Questions from Google #2

Here are the answers to some of the questions that led people to visit Feminist Fiction in March. Some of the questions are slightly edited to turn them from Google-ese into normal English, but all are genuine searches from my site statistics.

1. Why doesn't Game of Thrones have Robb Stark's POV?

You'd have to ask George RR Martin for a definitive answer on that, but I'd assume it's because he wanted to avoid the standard fantasy narrative of the young boy king triumphing against the odds, and instead focus on different perspectives. In the case of Robb's story, the main perspective is actually the boy king's mother, putting her struggles and fears front and center.

2. Did Shae deserve to die?

No. No no no no no. No.

Well, OK, people have different opinions on this. In the books, she apparently betrayed Tyrion by providing evidence against him in his trial and sleeping with his father, and we never find out why. But we can assume that the Lannisters exerted pressure on her. She was in an incredibly perilous position -- she was handmaid to a girl now accused of murder, she had no other friends or allies in King's Landing beyond Tyrion, who had also been arrested, and both Cersei and Tywin threatened to hurt "his whore" if they got their hands on her. Did she really have a choice in how she responded? She was almost certainly acting out of self-preservation, and in the end, Tyrion wasn't her "true love" but her employer. She didn't owe him loyalty, and when he kills her, it's more about his own self-loathing, his fury that Shae was not who he had imagined her to be, than about Shae herself or what she deserved.

3. When was the Little Mermaid written and why is it anti-feminist?

The Little Mermaid was written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1837. It's a strange little fairytale with strong religious elements, and although I think "anti-feminist" is too strong a phrase, it does have some very odd details. The Little Mermaid must be loved by a man and marry him in order to have an "immortal soul," and her second-best option is complete self-sacrifice. Without a man loving her, she is spiritually incomplete. The story also focuses a lot on physical beauty and grace, on the mermaid's innocence and purity, and every human step she takes causes her great pain. It's the trope of female suffering as poetic elegance, and perhaps a suggestion that girls must suffer silently to win love and so god's favor.

4. What makes good characters in a game?

It depends on whether they're the protagonist or an NPC. In my opinion, NPCs need the same things that make characters good in any medium. They have personality, for a start, depth of character and moral complexity. They have goals of their own, and the protagonist is supported and challenged by them in interesting and unexpected ways. Basically, they feel like people, allowing you to grow emotionally attached to them.

Video game protagonists, on the other hand, need to be far more cipher-like, at least for my tastes. They need to provide a way for the player to step into the video game world and feel like it's them who's interacting with it, whether that's the silent lack of personality of Link or the dialogue choices and character design options in RPGs like Dragon Age.

5. Will My Heart and Other Black Holes be a movie?

Paramount has bought the rights, which is the first step, but it's no guarantee that a movie will actually be made.

6. How is Snow White anti-feminist?

It's all about beauty. The Evil Queen wants to kill a little girl just because she's more beautiful than she is. Snow White is so pure and sweet and good, but never does anything to defend herself. Snow White is "good," in part, because she's motherly, despite only being 14, while the Evil Queen is "evil" because she's vain and un-motherly. Snow White's only real dream is finding true love with a prince. And Snow White is saved by the kiss of a stranger, after which, assumedly, all her other problems went away.

7. Why doesn't anyone help Sansa Stark?

Well, some people do "help" Sansa. Margaery plots to send her to Highgarden to marry Willas, and Littlefinger does get her out of King's Landing after Joffrey's death. But people are only willing to "help" Sansa for their own political advantage, which often means that their help isn't very good for her at all.

The Starks do want to help her, but short of attacking King's Landing and getting themselves killed, there's very little they can do for her if the Lannisters aren't willing to give her up.

8. What are Primrose Everdeen's likes and dislikes?

She likes cats, Katniss and working as a healer. She dislikes people googling their English homework questions.

9. Is Pride and Prejudice a feminist novel?

I don't think it's particularly feminist or un-feminist. Jane Austen certainly wouldn't have labelled it as such, although she did have a talent for cutting social commentary. In the end, it's a novel from the early 19th century, and it should be considered in that context. But it does have some feminist elements. It criticizes the way that women are forced to marry for financial solvency, and how the law could deprive them of everything if their male protectors died. It's mostly about female characters and their relationships with one another. And Lizzie is a strong-willed, opinionated, witty, intelligent and flawed female protagonist.

10. Does Matthew marry Lavinia?

No.

11. How was Belle brave in Beauty and the Beast?

She went racing into the forest to look for her father when she knew he was missing, and entered a creepy Gothic castle to search for him. She offered herself as a prisoner to the Beast, despite finding him terrifying, and despite knowing that she might never escape again. She fought off wolves when fleeing from the castle, and she stood up to Gaston and his mob in order to protect the Beast. The movie has some strange elements, but you can't say that Belle isn't a brave heroine -- although her bravery is often to protect others, rather than for herself.

12. Is there graphic sex in the book Outlander?

Yes.

13. Will Miranda be happy with Gary?

I'm skeptical. She might love him, but he's proven himself incredibly unreliable in a relationship. He wants complete trust from her, but he is unwilling to show her affection or tell her he loves her, and when she tells him that she's unhappy, he turns it all back on her. Her feelings for him have caused her more pain than happiness, and I don't see that changing over the long term.

14. Why did JK Rowling use a pseudonym?

She used the name "JK Rowling" instead of Joanne Rowling because her publishers wanted to hide her gender -- they didn't think boys would buy a book by a woman. She used the pseudonym Robert Galbraith because she wanted to be able to write and publish crime novels without all of the expectation and attention that the name "JK Rowling" would bring to them.

15. Is Ross Geller a good guy?

I mean, he's not a bad guy. He's generally a good father and is caring toward his friends. But he is absolutely a "Nice Guy," in the pejorative sense. He's incredibly jealous and possessive toward Rachel, he acts inappropriately and disrupts her career because of his own insecurities, and he refuses to ever accept that he might have been in the wrong over the whole "we were on a break" thing. And although Carol and Susan's relationship was quite progressive for 90s TV, Ross frequently has plotlines built around his "funny/harmless" sexism and homophobia -- think the episode with the male nanny in particular.