makes no sense at all. (And there are a few companions where the problem - depending again on how you play your character - goes the other way, and your character shouldn't want said companion around.)

Beroli said...

Really? The nuance is not coming through in the TV show for me.
I can't say I've ever seen the novel characters as "nuanced" either, though for the opposite reason from you. Tyrion, Jon Snow, and Daenerys all strike me as terrible people, which is pretty much synonymous with "not solely victims" in the series. You do horrible things, or horrible things are done to you, or both. If you still look like a good person for now, the question is when that will change.

I have a friend who liked Jon Snow for quite a while. When he told me about why he no longer did, I said as diplomatically as I could, approximately, "I'm sorry, but why were you surprised?"

Will Wildman said...

In my headcanon, my bounty hunter put Skadge in the escape pod and jettisoned in hyperspace at the first opportunity. I haven't yet met Tharan Cedrax, but what I know of him is abhorrent enough that he will likely get the same fate, and his holographic girlfriend will be given some self-customisation options and encouraged to consider downloading a law degree.

Loquat said...

We're not to the point where Tyrion kills Shae yet, but she's already being set up (imho) as an unsympathetic character in our Nice Guy culture...

Have you watched Season 2 or just Season 1? Shae gets quite a bit more character development in 2, especially from her interactions with Sansa (which weren't in the book at all, but I think they're an excellent addition, especially as the two come to see each other as potential allies) and in fact I started to feel like her trial testimony and subsequent murder, as written in the book, would be out of character for Shae and/or Tyrion as they're depicted in the show. The book has Shae, at Tyrion's treason trial, putting on a very convincing performance at the trial, claiming that she was an innocent virgin kidnapped and raped by the evil perverted Tyrion, and also he was totally plotting treason - and while I won't say TV!Shae 100% wouldn't tell such lies to save her own life, I am convinced that, if she did it and Tyrion confronted her afterwards with no witnesses, she wouldn't be book!Shae tearfully protesting her love for him, she'd forthrightly tell him that was what she had to do to survive. And as emotional a state as Tyrion's supposed to be in during that confrontation, I really can't see TV!Tyrion reacting to that forthright declaration with anything other than "...Yeah, ok, I can't really fault you for valuing your life over my reputation. (pause) Anyhoo, I'm getting the hell out of this country. Wanna come with?"

To be sure, the scene in question probably won't show up until the end of Season 4, so there's a fair bit of character arcing between now and then, or they could just rewrite the whole thing so he kills her by accident or something, but after all the time the show's spent establishing Shae as this ultra-pragmatic, strong person... she's such a different person from book!Shae now, that whatever happens to her in the show, I don't believe she'll share the same fate.

Ana Mardoll said...

I can't say I've ever seen the novel characters as "nuanced" either, though for the opposite reason from you.

Does it make sense if I say that I feel like they're all horrible, but that I feel like the book/show doesn't EXPECT me too? 'Cause that's kind of what I mean. They're being set up to be perfect people, imho, but I'm not buying it.

Similar Example: Office Space. I feel sorry for the protagonist NOT AT ALL, but I feel like I'm clearly SUPPOSED to.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ack, I PROMISED myself I wouldn't get drawn into a GoT discussion, and yet I am, over and over again. :-D

We've only seen Season 1, but I've been pre-spoilered so much book-wise. I cannot freaking *bear* to watch the Shae scenes because I like her actress and her character SO much, and I'm so pissed at how Tyrion is already mistreating her. She's an employee and he's overstepping all these boundary lines by expecting her to have feelings for him and by objectifying her with his little "let me guess your past" game and hounding her about her "exotic" accent.

Remember the Twilight-Waitress thread and how I talked about patrons who mistake the Service Smile for genuine and cause all kinds of harassment problems and issue-projection problems? That's who Tyrion is for me: a customer who wants the pretense to be not a pretense, and that is all kinds of disrespectful, rude, and dangerous. An employer has certain responsibilities to not harass his employees, and that includes not harassing sex workers, and I do not feel like Tyrion is taking that responsibility seriously at all.

Which is all the more disappointing because I would expect that his disability and his ill treatment by his father would have gotten through to him that little complexity about people in positions of disadvantage. Apparently not.

And yet, for all that, I feel like the show is SCREAMING at me: LIKE THIS GUY. LIKE HIM! Not the least because he gets all the good quips and he's a woobie and bwess his poor wittle heart. It's Nice Guy 101, he's being so "nice" to Shae and treating her like an equal (even though he's really not) and she's not loving him back and she's "using" him (as though he's using her any less) and that hurts him so much and awwwww. And Husband and I even had this conversation the other day, that the great thing about the books is that even though practically everyone in it is a murderer, "you still LIKE them", and I was all, "huh! well, I don't!"

And now I've got to fret all night long that this post is going to make all the GoT lovers on the board hate me. PLEASE DON'T KILL ME WITH SHEEP! TO EACH HIR OWN!! I have Admittedly Very Bad Taste In Art and my personal feelings about GoT should not be considered authoritative! I mean, I read Aliens novels, for crying out loud! Do you know how bad most of those are? These are just my unfiltered Philistine thoughts. PEACE!

More seriously, it should also be noted that a lot of the sexual harassment and rape issues brought up in these books hit VERY close to home for me, so I'm pretty prejudiced by real life experiences. It's basically not possible for me to like a character once he's been established as domestically violent towards women. Fair? Maybe not, but they're fictional characters and not real people, so I don't lose sleep over it.

Ana Mardoll said...

(And I seriously hope that no one stops liking me over my not liking GoT. Because that would make me really super sad. This whole post was supposed to be about People of Color in fiction and NOT about GoT and somehow I... derailed. I've already figured out that I really probably should stay far away from any kind of decon of the series, because it seems like there are a lot of fans here and I really don't want to alienate anyone. Better to spend time on something that people will find enjoyable.)

Loquat said...

You know, I think that while Tyrion is very sensitive to issues that resemble his own (being judged on appearances, etc) he's not at all aware of women's problems. There are a couple of instances in Season 2 where I believe the show really does expect us to see him as being in the wrong, and the big one is where he arranges a marriage for his niece as part of his political machinations, with no thought for her preferences or what kind of husband he'd be sending her off to. Cersei's reaction scene, where she reminds him (and us) that her marriage to Robert Baratheon was miserable and she's furious that her brother can legally subject her daughter to the same fate, is one of the few scenes she has where we're really supposed to agree with her.

Plus his decision to makes Shae Sansa's maid is clearly made with no thought for Shae's desires or skills, and while the two of them do wind up bonding, their first meeting as lady and maid is a massive bundle of awkwardness and mutual dissatisfaction.

So yeah. Huge gaping character flaws for all!

depizan said...

Tharan, like Corso, seems to be a love him or hate him character. I'll see when I get to him. (Though I manage to find Corso entertainingly annoying, though definitely not a love interest for my smuggler. I think the fact that I think of my smuggler as being a bit over ten years older than him makes a difference there.)

On the flip side, I cannot fathom why Kaliyo hasn't bashed my agent over the head (or whatever her preferred method of leaving people is) and run off with whatever goodies she thinks Imperial Intelligence wouldn't hunt her down over. She hates nearly everything he says and does. Which was amusing at first, but became rather unbelievable after the first companion mission. (Piles of presents made up for her thinking my agent is a naive twit.) At least in headcanon and fan fic, it can all make sense.

Loquat said...

Mentioning GoT does tend to cause derailments. I'd comment on the Star Wars part, but I really haven't consumed any Star Wars media aside from the movies and a brief stint in the SWTOR beta (though that brief stint did bring me into contact with Qyzen, the big lizard dude who decides you're the chosen herald of his deity after watching you fight a few guys, and whose dialogue is all in pidgin english even though he's speaking what is presumably his native language, with english subtitles. Good job, SWTOR writers.)

I'm trying to think now of other media I've seen recently with People of Color - Avatar and its sequel Legend of Korra both have dark-skinned people with no problematic portrayals, the MMO The Secret World does some questionable stuff with the Asia-based faction but seems pretty good about putting well-written NPCs of all races in all 3 factions (I particularly like the black guy who's the player's main contact for the Europe-based faction - how can you not love lines like "Personally, I frown on architectural bullying, but if one absolutely must throw one’s weight around, it pays to erect a cathedral or two.")

Oh, and the bizarre indie movie Dead Man! Where the character who initially seems like he's going to be a standard Injun Sidekick turns out to be something far weirder and more awesome, and steals every single scene he's in.

depizan said...

They'll have to fling sheep at me, too. I won't even try the series (book or TV) because it is so not my thing. There are enough deep deep problems in the stuff I do like, which I either ignore so I can enjoy said stuff, or vow to do better than as a writer. (And it's probably telling that my SW:TOR fan fics will be increasingly about solving stuff with cleverness rather than violence as I merrily depart the game's plot and go off to write about The A-Team/Mission Impossible in spaaaace. I like thinky heroes dedicated to doing good waaaaaay more than violence and seriously flawed protagonists. Not because one is better than the other but because one is what I like.)

depizan said...

I will never understand how the same creative team that had the insight to address the Wookiee Life Debt problem failed to have the same insight when it came to Qyzen. (And there are balance of power issues with some of the romances, too, unfortunately. Actually with a lot of the romance options... Romancing your underlings may be a standard romance trope, but it's got some real problems. Romance with equals, please!)

Maartje said...

Not going to throw sheep at anyone for not liking GoT! (I guess it's just hard to not try to explain myself when people write about something I like in a way that makes it sound relentlessly awful, because 'yes, this is relentlessly awful in many ways but I still like it' doesn't feel like the whole story to me.)

I do agree that Dany in particular comes off looking like a perfect little angel who's beset by terrible monsters - even though she rampages across a continent tearing down civilisation after civilisation in her quest to 'make everything better.' I keep hoping that this impression only arises because Dany is the only POV character on the entire continent so everything is filtered through her own righteous mindset, but some things (like the Unsullied) seem to be just made up to be as horrible as possible just so she can then destroy it with impunity. And I agree, it IS worse because she's the only white person around and she makes herself the arbiter of acceptable morality.

