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A Clash of Personalities: Activity vs. Passivity in Relationships


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#1 Éadaoin

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:22 PM

The purpose of this thread is to discuss a handful of crucial relationships within ASOIAF. GRRM has crafted a beautiful world full of great characters with complex relationships, and it is time these relationships were explored a bit more. We will be focusing on dominance and submissiveness in this thread. (Also, here’s a shout out to my brah E-Ro for helping me out with this OP.)

We will begin with Dany and her relationship with Daario. This quote, from Dance, gives some good insight into Dany:

How beautiful, the queen tried to tell herself, but inside her was some foolish little girl who could not help but look about for Daario. If he loved you, he would come and carry you off at swordpoint, as Rhaegar carried off his northern girl, the girl in her insisted, but the queen knew that was folly. Even if her captain was mad enough to attempt it, the Brazen Beasts would cut him down before he got within a hundred yards of her.


Dany is wishing that Daario would take her “at sword point”. This is interesting, and in a way it is very much the same as the events that transpired with Asha and Qarl at Deepwood Motte. Dany is happy and willing to put herself at Daario’s mercy in the name of roleplaying with him. In this relationship (or at least in that moment) Dany wants to take the role of submissive partner. It is also worth noting how the “girl” in her wars with the “queen” – how does this reflect an even deeper conflict within Dany herself? Who will win out in the end, the submissive girl who was wed to the Dothraki warlord or the fierce conquering queen? Or will they somehow successfully merge?

Now let’s turn our attentions from the Mother of Dragons to everyone’s favorite Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister. One might reasonably assume at first that he would be dominant to the bone, but wrt his relationship with his twin, Cersei, we see that this is not the case for much of the series. His outer physical strength belies his inner submissiveness—Cersei has him, for lack of a better term, “whipped”. While his twin’s affections are divided between love of power and love of him, Jaime’s mind is often consumed solely by thoughts of Cersei (for instance, take a quick peek at some of his early ASOS chapters).

Here are a few quotes that illustrate Cersei’s dominance over Jaime:

If truth be told, Jaime had come to rue heaving Brandon Stark out that window. Cersei had given him no end of grief afterward, when the boy refused to die. “He was seven, Jaime,” she’d berated him. “Even if he understood what he saw, we should have been able to frighten him into silence.”


and

Had Cersei remembered him afterward and hired this man Lady Catelyn spoke of, to make sure the boy never woke? If she wanted him dead she would have sent me. And it is not like her to chose a catspaw who would make such a royal botch of the killing.


And when Jaime first sees himself after his imprisonment, his first thoughts are of what his sister will think, revealing a sad sense of dependence on her:

The reflection in the water was a man he did not know. Not only was he bald, but he looked as though he had aged five years in that dungeon; his face was thinner , with hollows under his eyes and lines he did not remember. I don’t look as much like Cersei this way. She’ll hate that.


Of course, we see in AFFC how Jaime orders Cersei’s letter to be burned. Is this a sign that he is not only freeing himself from an unhealthy relationship (for the both of them), but also beginning to free himself from the poisonous ties of his family in general? Out of his siblings, Jaime appears to be the least like his father: he does not seem to desire power, and lacks the political drive of Tyrion and Cersei. Can Jaime assert his dominance through simply being his own person? And will he?

Now let’s look briefly at Jaime’s “other half” herself. Cersei is, for much of their relationship, the dominant parter. She rules Jaime his entire life, and, until recently, he has done almost everything she asks of him. But Cersei is not just dominant wrt her relationship with Jaime—she also tried to exert control over Robert. This is particularly interesting because in the Cersei/Robert relationship, one might assume that Robert would be the single dominating force. Not only was he her husband in this patriarchal society, but he was also her King. Yet Cersei loathes to be ruled by anyone, and her struggles with Robert reflect this. If anything truly “dominates” Cersei, it is her love for power.

Speaking of characters with a taste for power—what about Mel? She’s an interesting one, and, IMO, has a dominating personality. We see her try to dominate Stannis, and while occasionally she fails, many times she succeeds. Stannis is a rather unyielding man, and the fact that she can exert some influence over him goes to show how strong her will really is. The brilliance of Mel lies in her gift of persuasion, her ability to sway those around her to her cause. Clever and unafraid to use whatever means necessary to gain power, Melisandre is a classic dominating personality.

Last but not least, we come to the Great One himself, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. He is lauded by many as being a “totally self-made man”, a skilled social climber, and a master player of the Game (note: I do not necessarily endorse all of the aforementioned claims). When it comes down to it, is Littlefinger really a closet submissive personality?

