Hannah Drake

Feminism and the End of Game of Thrones

CommentaryHannah DrakeComment

I probably said last time that I wouldn’t post about Game of Thrones anymore, so call me an Oathbreaker. After the end of the series, I read so many tweets, subreddits, and hot takes on Game of Thrones that I just needed an outlet for all of my thoughts. So consider this my essay on Game of Thrones. (Fun Fact: I wrote a paper on hip hop in college. T.I and Dr. Dre were much of my sources. Writing essays on pop culture is fun!)

The rest of this post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones in its entirety.

Overall, I’m not upset about how the story ended. It’s fine. I believe the finale was destined to be a letdown (I’ll get to that), but I’m not bothered about how they wrapped up most of the characters’ arcs. What bothers me, like many people, is that the final two seasons felt rushed. I didn’t feel this way about season seven until we were nearing the end of season eight, though. Apparently the showrunners wanted the final 13 episodes in one season, but ultimately decided to split the episodes into seven and six for production purposes. Like so many other viewers, I feel that this was a mistake. In my perfect Game of Thrones world, season seven would have wrapped the Night Knight storyline. It would have flipped the script on what viewers had come to expect in Game of Thrones with a big, often shocking ninth episode and a wrap up tenth episode. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms would have been a relatively low key ninth episode, while The Long Night would have been action packed and ended with a huge moment, Arya killing the Night King. Open season eight with the Winterfell crew burning the funeral pyres, and then slow down. They could have built the Daenerys vs. Cersei conflict and Daenerys’s descent into madness, leading her to burn King’s Landing. They could have sat in the aftermath of the destruction of the city and what Dany intended to do with her new power for a while. All of those scenes that we were left to fill in for ourselves (Sansa and Arya finding out who Jon is, Missandei getting kidnapped, Tryion and Bran’s conversations, Grey Worm for some reason arresting Jon instead of killing him, Sansa possibly vying for Jon to be exiled so she can have the North for herself, etc.) could have actually played out on screen. The ninth episode of the final season could have ended with Jon killing Daenerys and Drogon flying off with her body. Use the entire finale to wrap up character’s storylines and take advantage of the additional seven episodes to make these big moments (the deaths of the Night King, Cersei, and Daenerys) really land. I found it incredibly frustrating that we had to read between the lines in moments that would have been shown in past seasons or watch the Inside the Episode and Game Revealed featurettes to fully understand the characters and plot points. And with 99.9% of the promotional campaign for the final season centring around the Night King conflict, when he only appeared on screen for a few moments in the whole season, it made it difficult to get back into the politics of Westeros for the final three episodes.

Probably because I agree with it, but I feel like the “rushed” complaint is the most valid for the final season of Game of Thrones. It basically lead to zero interesting Cersei scenes and she has consistently been one of the most compelling characters on the show! A lot of the “hot takes” I’ve been reading have been about how Game of Thrones was ultimately anti-feminist, usually focusing solely on Dany, sometimes including Cersei and/or Brienne, and ruined Dany’s character, though, and I have to say I disagree 100%.

Dany’s descent into madness should have been more flushed out, yes. I felt like all signs pointed towards this since she coldly watched her brother’s execution in season one, but a lot of fans felt it was a disservice to her character. Storytellers should show not tell, and it wasn’t all that clear that we were supposed to know that seeing the Red Keep from the city walls is what ultimately led Dany to ignore the bells of surrender and burn King’s Landing. Instead, that was literally insider information from the Inside the Episode that followed. But Dany going full Mad Queen doesn’t make her story anti-feminist. Dany did a lot of things over the eight seasons to warrant her being held up as a feminist icon, including one of my favourite scenes in which she holds a war council with four other women, three of whom are representing three of the seven kingdoms. (At the time of this scene in the show, episode 7.2, Sansa was about to take over the power in the North from Jon and Cersei was ruling from the Iron Throne, which means you could argue that six of the seven kingdoms were ruled by women.) It’s probably not the ending for her character that a lot of fans of the show wanted, but that doesn’t discredit things to warrant praise in previous seasons. And it’s likely where the story is headed in the books, if they’re ever finished.

