Outbrain recently collated data to show the most popular Game of Thrones characters across the globe. It’s pretty cool to see how the favourites differ from country to country. Pretty disappointed in Australia though. Jon Snow bores me to death!
There’s one thing that every nation can agree on though: nobody likes Sansa Stark.
In fact, people seem to downright hate her. There’s nothing wrong with hating a fictional character (god knows I rolled my eyes and groaned every time I got to another Jon chapter in the books), but its seems like most people hate Sansa just because she’s a feminine girl, and even worse, a feminine girl who makes mistakes (gasp!).
Every character in A Song of Ice and Fire is flawed. Pretty much everyone has made a mistake that resulted in either their own death or the death of someone else. Sansa is no exception here. She begins as a naive, bratty child who frequently fights with her sister and firmly believes in fairy-tale romance. She has been raised to be a lady, it’s all she’s ever known. When everything goes to shit for her family, she doesn’t get to run off into the woods like Arya. Instead, she is trapped right under the nose of her enemy.
But she survives. Her ability to behave like a lady, to walk the walk and talk the talk of the royal court, is precisely what keeps her head attached to her shoulders. She may be a frightened young girl, but Sansa Stark is slowly learning to play the game of thrones.
Yet despite how much she has grown, people still refuse to forgive her for mistakes she made when she was a bratty, naive child.
I think this ties into a wider issue that society has with women. Male characters (and female characters who act more masculine, such as Arya) are allowed to fuck up over and over without anyone resenting them for it the way they resent Sansa. Those mistakes are just accepted as part of their story arc. But when a feminine character fucks up, people demonize them for it. Like, don’t pretty girls know they’re supposed to be perfect creatures removed from humanity and put on a pedestal of unrealistic expectations?
It almost becomes a form of victim blaming. This young girl, ill-equipped to deal with the harsh realities of the world she’s been thrust into, is beaten, imprisoned and manipulated. But instead of being sympathetic to her plight, people get mad at her and say, “Well maybe if you tried harder to be less like a young girl none of this would have happened to you!”
I find this attitude so disheartening, both as a writer and as a woman. I want to write female characters who are complex and flawed, and it sickens me to think of someone reducing that character to a “dumb bitch” because she didn’t behave the way she was expected to. Who knows, maybe there’s a guy out there reading this right now and calling ME a “dumb bitch” or something similar simply for talking about this sort of thing.
If you want to hate Sansa because you don’t find her story interesting, that’s totally fine. But if you hate her because she’s a flawed girl who’s made some mistakes, you should take a moment to consider exactly why you find that so abhorrent.