I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire way back, while I was in high school. Actually, I remember the period quite clearly: it was the autumn semester in 2003, I was a sophomore and we had computer class the whole day when I got the first book.
Instead of paying attention – back then I tried not to, on sheer principle, and learning something useful that could have led me to a career in electrical engineering or whatever (instead of studying philosophy), I was sneaking glances at the copy of Game of Thrones, that I kept open under the desk.
And since then, I have read and reread the series time and time again. Being a teenager, full of hormones, lacking female contact, I loved all the sex in those books! I mean, it was a major selling point of the whole series. Perhaps Martins only original contribution to fantasy is the ever present explicit sexuality.
However, a couple of years later, I noticed something that has been bothering me ever since. All of George Martin’s female characters can be fall into three groups: the whores, the mothers and the mothers that are kinda whorish.
By this, I mean that all the women in Westeros seem to be motivated either by maternal instincts or they use their sexuality to gain something. Now, it would be long and hard (that’s what she said) to list all the characters in order to make my point, so I’ll just stick to a few.
Also, this applies only to the characters in the books written by Martin. Their TV show counterparts are much better rounded, and not extreme examples as the originals.
Oh gods, how I hated her! Ever meddling, ever nagging, pretty much the person because of whom the whole shit-storm started. The biggest Momma of them all! Everything Catelyn Stark did was because of her children.
To ensure the family’s wellbeing she forced Ned to accept Robert’s offer and serve as Hand of the King. Again, seeking vengeance for her son, she kidnaps – or rather dwarfnaps, Tyrion and essentially starts the Stark-Lannister war. And this mother’s instinct is so strong that it completely prevents her of having any rational thoughts.
Case in point is the time that she let Jaime Lannister free! I mean seriously, the best hostage that her side could ever hope to capture, also one of the most dangerous swordsmen on the continent, and she turns him loose because his said that he was going to return her missing, maybe dead, daughters. The most notorious oath-breaker in the realm, and she lets him go cuz he said he’ll play nice give her kids back.
I would argue that Cersei is 80% whore and 20% mother. The ratio might seem arbitrary, and it probably is, but I am writing this and not you. And to me it has always seemed that using sex to get what she wants is Cersei’s key characteristic. Those 20% are there because she sometimes fucked people in order to protect her children.
Basically, she never had anything pure and untainted in her life. Even her incestuous relationship with Jaime was a charade on her end. While he was trying to remain, in his own perverse way, faithful to her, she screwed around non-stop. Not only that, sex is the leash the she had over him – both the carrot and the stick, in fact.
Remember the Kettlebeck brothers? Most of you posers don’t, since they only appear in the books and not in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Anyhow, she entices the lot of them with promises of pleasures to come if they join her cause. And later, instead of giving them a check at the end of the week, she spreads her legs.
To those who will still claim that Cersei’s motives were those of a mother, think of her meeting with Ned after he found out about the incest stuff. First she tried to seduce him, and later said that she will protect her kids. So, her first instinct was to offer up her body.
Ah, little Dany gets to be a mom without ever having given birth. She is a mother in spirit to horde of homeless people. Kinda pathetic really, taking into account what that Mirri Maz Duur person told her. You know: “When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child…“
Perhaps this playing mother to everyone is what angers me the most about her. Her misplaced sense of maternal duty is what keeps her back from her actual duties. Instead of conquering Westeros, or landing there and slowly establishing herself, she is on the opposite side of the planet playing Big Mhysa.
And let’s not forget her dragons! One can say that, in a sorcerous way, she did give birth to them. And if memory serves, she also breastfed them. (Which was a really stupid addition on Martin’s end since those dragons are sure to have rows of needle-sharp teeth that would have torn Dany’s boob to shreds and it’s generally pointless because they are reptiles, not mammals, and they don’t feed on milk.)
Well, not only is she a whore motivationally speaking, she is one by profession. Shae was Tyrion’s lady of the night, a girl of negotiable affections, a person whose love has a fiscal value… (I can go on like that for a while.)
I am not judging her career choices! Gods know I see the appeal of that profession: you make money mostly lying in bed, you can work from your house, you can keep your own hours, you can be your own boss – doesn’t sound too bad. But what makes Shae a whore here is the fact that she used sex to manipulate people.
Tyrion, the romantic that he is, actually fell in love with her. And for a while it seemed that she loved him back. I at least was fooled with that whole “My giant of a Lannister” routine. But we got to see that for a sham that it was during Tyrion’s trial.
One can argue that she was forced, coerced into turning against him. However that is not true. She went for the money. And, whore that she was, she fucked his dad, on his bed, while wearing his old necklace.
Sansa Stark. Probably a lot of people would disagree, or use her as a counter-argument to my whole mother-whore theory, but in my opinion she is a whore. Maybe she was not paid for sex, or she never used sex directly as her tool, but one cannot deny that she used her sexuality.
Sansa Stark used her looks and her charms to save herself from Joffrey. Ironically, that innocent, budding sexuality is what saved her from getting raped by the Hound on the night of the Battle of Blackwater. And that is exactly what she uses to manipulate Littlefinger.
Melisandre. Even her magic comes as a result of sexual transaction. And besides that the red priestess used her feminine wiles to get that dolt Stannis to do her biding.
Margaery Tyrell. The girl who’ll get into bed with anyone – fags, degenerates and little boys welcome, as long as she gets a gold head-piece afterwards. Yeah, without actually fucking any of them. Quite an accomplishment, really…
Conclusion – of the article, not Game of Thrones
Actually the only possible exception to my theory is Brienne of Tarth. She seems to be neither a mother nor a whore. But, arguably, she is not really even a woman. Apart from in the biological sense of the word – she is a knight. And in this gender-pronoun crazy world, many would say that doesn’t matter.
Also, Arya! But in her case it has more to do with the fact that she is 9 years old and a prepubescent child. She is neither a mother, nor a whore, since she is yet to grow into one of those roles.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not a white knight by any means, I love the HBO’s Game of Thrones, and I generally don’t give a fuck about feminism and stuff like that. I was not trying to accuse Martin of misogyny. And I didn’t say that he suffers from the Madonna/Whore Complex. (But I kinda implied it, if you are slow and you haven’t caught up by now.) All of this was just a literary observation, a critique of his writing prowess. One of many that can be directed his way.
Enjoy watching Brienne the Beauty kick the Hounds butt in S04 of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Stefan is a geek and wordsmith extraordinaire with an M.A. in Philosophy and a professional background in business development, marketing and media. He has a cat called Freya that doesn’t like him very much.