It's a pity how the series apparently doesn't succeed in showing that EVERYONE (except maybe Ned Stark and the kids - Bran, Rickon, Arya, Sansa, Tommen, Myrcella; Jon and Robb are already treated as 'adult' by the narrative and the culture) are just varying shades of assholes, depending how much they restrain themselves in going for what they want by running roughshod over others. OTOH, I'm also not sure how much GRRM would actually agree that EVERYONE over a certain age is basically a horrible person in his world - he does really seem to want people to like Tyrion without questioning, and at least for me that's not going to happen! (And yes, that idea does worry me.)

TW: Rape, spousal rape

Thing that just popped into my head: part of me does subscribe to the 'wifely duty CAN be a mitigating factor in how damaging spousal rape feels to the victim.' I have been accidentally indoctrinated from a young age that I should 'take one for the team' in any way possible, and that has led to situations that definitely fall under 'spousal rape' (if you want to respond, please respond with hugs and not judgements about how I should divorce the bastard). And yes, spousal rape is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. But still, how Dany reacts to it in the books (like it is something awful but not something evil, and that because it is not evil she can work with it to make it less awful) feels intimately familiar to me. I'm not at all saying other rape victims (and I feel like I'm appropriating the term) should necessarily respond in the same way, but if accidental indoctrination can have that result on me, I definitely think full-out cultural support of the practice could have that result on others.

kd15 said...

Lowbacca. He was Chewbacca's nephew and attended the Jedi Academy with Jacen and Jaina where they became good friends and had lots of adventures (Young Jedi Knights series). He was active throughout the New Jedi Order series. But at the end of the New Jedi Order series he tells Han he's assuming the life debt. After that I'm not clear how it goes because I haven't read past that point. While the life debt issue does come up eventually, he's not involved in the plot because of it and it's long after he became a character. Also, one of the Young Jedi Knights books took place mainly on Kashyyk and you were introduced to Lowbacca's family, so technically his parents and his sister were also in the EU books and involved in plot but not because of life debts.

EdinburghEye said...

Ana: (And I seriously hope that no one stops liking me over my not liking GoT. Because that would make me really super sad.

I love Game of Thrones. (The books. The TV series is... well, the opening credits are brilliant? And I think some of the actors are really good.)

I don't disagree with any of your reasons for not liking it. I guess I'm just a fan of stories where Anyone Can Die - which makes me sound morbid.

I like being surprised when I read stories. I like not being sure that this character I like is going to survive to the end because s/he's a hero - or being sure that this character who's hateful is going to receive their Just Deserts.

And I like huge multi-area multi-character complicated epics which don't feel like a film-set - which have mud and crap and farming and stuff going on and family connections and multiple motivations and politics that I can actually believe.

I like this enough that I'll deal with the sexism and the misogyny and the rapes and the racism, both authorial and character-driven.

But I can't blame anyone for giving up on GoT because of all of this.

Lonespark said...

Hmmmm. I do enjoy Office Space, although it is problematic and I think pretty much all the characters are horrible people. I think I kind of liked Orlando Jones' character?

Ana Mardoll said...

Reading through quickly before having to take the kitties off to teeth cleaning (ZOMG STRESS).

"Personally, I frown on architectural bullying, but if one absolutely must throw one’s weight around, it pays to erect a cathedral or two."

You're right: that is an AWESOME line. :-D

Ana Mardoll said...

(Writing from the road)

Maartje, all the hugs, no judgments, and I didn't feel like you were appropriating or trying to speak for everyone at all. Hugs!

I have had a post in my head this week about not judging women based on their choices on marriage, but it boils down to No Judging.

Hugs!

Beroli said...

Does it make sense if I say that I feel like they're all horrible, but that I feel like the book/show doesn't EXPECT me too? 'Cause that's kind of what I mean. They're being set up to be perfect people, imho, but I'm not buying it.
Hm. My answer to this is...complicated.

Most directly, yes, I understand what you're saying.

Also, though, I have a problem with the tern "book/show," or more specifically, with basing opinions about a book series on a television show based on that series. Particularly, but not limited to, when "There are no sympathetic characters in these books" is exactly the kind of thing I would expect a TV show producer to treat as something that needed to be changed while making a show based on the books.

Do I think Martin is going for those characters being perfect? No, I don't. "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action." If he wanted to write a character who didn't do horrible things, he could just...write a character who didn't do horrible things; it's not like there's a curse on his word processor so that he sets out to write a hero, goes to bed, and wakes up in the morning to, "And then Tyrion strangles Shae" leering at him from his computer screen. (I presume. If it turns out there is, I will...not avoid everything he writes like the plague should he get rid of said cursed word processor.)

I doubt very much that my opinion of the books is at all ambiguous at this point. I keep meaning to avoid discussions of them and getting pulled in--especially by the oft-repeated, "But it's just realistic!" argument. (This makes my fiancee, who is an actual historian, pull out her hair significantly more than it makes me pull out mine...but I still hate it. No, the world presented by the books is no more "realistic" than the world of My Little Pony.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Wait. So you're saying My Little Pony is NOT historically accurate? O.o

Maybe my well has been poisoned by being on too many fan boards and reading endless repetitions of F--- YEAH, SHAE HAD IT COMING for me to see a lot of the fan base as seeing that as a legitimate moral failing.

GoT is hard to discuss because there's the text, the subtext (subjective), and the vocal fanbase, which may or may not be Missing The Point entirely.

Complicated!! :(

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Violence, Limb Loss

Hmm. And now this discussion of Text/Subtext/Author Intent/Fanbase is reminding me strongly of the movie Gladiator, which -- depending on who you ask -- is either a remarkable and searing indictment on American culture and its lust for violence and gore OR totally worth seeing because of the awesome scene where some guy gets his hand cut off. *sigh* Though I enjoy the movie in the "searing commentary", I secretly suspect the makers were having their cake and eating it too.

Now I'm also thinking of Starship Troopers -- the film, not the book, which I own but haven't read because the first page bored me to tears -- which I watched once and HATED because I thought I was supposed to take it 'straight up', but then someone told me to watch it again as a parody of American jingoistic military worship and then I loved the heck out of that movie.

TW: Rape

I'm now wondering if I really *could* love GoT if I could dial back and approach it without having been exposed to the fans. And then maybe I could read it in the "searing commentary" bucket instead of the "having cake and eating cake" bucket.

But then little things -- Male Author things -- would probably still stand out at me. Like the "but I was raped DOGGIE-STYLE of all things!". And the weirdness that... apparently -- can someone explain this to me??* -- Tyrion couldn't tell the difference between his wife being gang-raped and his wife willingly-and-skillfully entertaining a train of soldiers? Because, uhm, I'm not sure how that possibly could be ambiguous, especially since he was apparently there for quite some time, as well as a participant.

* TW: Rape and Misogyny I've dug through the books a bit with the search function, and looked online (and found really awful fan-site opinions that dripped misogyny about whether or not Tysha (sp?) "deserved" it and about how it's not possible to rape a prostitute, etc.), and asked Husband, but I still can't get a straight answer on how a scene like that could possibly be ambiguous. Again, not trying to speak for all rape victims, but when I was being raped, you could tell by my face I was being raped.**

** TW: Graphic Depiction of Personal Rape I mean that literally. Since we're speaking of Spousal / Partner Rape, one of the men who raped me was a man I was already in a serious and exclusive sexual relationship with. He wanted to have sex and I didn't want to because I was in a place, physically-speaking, where I knew it would hurt me. Even though I repeatedly said "no", he started having sex with me anyway (apparently believing that I'd "get into it" once he started), and I decided it would be easier to just let it happen than to keep trying to stop him. He went on for awhile, and then stopped abruptly when he looked at my face, and said -- in a hurt-angry tone of voice -- "You look like you're being raped." I barely avoided pointing out the very obvious REASON for that.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh! And I didn't actively hate Office Space, it had just been sold to me as the best thing evah and So True, and since I've been both a software engineer AND a waitress, I had little sympathy for the software engineer guy complaining to the waitress gal constantly when he at least gets to sit down and rest during the day. (I'm also a huge fan of "Nickel and Dimed" and there's compensation disparity like whoa between software engineers and waitresses. As far as I remember, this was not forcefully pointed out nearly enough to satisfy me. But I would have wanted like, graphs and data and charts and a 30 minute presentation at that point, and that probably wouldn't have made an entertaining movie.)

And the happy ending where he goes off to do a manual labor job just smacked of all kinds of... like privilege slumming? If that's the right word for it? I mean, I can TOTALLY see how that job might be a great, rewarding fit for an individual, but I'm like "let's not all kid ourselves as a group -- here speaking to the group of software engineers who recommended the movie to me as So True -- that Nobly Working With Our Hands Out Of The Cloistering Office" doesn't bring on severe back aches and hernias and usually come packaged with crappy health insurance and insufficient pay.

But I am Difficult To Please like that. I did enjoy Clerks immensely, and really loved the Randall "This Is Why You Suck" speech to Dante. As well as Silent Bob pointing out that Dante has been taking his girlfriend for granted like whoa.

Will Wildman said...

(And there are balance of power issues with some of the romances, too, unfortunately. Actually with a lot of the romance options... Romancing your underlings may be a standard romance trope, but it's got some real problems. Romance with equals, please!)

The two that I've seen/liked best so far have been hunter/Mako and knight/Kira, except that my knight is a woman and therefore her heart's desires are restricted by inadequate game code. And yeah, knight/Kira feels super-creepy sometimes when I'm trying to work out exactly how it can be that I'm not brimming with darkside for flirting with my immediate subordinate. Hunter/Mako was a lot better - she started out feeling like his kid sister, but as the story went on she kept on proving to be so awesomely competent that his had to up his assessment of her maturity, until them coupling up seemed like the only natural conclusion. (Trooper/Aric is just a mess of power issues, since he starts out above you and then gets demoted under you and... gah.)

I guess I'm just a fan of stories where Anyone Can Die - which makes me sound morbid.

While I can totally get on-side with this sentiment, ASOIAF doesn't really feel like it meets the standard - we're 5/7 of the way through the series and only one POV character has died, and that was back in book 1. (Well, another one did die, but rapidly Got Better.) Though I don't think it's coincidental that perhaps the biggest example of Anyone Can Die in the series so far (the Red Wedding) is also (IMO) the best scene by a wide margin.

