The ethics of caring in Game of Thrones

“Law must, like the other parts of the culture, be understood in its historical context and within ‘the political, social and economic conditions, which have given it form and shape.’ (Sandra Berns, Concise Jurisprudence, Federation Press, Sydney 1993, p. 120) If we look at the parts of society as inter-linking … we do see that our ‘public’ institutions continue to be dominated by males and we further comprehend that there are gender differences in personality traits and roles. It is evidence that law may, in fact, not reflect women’s experiences – instead seeing and treating women ‘the way men see and treat women,’ (Catharine MacKinnon, “Feminism, Marxism, Method and the State: Towards a Feminist Jurisprudence,” (1983) 8 Signs 685) which has been described as irrational, illogical, emotional and erratic. (Ngaire Naffine, ‘Sexing the Object of Law,” in M Thornton (ed.) Public and Private: Feminist Legal Debates, OUP, Melbourne 1995, pp 18-39.)”

Women and the Law in Australia, ed. Patricia Easteal, LexisNexis Butterworths 2010 Sydney.

A while ago, a post on /r/asoiaf caught my eye: it noted that the biggest difference between the books and the show was that ultimately, the big lessons of the books are missed by the show. Instead of showing us that Sansa learns from the cruelty and machinations of Cersei and Littlefinger, and resolves to never be like that, Show!Sansa is all about becoming a blend of Cersei and LF – the Queen in the North who is ruthless as well as strong. Tywin Lannister is still considered to the show to be A Great Man, rather than a cruel tyrant whose legacy is a stinking, rotting corpse and a pile of horse manure in the throne room.

Fundamentally, the showrunners’ biggest flaw in GOT was in missing the nuance and ethics of care at the heart of the books. We’re supposed to cheer on Jon and Sansa as they grow into leaders who care for the people they rule. We’re supposed to side eye Dany when she talks about care but then burns people alive. We’re supposed to feel deeply uncomfortable as Tyrion goes dark. We’re supposed to see Cersei as a tragic victim of misogyny but a horrendously cruel woman who has brought her own misery upon herself. We’re supposed to cheer on Jaime’s redemption but also remember that he is still (as at AFFC/ADWD) leading the Lannister armies to enforce the broken cruelty his father subjected the Riverlands to in the first arc of the books.

Short term gain and Big Impressive Water Cooler Moments are not what ASOIAF is about, and nowhere was that more starkly confirmed than in Season 8. Yes, I am grateful that for 8 seasons, a fantasy show was The Biggest TV Show In The World. But jeez I wish they’d actually adapted ASOIAF, instead of coming up with their idea of Game of Thrones…

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The female line of House Blackfyre

Recently at a book festival appearance, GRRM confirmed that while Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers married his half-brother and great friend Daemon Blackfyre’s daughter Calla, they never had children.

Some people have been posting on /r/asoiaf about how this means “GRRM is denying the fAegon Blackfyre theory” as if fAegon Blackfyre requires the kid to be descended from Bittersteel and Blackfyre. It never did.

But this did get me to thinking… where is the supposed female line of House Blackfyre?

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Sansa is important. Get with the program.

This article popped up on my Twitter feed today: Strong As Sansa

I LOVE THIS. So glad that Sansa is getting some love. I have talked about Sansa before, and how her naivety is as much a result of Ned’s parenting choices as it is about her personality.

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But what I love the most about Sansa is what she represents: the feminine, the girl who is pushed around by society, trying to do what she is expected to do rather than pushing back against those expectations like Arya. I love the dynamics of the two Stark girls – both are challenging the shitty expectations of a misogynistic society, but are doing it in very different ways.

Fans love to shit on Sansa because she dobbed on Ned to Cersei and apparently “caused” the whole War of the Five Kings…. yo, people, that shit was happening anyway.

Sansa cops a lot of unwarranted criticism, and I am totally riding the Queen Sansa (INDANORF) train. Let me tell you why…

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Jon Arryn: Rebellion Mastermind

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We don’t see much of Jon Arryn, or get to know him personally in GOT/ASOIAF, but he is key to all that happens. It is his death that starts the series off, the conspiracy around his death that turns us all on our heads at the end of ASOS, and the inability of the realm’s Kings to govern without him that drives the entire ‘game of thrones’/political storyline in both show and books.

