Friday, May 9, 2014

Fangirl Fridays – The Wild Wenches of Westeros!

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After a long and arduous winter, it’s finally the glorious season of rebirth and renewal! When trees burst into bloom, critters croon courting calls, and the bodily appendages start flying again on Game of Thrones. Continuing my recent celebrations of the dangerous women in my life, I thought this an excellent time to fangirl about the winsome, witty, and wickedly wild wenches of Westeros.

Splendidly outrageous and diverse, these women are anything but tame! Whether by nature, nurture, or the exigencies of circumstance, they refuse to hide in a corner while men and major events pass them by. I hope you’ll join me in a light-hearted look at these fabulous females after the jump.


Warning: Spoilers for the tv show (mid-season 4), which correlates to about 2/3 through A Storm of Swords, book 3.



I had been living in a metaphorical cave and never heard of George R.R. Martin or his fabulous A Song of Ice and Fire series until HBO premiered Game of Thrones, but I was hooked from episode 1! I’ve been reading each book after viewing its screen adaptation, so I’ve read only through book 2 and am currently watching season 4. I remain blissfully ignorant of future developments for these awesome ladies, and have not yet met some in the books, or read a POV for others (such as Cersei) that might one day change my current perception.

Not inclined to let this lack of expertise stop me from weighing in on how I feel about these great characters as I savor developments in the new season, here we go.


The Wonderful Wenches


These are the gals I love to cheer for!

Arya Stark

From the opening scene, Arya appealed to me greatly for her spunk. She’s smart enough to know what was important to her and pursue it, even when it gets her into all sorts of trouble with the women who are tasked with molding her into a marriageable young lady. I immediately related to her not fitting into her role, preferring to hone other skills, infinitely more interesting than sewing. Though my heart bleeds for what she has seen and endured, I love her resolve, her perseverance, the intensity and purity of her feelings. She has a knack for arousing protective feelings in powerful protectors just in the nick of time. Right now, she’s really lucky to have caught the eye of someone like The Hound, who not only cares enough about her to try to deliver her back into the hands of her family, but is big and brawny enough to cover her ass when she recklessly charges headlong into a fight with no plan or warning. I’ve got high hopes for Arya to survive the whole series and carve a unique niche for herself. She’s savvy, sharp, and highly creative in her problem solving. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she isn’t dragged too far down a dark path. I doubt that anyone could keep her hands entirely clean in Westeros and survive, but I hope Arya is able to retain the nobility of purpose she learned from her parents.

She practices hard and is a very fast learner



She’s learning to approach things differently than her parents



She knows how to hold a grudge persevere



Her negotiating skills are coming along nicely



Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen

The Khaleesi really surprised me! Who’d have thought this meek, compliant, and seemingly victimized child would turn out to have such a head for politics and army amassing? Not me! I was impressed that she leveraged her arranged marriage into learning and teaching opportunities rather than resigning herself to a life of what everyone else wanted for her. She has a remarkable talent for turning shit into shinola and somehow engineering it into an advantage that brings her another step closer to the Iron Throne. She’s certainly flexible: if Khal Drogo’s army doesn’t work out, she’ll try dragons instead, with maybe an army of former slaves on the side. How much gumption did it take to walk into a bonfire with nothing but three petrified eggs and a legend? Dany has earned my respect, and I look forward to seeing what happens when she gets to Westeros. If she ever does. Seriously, is it just me, or is it taking her forever?

She knows how to stand up for herself



How to earn respect in any language



From a whole lot of people



She knows how to take care of her own




Dragons, armies...watch out Westeros!! Eventually...




Brienne of Tarth

The most loyal and earnest of knights, Brienne represents the finest of the chivalric code. She towers above others—not only in height, but in the honor and dignity that other knights seem to have lost track of along the way.

