Game of Thrones: And Now His Watch Is Ended

Dear Game of Thrones writers:

Please stop using awesome characters to promote your misogynistic world view. Thanks.

Ugh. Another AMAZING episode of Game of Thrones, marred by one little thing. This time, it was just a throwaway line from Brienne, but despite Mormont’s death, despite Dany’s crowning moment of badassery, despite so many great scenes and character moments, that line is sticking in my head, and it is making it hard to appreciate the other stuff.

Why, writers? Why was it necessary to have Brienne tell Jaime that his despair over losing his hand makes him “sound like a bloody woman?” Why was it necessary to have that be the accusation that forces Jaime to snap out of it and fight to live? I don’t expect the show to take scenes word for word from the books, but this is one occasion where I feel quoting the books makes an important point.

“Jaime,” Brienne whispered, so faintly he thought he was dreaming it. “Jaime, what are you doing?”

“Dying,” he whispered back.

“No,” she said, “no, you must live.”

He wanted to laugh. “Stop telling me what do, wench. I’ll die if it pleases me.”

“Are you so craven?”

The word shocked him. He was Jaime Lannister, a knight of the Kingsguard, he was the Kingslayer. No man had ever called him craven. Other things they called him, yes; oathbreaker, liar, murderer. They said he was cruel, treacherous, reckless. But never craven. “What else can I do, but die?”

“Live,” she said, “live, and fight, and take revenge.”

Brienne helps Jaime by accusing him of being a coward, the one thing he had never imagined he could be. It’s a great character moment. But somewhere in translating this scene for television, the writers decided to make “craven” into “female.” Cowardice was not accusation enough. But being like a woman? Now that’s an insult. An insult that doesn’t make sense for either of the characters.

It doesn’t make sense for Jaime, because he’s probably one of the least misogynistic male characters in the series. As he thinks himself, if Jaime were a woman, he’d be Cersei. And at this point in the story, there’s no-one Jaime cares about more than Cersei. Being like Cersei, to him, wouldn’t exactly be an insult or punishment. It would be (and is) a point of pride. (Although Cersei, of course, would not lie down and take abuse and just die. Which shows the whole “woman” insult for the misogynistic nonsense it really is).

But most importantly, it doesn’t make sense for Brienne. And that’s the point that really stings. Brienne is warrior, sure. Yes, she rejects the traditional place that woman hold in that world — but she also has many “feminine” traits, like a belief in romance, and a great sweetness and naivety. She she does not separate herself from her gender. She does not dismiss or deride women who hold a more traditional place in society. She is a character who compares dying in childbirth to dying in battle. She tells Catelyn that she has a “woman’s kind of courage,” and she greatly admires that. At this point in the story, the person that she respects the most — the person she pledged loyalty to, and is willing to risk everything for — is a woman. She does not pledge for Robb, King in the North. She pledges for his mother, because Catelyn is the one who helped her, and Catelyn is strong one who deserves her fealty.

If the show wants a female character to spew misogyny, then Cersei is readily available. That’s part of her character, and it makes sense, in a twisted sort of way. But I guess Cersei’s misogyny isn’t good enough, because Cersei fulfils all kinds of feminine stereotypes, with her smiles and manipulations and pretty dresses and sexual power. Brienne is “not like other girls.” She has somehow grown above her gender, and she berates Jaime for almost debasing himself and becoming something that even she, as an actual woman, managed to escape.

It makes my skin crawl that such a fabulous character is being distorted to present such a misogynistic world view. And it marred an otherwise amazing episode, when they could simply have not included that line, and everything would have been fine. The fact that they actively changed that scene in order to include that sentiment is really revealing about what these writers believe.

And that’s really depressing.

But at least we didn’t visit a brothel this week? Small mercies, I guess.

26 comments on “Game of Thrones: And Now His Watch Is Ended

  • Malena , Direct link to comment

    You are so right. It was the one single flaw in an otherwise splendid episode. If Brienne had said “look at me! I’m a woman and yet I’m not giving up” it would have been ok, but by saying “like a bloody woman” she insulted herself, Catelyn and the tavern wenches that she buried (and avenged) last season. The final irony is that, in the book, Jaime decides to live because of a woman, his beloved Cersei ,while in the series he eats because he does not want to be confused with a member of that pitiful sex.

  • Anonymous , Direct link to comment

    You do realise that that line, like the entire relationship between Jaime in Brienne, is ironic? You don’t understand these characters in the slightest, I’m sorry.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      How is their relationship ironic? Clearly we have very different understandings of these characters.