Maartje said...

What the? People are actually debating whether TYSHA 'deserved' being gang-raped? Oh GOT fandom, you suck. Tyrion's treatment of Shae at least falls under the 'a life for an eye' Lannister sense of justice, but even if Tysha had been a prostitute, she was just doing her job.

depizan said...

It's not just that that the companions are all technically one's subordinates, it's how much that feels true, I think, that makes the difference between okay and not-okay. Bounty hunter/Mako I suspect would seem more like a romance of equals (I can't say for sure as my bounty hunter is a woman), since it feels much more like a partnership. I'm not sure about any of the Force User/companion romances, since there is an element of legitimate authority.

Smuggler romances don't seem like they'd have the creepy subtext, since none of the characters act particularly deferential and you're only loosely speaking their boss. (It's your ship, but that's really all that gives you authority.) Actually, it's not even whether your authority is legitimate, it really is how the characters are written. To take the Agent's companions, Kaliyo does not feel like a subordinate (there are other issues there, but it doesn't feel like my agent has any kind of power over her and I don't think that's just because he's Light Side and she therefor has no respect for him), and Vector feels like a parter (I assume that would stay true if I were playing a female agent), but Raina, who just joined the party, clearly treats my agent as her boss, even while flirting with him. Something about the way she's written makes me uncomfortable with the idea of pursuing that romance. And makes me think that I'll have problems with the other more boss/underling type romances in the game.

Maartje said...

I'm not up to speed on Star Wars, but I HATE balance of power issues in romances in games. My latest annoyance - in Skyrim there are many people you're allowed to marry. Only one of those caught my eye. And he only became interested after I became the boss of his faction! Urgh. I would've been prepared to not become boss of that faction only to keep us at the same level, but that wasn't an option.

Caravelle said...

TW : Rape
Tyrion couldn't tell the difference between his wife being gang-raped and his wife willingly-and-skillfully entertaining a train of soldiers? Because, uhm, I'm not sure how that possibly could be ambiguous, especially since he was apparently there for quite some time, as well as a participant.

Okay, I don't remember this exactly, but are we supposed to think Tyrion thought his wife was willingly-and-skillfully entertaining a train of soldiers ? I don't remember that being said, and if it was said or implied I'd take it as a lie (whether a lie to himself or to the world). Probably my wishful thinking again. To me the whole Tywin having Tysha "entertain" the soldiers wasn't about her sleeping with other men. It was about her being a prostitute. And about what Tyrion's culture and Tyrion's family think about prostitutes. And about the fact that Tyrion's father can as a matter of fact have his wife be gang-raped by a bunch of soldiers, and did do this, because that's the value prostitutes have - and that's the value Tyrion has, because in a patriarchal society the woman's value reflects on her man. And about the power his father has to use others to hurt him.

I don't remember how mad he is at Tysha exactly, but I'd guess some of it is projection of the hate he'd otherwise direct to himself, his father and his brother, and there is the fact she lied to him about the whole basis of their relationship.

Beroli said...

She hates the Dothraki and has every reason to; she despises Dany for a clueless White Savior and she has every reason to because that's exactly what Dany is.</blockquote.
Daenerys is Gul Dukat!

(Clarification, with ROT-13 for spoilers for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine): Gur hygvzngr frevrf ivyynva, Thy Qhxng, jnf gur Pneqnffvna cersrpg bs Onwbe qhevat gur erpragyl-raqrq Pneqnffvna bpphcngvba bs Onwbe. Ur xrrcf gelvat gb rkcynva jul gur bpphcngvba jnf npghnyyl n tbbq guvat sbe Onwbe, naq gur cebgntbavfgf erfcbaq jvgu, inevrq, "Fuhg hc," "Bs pbhefr V qba'g gehfg lbh," "V guvax lbh'er pncnoyr bs nalguvat," naq, "Pbzznaqre Fvfxb vf evtug, lbh ner va ybir jvgu gur fbhaq bs lbhe bja ibvpr, nera'g lbh?"

Ohg, va bar yngr-vfu rcvfbqr, ur'f noyr gb pbaivapr gur cevznel fgne, Pncgnva Fvfxb, gb yrg uvz znxr uvf pnfr, orpnhfr--nygubhtu Qhxng uvzfrys vf abg ernyyl njner bs guvf, orvat qrrcyl qryhqrq--Fvfxb svtherf, Fpururenmnqr-fglyr, gung gur ybatre ur pna xrrc uvf pncgbe gnyxvat gur zber yvxryl ur vf gb trg bhg bs gur fvghngvba nyvir. Qhxng rkcynvaf jul, jura ur gbbx bire nf cersrpg, ur vzzrqvngryl gubhtug gung n xvaqre, tragyre nccebnpu jbhyq pnhfr gur erfvfgnapr gb fgbc. "Fb va zl svefg bssvpvny npg nf cersrpg V beqrerq nyy ynobe pnzc pbzznaqref gb erqhpr gurve bhgchg dhbgnf ol 50 creprag. Gura V erbetnavmrq gur pnzcf gurzfryirf. Puvyq ynobe jnf nobyvfurq. Zrqvpny pner jnf vzcebirq. Sbbq engvbaf jrer vapernfrq. Ng gur raq bs bar zbagu bs zl nqzvavfgengvba gur qrngu engr unq qebccrq ol 20 creprag. Abj, ubj qvq gur Onwbenaf ernpg gb nyy guvf? Ba zl bar-zbagu naavirefnel gurl oyrj hc na beovgny qel-qbpx... xvyyvat bire 200 Pneqnffvna fbyqvref naq jbexref." Ur rkcerffrf onssyrzrag naq bssrafr gung, jurarire ur tnir gur Onwbenaf nalguvat, gurl hfrq vg gb gel gb xvyy uvz crefbanyyl be sbepr gur Pneqnffvnaf bss gur cynarg, hagvy svanyyl ur jbexf uvzfrys vagb n seraml, fpernzvat gung ur fubhyq unir ghearq gur ragver cynarg vagb n tenirlneq.

Beroli said...

Okay, why is my entire last comment a blockquote, even if I edit it and make sure the blockquote tags are only around the quoted part?

Ana, can I prevail on you to fix this?

chris the cynic said...

(Discussion of the same Deep Space Nine Episode.)

Gung rcvfbqr vf vagrerfgvat orpnhfr lbh'ir tbg uvz ng uvf zbfg ihyarenoyr, ur'f jngpurq rirelbar naq rirelguvat ur rire pnerq nobhg or qrfgeblrq, naq gur Ureb chfurf uvz gb yrg bhg nyy bs gur rivy ur'f orra xrrcvat obggyrq hc sbe cerggl zhpu uvf ragver yvsr. Ubeevoyr nf ur jnf, ur unq yvzvgf, ur unq zbenyf, naq gura ol gur raq bs gur rcvfbqr Fvfxb'f tbnqvat ghearq uvz vagb gur nagvpuevfg.

Jung ur qvq cerivbhfyl jnf rivy, ohg vg jnf rivy jvgu yvzvgf. Vg jnf frys pragrerq naq unq zbeny zlbcvn, n oryvrs gung ur xarj orggre guna bguref jung gurl arrqrq, naq tvnag urycvatf bs raqf whfgvsl gur zrnaf. Naq gubfr guvatf nyy cynprq yvzvgf ba jung ur zvtug qb. Zbeny zlbcvn fgvyy yrnirf fbzr zbenyvgl. Orvat frys pragrerq fgvyy yrnirf lbh univat gb pbaivapr lbhefrys lbh'er abg n zbafgre. Xabjvat orggre guna bguref jung gurl arrq erdhverf lbh gb guvax gung gur bguref znggre naq bhtug gb trg jung gurl arrq. Raq whfgvsvrf gur zrnaf erdhverf gur raq gb or tbbq. Naq nyy bs gung yvzvgrq uvf npgvbaf.

Gura Fvfxb bssrerq tbnqvat naq rapbhentrzrag naq nyy bs gung sryy njnl. Rirel yvzvg ba uvf qnexre vzchyfrf qvfnccrnerq. Ur orpnzr gur fcnpr Nagvpuevfg, bhg sbe trabpvqr.

Avpr wbo Fvfxb.

Mmarple26 said...

*groan* oh GRRM. The scene you just described is but a troublesome drop in a vast ocean of mysogynistic/racist/gut-churning drivel. As described best here. Not only that but it tends to bring a landslide of fanboys down to tell just how wrong you are to be squicked by the massive rape/women hatin'/racist/extremely graphic murder content. It's art, it's realistic, it's wonderful just like Twilight is wonderful and doesn't at all promote disturbing gender roles and just like the majority of sci-fi and fantasy books totally have a realistic and non-offensive image of woman.
Tangent done. I appreciate your dissection of one of the scenes from the books/HBO. Have you ever read any of the series? I tried my best after EVERYONE around me kept saying how wonderful they were (a red flag if I've ever seen one) and after two books I was left going bwuhhh?? This is fantastic why now? It's just another grimdark series in the fantasy book world that is overrun with grimdark. (but it's realistic!!)

unbeliever536 said...

CN: rape, absolute morality

MMD being vicious and cruel and spiteful to Dany actually *exonerates* Dany for killing MMD.

This kind of thing, plus the disproportion* you mentioned in the OP, is what causes a lot of the problematic stuff in ASOIAF, as I see it. Martin can't do anything with out overdoing it, especially with respect to "this person is GOOD" or "this person is BAD" stuff. Thus, we have Cersei being ABSOLUTELY EVIL and Jaime being PERFECTLY REDEEMED. The one time Martin tries to have a character who isn't unalloyed good or evil (Catelyn Stark), it just gets weird, because she is Amazing and Wonderful when she loves her husband and children, but Evil and Cruel when she hates Jon.

*I think it comes from Martin himself; he seems to think everything in the books has to be extreme. So "Sansa has it kinda rough" becomes "Rape threats everywhere!" and "House Frey does not appreciate Robb's impulsiveness" becomes the red wedding.

Ana Mardoll said...