I have to admit, I know little about Brienne so far, but I love her. Again, here’s a woman who doesn’t fit the conventional norms, who rather than spending a miserable life aiming for something she could never be, figured out what she could be and went for it. She must have developed a tremendous sense of purpose to offset a lifelong barrage of disdain. She’s not classically pretty and petite. She’s fighting as an equal with men who don’t know how to deal with women that way (much less one who kicks their ass). And more than one person she has sworn to protect has died on her watch. I deeply admire her ability to forge ahead despite what must be extreme self doubt on occasion. Plus she has earned the respect and admiration of another great knight, and that’s nothing to sneeze at! I’m getting a kick out of her rapport with Jaime Lannister and would love nothing better than for him to get over his current besottedness and give in to his attraction to Brienne. There’s no reason a knight in shining armor can’t win the hand of another—provided, of course, that Jaime continues his current path of apparent redemption and isn’t whacked at the hands of GRRM.

Brienne seems simple in her convictions, yet richly complex below the surface, and I hope to learn more about what makes her tick.

She’s unfailingly loyal and dedicated



She holds her own with any opponent



Really, any opponent



Yet she has a surprisingly tender side



Asha Greyjoy

I wasn’t sure what to make of Asha when I first saw her. She was awfully damn cocky. Though I had to giggle at the way she scammed her brother Theon when she gave him a ride to the castle. He was pretty full of himself, and easy to scam, and as it turns out not very smart about how to improve his family’s opinion of him. But I have to hand it to his sister, the way she stepped right up to go rescue her brother at the end of season 3...that was awesome! She suffers the same condition as a few other characters—a horrible parent—but seems to have nevertheless developed the skills of a distinguished leader who can rally her troops and conquer whatever she sets her mind to. Her loyalty to her brother gives me hope that she has more of a conscience than the fiend who raised her. (Unlike her brother, who squanders the advantage of his better role model.) She seems extraordinarily comfortable in her own skin, and I bet no one ever makes rude comments to her about her unladylike appearance—and lives.

She has a deliciously dry sense of humor

Keeping a straight face while Theon makes a pass at her—too funny!

Insulting his seafaring skills!

She’s happy to critique her brother’s skills in strategic warfare




But when times get truly tough, she’s there for her little brother



Olenna Tyrell

Westeros’s answer to Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess, Olenna is an absolute delight! She can plot and scheme with the best of them, doling out pithy one-liners and insightful jabs. While the men scheme battles with swords and arrows, she stealthily guides the interests of her family with more insidious weapons. Such as money. She knows exactly what asset Tywin Lannister cannot do without and dangles it before him like a carrot. But also jewelry. She recognizes good character (with perhaps a blind eye toward her granddaughter) enough to appreciate Brienne! I bet she has a colorful past and I enjoy every snippet she shares with us—like how she seduced her sister’s fiance. I knew there were some deep waters under her silly hats, but she blindsided me completely with the lengths she went to for Margaery. When the situation calls for cunning, Olenna has some serious chops.

She never shies away from sharing her keen insight on the big issues

The difficulties of sex as one ages

Her grandson’s proclivities

What she admires in others



Catelyn Stark

Another strong family matriarch and dispenser of sage advice, this one’s not nearly as funny. I admired Catelyn deeply at first, but got so tired of her endless chastising that I am not as effusive in my praise as I might once have been. Strong, forthright, and brimming with integrity, she was a dutiful wife and mother who, unfortunately, got pulled in too many directions by the tides of war and was unable to reassemble her family intact. It’s too bad her son didn’t pay more attention to her. She gave good counsel. Seriously, the men on this show might save themselves a lot of grief if they listened to their women more often.

Always the voice of reason and old-fashioned manners, like keeping one’s word





Shae

I love this character because she’s smart enough to figure out that Tyrion is awesome! She loves him truly, regardless of his wealth, title, and physical challenges, and doesn’t want to hide it. She even serves and eventually befriends the wife he is forced to marry, just so she can be near (and keep an eye on) him. She’s clever and witty—well duh, so is Tyrion—but unfortunately not all that good at tempering her exuberance and maintaining a low profile. She lets her feelings get the better of her judgment occasionally, and I fear that might be her downfall. Still, I can’t leave her off this list, because I deeply value the role she has been given in the show. Tyrion is such a much maligned character who suffers endless ridicule from his family and deserves someone who values his many fine qualities. Shae loves him for who he is rather than condemning him for what he is not, and (unless she has me completely bamboozled) she has no designs on his wealth.

