Tag Archives: game of thrones

My Weird Theory About The Men On Game of Thrones (Spoilers)

Today, I’d like to take a break from our regularly scheduled program to talk about a wildly inappropriate TV show.

(Because 8 PM is when the kids go to bed and all the zombies come out.)

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Woo hoo, the kids are asleep!

See, one of my blogging buddies writes great posts about Game of Thrones at I Can’t Possibly be Wrong All the Time,

He analyzes the show in such great detail, in fact, that I often walk away realizing I didn’t pay nearly enough attention when I was watching it (though in all fairness, Patrick did read the books too).

And he’s inspired me to not only watch the show again, but to share the bizarre insight I had while seeing it a second time:

Male characters in GoT get a lot nicer after having something chopped off. 

Weird, right?

I’m not judging here, just reporting what I’m seeing.

Because it’s happened several times…

Jaime Lannister

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I half-expect the Dread Pirate Roberts to come out swinging…

Jaime Lannister started out such a despicable character that he initially made me give up watching the show.

I already wasn’t thrilled with the kidsicle opener and then the pilot episode… the PILOT… closes with Jamie tossing a child out of a tower because he’d seen Jaime knowing his sister. In the biblical sense.

So, he casually tosses a little kid out a tower window while making an offhand joke about it.

And I was just DONE after seeing that nonsense. It took me several months and many glowing reviews from people whose opinions I trust to come back to the show…

When I did, Jaime was busy paying off assassins to kill that kid he crippled in his sickbed and then framing his own brother for the murder (which, luckily, doesn’t work out).

Jaime keeps up this douchey behavior for some time: trying to kill Ned Stark in an ambush, brutally murdering a squire who worshipped him just to create a diversion, and harassing Lady Brienne like any cocky, rich jock in an 80’s flick would…

Until he gets his hand chopped off.

Sure, he’d been hinting at human decency right before that (by talking his captors out of violating Lady Brienne), but it was only after the hand-chopping incident that Jaime truly emerges as one of the “good” guys of GoT’s extremely morally-relative world.

Then, Jaime risks his own life by jumping into a bear pit to help Brienne. He helps the brother he previously tried to frame for murder escape from prison after being unjustly accused. He tries to talk his sister into retiring someplace nice instead of continuing her mass murder spree. All of which is truly noble by, you know… Lannister standards.

Theon Greyjoy

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This punk here

I’d almost forgotten what an incredible jerk Theon used to be.

I mean, he actually starts the show of in full sociopath mode by jumping at the chance to slaughter puppies (the dire wolves who eventually became the Stark’s pets). He ironically makes fun of Jon for being a bastard and generally spends his time being a violent, arrogant, pervert.

Theon grew up with the Starks, who are essentially his immediate family. But while Robb Stark (to whom Theon pledged his loyalty) is busy waging his military campaign, Theon takes advantage of the opportunity to betray them. He takes over their house and starts executing anyone who disagrees with him, including loyal servants whom he’s known since childhood.

This includes his adoptive brothers, who are kids. When he’s unable to find them (because they escape while he’s… distracted), he murders two innocent farm boys in their stead and adorns Winterfell with their burned corpses, just to make a point.

Pretty horrible person, right? Well, he then gets captured by Ramsey Bolten and Ramsey is enough of a monster to actually make us start feeling sorry for Theon because Ramsey redefines all our goalposts for crapiness.

That’s when Theon gets… well, we all know what he gets chopped off.

But it apparently did him some good, because it’s only after his time with Ramsey that Theon is ever motivated beyond his own immediate self-interest: he risks himself to help Sansa escape (after finally showing some empathy for his adoptive family), he supports his sister Yara’s bid for leadership of the Ironborn instead of pushing his own (more traditional) claim, and lets himself get beaten to a pulp while rallying the Ironborn to help him rescue his sister.

(Sure, there was that whole unfortunate incident where Theon jumps off the ship instead of rescuing Yara from Euron himself, but being Ramsey Bolton’s prisoner is bound to cause a little PTSD. It’s still an improvement over murdering innocent farm boys.)

Varys

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Not your typical hero, but…

Varys was an especially interesting character to watch for a second time because at first, it was impossible to guess his moral alignment.

Like his counterpart Littlefinger, Varys has to carefully navigate GoT’s treacherous world to keep on breathing. He must, like Littlefinger, show skillful diplomacy while working behind the scenes… effectively playing different sides against each other. So, you never knew whether Varys’ brilliant manipulations were ultimately self-serving or not.