RE: Anyone Can Die

Can I admit that I'm confused by this trope as applied to GRRM? I actually found the TV show to be surprisingly un-tense because it didn't seem like ANYONE could die -- it seemed like EVERYONE will die. It just felt... predictable to me? And I can't understand why!

I mean, I knew Ned Stark would die because spoilers. So there's that. But there's this scene in Season 1 where soldiers try to kidnap Arya and her dancing master / sword instructor starts to defend her with a wooden practice sword. And in any other series I would be on the EDGE OF MY SEAT because I liked the guy and here he is actually being COMPETENT with this wooden sword against these soldiers and MAYBE HE HAS A CHANCE and he can rescue Arya and they can RUN AWAY TOGETHER and we'll have a curly haired male protagonist who isn't a rapist or a sexist or a murderer (as far as I know). I mean, seriously, any other franchise and I would have bitten off at least one nail for this scene.

But for GoT, I was just totally bored through the whole sequence because I knew, I KNEW, he would die. Of course he would die. I was actually annoyed when he was doing well because, as I said to Husband, "they're just prolonging his inevitable death and they should get it over with." And I wasn't surprised when Jaime killed Ned's retinue. Or when Sansa's maid died. Or pretty much anyone else in the series. I hadn't been spoilered for any of these deaths, but I wasn't surprised by them either because it just seems like everyone in this universe is doomed. I think the only death that surprised me in the entire Season 1 was Sansa's dog.

Which is weird, because in a "fluffier" piece, I'd actually be tense over the possibility that the non-spoilered supporting characters might die. Like, I'd have hope that the sword instructor would escape or that the visual cut-away from Sansa's maid being slaughtered was really a ruse and she was ONLY INJURED and GOT AWAY SAFELY. But I don't have any of that tension with GoT. So I'm trying to work out why that is, when it seems like everyone else finds it super tense and awesome.

Then again, the minute I saw Bruce Willis on screen in "Sixth Sense", I blurted out "oh no, he's dead, isn't he? Does he know? That's so sad!" and burst into tears and everyone else in the room (who had already seen the movie) stared at me like I had spontaneously sprouted green hair. And I called it perfectly in The Matrix as to what order the minor characters would die in. So maybe I'm just really good at Seeing Dead People in movies/shows.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Rape

Okay, I don't remember this exactly, but are we supposed to think Tyrion thought his wife was willingly-and-skillfully entertaining a train of soldiers ?

It's my understanding, based on the show and the searching and the fan boards and the wiki and grilling Husband, that there are two possible versions of the Tysha story:

1. She was a prostitute. Tywin had his men run a train on her, with her consent and paying her as they went while she happily played with the coins in her hands and Tyrion watched so that he would see that, yes, she was a prostitute. Then Tyrion went last, having consensual paid sex with Tysha.

2. She was not a prostitute. Tywin had his men run a train on her, against her will and the coins being a ruse to trick Tyrion into thinking that she was consensually performing sex work when she really was not. Tyrion then unknowingly participated in the rape of his wife and this becomes a source of angst for Tyrion later.

Apparently, I am not the only one who does not fully understand this scene.

What *I* do not understand and what SCREAMS Bad Writing at me is that those two situations above cannot be reconciled so that it can be ambiguous in an observer's mind about which case was true. Apparently, if I understand correctly, we're meant to believe that the scene WAS ambiguous enough that Tyrion believed #1 until later Jaime convinced him that #2 was in fact the truth.

Will Wildman said...

I feel like it's a hybrid of 1) the presumptive hero of the first book dies, thus shocking many readers, plus 2) a huge number of non-POV characters die, plus 3) GRRM keeps doing cliffhanger cuts or picking turns of phrase that pretend someone is dying*, plus 4) the idea of the series being Anyone Can Die is very attractive.

I do think there's value in creating actual tension about the potential for success/survival of the protagonists, but I also feel like GRRM has been riding on ambience for a very long time on that count.

Syrio Forel, the fencing teacher, is interesting to hear about in TV, because his biggest fans may be quick to point out that his book-death isn't actually on-page: we see him losing, but Arya runs before he is actually killed. (Strictly speaking, we don't see Ned's death, either.) There have been some hypotheses that Syrio would actually come back later, possibly as one of the assassins who can magically change their appearance.

*Here on point 3, I refer to things like one of Arya's chapters ending with 'And then the axe caught her in the back of the head', and her next chapter later on involving someone saying 'You're lucky I only hit you with the flat of my axe to take you down'. Or a bit in book 5 that turns all lamenty-philosophical to make it seem like Tyrion is totally drowned, but is then made clear to just be sort of his own 'So this is how it ends' thoughts and not literally descriptive. These inevitably strike me as atrociously cheesy - I'm curious if anyone's aware of a case where an author does this and it doesn't just feel like a copout?

Ana Mardoll said...

Here on point 3, I refer to things like one of Arya's chapters ending with 'And then the axe caught her in the back of the head', and her next chapter later on involving someone saying 'You're lucky I only hit you with the flat of my axe to take you down'.

Oh, I see what you mean now! Yes, that would bug me to no end, but I've known friends who would find that interesting and tension generating in its own right. To each hir own. :)

Will Wildman said...

Indeed, folks are welcome to enjoy the narrative styles they enjoy. The Arya example just got eyerolls from me because I didn't believe at all that he would actually kill her at that moment, so the trope in play just felt lazy. The Tyrion example did raise some tension for me, because it was near the start of book 5 and I was really hoping that he was seriously going to shake things up again with something unexpected - offing his personal favourite character near the start of the long-awaited new entry would at least prove to me that he was working to sustain the apparent spirit of the series. Tyrion's survival actually dismayed me quite a bit (and people who memorise everything I ever write will recall that it was actually the next or next-next Tyrion chapter when I finally slammed it shut and abandoned it).

Maartje said...

I always read the Tysha story as the following. (Which may or may not mean anything, since I seem to be more generous with thinking GRRM respects his characters than he deserves.)

TW: Rape

My reading was that Tysha, whether she was a prostitute or not, did NOT consent to having sex with a batallion of soldiers. Tywin may have had her paid for it, but knowing him he didn't ask. So it must've been a horrible experience for her in either case. If she WAS a prostitute, she was gang-raped, and made the best of a terrible situation by taking the gold. If she WASN'T a prostitute, she was also gang-raped, only clutching at the gold so she had SOMETHING to clutch at.

Being gang-raped as a prostitute or as a crofter's daughter must look the same from the outside - I think both prostitute and crofter's daughter would've tried to be 'nice' at first to elicit gentler behaviour from the soldiers, and would've failed and given up after a while. No 'willingly-and-skillful entertaining'in either case.

I'm not sure whether to call Tyrion and the soldiers rapists or to call Tywin the rapist and Tyrion and the soldiers simply the tools with which Tysha was raped. Tyrion is described as not wanting to have sex with her; I can't remember if anything is said about the soldiers. None of them would have had the option to refuse, though.

Caravelle said...

1. She was a prostitute. Tywin had his men run a train on her, with her consent and paying her as they went while she happily played with the coins in her hands and Tyrion watched so that he would see that, yes, she was a prostitute. Then Tyrion went last, having consensual paid sex with Tysha.
Okay, WOW. That is not what I got from that scene at all, to the point I had to do a triple-take to even see how someone could theoretically see it that way. Although I'd probably change my mind if I re-read the passages in question, dunno.
If I were a prostitute paid to pretend to be in love with a young nobleman, and then that man's father had his guard all have sex with me in front of everyone to humiliate his son, I would very much NOT be happily playing with the coins they threw at me. Possibly scrabbling after them because they'd be the only good thing I'd have gotten out of this if I even survived. I mean, you know, unless Tywin had in fact cleared the whole plan with me beforehand and made sure I knew everything he was going to do and was ok with it. lol no.

And I'm not sure my interpretation is wrong either, because as you rightly point out the alternative makes no sense. (although you can always say Tyrion was seeing what he wanted to see I guess)

depizan said...

"You're my boss, now I'm interested in you!" Just seems full of unfortunate implications. (And I think is part of my wait, maybe I don't want to flirt with this person reaction to Raina in SW:TOR. Bad explanations for the behavior pop into mind, since I'm short on good explanations for why a person would suddenly be interested in someone once they became their boss. What kind of interactions did the character have with their previous superiors if this is their default?)

Loquat said...

TW: Rape

I really don't see how anyone can believe Tysha wasn't being gang-raped. My understanding of option (1) is more like:

Tysha thought she was just getting hired to give an ugly-but-nice teenage boy his first Girlfriend Experience, and was really not expecting things to turn nasty. She definitely wasn't prepared to be Exhibit A in Tywin's "hookers don't deserve to be treated like human beings" lesson, though given the power disparity between her and Lord Lannister she didn't really see any option other than submission. Tyrion made a habit of telling himself it was ok because she was a prostitute, but never fully succeeded in convincing himself the experience wasn't horribly traumatic for her. (Hence his outrage when he finds out she actually wasn't one.)

As for whether Tyrion should be considered a rapist... you know how child soldiers in Africa would sometimes be forced to do something horrible, like kill someone in their village, so they'd feel like they couldn't ever go back and might as well stay with the army? I feel like Tyrion's participation in the gang-rape goes in that same category - he did it, but the adult who made him do it deserves most of the moral responsibility.

Will Wildman said...

TW: rape, anti-consent culture

Generally avoiding the Tysha discussion because of reasons, but I will say that my impression of the scene was supposed to be that the Westerosi cultural narrative is 'you can't rape a prostitute' + 'she is unclean', and so while there was zero question that Tysha did not consent, giving her money automatically meant no one was breaking any rules and Tyrion was supposed to come out of it seeing her as a non-person thing. And because she had signed on as a prostitute previously, this was supposed to be seen as something she chose, even if she hated the consequences.

I think it actually ties in clearly to the consent issues between Daenerys and Drogo - there too we see the idea that consent is something that is given once and then can never be questioned or withdrawn. I could totally believe that Drogo was told 'This is how things work where she comes from, so if you want to be nice, ask her the first time, but after that you won't have to worry about it'. In Dany's case, saying 'yes' once to her husband was permanent privilege to her husband; in Tysha's case, supposedly becoming a prostitute was permanent privilege to any man with coins.