I read a lengthy article about the finale and the end of many of the character’s arcs that basically said “yeah, sure, it was cool when those women were ruling across Westeros, but ultimately they showed that women are too emotional to rule.” [Insert guy blinking GIF here, please.] If that’s how you interpret Dany’s and Cersei’s arcs, then I guess that’s on you, but that article didn’t at all mention some of the other female leaders or rulers that we’ve seen throughout the show, like Margaery, queen to three kings, Olenna, the real power in the Reach, or Yara, a chosen leader by the Ironborn. I wish that they show hadn’t spent nearly all of our time with Cersei in season eight just reminding us that she loved her children, but I don’t think that’s it’s fair to say that they were poor rulers because they fall into cheap stereotypes about women in power. In the books, Cersei is more clearly not as clever as she thinks she is, and even in the show, she falls into her own traps, like the mess she caused with the High Sparrow in season five. She thought it was absurd that anyone should view her as less than her brother or husband because she was a woman, especially her father. She simply lusted after power and, as she warned us in the first season, when you win or you die. Dany especially was so reminiscent of both her father and brother by the end, it seemed painfully obvious that it was a Targaryen thing, not a woman thing. That same article briefly touched on Brienne’s and Sansa’s storylines in a way that I don’t understand at all, and had little to say about Arya.

Brienne’s arc had been taking heat since the end of episode 8.4, when we saw her crying in her nightgown after Jaime rode south for Cersei. People immediately hopped online to say they completely ruined her character, so seriously, WTF? But I didn’t get that impression at all and I really bought into the explanation of that scene from the Binge Mode podcast that she was completely emotionally vulnerable with Jaime in a way she had never been before and he was abandoning her with little explanation. In her introduction to the show, we know that she wants to be a knight, but is restricted by her gender. We find out that she loved Renly because he comforted her when the boys her father had brought to court her laughed at her and ridiculed her for her appearance. She doesn’t open herself up to anyone after that, especially not a man. Just look at how resistant she is even to Pod, who was literally just there to help her. Just because she don’t need no man, doesn’t mean she doesn’t desire love and acceptance from the person she loves and respects. What Jaime did to her was really crappy. He tried to leave in the middle of the night and when she confronted him about it, he said incredibly hurtful things to her. She knew that he would be riding to his death to return to King’s Landing. That moment would be painful and shocking and difficult to process for anyone. But we don’t see her on the couch in yoga pants eating Ben & Jerry’s the rest of the season. She picks herself up and carries on to do her duty. Brienne was knighted in episode 8.2, becoming the first female knight in the Seven Kingdoms. In the finale, she is raised to Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, another first for women in Westeros. It’s her duty as Lord Commander to fill the pages of the fallen Kingsguard (Side note: I hope Arya told her what Meryn Trant really was and how he died so she can write that down too.) and she recorded Jaime’s deeds with admiration, respect, and honesty. She wasn’t snivelling over him or being petty. She accepted that he had an addiction to Cersei and I like to think she understood that didn’t discount his feelings for her.

Sansa, meanwhile, turned out to be a major player in the game, eventually rising to Queen in the North in her own right. When we first meet her, she’s swooning over a prince and wants to have his babies. When we leave her, she’s the chosen leader of her people, she’s the queen of her own kingdom, she will likely be able to pass down the Stark name to her future children, and she doesn’t need a man by her side. In fact…

Many viewers, however, have been frustrated with the direction of Sansa’s storyline since season five when she was essentially sold to the Boltons, married to someone more cruel than Joffrey, and raped on her wedding night and repeatedly until she and Theon escaped Winterfell. She took the place of her best friend Jeyne Poole, who was married to Ramsay under the guise that she was Arya in the books. Her wedding night was an incredibly difficult scene to watch and there were complaints that we saw it play out on Theon’s face, letting a man, a bystander take precedent over a woman is getting raped. I guess my question is how did you want that scene to play out? Did you want to see what happened to Sansa rather just hearing it? I didn’t feel that it discounted what happened to her in any way, I was glad not to see it, and I thought it added another layer of torture to Theon, without saying that what Theon experienced in that room was worse than what Sansa experienced. Since her escape, her abuse at the hands of Joffrey and Ramsay has been called a plot point to make her stronger. In The Last of the Starks, she says to the Hound, “Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would’ve stayed a little bird all my life”. People have complained about that quote as well and I do think those are valid points, but we should also consider that sexual assault and abuse survivors deal with their trauma in different ways. I think there’s reason to believe that Sansa would have grown into who she was in the final episode without Ramsay and I think it’s fine that she found strength in her trauma. Some women do. The reality is, Westeros is a fantasy version of medieval Europe and women were raped in medieval Europe. Women are raped all over the world today by their partners (Daenerys, Sansa), by their family members (Cersei), and by strangers and each of those women will deal with the experience in their own way. Perhaps Sansa’s line to the Hound wouldn’t have felt as much like a plot device if the season had been expanded and we could have seen her dealt with it in other ways, with other people, or by herself. I just never took it the way I’m seeing other people did, which I think is okay. But I think it’s unreasonable to think that rape shouldn’t be a part of this world and, to be honest, maybe we shouldn’t collectively channel our anger toward the women who are raped in our world instead of toward a character on a TV show or in a book.