But eventually, we figure out that Varys is a good guy. There was evidence for this fact all along, which became more obvious when watching the show the second time around. Though he can’t openly fight the Lannisters, for example, you can see him subtly disapprove whenever Joffrey cruelly harasses someone (like Sansa or Tyrion).

Though he won’t pointlessly sacrifice himself for a lost cause (by helping Ned Stark escape), he will risk himself for a good one (by helping Tyrion escape). Unlike many of the Starks, he has a good sense of when keeping his mouth shut will allow him to fight another day… a long game that ultimately makes him a much more effective player.

When challenged by Daenerys, we get a better sense of Varys’ inner moral code. He describes his loyalty for the common people against brutal despots. He also won’t harm the innocent (revealed when he says he would never hurt children, since they are “blameless”), which puts him squarely on the good team according to murky GoT metrics.

And how did he come by this altruistic perspective? From being castrated by a sorcerer after growing up a slave… again, another relatively-good male character who’s had an important body part hacked off.

Sir Davos Seaworthy

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Nicest OG on the show

Sir Davos is undoubtedly one of the kindest characters, which is rare within the older set because you have to be pretty Machiavellian to survive long in Westeros.

More humble than most of the players who have drastically risen in rank, Davos still speaks plainly, yet convincingly… moving the Iron Bank or Daenerys or Stannis even after his more aristocratic counterparts could not.

Sir Davos puts himself at great risk to do what is right: standing up to the Red Woman, questioning Stannis the “king,” helping Gendry escape… Davos was sent away before Shireen was horrifically killed because, well, Stannis and Melisandre knew he wouldn’t put up with it.

And, again… Sir Davos had been mutilated. Stannis had cut four fingertips off Davos’ right hand as punishment for his smuggling past. Because Davos was a criminal before getting his fingers chopped off.

Definitely a pattern, right?

I’m not sure of its significance, except maybe GoT characters start identifying more with the underdog after getting mutilated in some way, or maybe it just keeps their hubris in check.

And I can’t think of any female characters who were mutilated to make comparisons.

Any thoughts?

 

 

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The Bizarre Morality of Hair Color on Game of Thrones (SPOILERS!)

Has anyone else noticed the bizarre relationship between hair color and evil on Game of Thrones?

Blondes

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They look EXACTLY THE SAME, apart from the hair

It’s a simple, if troubling, old concept: light = good, and dark = bad. The good guy wears a white hat and the bad guy a black. Blondness typically means innocence.

Not so much on GoT, however.

The Lannister family, known for flaxen hair, are the evil, rich overlords of the show. Not only are they blonde and evil, but you can determine just how evil they are by how blonde they are.

Tyrion, the “black sheep” of the family, is the only one with brown hair and easily its most principled, likabable member.

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I’m not as blond as you think

Jamie is probably its next best member: capable of great evil, yet not without redeeming qualities. He’s blond, but his hair is dark enough to be considered light brown.

 

Joffrey, on the other hand, is a raving lunatic, so evil that he’s not even calculating about it. His family may be willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, but even they think Joffrey gets out of line. He’s just cruel for kicks and his hair is almost white.

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Platinum lunacy

House Targaryen, the other blonde family, aren’t much better. King Aerys II wanted to burn down a entire city of innocent people and his heir, Viserys, pimped out his sister to a horde of rampaging horse-worshippers just to get his hands on some warriors.

 

That sister, Daenerys, is the only exception to the show’s blonde=evil pattern that I can think of, with her platinum locks and benevolent nature.  She does have black eyebrows.

And there’s also Lady Brienne, who seems honorable. But they do make a big point about her “mannish” appearance.

Brondes

Bronde= brunette + blonde, the hair color often sought by women who want the best of both worlds.

It’s a color that can’t quite decide it’s own category, a color of ambiguity. Much like the moral ambiguity of the brondes on GoT.

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You can’t pin down my motives any more than my hair color

I’d argue that the Faceless Men are brondes. Jaqen has brown hair with blonde highlights and is a difficult character to pin down. He saves Arya, then trains her, but also tortures her and ultimately calls for her execution. Still, he wants it done painlessly and only because it’s demanded by his belief system.

 

The Waif sometimes looks blonde, sometimes brunette, depending on the lighting she’s in. She definitely unlikeable, reveling a little too much in beating blind Arya with a stick, but she was only following orders. She’d probably be considered Lawful Neutral by the old Dungeons and Dragons alignment system, which is about as morally ambiguous an alignment can be. Same for Jaqen.