Loquat said...

Daenerys is Gul Dukat!

Ahahahahahaha, yes!

"Look, I care about you people! I've made your slavery moderately less oppressive! WHY DON'T YOU LOVE ME FOR DOING THAT?"

Ana Mardoll said...

Those that do talk about Tyrion thinking she was "willing" seem very confused

As am I very confused, because the passage in the book as well as the scene in the show both made me believe that Tyrion thought at the time that she was willing. There's nothing in either passage or scene to that says"rape" or "unwilling" or anything of the sort. So either Tyrion doesn't realize it... or he doesn't think it's worth mentioning to Bronn even though he's explicitly presenting it as a sob story and you'd think that would heighten the dramatic tension.

Loquat said...

Not to repeat myself too much, but I do think Tyrion did mind all along - the problem was all the adults around him telling him he wasn't supposed to feel bad for the girl, that it would in fact be inappropriate and unmanly to feel bad for the girl. So he told himself he was only upset because she'd lied to him, as a coping mechanism, and told the story to others through that lens, so other men like Bronn wouldn't think he was weak for caring about a prostitute's fate.

Learning that Tysha had been genuine, and not a prostitute, broke down his coping mechanism - basically giving him cultural permission to acknowledge what he'd always felt.

Lliira said...

Absolutely everything you say about the position thing -- totally agree. The point at which the woman was angrier about her people being raped doggy-style than, you know, BEING RAPED, was the point where I decided I would finish this one book and then never read anything George R.R. Martin wrote ever again, because I'd had it. Add that to the fact that Daenerys took "control" of her sex life simply by being on top, and you have one messed-up writer.

What is it with this trope anyway? I hate it so much. To any man who feels that being on top is all it takes to "liberate" a woman, and that being on the bottom in any position is somehow humiliating, and that doggy style is the most humiliating: you are doing it wrong. Sexual position is just sexual position. Plenty of women don't like being on top at all, whether because they don't like it psychologically or because it just plain doesn't feel as good to them as other positions.

Also, I talk a whole lot about sex in another internet identity. From what I've found, a plurality of women seem to enjoy the from-behind position more than any other, whether the women are submissive sexually or not. It is excellent for hitting the g-spot and for leaving hands free to do other stuff

Not that any of that matters when it's RAPE, because the problem with rape is that it's RAPE, not that it's one position or another! Eesh.

Ana Mardoll said...

I keep feeling like we should have an open thread about sex, since that Bechdel thread showed we have a lot to say, but I know people worry about over-sharing.

Maybe we could work around that with "my friend"? As in, "well, My Friend greatly prefers Lioness and isn't much of a fan at all of Cowgirl..."

Random tangent, speaking of that Bechdel thread: Has anyone seem Izzy lately? I feel like I haven't, but maybe I have and the drugs made me forget.

chris the cynic said...

I don't think I've seen Izzy here, but she's definitely still active in the greater slacktiverse.

EdinburghEye said...

Ana: Can I admit that I'm confused by this trope as applied to GRRM? I actually found the TV show to be surprisingly un-tense because it didn't seem like ANYONE could die -- it seemed like EVERYONE will die. It just felt... predictable to me? And I can't understand why!

It's possible you're good at calling it. It's also possible that we are seeing this series from two different angles?

I read A Game of Thrones and then A Clash of Kings in 1999, I think. I read A Storm of Swords not long after (looking it up, I see it came out in 2000, and I think I first read it in a library hardback). I read A Feast for Crows again, I'm pretty sure, in library hardback before I could buy it in paperback. And then, like everyone else, I settled down to wait - and wait - for A Dance With Dragons.

The first death in the books that truly surprised me was Ned Stark killing Lady. Anyone Can Die.

The TV show is a bit of a side-line for me. I mean it's nice to have and all and I certainly hope GRRM is making lotsofmoney out of it because he is a writer I've loved for a long time and it's always pleasing to think of writers you love getting satisfying amounts of money as they get older. But the real series is the books.

Caravelle said...

As am I very confused, because the passage in the book as well as the scene in the show both made me believe that Tyrion thought at the time that she was willing. There's nothing in his dialogue in either the passage or the scene that says "rape" or "unwilling" or anything of the sort.
Everything about that scene says "rape" and "unwilling" to me, I don't know what else to tell you. As for Tyrion's thoughts on whether she was willing or not, he's probably internalized "prostitutes can't be raped" pretty thoroughly from his environment so she wouldn't need to be happily counting money for him to have messed-up ideas on what happened.

"I was forced to watch my wife being raped and then rape her myself" packs a lot more punch than "I was forced to watch my wife entertain a train of soldiers and then me".
Except that if his wife is a prostitute those two things are pretty much the same thing. And even in the context of his story it doesn't make sense. "I thought I had married a woman who loved me, and then it turned out she was actually a prostitute who colluded with my brother to trick and humiliate me." It's all about poor lil' Tyrion. If you follow that with "I was forced to watch my wife being raped" that puts the sympathy back on her, and it makes him look ridiculous for still caring about her even though she was a prostitute who'd tricked him, the worst of all possible things to a Manly Man. "I was forced to watch my wife entertain a train of soldiers" is an "accurate" description (because prostitutes can only entertain, they cannot be raped). Her reactions don't come into it because the story is all about Tyrion.

I think you can interpret Tyrion as being all kinds of bad in that story, but I don't see how one can interpret Tysha as having been visibly consenting.

EdinburghEye said...

Caravelle: Yes, exactly.

Unbeliever: This kind of thing, plus the disproportion* you mentioned in the OP, is what causes a lot of the problematic stuff in ASOIAF, as I see it. Martin can't do anything with out overdoing it, especially with respect to "this person is GOOD" or "this person is BAD" stuff. Thus, we have Cersei being ABSOLUTELY EVIL and Jaime being PERFECTLY REDEEMED.

Oh, that bugs me to hell. Not so much Cersei being absolutely evil, because she's had a really effin' shitty life, but the fact that she turned out to be absolutely inefficient. She's been an unqualifiedly good schemer all through of her adult life: it's clear from her relationship with Jaime that she's always been the leader of the two of them. So why isn't she better at being the Evil Ruler of Westeros? Dammit.

unbeliever536 said...

Weep, weep for the competent villains, for they are never to hold the coveted POV!

But anyway,
TW: rape
she's had a really effin' shitty life

Yeah, she has, but why does she have to be condemned every time she responds to it? It seems like every time Cersei does anything good for herself or her children I'm told to hate her for it. When her son is bitten by an extraordinarily dangerous animal and she has said extraordinarily dangerous animal's packmate killed, she's evil. When she's unhappy that her drunkard husband rapes her regularly, she's ungrateful (after all, he was hot when he married her). I'm not saying she's a good person, or that she should be given a free pass, but why does GRRM have to say she's totally evil?

I do agree that she should be a lot more competent, though. It's probably a good thing Littlefinger and Varys haven't gotten POVs yet, otherwise they would have lost all capacity to serve as villains.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, good. I mean, I've missed her here, but I'm glad she's around. I need to Slacti-comment more, but Surgery Busy-ness has made that hard. :(

brjun said...

Weep, weep for the competent villains, for they are never to hold the coveted POV!

I always thought that was allure of Victorion Greyjoy. All he does for all of his chapters is twirl his mustache and proclaim his greatest slate of terrible things to do to innocent people, but at least he is actually actively working towards getting something that he wants. It doesn't make him sympathetic, but I always attributed his vague 'popularity' (I have yet to encounter anyone who actually likes him? Like, as a person?) to his general competence in comparison to, like, half of DwD.

I really don't want a Varys or Littlefinger POV. I bet finding out what their plans actually are will make those plans sound completely asinine.

Trigger warning: Mental Illness, violence

re: Daenerys burning people -- I thought that the show made parallels to how Targarayens burned people alive (see: Ned's father and brother, all of King's Landing, etc), and that was bad and a sign of insanity. So, while Daenerys is theoretically one of the good guys, the point of having her burn someone alive was to show that maybe she walked to that line. Aegon was not a good ruler, so, I think, this was actively meant to shed doubt on whether Dany (who still does not know a lot about why the Targarayens fell in the first place) would turn out differently. Sure, she suffered more than Aegon had, and she seems to have good intentions now, but that is that enough? At least, that was my takeaway from that scene, but that doesn't mean that this was intended or that everyone read it the same way or whatever.

The last episode of season 2 seems more blatant about Dany's lack of empathy for her fellow women, especially as contrasted with Brienne, a female knight. (Oevraar svaqf gur obqvrf bs guerr gnirea jrapurf gung fyrcg jvgu Ynaavfgref naq rkcynvaf gb Wnzvr gung chavfuvat gurz sbe guvf vf hasnve -- gurl qvqa'g unir zhpu bs n pubvpr. Yngre va gur fnzr rcvfbqr, Qnal svaqf n unaqznvqra fyrrcvat jvgu na rarzl, naq jura gur unaqznvqra rkcynvaf gung fur unq tbbq ernfbaf gb guvax Qnrarelf qrnq fragraprf ure gb n cnvashy qrngu naljnl. V erzrzorerq, orpnhfr V gubhtug gung vg jnf na vagrerfgvat whkgncbfvgvba.)

Rowen said...

Here's a few thoughts.
1) I recently read an article that dealt with Martin's Eastern Peoples and basically came to the conclusion that Martin's viewpoint is problematic, but is still usually from certain character's point of view, and isn't anything new in the fantasy series. I'm not doing it justice, but it was interesting, and touched upon a lot of the same issues you've been talking about. I've been looking through my history to find it, and think I read it at work. I'll keep looking.

2) In regards to Martin's work, fans and antifans, one thing I'm getting frustrated with is that I'm starting to feel like I can't just enjoy a series that does a few things different but also have some Really Frustrating Problems without being involved in some huge internet brawl. I'm guessing it's more due to Martin's popularity, because a lot of Martin's problems can be found in The Wheel of Time, the Sword of Truth, Laurel K Hamilton, Anne Bishop, the list goes on.