As I mentioned above, Arya was conspicuously left out of a lot of the articles and arguments that Game of Thrones ultimately descended into an anti-feminist show. Of course things looked different earlier in the show (I mentioned Dany’s war council and the women in power scattered across the kingdoms at the time), but Arya ultimately had the most feminist arcs and ending of all the female characters on the show. In season one, when discussing her future with her father, ("You will marry a high lord and rule his castle. And your sons shall be knights, and princes, and lords,” Ned said.) Arya first said what would be her mantra: “That’s not me.” From season two up until season seven, we see Arya completely on her own. Keep in mind, she’s about 12 years old in the first season of the show. She travels across Westeros, she narrowly misses reconnecting with her family twice, she sails to another continent and trains to become a Faceless Man, she seeks vengeance for the crimes committed against her family, all before returning to Winterfell to be reunited with her surviving siblings. She was responsible for the deaths of a member of the Kingsguard (Meryn Trant), the extinction of House Frey, one of the most powerful men in the realm (Littlefinger), and the Night King. The girl can bring it! In episode 8.2, she chooses to spend what could be her last night alive with a man she cares about, but when he proposes marriage, when he asks her to be his lady at Storms End, she tells Gendry “that’s not me”. Arya chose her feminist heroes well, naming her direwolf after Nymeria of Dorne, the warrior-queen of the Rhoynar and mentioning Rhaenys and Visenya’s roles in the conquering of Westors to Tywin at Harrenhal in season two. And those women have inspired her to truly be herself, to not conform to societal expectations, and to set her own path. I mean, people still clutch their pearls all around the world to this day when women decide they’re not going to marry (or enter into an arrangement marriage) and just have babies. That is still a dangerous choice to make in some parts of the world. Throughout the series, she subverts patriarchal norms and, in a lot of ways, shatters some glass ceilings. In fact, all of the women I’ve mentioned—Daenerys, Cersei, Brienne, and Sansa—shatter their own glass ceilings! She even models her outfits after her father and brothers instead of her mother and sister. While I do love the idea of Gendry and Arya together and the poetry of the Baratheons and Starks finally joining their houses, like King Robert wanted in the very first episode, I love even more that she is the captain of an expedition to find out what is west of Westeros and flying under the Stark banner.

It’s my understanding that feminism is about the equal right to choose your own path, which all of these women did. Cersei’s path or Daenerys’s path may not have led to a place viewers wanted, but they both made the choices that pulled them further and further into destruction and madness. Feminism doesn’t mean that at the end of the show, it’s just the women left standing and everything is hunky dory and no one is too emotional because then they’re emotional because they’re women. It’s not anti-feminist to have a female character make poor decisions or ultimately turn out to be a villain. But it seems to me to be irresponsible to take one aspect of Brienne’s story and cry anti-feminism on her behalf or to completely ignore Arya’s entire arc just so you can say Game of Thrones as a whole was just one more patriarchal, misogynist show. (By all means, yes, let’s talk about how it’s a real shame that these women were written and directed by mostly men!)

What did you think about the ending of Game of Thrones or, more specifically, the character arcs of these female characters?

Header photo from Entertainment Magazine. Show stills and GIFs found via Google.

The Best of May 2019

LifeHannah DrakeComment

My break from the blog wasn’t pre-meditated. It was oddly timed because I was going on in my emails (you can subscribe in the side bar) and on Instagram about how I’m more inspired when blogging than on social media lately, but then I just ghosted. I’ve taken a few breaks before, for the holidays or our wedding, and once because I really was uninspired. This time, I just simply didn’t have the time. Between travelling and house guests, hosting two parties this month, and spending much of my free time reading Game of Thrones theories and articles, I just didn’t carve out any time to blog. The only bad part is that I currently have so many ideas for blog posts that I had to push a lot of them back by a few weeks. (And let’s be honest, finishing up my Italy recaps is just daunting.) But I’m back!

So. Let’s get after it with eight of my favourite things from the last month! I love the opportunity to reflect back on the last four weeks in regards to what I’m blogging, what I’m buying, what I’m reading, what I’m listening to, and more. But I’ve also found that it makes me more mindful of what’s bringing me joy as I go through the month.

How We Celebrate Our Anniversaries

I only shared five posts last month, so it wasn’t really surprising that the most popular one was about our anniversary, which I shared just before our wedding anniversary. I wonder if people will note our anniversary next year and in the years to come like they did this year, but in case they do, here’s the answer. (Spoiler Alert: Our real anniversary is in September.)