And Margaery Tyrell? She’s definitely something between blonde and brunette and we’re not sure of her morality either. It’s hinted that she’s not nearly as chaste as she presented herself to King Renly. She was willing to marry sociopathic Joffrey when it was politically expedient, barely breaking step after his murder to ingratiate herself to the next heir.

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Be wary of highlights

Margaery seems sympathetic to the poor, but as she told the High Sparrow, her sympathies were always very public, more about winning approval than genuine.

Was this true, or was she just telling the High Sparrow what he wanted to hear? We don’t know. Whether her machinations are Machiavellian or purely meant to protect herself and her loved ones is unclear.

Like her hair color.

Gray Hair

Gray hair usually denotes wisdom or fragility, but in Game of Thrones, no one fragile sticks around.

So maybe that’s why its gray-haired characters are among the most evil.  You have to be pretty ruthless to last long enough for your hair to turn gray in a land where you win or you die.

The long-surviving set includes Tywin Lannister, the godfather of the Lannisters, who was once blond. While you can’t help but admire his cunning, he’s undeniably one of the most evil characters in the show, which takes real dedication. He won’t hesitate to force his own children into miserable, unfulfilling lives if it’s politically advantageous.

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Why are you so nervous? I just said we should do brunch sometime

Neither will Walder Frey, host of the Great Red Wedding massacre, who considers his child brides replaceable, calls his sons weak and his daughters ugly, and marries off his youngest girl to a man seconds from being thrown into a dungeon.

Or Lord Greyjoy, who lost two sons twenty years ago and had the third taken hostage. His first reaction, upon his long-lost son’s return, was to call him a pansy and make fun of his coat. And THAT was the high-water mark in their relationship…

I’m starting to see a pattern here. Most GoT characters are ruthless against people outside their alliances, but the gray-haired ones aren’t even kind to their own kids.

Lady Olenna is the notable exception. She seems deeply invested in her grandchildren’s happiness, and I’m assuming her hair is gray. We never actually see it, though, from under her headdress. Maybe that’s on purpose.

The gray-hairs without children are even nastier. Littlefinger never had children, after losing Catelyn Stark, and he may be the most Machiavellian character on the show.

Or the High Sparrow, who has no children because he’s a religious fanatic, hellbent on destroying aristocratic sinners. He could arguably be considered a quasi-hero, being the only one capable of making Cersei Lannister answer for her crimes.

But I don’t think so. He’s a reformed lecher and a glorified hypocrite, brutally forcing everyone else into his own spiritual persecutive. He tortures homosexuals. His treatment of Cersei actually made me feel sorry for her.

And anyone who can make me feel sorry for Cersei must be pretty bad.

Brunettes

Brunettes fare pretty well in GoT. Most of the good characters are brunettes.

Ned Stark is brunette, as are Robb Stark and Jon Snow. So are Arya, Gendry, Khal Drogo, Bron, Brann, Dario, Benjen, Missandei, Oberyn Martell, Grey Worm, Meera, Mance, Gilly and Samwell Tarly.

Of course, “good” is a relative concept in this show. It seems to mean only being willing to do the heinous things you have to for survival, without enjoying them too much.

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Not the face of a villain 

No one is entirely pure. Samwell may be the cleanest of the bunch, only having broken his vow of chastity after saving a damsel in distress. Or possibly Bran, who only sacrificed a friend while making his escape in a situation where everyone would’ve otherwise been killed.

Either way, dark hair is highly represented on the good team. We are even finding redeeming qualities in Gregor Clegane, who definitely started off as a bad guy. It feels like he’ll be renouncing the Dark Side in Season 7.

The grand exception to all this is Ramsey Bolten. He had black hair and was possibly the most evil character on the entire show, which was surprising. I didn’t think anyone could beat Joffrey for pure sadism, but I was wrong.

I guess Ramsey is the great outlier in the brunette equation, like Daenerys of the blondes. And both are hair-color extremes: Ramsey’s is black and Daenerys’is white. I wonder if that’s somehow significant.

Redheads

Redheads are represented fairly well in GoT, usually good but flawed. They’d probably get a chaotic good rating by the old DnD alignment system. They are ruled more by their personal consciences than any arbitrary group rules.

You’ve got Ygritt the Wildling, who falls in love with Jon Snow and risks herself to save him. She is kind enough to make Snow sympathetic to the Wildings’ plight (a first for the Knight’s Guard), but angry enough to kill him after he betrays her.

Except she can’t kill him. She’s a marksman who keeps firing arrows into nonlethal parts of his body, maybe so she can rationalize that’s she’s loyal to her Wildling buddies while still not leaving him dead.