  • Haizea , Direct link to comment

    Oh god yes I agree. I cringed at that statement too, but chose to ignore it because I was eagerly awaiting Daenerys’ scene (which was one of my favourites in the book and I had heard it was really good), and now that you mention it… it bothers me a lot. At the time I was mostly confused, unsure if it was some sort of sarcasm or irony, but it felt completely out the character’s context. If there had been some discussion between Jaime and Brienne beforehand that touched upon this very subject that this would lead to, then yes, good, but in this context it was just weird. Did the writers just think it’d be a powerful statement, coming from Brienne, having no idea how insulting it is, or did they just don’t care? It’s that it’s coming from BRIENNE of all people that bugs me. What was wrong with “are you so craven”? Why would you change that?

    Then again, the ending of this episode might be just my favourite scene in all of GoT thus far. When it was revealed Dany had understood all of the Valyrian that had been spoken? SO GOOD. It was no great plot twist in the books as we knew from the beginning, but absolutely perfect on-screen.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      God, the ending was AMAZING. As I said, I really wish they hadn’t seen the need to throw in that one pointless, out of character line, because the episode as a whole was one of the best ever.

  • Foxessa , Direct link to comment

    It’s another facet to the significance ofof last week’s shoving prostitute crotches in our faces for zip narrative product. That porn star acrobatics — it’s more than likely to scare a virgin than arouse him, wouldn’t you think? Vagina as spider?

    They do this shyte on purpose, I’ve decided. They are going neener neener neener to the people who object to their relentless drumbeat of misogyny.

  • Foxessa , Direct link to comment

    I’m so glad I don’t pay to watch this garbage.

    So why do I watch? I wouldn’t, except it’s part of my brief as someone who writes about film/television violence and revisionist history.

  • Robert McCoy , Direct link to comment

    Brienne used that line to get Jaime’s attention, not because she believes it. In the last episode Jaime thanked the gods he wasn’t a woman when telling Brienne not resist their rape attempt.

      • Robert McCoy , Direct link to comment

        I can only speculate, but in a severe patriarchal society a man being compared to a woman is the worst insult to wield. This appears in the books in various ways. Not to different from our reality, really.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I assumed that he thanked the gods he wasn’t a woman because that meant he wasn’t about to get raped by their captors. I think there’s a difference between thanking the gods you’re not a woman because of the abuse and discrimination they face, and thanking the gods you’re not a woman because women are weak and whiny and suck. I’d like it more if Brienne was saying that without meaning it, but I did read it as quite biting and sincere.

  • Maggie , Direct link to comment

    I got to “Another AMAZING episode of Game of Thrones, marred by one little thing.” and shouted YES! because I knew to what you referred.

    I just now finished watching it and that line was a blow. “Irony” my ass. It is devaluing and nasty.

  • anon , Direct link to comment

    Look the show is set in a fictional world with medieval sensibilities. Why would the male/female power struggle be any different to our own medieval past? It is more realistic to have inequality in a barbaric world such as Westeros.

    What I am saying is that your point is moot; should we pander to women? Is that not more sexist? You probably won’t approve this comment anyway so I am wasting my time.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      Because the show is set in a FANTASY world, not a medieval one. The fact that it’s medieval-esque doesn’t mean that they have to be misogynistic to make it “realistic.” I don’t have a problem with the fact that there’s inequality in Westeros. That’s part of what makes it interesting as a fictional setting. I do have a problem with them making characters say misogynistic things when it goes against their own character, and how they speak and act in the books.

      And I don’t see why not hating women or suggesting that they are weak and lesser is “pandering” to women. If being treated with respect, as individuals and not as a monolith, is being “pandered” to, then there’s a serious problem.

      And why would I not approve your comment? I have been deleting some comments on this post, as they were kind of jerk-ish and focussed more on “lol you’re wrong, you dumbass” than on having an actual debate. But yours isn’t the first comment I’ve approved that disagrees with me.

      • anon , Direct link to comment

        Fair enough, apologies. What I mean by pandering to a female audience is changing a character in to not offend them. I know it would annoy me if Stannis was changed to pander to male audience.

        I found Brienne in the books to be dismissive of her sex. I also picked up on how she hated men too. She seems to me like she’s stuck between sexes in a world defined by it. Which is interesting, it draws parallels to her and Jaime who also has no interest in the world of men or women.

        • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

          I guess one major problem with TV/film adaptations is that everyone has different interpretations of characters, and so what to one person is “changing” the character is a completely faithful interpretation to another person. I do think Brienne seems stuck between sexes in a world defined by it, and I love the parallels between her and Jaime… I just think that her bitterness is aimed at the world, rather than turned against other women.

          As for pandering… I guess to me it depends on what the character was like originally. If the original character was really problematic (say, for example, a racist caricature), then I don’t think it’s pandering to the audience to attempt to correct that. Its acknowledging that what might have been considered acceptable once is no longer acceptable now. If, however, the character is just unlikeable to some people, then attempting to “fix” them is only going to create more problems than it solves. Cos people sure as hell aren’t going to like it.