Foster Kitten

As of last Tuesday, we’re on our second round of fostering for Furbabies Cat Rescue. It’s been a while since we had Jake, so we’re really excited to be back at it. This time, we have a mama and her three kittens. Of all the times I’ve fostered before, I’ve never had the mama with her babies! It’s already so much fun! She’s a total sweetheart and while her babies are still young and squeal like you wouldn’t believe when you pick them up, they’re starting to grow into their little personalities as well. We decided to name the mom Valkyrie and the babies Thor, Loki, and Hela (pictured).

The Boston Globe Gladiator

Gladiator, a podcast about former Patriots tide end and convicted killer Aaron Hernandez, has been sitting in my podcast feed for months, but I finally got around to listening to it this month after I caught up on my current podcasts. I binged it in two days! It was such a fascinating look into his childhood, his football career, his crimes, his time in prison, and the state of his brain at the time of death. If you’re a sports fan, you should definitely listen to it. It gives some really good insight into the underbelly of college and professional sports (of course in the most extreme case, like this one), but serves as a good reminder as to why you shouldn’t idolise athletes just because they’re good at sports. One quote from the sixth episode stands out specifically: “Just because you put pads and a helmet on, doesn’t mean someone has character.”

The Most Harmful Fabrics in Fashion - Jess Ann Kirby

I shared one of Jess Ann Kirby’s posts last month too, but she has seriously been killing it lately. From my following list, she’s the influencer leading the charge to speak up about real issues, like sexual assault (which I shared last month) and sustainability. This post is SO helpful when considering the fabrics we’re purchasing and what sustainable textiles actually look like. Even before this post, I started checking tags to see what material clothes were made from, but this is a great cheat sheet to help you understand what’s on the tag.

Period Movement

The stall doors in the bathrooms at service stations across the UK often advertise for charities that give sanitary products to women and girls across the globe who don’t have access to what they need. It’s made me think a lot about the luxury I’ve had as a woman who has had access to pads and tampons since I got my first period. May 28th was Menstrual Hygiene Day so PERIOD. Movement, based in Oregon, set a goal to raise $28,000 to “distribute menstrual products to people in need around the world, educate to change the conversation around periods, and promote policy change to guarantee access to period products” with the idea that menstrual hygiene is a right, not a luxury.

Balsover Castle

I’m really excited that this month, we decided to join the English Heritage. While my mom was visiting, we stopped at Balsover Castle on our way to see Luke’s parents. We decided to get a 15-month membership, which gives us access to a huge amount of history across England, including Stonehenge! Without a big international trip this year, other than a visit back to Colorado for a wedding, we’re really excited to explore more locally and see some really cool things.

Cookies & Cream Cupcakes

We definitely didn’t do as much cooking this month as either of us would have liked, so I figured I’d share a dessert recipe I recently fell in love with again. For our Game of Thrones Finale Party, I made these cookies & cream cupcakes to be The House of Black and White Cupcakes. I even used the special edition Game of Thrones branded Oreos! Interestingly, the recipe showed up on my Timehop the day of the finale as an eight year old tweet!

World Market Buffet Napkins

One of the biggest sources of waste in our house is paper towels and paper napkins. When it’s just Luke and me at dinner, we usually grab a paper towel each to use as a napkin. I really wanted to cut down on that for both sustainable and financial benefits. So I got up 100% cotton napkins from World Market that we can use on a daily basis, under the one condition that neither of us ever worry about ironing them. It’s a really easy sustainable switch and even though we still buy paper towels, we’ve reduced the amount we buy significantly over the last year.

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2019 Summer Bucket List

Self CareHannah DrakeComment

I’m oddly excited about summer this year. I prefer spring and autumn to summer, which is maybe why I moved to England where the summers are much more mild than Colorado. But this year I’m looking forward to it!

The last two years, I’ve done both an Autumn Bucket List and a Christmas Bucket List. This year, for the heck of it, I decided to do a Summer Bucket List for the first time. I’ll admit I mostly do these lists for myself. I like to set goals for myself and making a public declaration helps me keep them. (It doesn’t always work, but often enough.) It probably seems silly for someone nearing 30 to list ten things they want to do each season, but I really enjoy envisioning what I want my season to look like, whether that be summer, autumn, or Christmastime.

HOST A GARDEN PARTY

My friend Taylor and I have been dreaming about hosting a garden party for over a year now. We were hoping to do it in 2018, but our schedules didn’t allow for it to happen last year. Right now, we’re in the throes of garden party planning and I truly cannot wait to see it all come together next month! We’re envisioning a quintessential English garden party—or as close as two Americans can get—complete with floral dresses, pastel hats, and all the makings of a proper English tea. Plus prosecco, of course.