3) I understand that there are Big Problems, but it's annoying to feel like, to some people, there's no difference between myself and the most rabid fan boy, especially when it comes to defense of characters. I feel like this gets even MORE so when the person having problems hasn't read the books. So, what usually happens is something like this (note, I'm totally exaggerating here. . .)

Non-Fan: I read on Wikipedia that Tyrion raped Tysha, and the whole thing with Shae and UGH, this seems like another example of how Martin is a Woman Hating Mysogynst.
Me: Well, in Tyrion's defense, the whole Tysha thing happened with his EVIL father and he was 13, so it was more like HE was raped as well, and Shae lied on the stand and now he's about to be executed and.. . .
NF: RAPE APOLOGIST!! YOU'RE JUST AS EVIL!!! HOW COME YOU HATE WOMEN SO MUCH?!!!
Me: WAIT, no. What are you talking about? I'm saying that it's a complicated situation! Plus, you haven't even mentioned Pia, who would be a better examp . .
NF: STOP TALKING YOU MANSPLAINER, I CAN'T BELIEVE YOUR DEFENDING HIM. HOW DARE YOU TALK AGAINST BATTERED WOMEN!!*

*I'm COMPLETELY exaggerating. I've read some VERY interesting things on Martin's work that have changed me view on what he's written, but I also know some dyed in the wool feminists who enjoy his books. I don't mind if someone doesn't like his works. I just don't like feeling like the Worst Person In the World for liking his stuff and even having some sort of mental . . . justification for certain actions, although that's not for ALL actions and for ALL characters.

Also, in regards to the doggie style thing, I got the impression that that was more about a Not Well Thought About Social Taboo. The closest thing I can think of in American society is anal sex. As a gay man, I've had it, and I think it's fun, but I've gotten speeches from other people explaining about how they could NEVER do ANYTHING so GROSS and DEMEANING in their LIFE, and even if they don't mean to say that I'm demeaning myself, it does take a bit of mental wibbling and wobbling to get to a place where I don't give them a piece of my mind. Depending on the person.

Ana Mardoll said...

I just don't like feeling like the Worst Person In the World for liking his stuff and even having some sort of mental . . . justification for certain actions, although that's not for ALL actions and for ALL characters.

I have expressed very strong thoughts on this very issue in the past, so I'm not sure where you're getting the impression from my post that I think that you are a Bad Person for liking something I've pegged as problematic. Have I made you feel that way? If so, I apologize.

It feels like there's a lot of hurt in your comment, and I'm really sorry that you've been hurt by angry non-fans, but it kind of feels like you're lumping me into the same bucket as these other people who hurt you. I can't tell if you're venting in general because GRRM is the topic of the post and why not, or if you feel that my post and my comments have continued this trend of hurting you. Without that information, I don't know how to respond correctly. Or if you even want me to respond.

I will say this: I spent a lot of time very carefully crafting this post to *not* be a screaming screed about Martin-fans and how they're all rape apologists. I've noted multiple times that I'm married to a Martin-fan. I worked very carefully to say in the OP that I even thought that the intentions involved in Martin's work with regards to MMD were intended to *fix* a problematic trope, but that I just thought that it failed somewhere along the way. About half the post is also about Star Wars, of which I am an open fan, so that should also help clarify that this isn't about hating fans who like problematic things. So it hurts my feelings when I take a long time to carefully write a thoughtful post and then have it be casually correlated to a deliberately exaggerated hypothetical screaming feminist as though the two things are like the other in some way. :-(

And that's a particularly uncomfortable place to be when everything I have said about Tysha's and Mirri's rapes in this thread has been openly shared from my personal experiences as a rape victim, which is a vulnerable place to speak from. (And there have been other rape survivors in this thread sharing their feelings, too.) Analogizing Mirri's feelings about her non-consensual rape to some peoples' feelings about consensual anal sex and then saying you want to give such people "a piece of [your] mind" is not maintaining a safe space for survivors because your analogy has the unintended side-effect of conflating a fictional rape survivor (who doesn't like sex position X) in GoT with people who hold opinions that are insulting to you (because they don't like sex position Y).

I'm sure you didn't intend that unsafe conflation, but I have to point these things out if I am to maintain a safe space here. I'm sorry.

Laiima said...

TW: rape

Rowen, I don't understand why you're mentioning Other People Disagreeing With You, In Other Online SPaces, *here in this thread*. No one was addressing you directly, so no one was attacking you. If you feel victimized, that's all you. Expecting Ana to soothe your feelings seems like derailing, frankly.

As another rape survivor, I don't appreciate hearing a guy explain how a woman's rape was really more like a guy got raped, and let's talk about how awful *that* was, for the guy. Because if Tyrion wasn't actually raped, then he wasn't actually raped.

I wrote a lot more about my personal life - and then I deleted it.

If women are calling you on mansplaining, ever consider you might actually be doing it?

Rowen said...

Ok, let's go over a few things.

1) I apologize if I gave the impression that I was talking about ONLY this thread. I feel that, in general, on certain webcircles, GoT can't be discussed without this weird polarizing effect between insensitive fanboys and people who've read summaries on Wikipedia and are angry about what they read on that, without reading the books. However, this is one of the few places I've seen where the main author say that they do not like the books, but does it in a way that makes the people who've . . well, enjoyed the books but still recognize that there's major issues. However, reading this thread, yeah, there are some people that make me feel "meh" I was merely trying to point out that, hey, some of us HAVE read the books, don't approve of all the choices, but still find them a decent read and aren't rape apologists, no matter what someone online says. Maybe I got blocked and didn't really present it properlyl

TL:DR: I do appreciate the effort you've put into not calling everyone out. The gist of this was geared towards the thread as a whole, since, up until the Star Wars detour, seemed to rehashing that territory.

2) Anal Sex/Rape. I was NOT, let me be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR on this. I was NO comparing consensual anal sex with rape. Lemme try this one again. Some people have anal sex and enjoy it, yet as a sexual position, many people view it as gross, taboo and derogatory, and thus many movies, books, and TV shows have presented being raped anally as . . . more violating, even though that seems like an odd statement based on what we're talking about. THAT being said, I didn't view Mirri's description of being "mounted" as Lioness being the WORST POSITION EVER, but that maybe it was a social thing, and therefore added to her own personal shame. Again, apologizes if I gave you the impression I was talking about something else.

Rowen said...

Laiima. . .

I wasn't asking Ana to soothe my feelings. Sure, this isn't the rest of the internet, but none of us live in a vacuum. I was hoping to try and point out that sometimes, a lot of arguing over something that the readers like can get pretty nasty and make the people who do like it feel like they're doing something wrong. I've see it on the comments here, or on Slacktivist regarding many authors. It's also why plenty of people, including myself, stopped reading Pharyngula. However, in the end, I wasn't getting that impression from Ana, and apologize if I was giving that impression.

Also, . . . I can't see where you're getting ANY of that from my statement. I'm not trying to make Tyrion's sexual abuse worse then Tysha's rape, but to point out that he WAS abused, and that that scene is problematic in SO many ways, and seems to be interpreted differently by SO many people, that I'm not sure it's the best example of . . . well, anything other then that these books are going to be difficult for a lot of people.

I really have no response for the mansplaining, because, honestly, I've usually lurked in coversations like these. I realize that putting "myself" as one of the actors in the conversation up there is misleading. I apologize. However, just because someone claims that someone is mansplaining doesn't automatically make it so. Just like me voicing that I felt uncomfortable reading the thread means that Ana needs to upend her blog (which, just for the record, is not what I'm asking to be done.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Moderator Notice

For reasons of personal moderator spoons budgeting, this thread is being locked until future notice. Probably when I get off the depression-causing--narcotics in a month or three.

Will Wildman said...

In the specific case of Game of Thrones, I think the moment you're talking about is about the time that the series really solidifies one of its main rules: 'whatever the opposite of the cliche is, that's what happens next'. Since it's not portraying the cliche itself but its goatee-bearing Mirror Universe twin, it's still ultimately ruled by the cliche and thus, I think, kind of inevitable that it still falls into the same mire of Unfortunate Implications.

On the subject of Life Debts in general, I've found them endlessly tiresome for the longest time, for all of the reasons here, but I've got one story where there's just one white guy in the cast (foreigner from a distant land) and now I'm kind of tempted to have him swear a life debt to one of the main characters, thus making everyone deeply uncomfortable. (But given what I just said about Mirror Universe cliches, perhaps I'd best not.)

chris the cynic said...

[Based only on what you said, I have not seen or read it.]

That just makes it seem shortsighted and irrational.

It's like crying out to the heavens above, "You know what you did to Oedipus, do it to THE ENTIRE WORLD! Strike us all down in the most hideous way possible. In order to ensure this will happen, I offer as payment human sacrifice."

There are two possibilities, either the magic was right, if the child had been born he would have ruled the world because that is what FATE wanted. If Fate wants a single person to rule the world then, by definition, a single person will rule the world. That's how Fate works. That's what Fate means.

You see Death take note of you in one city, run all night to escape, and find Death on the doorstep in the next city and as you collapse, dying from exhaustion, Death says, "I was surprised when I saw you way over there yesterday, given that we had an appointment here today."

If it really is true that the only way to stop the young stallion from ruling the world is to kill him prebirth then Fate is very, very concerned with having one person rule happen. This is the "Choose and Perish," moment. Do you want the autocrat to be this person whose personality you might shape, or some random other person whom you will have no influence over?

Throwing rulership of the world out at random to land where it will and take you off guard rather than deal with the one you've been forewarned about is not wise.

Possibility two. Fate has not determined that one person will rule the entire world. Hell, maybe the pregnancy will produce a mare rather than a stallion. Even if it does produce a stallion maybe he can be controlled, perhaps he can be directed into more peaceful pursuits or carefully monitored so that his power never grows too great. Perhaps instead of killing now a wait an see approach might work and he can be assassinated later if such a thing might be necessary.

Either way, forced abortion doesn't seem the right solution. If Fate is involved you want to work within the bounds of Fate because defying Fate just pisses Fate off, bringing ruin upon yourself and everyone you care about for generations to come. And it never quite manages to avert what you were trying to avert. At best it changes its address so you don't know what direction to expect it from.