She’s smart, funny, and totally devoted to Tyrion





Ygritte

I love this brash and spirited Wildling and hope to see more of her! But maybe because I haven’t read her part in the books yet, I don’t feel I know her well enough to understand her motives. I do love her energy, audacity, and mad archery skills. If you’re heading off into the great outdoors, you’d be exceedingly wise to bring her along, because her survival skills are exceptional. She’s every bit Jon Snow’s equal in brains and fighting skills and not afraid to let him know. Dare I hope she gets the chance to befriend Arya one day?? Not to mention spend more time with Jon Snow.

She can fight for herself but could use some pointers on pillow talk





Missandei

Again, here’s a character I know little about, yet can’t help but admire. She has tremendous poise and thinks quickly on her feet—a good person to have on your side. Fluent in many languages, she’s an invaluable interpreter (and remedial reading teacher) as Dany treks across vast deserts picking up assorted slave populations. When required, she can revise vulgar attempts at political negotiations on the fly, to increase their chances of success and avoid the dangers of vindictive overreaction by any offended parties. With a straight face, no matter what an ignorant arse you are and how badly she knows the world is getting ready to blow up in your face. I think she recognizes a kindred spirit in Dany, who negotiates straight faced with the best of them, and they’ll make a splendid team.

I would not play poker with either one of these women




The Whiny, Wicked, and Wacky Wenches

These wenches are fascinating, and I haven’t given up on them all yet, but I find myself cheering against them, unless I’m so bored I don’t really care what happens to them.

Sansa Stark

Sansa has been too much of a doormat for me to admire. I can respect that she hasn’t yet died of boredom, drowned her sorrows in ale, or gone stark (couldn’t resist) raving bonkers from the frustration of being kicked around as a pawn in everyone else’s game. She always behaves with dignity (except for the constant sniveling), and in all fairness, she has held up much better than I would have in the clutches of a greedy family who sought to exterminate the rest of my family. I hold out hope that this indicates an inner strength that will eventually flourish, and that she will have a significant role to play once all the heads stop rolling and things settle down. I’d like to see her end up with someone who loves her, safely tucked away out of danger, and able to do something useful with her life.

She shares her sunny disposition with everyone around her




This is how I’m feeling about her right now



Margaery Tyrell

Margaery is too much of a golddigger for me to like. Anyone who would marry Joffrey is automatically disqualified from my give-a-shit meter. (Sansa came to her senses and regained her spot on my meter, lowly though it might be at this time.) But I will admit that she knows what she wants and how to go after it. And if Plan A doesn’t work out, she gets right back up and sets about on plan B. Or C. The little engine that could ... If at first you don’t succeed... (Unlike Daenerys, though, she seeks to gain power indirectly, and her options are thinning out.) She earns a few points doling out palace leftovers to those less fortunate than her, but never convinces me it isn’t just a PR ploy. If it turns out she aspires to use her role as queen to help people, I’ll need to significantly elevate my opinion of her, but I’ll worry about that if and when the time comes.

Margaery is smart enough to recognize what a horror she is marrying, but not smart enough to figure out she can’t control him. Or the anger he incites in his subjects. Or her grandmother.

She’ll do whatever it takes to fulfill her selfish, narcissistic ambition



But she’s starting to get a reputation



Cersei Lannister

I don’t think I’m alone in finding Cersei a hard character to like. From the very first episode, I’ve loathed her. (I’ve been told I might feel differently once I read her POV in the books, but I’m not there yet.) She’s narcissistic, selfish, and greedy. (Just like many others who are in a position of power in this series, but that’s beside the point.) She has been used as a pawn her entire life by a tyrannical titan who cares about nothing but power...I’m almost talking myself into sympathizing with her here, but maybe because she’s a woman I expect better from her. She’s very passive aggressive and just plain mean. I can understand her frustration that the men don’t respect her and seek her input for their political strategizing because she’s a woman. (I’m not sure that’s the only reason, given some of the decisions she makes.) But she is too ruthless and has hurt too many innocent people for me to respect her. And she’s crazy to boot. Who the hell turns down Jaime Lannister?!?

