[One of the strongest female characters is Catelyn Stark, in my point of view.] Well, I wanted to make a strong mother character. The portrayal women in epic fantasy have been problematical for a long time. These books are largely written by men but women also read them in great, great numbers. And the women in fantasy tend to be very atypical women… They tend to be the woman warrior or the spunky princess who wouldn’t accept what her father lays down, and I have those archetypes in my books as well. However, with Catelyn there is something reset for the Eleanor of Aquitaine, the figure of the woman who accepted her role and functions with a narrow society and, nonetheless, achieves considerable influence and power and authority despite accepting the risks and limitations of this society. She is also a mother… Then, a tendency you can see in a lot of other fantasies is to kill the mother or to get her off the stage. She’s usually dead before the story opens… Nobody wants to hear about King Arthur’s mother and what she thought or what she was doing, so they get her off the stage and I wanted it too. And that’s Catelyn.
If someone could pass this onto the HBO production team…
Let me start with a disclaimer: I have a lot of issues with the way Game of Thrones translates its female characters from A Song of Ice and Fire (and well, a host of other things, but we’re going to focus on the ladies for now). In general, the portrayals are flattened and simplistic compared to the books, but that’s a subject I could write another thirty blog posts on.
That said, this Huffington Post article is one of the laziest pieces of writing I’ve come across recently and blatantly disregards what I think are some pretty basic details about the books and the female characters in question, and I’m extremely disappointed in them.
Let’s just start with “this fictional story takes place in an imagined, mythic past” - no, it doesn’t, guys. This story takes place in the modern era of an alternate universe modeled on our own medieval period. It’s not a mythic past, we’ve never had decade-long seasons for chrissakes.
The article first looks at the Stark sisters:
The Tomboy. Arya Stark, the little daughter with a boy’s haircut, learns to wield a sword and become an assassin. She is clearly metamorphosing into another favorite recent archetype, the Woman Warrior (think Guenevere in King Arthur, Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy or Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games).
The Princess. Sansa Stark, sister to the Tomboy, is not too bright and is often punished for her vapid and romantic delusions. In case you had any doubt which, the Tomboy or the Princess, is more appealing to contemporary audiences, compare what happens to poor Sansa to her clear-minded, independent sister.
Arya’s description is, though overly basic, relatively accurate. But seriously, Sansa as vapid and delusional? Not as independent or clear-minded (it’s the clear-minded bit that really gets me) as Arya? If I had a nickel for every time someone called Sansa vapid and delusional, I’d be a millionaire. She’s young, she’s only about thirteen depending upon which version we’re talking about, and Sansa has merely bought what she’s always been sold since birth. She believes she is to be the good girl that will marry the prince, become a queen, and make little royal babies. That is, more or less, the gist of how every female in Westeros is brought up. This isn’t a massive fault in her character, merely a fact. In the first season of Game of Thrones and in the first book of the series, Sansa is mostly a parrot for what she’s been taught and what she thinks she wants. But during the second season and second book she begins her growth in to a strong young woman who will weather the lot that’s been dealt her and continue to operate independently but within her social and political confines. She’s one of those rare female characters that can be strong without having to embrace masculine qualities to do so. The books portray this much better than the show, but if you’ve watched the second season and STILL think she’s vapid, you are just not paying attention.
The Seductress. The blond villainess, Cersei Lannister Baratheon, really is a nasty piece of work, sleeping with her brother, betraying her husband and routinely murdering and deceiving to advance the careers of her horrible children, or should we call them spawn (for, Grendel-like, truly they are children whom only a mother could love). The only puzzle is why, beyond her comely face and body, anyone would find this socio-path remotely attractive or seductive.