          • anon , Direct link to comment

            I saw the comment as meaning more than what was said. Yes, it sounded offensive but I think she said it in order to get a reaction out of Jaime. Consider what they were talking about the episode before. I believe the show-runners have written female characters well and justly. Cersei for example isn’t just a nut-job with penis envy; she is far more sympathetic in the show than in the books.

            Missandei says “Valar Morgulies” (spelling) to which Dany replies “All men must die. But we are not men”. She makes no distinction like this in the book but it is there to make a stronger character who has had to over-come the rule of men to be in the position she is in now.

            ps – Cant wait for Winds when/if it ever comes out 😀

          • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

            I do like what the showrunners have done with Cersei. I know some people don’t like that they’ve softened her in the show, but I think the show has brought out a lot of her complexities. I was very disappointed when we got her chapters in the fourth book, since Jaime’s POV turned him from someone I hated to one of my favorite characters, but Cersei’s made her seem more two-dimensional than ever.

            Haha, fingers crossed it comes out soon! (But in ASOIAF terms, that means in the next two or three years…).

  • Cabbo , Direct link to comment

    The point is to tell the audience that Brienne THINKS women are weak (even though she is the perfect example of how this isn’t true). It gives you the sense that Brienne struggles with her own identity as a woman. It may also be interpreted as her appealing to Jaime’s world view (but I think it’s more likely the former).

    If you can’t see how pro-gender-equality the show is (There are plenty of strong characters of both genders, and the line “we are not men” from Daenarys is just as sexist as Brienne’s, as in it references genders but isn’t sexist) then you are blinded by prejudice yourself.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      My problem really is that, although Brienne struggles with her identity as a woman, she never turns that against other women. She doesn’t see other women as weak — she just finds herself trapped in a situation where she can’t be enough of a traditional woman, but is not a man, and so isn’t really allowed to be the person she actually IS either.

      One big problem with all this, though, is that it’s impossible for me (and, I think, for most book readers) to separate my understanding of the book character from the character we see on screen. Looking at the differences between the two brings a whole different level to the experience that wouldn’t exist if it was just the show by itself.

      And the series is one of my absolute favorites (although the book more than the show). I’ve spent a lot of time praising it too, and I certainly don’t look for things to dislike about it. I’d much rather love it all the time! I think the difference between Dany’s line and Brienne’s line is that Dany’s was a kind of tongue-in-cheek “we are badass and we will not die,” whereas Brienne was saying “don’t be pathetic and weak like a woman.” Dany’s was a LOTR-esque bit of nitpicking that didn’t suggest being a man was bad (“all men must die… but what about everyone else?”), and Brienne’s was definitely saying that a woman was a terrible thing to be. And not because of the situations women find themselves in, but their innate characteristics.

    • marisa , Direct link to comment

      Well say Cabbo. It is exactly how I saw it. There is almost a pause after she say that, that seems almost reflective on the irony of what she is saying. Is not the literal take on the phrase what shakes him, here is a he, weak and fragile, as he have seen many women and men for sure. And it is a woman the one that is telling him to toughen up. She is herself the antithesis of what she is claiming him to be.

  • marisa , Direct link to comment

    I did not got distract by the phrase. It was kind of ironic, that she a woman is telling him that he is whining like a bloody woman in distress. She just spoke to him, in words he as a man that feels above woman and man will understand. She level with him. a woman. In some way he just told him, for my eyes, I see you the way you have seen my gender.

  • Sici , Direct link to comment

    Did anyone else notice that some of the episodes with the most sexist nonsense were written by Vanessa Taylor? I think she’s the only female writer they have this season and we got lovely things like Catelyn’s stupid monologue and Brienne’s “like a woman” line from Taylor. Of course, the other episodes are laced with subtle misogyny too but Vanessa Taylor’s episodes contain the most jarring instances of it. Maybe this is just me being paranoid but perhaps HBO is forcing her to include these lines in her episodes to shirk anti-woman accusations? It doesn’t work of course, but maybe?

    • Malena , Direct link to comment

      Thank you for noticing it. I get the feeling that Taylor does not understand Jaime’s character (or Brienne´s for all that matters). Their scenes (written by VT) on chapter two were painful to watch. But the “like a woman” line was written by Weiss and Benioff, so Taylor is off the hook on that one.

      • Sici , Direct link to comment

        That is horrifying. It’s astounding that a work with as many dynamic and complex women as ASOIAF is being adapted by people like D&D.

        • Malena , Direct link to comment

          I wouldn’t be so harsh on D&D. They are marvelous writers (especially Benioff) and so far they have done a great job with female characters like Daenerys, Arya, even with Brienne who was awesome last season. I don´t know what´s wrong with them this year.

What do you think?

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