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We just want independence from England… umm, we meant Westeros

Or Tormund Giantsbane, with his shock of orange hair and Viking beard. After watching Jon Snow’s mercy-killing of Mance, Tormund decides Snow is alright and helps bring about the Jon Snow/Wildling alliance.

Apart from the Wildlings, there’s redheaded Catelyn Tully. She’s generally a good character, but can be nasty. For example, she was cold and unloving to the bastard infant her husband brought home.  I can understand her being angry at her husband for having an affair, but why be cruel to an innocent baby? At least she felt bad about it, I guess.

And then there’s Sansa Stark.

I’ll admit not being much of a Sansa fan, so far (I’m much fonder of Arya). It all started when she thought her fiancé Joffrey was super awesome.

After the butcher’s boy incident, Sansa has every reason to believe Joffrey is a monster. He bullied a peasant kid and then Sansa’s own kid sister, had the peasant kid murdered and then killed an innocent wolf.

At this point, any reasonable-thinking woman would be freaking out about what she was getting herself into, but no. All Sansa was worried about was whether the smug little sh*t still liked her.

sansa.gifIn fact, she seemed pretty squarely on Team Joffrey until he had her father beheaded then made her stare at his disembodied head while having someone smack her around.

That’s brutal, of course. But I’m wondering if there’s a word for people who have utterly no sympathy for anyone’s else’s problems until they are themselves facing the exact same problems. Sansa never cared about Joffrey’s cruelty until he was specifically focusing it on her.

Sansa goes through an enormous amount of personal suffering while refusing to learn anything from it. After finally escaping Joffrey, she throws a hissyfit about marrying Tyrion because he’s a dwarf.

Despite his kindness and sensitivity. You’d think after seeing how bad things could get with Joffrey, she’d be a little less worried about her new husband’s height than his character, but no. It takes Ramsey Bolten to put things into perspective.

Maybe we can cut her some slack for being so young. She definitely suffers from her foolishness choices and seems to turn around in season six.

Still, I’d argue that redheads in GoT are mostly good, with the exception of Melisandra, the Red Woman. Apparently, there’s a major outlier in every group.

 

So, what do you think? While not applying to every last character, there do seems to be hair color personality patterns on the show.

Is it a coincidence?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans Apparently Hate Game of Thrones

After jumping on the Game of Thrones bandwagon a month ago, my husband and I are now officially caught up. It didn’t take long, because being able to binge-watch a great TV series every night is the best part of showing up late to the party.

The worst, on the other hand, is the loneliness. You have to avoid every article, analysis, fan theory, and even the casual overhearing of anyone else discussing the show. Just in case you end up hearing spoilers.

So I’m now struggling to fill the painful void that new GoT episodes once filled by reading all the articles that I’ve been avoiding. And I came upon something interesting…

E-Poll Market Research put out some fascinating research about a week ago about political affiliation and favorite TV shows. Their monthly E-score tracker analyzes the viewing of over 3000 US television programs, providing detailed research to media and Fortune 1000 companies.

Turns out, Democrats love Game of Thrones and Republicans really don’t.

Now, I’m sure that tons of individual Democrats hate it and particular Republicans love it, but there’s an enormous disparity between the two groups as a whole. GoT came in first place for favorite Democrat shows, but didn’t even make the Republican top ten.

darylandtyrionFirst, for Republicans, was Supernatural… a show I haven’t even heard of. Apparently, both teams love The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory.

Interesting… I wonder why Game of Thrones rubs Republicans the wrong way.

Certainly, there’s loads of gratuitous sex and violence. Of course, The Walking Dead isn’t exactly short on gore.

Maybe it’s all the boobies. I don’t know that you can get through a single GoT episode without eventually seeing someone’s boobs flapping around, which isn’t exactly family friendly.

But there are also a lot of nasty villains who eventually get their comeuppance, which seems like it should appeal to Republicans. The researchers found, after all,  that Republicans tend to like shows with storylines heavily focused on good vs. evil.

Of course, “good” is a very relative concept in this show. Extremely good characters, like Ned Stark, tend to lose their heads. Or at least their neck integrity.

Other characters, like the Hound, see so many kind characters slaughtered in their dog-eat-dog world that they conclude that decency is a death sentence. It’s a world of extreme moral relativity, one where survival always wrestles with altruism.

Maybe it’s my Progressive filter talking, but I have to wonder if it has something to do with the nasty, brutish, might-makes-right existence depicted in a world without regulation or relative class parity. Even the good characters must lie, cheat and steal if they want to stay alive, because those are the conditions a truly free market creates.

