A Circle of Jerks: why I hate A Song of Ice and Fire

I read A Game of Thrones almost two years ago when I was high on Vicodin after surgery. I liked it ok. I started reading the second one (whose title I can never remember) after the pain became manageable by over-the-counter drugs, and I couldn’t get in to it. I tried a few months later, and again, nothing.

So I started watching the show. The first season was ok. I love the Starks and Tyrion and anything to do with what’s going on beyond the wall and Daenerys. But holy hell that show is fucking misogynist! (I’m assuming the books are the same since from what I watched and what I saw, they were comparable.)

I can’t handle any more rape and torture and killing of babies and Theon trying to hook up with his sister and she just letting him to set him up for the embarrassment later of “dude, you fingered your sister.” Or actually, this is a world where incest is pretty much du jour. I’m not just talking about the Lannisters. There’s also something off with, oh I was supposed to marry your brother, but since he’s dead I’ll take my would-be brother-in-law. And then that guy beyond the wall who married all his daughters. And didn’t all the Targaryens marry each other? Looks like pretty arbitrary sexual boundaries or different standards for nobility versus the commoners, surprise surprise.

I can’t take any more of a world where yeah, women have a place at the table but are still so otherwise disrespected. I can’t even describe this. I can’t understand how the show can have such strong female characters–Arya, Catelyn, Daenerys, even Cersei– and still be so fucking misogynist. Maybe it’s like the world without feminism. The men understand that yes, some women are smart and strong, but haven’t quite grasped the fact that they aren’t the rarity that society tells them they are so it’s still ok to try to stick your hands down your sister’s pants. Presumably until you learn that she’s your sister and then therefore she’s one of the rare females that has a brain.

I just can’t handle it. Yeah, war is hell. The show brings up that the common people don’t give a shit who’s ruling them. Yeah. So it seems to be the story is just the nobles standing around in a circle jerk, and I don’t care.

About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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8 Responses to A Circle of Jerks: why I hate A Song of Ice and Fire

  1. So this.

    I made it through halfway through the third book, and then I couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t think the author himself is misogynistic. He writes well-developed, interesting, strong female characters who happen to live in an awful world. He gives them plenty of screen time and makes their actions pivotal. Because of that, and because it’s a believable world, for me, I was willing to go along for two and a half books. People read these books because they’re well written and you want to know what’s happening. But in the middle of the third book I just couldn’t take it anymore. It’s rare for me to put something down once I started it, but I’m just done. A set of events happened and his world was just too awful. It wasn’t rape that finally killed it for me, but other things, but I was very happy to put a book down that had so much misogyny, along with just plain awfulness. Ugh.

    Now that I’ve read your post, and thought deeper about my “he’s not a misogynist writer, but he writes a really terrible world, but it’s believable” I’ve decided I need to further examine why I find such a misogynistic world so believable (hopefully it’s just the current episode of major depression…).

    • emmawolf says:

      I should have made that really clear that I don’t think GRRM is a misogynist. (I suppose he could be, I don’t know him personally. I just don’t think that writing this book alone makes him a misogynist, and I think he was able to write really strong intelligent competent female characters.)

      Unfortunately, I believe his terrible world is believable because it’s probably pretty accurate (except the whole fantasy thing). Of course, I’m not a scholar on history. But looking at society now, I can see how we would have came from something like that. It seems that nothing has changed, only the degrees. Rape and violence is still glorified. Women are still not supposed to enjoy sex unless they are a prostitute. There are still arbitrary sexual taboos that apply to some but not others. Women are still commodities.

      Maybe GRRM is trying to make a larger point about how society has not changed, like how the peasants don’t care who’s king because nothing changes. But to me it just seems like more rape culture.

      • I had similar thoughts – oh, this is probably somewhat historically accurate – but I really don’t know. I think we all have this lens about history that’s viewed through the current patriarchy we live in. So yes, parts of it do make sense historically, but I suspect actual medieval history is far less uniformly awful.

        I didn’t think you were suggesting that GRRM was misogynist – just thought I’d make the point. I remember reading an argument from someone arguing that there is no reason to write fantasy without strong, interesting well-developled female characters, just because “well, men did all the interesting stuff. it’s just the way society was.” I think GRRM is actually a really good example for this. His women are real, complex, both “good” and “evil,” strong and weak. His actual writing isn’t misogynist in that way (it would be if women were only flat, token characters, if they only existed to be owned, or saved, or married, or worshipped, etc.) I think that is actually a really helpful distinction to make.

        It’s still a deeply misogynist world, and an extremely dark one, and I don’t judge anybody for enjoying it, but I can’t personally read it, especially right now.

  2. Muriel says:

    For once, I disagree. I love Martin’s stories, and while I agree that they portrait a misogynistic world, I never got the feeling that the stories themselves were.
    Maybe I missed that.

    • emmawolf says:

      I definitely see your point. Daenerys as queen, for one, would probably not occur in a misogynistic story. But I think for me it’s too hard to sift through the misogynistic aspects to get to the non-misogynistic story. There is just so much misogyny that you have to go through to get to the kernels of non-misogyny, so the distinction seems a little semantic to me. But I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. Please continue.

      • Muriel says:

        Uhm, well, if we can agree thus far, I’m not sure of what to convice you. If you don’t like the story, you don’t.
        Nothing wrong with that.

  3. Mai says:

    His fictional, fake world is tooooo horrible, oh my god, how can someone handle so much horror in a fake world?
    Let me play the world’s tiniest violin for y’all.

    • emmawolf says:

      Um…I think you are confusing me with you. I totally don’t care that I don’t like a book. I’m just explaining why I don’t because everyone is all “OMG, have you read Game of Thrones?” But you came to my blog to be an ass….because I don’t like a book?

      Seriously, dude, get a life. Get your own blog and whine there about how people have their own likes and dislikes. It’s tough, right?

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