Jon Arryn was able to unite the Rebellion behind the claim of Robert Baratheon and, given what we know about Robert’s lack of enthusiasm for being king, is the brains behind the period of stability and good governance that marked Robert Baratheon’s reign. But why did the rebellion go so hard, all or nothing to overthrown all the Targaryens, rather than just the unfit for rule Aerys II? Was it just Robert’s personal feelings about Rhaegar Targaryen that led Jon Arryn to lead a Rebellion against the dragon kings, or was there something deeper and more considered going on?

This post is going to lean heavily on the theory of Southron Ambitions, and my own take on it which I term “Southron Ambitions turned up to 11”. The crux of my approach to Southron Ambitions is that not only did the previous generation of Great Lords plan a series of political marriages to unite Westeros more than before following on from buddying up while on the road for the War of the Ninepenny Kings, but there was always an agenda to overthrow the Targaryens. The realm had been dissatisfied with Targaryen madness or unfitness for generations, and House Targaryen now lacked the dragonfire to demand compliance, and was ripe for removal.

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Daemon Blackfyre: Foundations of Rebellion

Daemon Waters, bastard son of Aegon the Unworthy and Princess Daena Targaryen, scandalously conceived while Daena was imprisoned in the Maidenvault after her brother-husband King Baelor refused to consummate their marriage, just before Baelor finally died from his piousness and fasting (perhaps helped along in this by a poison from his uncle Viserys II who grew tired of his nephews stuffing up royal governance of the realm.)

Given the ancient sword of Aegon the Conqueror, Blackfyre, when being knighted by his father at the age of 12, Daemon took the sword’s name for his own house. Eventually, he rebelled and claimed the Iron Throne for himself.

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But why did he rebel?

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Realpolitik in Westeros: The Sworn Sword

I love the Dunk and Egg novellas for many reasons, but I had always preferred the first and third novellas to the second, The Sworn Sword. But now I’m listening to the Harry Lloyd read audiobook via Audible.

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Dunk and Egg by arthatake

I read really fast, so sometimes I think I unintentionally skip over things. Listening to the story being told brings on a new way of experiencing the story, and for shorter stories like this that I devoured so quickly, makes me slow down and appreciate it.

It’s really struck me how important this novella is to understanding the game of thrones as it plays out in ASOIAF. We learn that power is in the eye of the beholder, not necessarily where bloodlines and law say it is. We also learn the impact of the first Blackfyre Rebellion, played out on a small stage in the conflict between Ser Eustace Osgrey of Standfast and Lady Rohane Webber, the “Red Widow” of Coldmoat in the Reach in the days of King Aerys I, when men said the king read books and scrolls of prophecy while bastard born Bloodraven, Hand of the King, ran the kingdom.

In amongst this we have the lessons learned by Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, Egg, also known as Aegon Targaryen, son of Prince Maekar Targaryen of Summerhall, who would one day go on to be King Aegon, Fifth of His Name….

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Gender in Westeros: Moon Tea

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This gorgeous piece showing a teenage Lysa, Cat and Baelish came from here 

One of the things that’s awesome about GRRM’s work is that, although he’s an older bloke, he does a pretty good job of deconstructing and accurately representing the experiences of women living in a misogynistic society.

This comes up in lots of different ways, but one of the big ones is the knowledge (or lack thereof) of contraceptives and ways to overcome the expectation of noble women that they’re nothing more than brood mares for the noble MALE lines of Westeros.

I do plan to do a lot more essays/rants about gender issues in ASOIAF, but for now I want to focus on two things that were revealed in ASOS/AFFC that I thought were really obvious but, based on the surprise of various redditors on /r/asoiaf whenever these two things come up, were apparently not that obvious. Maybe it’s like Jenny dying of AIDS in Forrest Gump, which isn’t explicitly stated but is pretty obvious – but apparently not to many.

These two cases involve the use of “moon tea” – Westeros’ version of a herbal abortifacient. Firstly by Jeyne Westerling, forced upon her by her mother, and then the case of Lysa Tully Arryn, forced upon her by her father. The connecting factor is Catelyn Tully Stark: Cat doesn’t seem to know anything about moon tea or any other birth control, because she doesn’t pick up on either incident. Apparently because Cat doesn’t figure it out (in Lysa’s case, until way too late) many readers don’t pick it up either.

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