I’m guessing a Republican might have a different take, though.

It reminds me of the time I suggested that Robin Hood was a good hero for both the left and right: he gives to the poor, but is anti-taxes.

republican robinhoodA good Republican friend of mine, however, claimed that Robin Hood showed the evils of strong government. I pointed out that Robin Hood broke the unfair rules created by people born into an entitled class for the betterment of a strangled underclass. He countered that Robin Hood’s enterprise was stifled by unfair regulation.

socialistheroes

 

It’s fascinating how the same story can be read so differently through different ideological lenses, isn’t it?

I wonder what it is about Game of Thrones that makes Republicans and Democrats react so differently. Any thoughts?

 

My Buddy Thinks Game of Thrones is Sexist Against Men, How About You?

So, I’ve FINALLY gotten on the Game of Thrones bandwagon and want to talk about it.

I’d heard all about how awesome it is from friends whose opinions I respect, so about six months ago, I gave it a whirl. I knew the show was violent, but figured I could handle it since I liked The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad.

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This doesn’t bode well

Still, the pilot ended up being more than I could stomach. When a show starts off with frozen children, you know you’ve got a real challenge in store.

But I still wasn’t prepared for all the sexual exploitation and violence toward animals and kids. I don’t want to post spoilers, but trust me, it’s nothing pretty.

My husband and I decided to give it one more try, however, since people keep going on about it. This time we watched a few episodes and before we knew it, we were hooked.

Why? Because it’s a great story with well-developed characters in a fascinating make-believe world. Even if I have to occasionally avert my eyes while watching it.

Thing is, I’m far from the only one having a rough time with its content. The show has been repeatedly slammed for gratuitous sexual violence and its brutalization of women.

A friend of mine recently reacted to all this criticism by posting a long rant about it on Facebook. He’s a bright guy who isn’t shy about sharing opinions I don’t always agree with, but that always make me think…

Like this newest one. His counter-rant pointed out that while, yes, GoT undeniably includes loads of violence against female characters, there is EVEN MORE violence against men. Men are routinely tortured, humiliated, and killed in the goriest of ways… yet no one seems to care about that.

He makes an interesting point. One about which I have mixed feelings.

maincharactersOn the one hand, GOT‘s brutalization of men means women aren’t being singled out. The show depicts a world that is nasty in general. It’s not as if all the guys are all having a wonderful time while the women get crushed. It’s a dog-eat-dog place where “you win or you die”  and female players just aren’t being handed a pass.

On the other, I don’t think it’s true that no one cares about tortured male characters. We’re upset by it too, especially when we like the guys being brutalized.

But I do think it’s fair to say there’s been more public uproar against female exploitation. The question then becomes, is that wrong?

Whether of not these attitudes are more sexist than fair,  I can’t shake the sense that they’re natural. Even inborn.

Why? Because most people respect basic notions of fair play.

We all have the capacity for violence, however repressed. We HAVE to, out of our self-preserving instincts from a centuries-long race for survival, if nothing else. Few of us, if it came down to it, wouldn’t pull a trigger to save our own lives or those of the people we love.

But we call that self-defense, a form of violence we find acceptable. Even necessary and praise-worthy at times.

Most of us are okay with self-defense, but only sadists feel good about the unwarranted exploitation of defenseless innocents. That’s considered bullying, which violates the rules of the game.

So, violence is okay when the cause is just and the victim is fairly matched. We feel better, for example, about two guys squaring off than we do warriors beating up blind, unarmed children.

By this rationale, it makes sense to be less horrified by whatever happens to strong men, armed and warrior-trained, who have voluntarily stepped into battle. They hold most of the power, anyway, and seemingly have the most to gain.

Whether or not it’s fair, women seem relatively innocent and unfairly matched.  Most women in the show aren’t fighters, aren’t armed, and are used as political pawns against their will (at least at first). Whereas the men fight other men in self-defense or to gain territory, they exploit women to appease their fetishes, a cause neither essential nor sympathetic.

sansa.jpgNow, I’m not saying there aren’t evil female characters in the show. Far from it, but that doesn’t overrule our basic notions of fair play. We’re more horrified when women are hurt for the same reasons we’re more horrified when children and animals are hurt: there’s a sense they’re unlucky innocents, unfairly outmatched.

A telling comparison might be made with Tyrion the dwarf, a male character physically limited by his size. He’s such a likable guy, though, that it’s hard to decide whether his smallness earns him any extra sympathy points.

What do you think? Do you find the greater public uproar about female violence sexist, or do you think it’s natural?

It’s an interesting debate, either way.