Starkly Mistaken

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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5 responses to “Starkly Mistaken

  • Dan

    Interesting read!

    I’ve warmed to Sansa over the books, not least because I realized that why I’d love to be a Tyrion in real life (sarcy and clever and full of hidden strength), I’m probably more of a Sansa (naive and easily swept along).

    I think this may be why she’s so unpopular, because people see in her the passive traits we have and don’t like in ourselves.

    I disagree that this is a gender issue though. Nobody likes a passive character, that’s nothing to do with being a man or a woman. They like characters who get things done, who take control of their own lives. Sansa, through no fault of her own, is never in the position to do this. I dislike Bran because he’s just a puppet for the people around him (at the moment). I like Dany because she’s grown to make all her own decisions, right or wrong.

    Take Breaking Bad for example. Walt is a lovable character, despite the fact he’s morally appalling, because he has taken control of his life. That’s an intoxicating idea, because we’d all like to do that ourselves.

    Maybe. Or something.

    Dan x

    • Annika Howells

      It’s true she’s a mostly passive character and that’s a valid reason to dislike her. But then why isn’t the internet overflowing with intense hostility towards toward the equally passive Bran in the same way as it is with Sansa?

      Speaking of Breaking Bad, Skylar is another female character who gets an irrational amount of hate. I would argue that she is just as intelligent as Walt. The cover story and the money laundering was all done by her. Walt made a ton of mistakes. His plans were always coming apart and part of the thrill of that show was watching him scramble to put it all back together each time. But what about when Skylar screwed up? She messed things up with Ted, she made a desperate attempt to act crazy to keep Walt from the kids. She scrambled and failed, just as Walt did a hundred times. People did not forgive her for her mistakes the way they did with Walt. They took her faults as evidence that she was dumber and weaker than their hero. She was just another bitch of a wife trying to ruin all of Walt’s fun. People hated her SO much for not being passive enough!

      On it’s own you could say the Sansa hate isn’t gender related. But this kind of intense hatred for characters happens over and over again in so many tv shows (Walking Dead, Mad Men just to name a few more) and it’s always directed at women. While there may be valid reasons to dislike these characters, a huge number of people are hating them simply because they are women who aren’t behaving the way male viewers want them to.

  • Rhythem Aggarwal

    Interesting!!
    People hate things they don’t like, things their mind does not accepts. This is because human mind resists change. Take for example, when you go out for buying groceries, you tend not to try brands new in market. It is somewhat similar to what people like to see in other people , may they be fictional character. Another example is that, though every person whi followed GOT Would have loved Jeoferry’s death, a lot of us felt that suddenly all the intense drama that may have happened with him alive, died along with him. So a small part, no matter how miniscule it was, wanted to see jeoffery alive for a few more episodes because he padtially gave us what we wanted- drama.

    • Annika Howells

      Joffrey is an interesting one isn’t he? It’s sad to see him go even though he was a monster because hating him was so much fun. It’s a very different kind of hate to the hate Sansa gets. I’m gonna miss that slimy bastard!

      • Rhythem Aggarwal

        Yeah. And when he died and i realized that it would not be seeing more of his tortures, i felt a little pulled back at the moment. No matter how much i hated him when he insulted Tyrion or sansa or any other character i loved in the show, some part of me will surely miss him.

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