If Fate isn't involved, then there's absolutely no reason to try the forced abortion in the first place. At worst you have a heightened probability of the world being trampled, and in that case there's all kinds of things that you can do to reduce that probability that don't involve casting yourself in the role of the Terminator from the first movie.

EdinburghAAAAAAAAAGH said...

When I read the end of the first book of GoT with Mirri Maz Duur killing Drogo and Drogo's heir and reducing Daenerys to (she thinks) helplessness as as widowed khaleesi ... it gutted me, but I got why she did it. Drogo and Daenerys combined were a huge threat to all of the other peoples. If not for the dragons hatching, Duur would have created a peace that would have saved the lives of millions. By killing Drogo, and by tricking Daenerys into aborting her and Drogo's heir. This is Jack Harkness xvyyvat uvf tenaqfba Fgrira ng gur raq bs Torchwood "Children of Earth" - naq gubhtu Wnpx vf qrinfgngrq nobhg vg, ur fgvyy qvq vg. Naq vs nal bgure puvyq OHG Fgrira unq orra ninvynoyr gb xvyy, Wnpx jbhyq cebonoyl unir xvyyrq gung bgure puvyq jvgu eryvrs.

What Duur did to Drogo and Daenerys - I think she even says this explicitly since otherwise by fictional Monkeysphere rules I would probably not have thought of it - is exactly what Drogo and his khal had already done, would have done again if Drogo had survived.

kbeth said...

I guess I don't think they actually do have the same past. Dany's family may have been slaughtered, but that was when she was an infant; besides her brother, who she hated, she never really established any ties with anyone before the Dothraki. Nor do I think MMD would necessarily have realized that Dany had been raped; it is certainly what Drogo does, but it would seem pretty understandable to put together "thinks she has a claim to a foreign throne" and "married a powerful man with a large army" and get "consensual marriage/sex" out of it, especially since MMD never met Viserys. Which is of course not to say that rape can't happen in a consensual marriage, just that from MMD's point of view, there's no reason not to think that Dany didn't specifically give her own consent in order to get an army.

Anyway, I can certainly see why it comes across as being racist to you; I guess it doesn't to me because we see so many examples of white people acting cruelly that it comes across more to me as Dany being capable of pity because she's naive and idealistic (much like Robb and Sansa Stark), vs. MMD being a jaded adult (much like nearly all of the white adults).

It sounds like this isn't the discussion you were going for with the original post, though, so I think I'll recuse myself from the rest of it; I agree with the main point of your post in the abstract, but I don't think this specific example is a good demonstration of it, and I'm not sure I can discuss the former without spending a lot of time on the latter.

JenL said...

Because I absolutely do understand WOMAN OF COLOR's point of view that the HUSBAND LEADER is a dangerous, terrible person who must be stopped.

Does it change your analysis at all that Husband Leader's "magic women" (okay, yeah, there are big issues there too) have said that White Woman's baby is going to be "the Stallion that Rules the World" and that Woman of Color is making the choice to betray White Woman (and kill BabyStallion) specifically to stop not Husband Leader but BabyStallion?

If in fact the magic women know what they are talking about (and I think we're supposed to believe they do, given the rest of the magic and power demonstrated in this world), this baby raises "what would you do to stop Hitler" sorts of questions. Woman of Color is still betraying White Woman, but she's doing it not to stop White Woman's man but to stop the predicted atrocities of the unborn baby.

And then White Woman proceeds to get all "but I saved you from RAPE", as if she had. And as if that's the biggest concern this woman could have after what's been done to her people... So Woman of Color tells WW off, and does her best to cause WW pain while she's at it, because Woman of Color is in fact genuinely hurting right now. Can it be read to reinforce "color is evil"... well, yeah. Unfortunately. I guess I was just more comfortable with that than with Woman of Color being some kind of saint capable of genuinely caring about this girl she's only just met who thinks having stopped the 2nd or 3rd or 4th rape for this one woman means she's a great savior worthy of devotion.

Maartje said...

(This is not at all meant as a 'you should like GOT!' BTW. I don't like Princess Bride and Office Space either, so we have that in common. ;))

I'm going to have to look it up in the books, because Mirri Maz Duur always struck me as very reasonable - more like 'Well, I see you have your heart in the right place but FYI you didn't actually manage to do as much good as you were telling yourself because, guess what, being saved from rape #4 after your people murdered my entire village isn't really a rescue, and by the way I'm really going to have to do something about that husband and son of yours.' Of course, Dany narrates so her panic and fear and rage seeps through.

I didn't get any 'your tears please me' out of the books, and I bet my fondness off MMD from the book has coloured my perception of her in the series.

*goes off to find books* Ah, in the books, she 'smiles cruelly' once when she explains that yes, Dany saved her LIFE (but not any of the things that actually mattered in that life) and she saved Drogo's LIFE in return (but not any of the things that actually matter). I didn't read that as 'Mwuhahah I love it when a plan comes together, cry now little girl!' because I would've smiled cruelly myself (or bitterly) after just recounting the hell she'd been through.

Also, in the book initially it seems that she's giving it her best shot to heal Drogo after this small wound, but that he made it worse by going to another doctor instead because MMD's poultice was too painful. Could be lying, could be real - seems reasonable to want to stay close to the stallion who mounts the world if you want to make sure he doesn't, and what better way to get to do that than have his parents like you. And it also seems that she was planning to restore Drogo's life but not his mind with the magic (because maybe he wouldn't be as much of a stallion without dear old dad to teach him how) , but that the cost of the pregnancy was unintended, although not something MMD could really regret (because hey, that solves THAT problem). So, I don't know what was an 'evil plan' from the start and what was just opportunistic going with the flow, but she never sounded like a maniacal villain to me.

Now I'm going to have to re-watch that episode, of course, and try your eyes on for size.

----

@Chris, well, Mirri Maz Duur didn't actually have a liberal education that spells out the irony of self-fulfilling prophecies. Most people when asked 'would you kill Hitler' probably have an initial reaction of 'heck yes!' before thinking of all those counterexamples. And after seeing what Hitler's daddy just did to your entire people, that impulse may last long enough to actually do something about it.

Naomi said...

The "Life Debts" thing made me immediately think of "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" in which Kevin Costner played Robin Hood with an American accent and Alan Rickman played the Sheriff and almost managed to make it a worthwhile movie all on his own.

Robin starts out a prisoner somewhere in the middle east (he'd gone on the Crusades) and in the process of escaping, saves a fellow prisoner who's a "Moor" (i.e., he's black). The guy then has a life debt, which means that he will follow Robin around until he succeeds in saving Robin's life.

It's played partly for comedy, iirc, because he keeps not being around when Robin's in trouble and Robin has to save himself.

You are totally right that I have never that I can recall seen a white character follow another character (of any color) around because of a Life Debt. It's totally something Noble Savages do, pretty much exclusively. (And while the Wookies are not exactly People of Color, they sure as heck fall into the Noble Savage category, I'd say.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Since -- I'm told -- the TV Series changed the Dany/Drogo wedding night from Not Rape to Rape, it wouldn't be the first time the TV Series made things more problematic.

Ana Mardoll said...

Not having read the books, I'd be interested to hear how Mirri has been harmed by Dany, who has -- as far as I can tell -- no power in the clan whatsoever outside of deciding what she wants for dinner every night.

She may not have saved Mirri's village or saved her from rape entirely, but she did save her as far as she could. And in the TV Series, the *entire* interaction between the two women is:

1. Dany takes the women before Drogo and asks permission to have them be Not Raped.
2. Drogo fights to assert his leadership that the women be Not Raped, and is wounded.
3. Mirri steps forward and volunteers to "heal" him. (And then -- the viewer is lead to believe -- promptly poisons him and tricks Dany into an abortion and then gloats over Dany's pain.)

So there's no interaction at all in the TV Series for Dany to have even had time to harm Mirri. Maybe it's different in the book and I need to hang a "THIS IS IN REGARDS TO THE TV SHOW ONLY" notice on the post?

kbeth said...

I also didn't get the impression that MMD was a maniacal villain in either the books or the show; like Maartje, I thought her actions were entirely reasonable given her experiences (especially since I also got the impression that this was not the first time such a thing had happened to her or people she knew) , and in her place I'd probably have given that same speech she gave in the show. In fact, I liked how indifferent she was to Dany's protagonist-ness -- MMD was her own person, with her own story, and in a world where vicious cruelty is the norm, there was simply no reason for her to have much regard for a child who appeared to be completely oblivious to how much people were being hurt. I think this is part of the general appeal of Game of Thrones -- it's nice to see the protagonist-aura vanish from the protagonists, so that they end up being hurt just as much as everyone else.

NewScum said...

I agree about the life debt- it always struck me as lazy writing. If instead Chewie had decided to travel with Han out of gratitude, and then the two became besties, that would've required whoever cranks out the Star Wars novels to, ya know. Display two people becoming inseparable friends.

Have there even been any real cultures with that sort of life debt? It seems sort of...shortsighted. A good way to lose a lot of your people pretty quickly, not to mention making it easy for your enemies to get insider information.

TW: Rape and pillaging

MMD didn't just kill Drogo, or the child- she destroyed Drogo's entire Khal. Essentially, she took the largest collection of Dothraki there was, an army that was explicitly set to invade, rape, pillage and burn Westeros- and destroyed it. Sure, they're still alive- but they're not an army. They just go and join some other Khal and continue to be no worse than they were before. Honestly, MMD fights what is probably the most effective battle in the entire series. She destroys an army, stops an invasion, removes a figurehead that could've united ALL the Dothraki into a world conquering horde- and all it cost was three lives, and a girl being yelled at.

I think you're making a very common mistake, and I think it's one Martin wanted you to make because it's the basic mistake of a lot of literature- you're only considering the viewpoint character as "real." Since we see the world through Daenerys' eyes, we automatically take her viewpoint, and therefore consider her actions to be good, just as she does. Its essentially the same mechanism that lets us not care when Luke blows up the Death Star and kills everyone on it- they aren't "real," they're just props to showcase the hero.

