26 May, 2015

Feminist Fantasy

A recent scandal surrounding some *hrm hrm possible TV spoiler* Game of Thrones story choices has caused me to think about the extensive, diverse, relatable, and touching feminism of the original George R.R. Martin books. It's not new to see the problems of our world brought to life in stark color and contrast through fantasy and science fiction, and it's even common to see difficult issues of race, sex/gender, and privilege explored. But alongside the ghastly (Joffrey, Ramsay, etc.), A Song of Ice and Fire brought to life the complicated ways in which women within the universe must consistently reckon with their existence within a patriarchy, assuming power in various ways that allow them to maintain some control over their own lives. The diversity of the female characters; the variety with which they attack this constant problem, absorbing the impact and renegotiating their lives to fit within the world: it's powerful and challenging.

This diversity seems unfortunately difficult for HBO to recreate with their stilted concept of the violence enacted upon women within the Game of Thrones universe. To be quite honest, I've always thought the exposition of the show paled in comparison to the depth of character and world-building within the novels. Without operating in the first person with the thoughts of each character available to explore, it is far easier for viewers to cast lots with characters who seem more clearly good and cast out characters whose actions appear clearly bad. In the books, the characters of Cersei and Jaime circle each other in an interplay of power, hubris, love, deceit, and growth. **SPOILER** Yes, when they throw Bran off the tower, you hate them, but in later books you grow to empathize and recognize them as full, human characters.** In the show, their relationship is consistently boiled down to incest and money. Without access to the depth of thoughts each character has about their situation, the show latches onto symbols, and the symbols are often a weak substitute for the internal debate and dialogue.

So if you're looking for compelling feminist fantasy, you can look to Game of Thrones. But I'd stick to the old adage: read the book first!

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