The latest IGN review of Game of Thrones has got me feeling… mildly disgruntled. It’s just one sentence, but it’s a sentiment that I’ve seen repeated, in various forms, all over the web since The Lion and the Rose aired.
It’s worth noting too that the series has landed down firmly on the “Brienne secretly loves Jaime” side of the fence, which weakens her character if you ask me.
Repeat after me, folks: romantic plotlines don’t ruin female characters.
A female character isn’t weak because she has normal human emotions. She isn’t anti-feminist because she has vulnerabilities. There’s a difference between a female character existing entirely to be in love with the male character and a female character who happens to have a romantic subplot as part of her story.
It isn’t feminist to insist that female characters have to be “badass” unfeeling robots, detached from absolutely anything considered “feminine,” including, apparently, emotions. Sure, we don’t want female characters to be damsels in distress, but swinging in the other direction, to cardboard-cutout-badass-making-quips, isn’t much better. Good female characters appear human. And sorry, romance-haters, but love is a part of that.
Of course, I’m a little biased in this case, because I’m also in the “Brienne loves Jaime” camp (and in less of a neutral and more of an “omg otp!!” kind of way). But love is already a major part of Brienne’s character. She loved Renly. Her having soft and girly feelings isn’t exactly a new development. Brienne is a badass with a sword, and she eschews a lot of gender expectations, but her personality is far closer to Sansa’s than Arya’s. She’s quite naive, a romantic in the Arthurian sense of the word, captivated by stories of honor and often motivated by love. That’s what’s so great about her character! She shows that a female character doesn’t have to reject all softness or vulnerability or stereotypical feminine characteristics to be the warrior maiden type. In fact, these “feminine” attributes put her far closer to the traditional knightly ideal than anyone else.
Yet the show has made an effort to “toughen up” Brienne and make her more into the expected stereotypical badass, and these reviews buy into the idea that that is the way a good female character should be. She’s “not like other girls,” and anything that seems too girly only diminishes her.
And it’s nonsense. It’s sexist, offensive nonsense, paraded as some kind of powerful feminist statement. And it really needs to stop.