But MMD doesn't give a crap about Daenerys. MMD is thinking about what a Dothraki horde united by a messiah would do. We've already seen what the Dothraki consider normal-rape and pillage is explicitly considered part of their due for winning a battle. Daenerys is naive enough to believe that she can just change this worldview overnight, and that she'll turn them into Shiny Knights of Honor, but the rest of the books hammer home the point that the world doesn't work that way.

From MMD's perspective- she discovers the queen is bearing the Dothraki Jesus, and plans to unite all the Dothraki into one army to invade and conquer Daenerys' own people, followed by the rest of the world. "The Stallion that Mounts the World" isn't a subtle title.

That's not "a naive young girl." That's "Genghis Khan: The Early Years." Naive or not, Daenerys is married to and actively supporting the leader of the murderous rape army*, and her child is a prophesied Murder Messiah.** In a world where prophecy WORKS. This isn't murder and betrayal- this is the most logical move for anyone who actually wants stop as much raping and pillaging as possible. Ultimately, Daenerys is just another evil person who doesn't really care how many peasants die on her way to the throne, and MMD is the hero who stops her in a fairly bloodless manner.

*Honestly, by that point its become pretty clear that she's the brains of the outfit.

**also the greatest Christian Death Metal band of ALL TIME.

Ana Mardoll said...

Gods, how much do I like this post? SO much. And not just because of the Goldeneye reference at the end, which is SUPERB.

That is not why blowing up the Death Star is considered an acceptable, even laudable act of self defense.

And, ironically, as anyone who has watched "Clerks" knows, there is a LOT of fan debate about the morality of blowing up the Death Star the second time, what with it still being (apparently) under construction and therefore (presumably) staffed by neutral contractors and not just evil participants of mass murder.

So, actually, many fandoms DO talk about these situations without assuming that the heroes were automatically in the right. There have been many, many SW conversations on this blog about problems within the SW universe as perpetuated by the heroes.

Ana Mardoll said...

Fair enough. From what I understand you are saying, I think there's also enough of a disconnect that "Having Read The Books" and "Having Not Read The Books" seems to render the TV series an entirely different beast. (Example: In the show, MMD and Dany have zero time to talk together, so MMD wouldn't even know Dany thinks she has a claim to a foreign throne, which therefore precludes the possibility of her thinking the marriage was consensual. (Assuming a "marriage" between a 12 year old girl and a 30 year old warrior can be 'consensual' in MMD's eyes.) Apparently in the books, they interact more.)

But thank you. :)

Dragoness Eclectic said...

..and your hypothetical Resistance on the Death Star that didn't happen reminds me of the rebellion that did happen in David Weber's Honor Harrington stories. If you've read the scene, you'll recognize this:

Shannon Foraker: "Oops!"

chris the cynic said...

I have never read those books, but I still recognize that. (Someone had it as their signature somewhere. Probably FireflyFans.net or the sjgames forums.) Didn't know the context though.

Beroli said...

Haven't seen the show. Will never see the show unless some weird person offers me ridiculous amounts of money to watch it. However, I'm somewhat puzzled by the juxtaposition of "Daenerys had no power and couldn't be blamed for what Drogo had done" with "Daenerys had the power to stop this one woman from being gang-raped, even though Drogo had to fight with his men over the matter." Clearly she had influence over Drogo.

On an unrelated note, and just out of curiosity, when you say you don't like The Princess Bride, do you mean the book, the movie, or both?

Edit: It occurred to me that "clearly she had influence over Drogo" could look...unfortunate. From Mirri's perspective, I have a hard time seeing why Mirri would treat Daenerys as anything but an enemy to be crushed as badly as possible.

Ana Mardoll said...

Does it change your analysis at all...

No, because -- as I stated above -- my problem is not with the murder of the husband or with the tricked abortion, my problem is the LULZ HAHA YOU HURT NOW, PRETTY LITTLE WHITE GIRL YOUR TEARS PLEASE ME speech at the end of it. In my opinion, the Woman of Color isn't shown as being a genuinely reasonable person trying to save the world; she's shown as an evil woman who cackles over the White Girl's pain just as evilly as the rapists would have cackled over the Woman of Color's pain.

If they'd wanted to have a "look, yes, I know you tried to save me, and I appreciate that, but you don't get a free pass to bear the anti-christ on my watch just because of that", then that would have made her seem propelled by reasonableness, and not motivated by repaying (attempted) good with as much evil and hurt as she could heap on.

(ETA: This doesn't even get into the fact that, knowing the culture the WOC is dealing with, she has no reason to believe the White Girl isn't a victim of rape as well. Which -- in the TV show version, at least -- she is. And, if you count her brother, I suppose she still is in the book version. So this is basically a WOC rape victim deliberately laughing at the pain of a White Girl rape victim. Unfortunate Implications, in my opinion.)

I guess I was just more comfortable with that than with Woman of Color being some kind of saint capable of genuinely caring about this girl she's only just met

As I said in the OP, I think this was probably an attempt to FIX that usual approach, yes. But I still think they went overboard into Problematic Like Whoa territory.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think Life Debts can be done tastefully -- see Jean from Claymore -- but they pretty much have to occur between equals and I really prefer it not to be a "cultural" thing. If you look at Jean from Claymore, she isn't swearing to serve Claire regardless of future ideological differences, she just wants to pay back the life that Claire gave her.

As opposed to Star Wars, where EVERY WOOKIE IN THE SERIES (that I know of) is under a life debt. Chewbacca from the movies. Zaalbar from KOTOR 1. Hanharr from KOTOR 2. They become almost interchangeable gold fish at that point and that's so problematic.

Patricia Wrede did a neat society in "The Seven Towers" where a desert race was very "oath" and "debt" focused, but they were not "life debts" in the Star Wars sense but more in the "I owe you one, buddy" sense. And if someone was a Really Bad Dude, there was a ceremony for disavowing them and breaking off any oaths/debs you may owe them. Because that's how reasonable people act.

chris the cynic said...

Most people when asked 'would you kill Hitler' probably have an initial reaction of 'heck yes!'

If they were asked that, then perhaps. But they wouldn't be asked that. They'd be faced with either a pregnant woman, infant, or small child. Maybe, but extremely doubtfully, a young man.

If he's old enough to actually be anything that even resembles evil in the least amount then it's a completely different question entirely. The situation you describe isn't, "Would you kill Hitler?" but, "Would you violate this woman's control over her body to override her reproductive autonomy?" which differs from, "Would you kill Hitler?" in more than just the number of syllables.

If one were to wait until after the birth took place, thus removing the need to violate the mother, it still isn't, "Would you kill Hitler," it's, "Would you kill this innocent newborn who has done absolutely nothing wrong?"

Maybe most people would have an initial reaction of, "Heck, yes!" but I'd like to think they'd at least consider whether or not there were any alternatives first. At the very least look to exact wording of the magicy magic stuff. For example, what do you do with unruly stallions*? You tame them. The very word Stallion comes from the stalls in which the horses were kept. Stallion implies, "Can be controlled, need not be a force of destruction."

-

*Yeah, I know we're talking about an alternate reality where etymology is probably different, but when someone says, "For the good of the world kill this baby," I'd like to think most people would be poking around the edges of the command looking for any way to get the good of the world without going down the infanticide route. And since I don't know what they might fall back on in that other world, I am left with using the things one might fall back on in this world and assuming there would be similar but culturally appropriate attempts in said other world.

sweetcraspy said...

I'm not sure exactly how this plays into her motivations, but I think it's worth mentioning that MMD gives a few instructions and suggestions that Drogo, Daenerys and Jorah don't follow.

CN?: Wounds, premeditated murder, and complications in childbirth

And obviously season 1 spoilers.

First is the poultice. In the TV show, I believe that the first time they pull it off, the wound has already festered. Either the poultice was ineffective, or it was actively harmful. In the book, apparently Drogo doesn't wear it very long, because it itches. So, we get no clear message from the TV show, but Mirri's instructions were ignored in the book.

Second was the pre-blood-magic discussion. Mirri warns that death is cleaner than the spell. She certainly is not open about the spell's full effect, but she does not jump at the chance to cast it. If her only goal was to kill Drogo and the baby, she could have assured Daenerys that this was the right move.

Finally, was the blood magic itself. Mirri instructs that nobody is to come into the tent, especially not a man. When Daenerys goes into labor after being pushed to the ground, Jorah immediately carries her into the tent. What would have happened if the spell had not been interrupted?

Book events reference: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/A_Game_of_Thrones-Chapter_64
Show events reference: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Baelor & http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Fire_and_Blood_%28Game_of_Thrones%29

An alternate explanation for Mirri's anger at Daenerys could be that Mirri has tried to help or counsel her enemies three times and was foiled by them. Now she is being blamed for what has gone wrong, and even though both women are captives, Daenerys still has power of life and death over her. Taking credit for events at least saves her from having to grovel before being killed.

Ana Mardoll said...

MMD was her own person, with her own story, and in a world where vicious cruelty is the norm, there was simply no reason for her to have much regard for a child who appeared to be completely oblivious to how much people were being hurt.

But Dany and MMD have basically the same past. They've both had their people slaughtered. They've both been raped. They both KNOW that about each other -- MMD *has* to know that about Dany, just by looking at her, that she's either a captured bride or a sold one (she's clearly not a native born into the tribe!), but that she's definitely been raped by Drogo (in the TV Series, that's what he *does*) and that she's lost her people forever.

So you have one woman who has "regard" for another because they share a similar history of loss and rape and another woman who has -- as you say -- no "regard" for the other woman, despite that woman trying to help her the best way she can and risking her position in the clan and the favor of her husband to do so. That's not disproportionate or unfair at all? To show no gratitude, nothing but anger and cruelty, at a child who really did try to help in literally the only way available to her?

And on a larger world-building level, we have a setup where a White Woman Who Has Been Raped tries to make the world a better place through reformation and rebuilding, and a Woman Of Color Who Has Been Raped tries to make the world a better place through cruelty and angrily lashing out at a little girl (isn't she 12?) who never had any control over the wrong things her rapist husband was doing. There's a contrast there, and it's one that makes me very uncomfortable. The person with the capability for pity is the White person. And the person who has not an ounce of pity or gratitude is the person of Color.

Maybe it's just me.

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