I look forward to reading more about her, because she seems to be at a crossroads in the tv show. Can she grow a conscience, or has her diabolically greedy father poisoned her mind too deeply?

I find that I don’t care who wins the political wars in this series as much as who manages to remain or become noble in their intentions and accomplishments. And Cersei seems to have dropped out of the running a long time ago.

She inspires memorable acts of love


She shows love to her family in her own special way



She tries really hard to hold her own with the big boys



But she seems to be suffering from penis envy



Melisandre, The Red Priestess

This woman is too much of a nut job for me to like. I can’t decide whether she believes her own bullshit or it’s all a performance, but I will admit some of it is pretty spectacular. The shadow baby convinced me she can indeed do some freaky shit, yet she’s not very particular about setting admirable goals. Her choice in kings leaves a lot of room to question her character judgment, which leads me to believe she simply identified the most easily manipulated stooge with a potential claim on the throne and seduced him. So she either has terrible judgment or is out only for herself, neither of which gets a thumbs up from me. She has much power and no conscience, from what I can tell. As much as I hide my eyes at the over-the-top gore on this show, I’d actually like to see this character die dramatically, which of course means bloodily!

She’s another one-note song, with an occasional demon baby thrown in





Whew, there are a LOT of great female characters to cheer and jeer on this show!

And I thought I’d better fangirl about them now, while they’re still around, since Wench Angela says I’ll need lots of tissues for future story events.

These terrific characters might have their doubts from time to time, but I think they will agree it’s pretty great to be a wily woman of Westeros! Though they might have to take out a few men to get exactly where they want to be before their story is done! I dread seeing what happens next, as I know they won’t all emerge from this battle unscathed, but I must know what the diabolical author has in store for them and look forward to relishing every episode! Valar Morghulis!




* Gifs and images from tumblr

6 comments:

  1. Aw I hate it when I see people disliking Sansa :( boo :p I feel for her, and honestly, with everything, how else should she act? I kinda love her. I am LOVING Margery in the tv series. But totally agree with everything else you've said! Great post!

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  2. Thanks, Zee. I don't really dislike Sansa, I'm probably more frustrated with her than anything. She's a much better person than many others, so I can't truly dislike her. But I'd love to see her be able to do something to improve her life.

    My perspective changes every single week, too! I didn't mention Lysa Arryn, yet she just became important again in the show. I had to revise my blurb for Olenna in the light of recent revelations. Margaery seems a little less out for only herself than she did to me earlier. So I'm keeping an open mind...as if I had any other option, given how GRRM likes to toy with us!

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  3. Strong. Women! πŸ‘ Brienne is the one I like most, so far.i feel for Sansa and hope for the best, if there is anything close to "best" in GRRM vocabulary. Great post.

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    1. I really like Brienne, too. Y'all are making me feel bad about being bored with Sansa! I do hope her situation improves and I can like her more. Hope I didn't spoil anything for you, and I'm glad you like the post!

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  4. Great post Kathi. I think the best of Sansa is yet to come. Just wait. Merit, I love Brienne too. Definitely my favourite. As you know I don't like Danys at all. She is lucky in that the TV adaptation portrays her far better than the books do. LOL I read your post thinking, just wait Kathi. I'll be interested to see how this post would alter in say a years time.

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    1. I'm sure I'll feel very differently in a year. I can't wait to see how!! One reason I wanted to write this post was for future reference, so I'll remember how I used to feel as the saga continues. Dany was already beginning to get irritated with her subjects and realize things weren't so easy in last night's episode! I'm glad you liked the post! I'm going to read the rest of the books after this tv season, I promise. And after the new Outlander book, of course... :-)

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