VISIT ENGLISH HERITAGE SITES

Earlier this week, we joined the English Heritage with a 15-month membership. We got a booklet of all the sites we have access to and I’m very excited to explore so many of these places across England. We don’t have any plans to leave the country this summer, so I’m hoping this will motivate us to do plenty of travel around England to dive into the rich history surrounding us. The #1 English Heritage site I want to visit this year is Stonehenge!

TAKE A ROAD TRIP

What better to see all those English Heritage sites than a road trip?! With a map of all the locations at the front of the booklet, it will make it easy to plan a trip around the sites or to add sites to an already planned trip. Of course there’s nothing like an American road trip, but I haven’t really done something similar here. We’ve driven a number of places in the last two years, including Wales and Scotland, but it wasn’t quite the same. We didn’t stop overnight anywhere or even make a special playlist just for the trip.

GO WALKING

I guess this is the English version of hiking? I’m not really sure. All I know is that I suck at hiking up mountains, so I’m hoping I’ll fair better in the rolling hills of England. I’ve spend a lot of time thinking about what I want my ideal life to look like and one of the things I frequently see is us walking through the English countryside in our waxed jackets and walking shoes, umbrellas in hand as needed. Though I won’t say no to a nice sunny day!

MAKE AN AMERICAN FLAG CAKE

I usually make an American flag cake every year for the Fourth of July and have even done so the last two years while living in England. It never fails to impress people, which I especially enjoy doing with my baking. We don’t currently have plans for any sort of Fourth of July celebration, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make the cake regardless! This year, I’m considering using a red velvet cake for the red layers instead of dyed white cake. I’m curious how it would turn out!

HOST A BBQ

Last year we hosted a First of July BBQ (hence the sign above), but it could possibly be a crazy time at our house by July, so we haven’t made any decisions yet. Still, it’s always nice to have some friends over for grilled meat in that famous British sunshine! I find the differences between American and British BBQ so be very strange indeed, though. Unless my family is strange for Americans, they seem quite different. In the States, you might have the option between burgers or brats/hot dogs and the guests might contribute some sides or desserts to the BBQ. In the UK, a lot of the BBQs I’ve been to, especially those not put on by an American, are usually BYO meat and have very few side options. I mean, where are the half dozen options to eat potatoes, Brits?! C’mon!

SPEND SATURDAY MORNINGS AT THE FARMER’S MARKET

I had hoped to start this in May, but the month proved to be a bit too hectic for us to manage. So we’re hoping to start in June (tomorrow, in fact!). It’s a really great way to support local agriculture and sustainability. I’m baffled at how often fruits and vegetables come packaged in plastic at our grocery store, so even though we have reusable produce bags, we don’t get to use them as often as we’d like. We’ve also been eating increasingly more plant-based meals, so a farmer’s market would be a great place to help with that. I’m terrible about shopping and eating in season, so it’ll be great to be in the market looking at what’s currently available and talking to the people who grew it all. I even got a new bag for all our shopping!

HAVE A PICNIC

I’m a huge fan of picnics! There’s no doubt about that. In fact, Luke and I did picnic-themed engagement photos. (See!) I think we’ve only had one each of the last two summers, so why ruin the streak now? We have a gorgeous picnic basket (albeit a heavy and inconvenient one) and we have to put it to good use! I kind of wish we had one of the lighter, easier to carry hampers that are available in most stores in the summer, so maybe I’ll look into selling ours and upgrading.

MAKE S’MORES IN THE BACK GARDEN

You can’t find graham crackers around these parts, but we make do with digestives. Luke built a fire pit one night last summer, which allowed us to toast mallows whenever we wanted! (BTW, let’s just all agree that Reese’s are best with peanut butter.) Now we even have beautiful adirondack chairs that Luke built last summer to sit in while we roast them!

ADOPT A PUPPY & A KITTEN

Okay, this is a big one. And maybe this summer is a bit ambitious, but this is one of the only things I even want this whole year! We’ve been itching to add a puppy and a kitten to the Drake household for months now. Well, perhaps since I moved two years ago. It’s closer than ever now and it may actually be time to start looking! We’re really set on getting them at the same time or at least around the same time so we can hopefully foster a good relationship between them and neither is too territorial or unsure of the other. Obviously we already have the names picked out, we just have to find the right ones! I’m hoping that at the very least, we get them both in the autumn. But of course hopefully sooner.

What's on your list for this summer?

Engagement Photos by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

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