Her horrible children? No. Her horrible CHILD, singular, one, Joffrey. There is nothing inherently wrong with Myrcella or Tommen’s personalities, and we haven’t even seen much of the two younger kids by the end of the second season. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her a sociopath, either. She is cold and her actions are evil (and I think she certainly knows when what she’s doing is awful), and okay yes, she is sleeping with her brother, but let’s take a look at the big picture here. She has very clear motivations for the things she does. She was married off by her father at a young age to a husband who she barely knew, who abused her in front of her children, and who called her another woman’s name while drunk when they slept together. Yeah, okay, whatever, he’s a king. But that’s still no cakewalk. Her twin brother and her children are the only people she has that she feels she can truly love. There’s also plenty of reasons why someone might consider her attractive beyond her face and body - she’s the queen. She’s a daughter of Westeros’s most powerful house. She has real power, serious guts, and she’s not afraid to use it. Do I like her? No. But do I admire her character? Sure.
I’ll skip the archetypal discussion of Daenerys because there isn’t much wrong with it. But Catelyn’s:
The Good Wife. Catelyn Stark’s devotion to her husband and children is profound and constitutes a core virtue of integrity that is recognized and honored by the other characters in the series. She is (usually) politically astute as well. Oddly, this Good Wife has a rather incongruous flaw; namely, she dislikes and distrusts Jon Snow, her husband’s bastard child, who is so clearly a Good Man (another archetype). That she, a woman of great political insight, is blinded by Snow’s very existence doesn’t make much sense, but it does allow her to partially inhabit a different archetype: The Evil Stepmother.
Hm. She dislikes and distrusts her husband’s bastard child? A human representation of her husbands infidelity? HOW STRANGE. Let’s leave aside the theory that Jon isn’t Ned’s son for now, because as far as Catelyn is concerned, he is. If your husband were to cheat on you, and then bring home the baby born of that union and decide YOU were going to raise it, do you seriously think you would ever love him or her completely as one of your own? She’s not even that particularly awful - she says angry things in the heat of the moment (oh, how terrible, that she can’t stay cordial with Jon while her other son may be dying), but she has never abused Jon, she’s still ensured that he’s been taken care of like the other children. Think of her society’s implications around bastard children as well. Of all the female characters, I think Game of Thrones has done the worst with Catelyn’s translation from book to screen, but even given that the fact that she believes Jon to be a bastard born of her husband’s infidelity is still the same.
Criticize the show and the characters, absolutely. But seriously, Mrs. Rasmussen? You could at least do to pay attention and do some research to what you’re discussing first.
“Lord Eddard was your liege, but I shared his bed and bore his children. Do you think I love him any less than you?” Her voice almost broke with her grief, but Catelyn took a long breath and steadied herself. “Robb, if that sword could bring him back, I should never let you sheathe it until Ned stood at my side once more… but he is gone, and hundred Whispering Woods will not change that. Ned is gone, and Daryn Hornwood, and Lord Karstark’s valiant sons, and many other good men besides, and none of them will return to us. Must we have more deaths still?”
“You are a woman, my lady,” the Greatjon rumbled in his deep voice. “Women do not understand these things.”
“You are the gentle sex,” said Lord Karstark, with the lines of grief fresh on his face. “A man has a need for vengeance.”
“Give me Cersei Lannister, Lord Karstark, and you would see how gentle a woman can be,” Catelyn replied. “Perhaps I do not understand tactics and strategy… but I understand futility. We went to war when Lannister armies were ravaging the riverlands, and Ned was a prisoner, falsely accused of treason. We fought to defend ourselves, and to win my lord’s freedom. Well, the one is done, and the other forever beyond our reach. I will mourn for Ned until the end of my days, but I must think of the living. I want my daughters back, and the queen holds them still. If I must trade our four Lannisters for their two Starks, I will call that a bargain and thank the gods. I want you safe, Robb, ruling at Winterfell from your father’s seat. I want you to live your life, to kiss a girl and wed a woman and father a son. I want to write an end to this. I want to go home, my lords, and weep for my husband.”
reason #55241 Catelyn Tully Stark is my favorite characterz