Let’s look at his relationship with Cat. Though we have no LF POV and therefore cannot assess his inner thoughts, I think it’s fair to say that he is/was utterly obsessed with Catelyn Stark (and who can blame him?). Though he’s transferred his affections onto her daughter, Cat was the one who started it all. In their relationship (or lack thereof), Cat was the one who wielded all the power. He even risked his life to win her love, and has never seemed to have healed from the remaining scars. On the surface, LF seems to have a dominant personality, but is he really just a scorned submissive man, too weak to recover from a story of unrequited love?

Things to think about.

#2 E-Ro

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:24 PM

Glad you finally posted this. I think the most obvious character in this whole op for this sort of thing is jaime. He is completely dominated by cersei, almost to the point of being like, her reek. He thinks of her constantly and does everything she says. He is the most submissive character imo, he has been bent by cerseis will into doing her bidding in everything.

#3 RenlyIsNotRight

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:28 PM

Speaking of characters with a taste for power—what about Mel? She’s an interesting one, and, IMO, has a dominating personality. We see her try to dominate Stannis, and while occasionally she fails, many times she succeeds. Stannis is a rather unyielding man, and the fact that she can exert some influence over him goes to show how strong her will really is. The brilliance of Mel lies in her gift of persuasion, her ability to sway those around her to her cause. Clever and unafraid to use whatever means necessary to gain power, Melisandre is a classic dominating personality.


While I wouldn't say Stannis himself is completely a submissive in his relationships, contrary to what D&D will tell you, I do think theres something to be said for him being submissive in relations with Melisandre. In his unending quest to exact justice upon the realm and take his rightful throne, I'd imagine Melisandre sort of provides him with the "escape", if you will, of actually being submissive in one area of his life for a change. Of course, Stannis would never actually talk about this, but I'd imagine that's essentially how his relationship with Mel works.

#4 Mladen

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:29 PM

Glad you finally posted this. I think the most obvious character in this whole op for this sort of thing is jaime. He is completely dominated by cersei, almost to the point of being like, her reek. He thinks of her constantly and does everything she says. He is the most submissive character imo, he has been bent by cerseis will into doing her bidding in everything.


Well, you can say it runs in the family. Tywin was submissive to Joanna, even though he was such powerful figure, Tyrion to Shae. Lannister men are submissive. Who would tell lions would be that submissive in their romantic liasions?

#5 E-Ro

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:30 PM

While I wouldn't say Stannis himself is completely a submissive in his relationships, contrary to what D&D will tell you, I do think theres something to be said for him being submissive in relations with Melisandre. In his unending quest to exact justice upon the realm and take his rightful throne, I'd imagine Melisandre sort of provides him with the "escape", if you will, of actually being submissive in one area of his life for a change. Of course, Stannis would never actually talk about this, but I'd imagine that's essentially how his relationship with Mel works.

Yes, I can agree. He gets a break from being in charge all the time, and has moments with mel where he can just, be told what to do in privacy. Its a weakness of his you could say, but everyone needs something to keep them going.

#6 E-Ro

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:37 PM

Well, you can say it runs in the family. Tywin was submissive to Joanna, even though he was such powerful figure, Tyrion to Shae. Lannister men are submissive. Who would tell lions would be that submissive in their romantic liasions?

An astute observation mladen, it also seems tywins father was submissive to that woman he was with. I think you have a great point about it running in the lannister family. This is something I had not even considered.

#7 Mladen

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:38 PM

We should also discuss Cat/Ned relationship? I always thought of their relationship as equal partenrship, but there are scene where Cat demontarted she is a bit dominating...

#8 bbstark

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:46 PM

Great OP Eadie and E-ro! What a team you make!
There are some excellent questions raised in this thread:
Now, regarding Little Finger,

Last but not least, we come to the Great One himself, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. He is lauded by many as being a “totally self-made man”, a skilled social climber, and a master player of the Game (note: I do not necessarily endorse all of the aforementioned claims). When it comes down to it, is Littlefinger really a closet submissive personality?

Let’s look at his relationship with Cat. Though we have no LF POV and therefore cannot assess his inner thoughts, I think it’s fair to say that he is/was utterly obsessed with Catelyn Stark (and who can blame him?). Though he’s transferred his affections onto her daughter, Cat was the one who started it all. In their relationship (or lack thereof), Cat was the one who wielded all the power. He even risked his life to win her love, and has never seemed to have healed from the remaining scars. On the surface, LF seems to have a dominant personality, but is he really just a scorned submissive man, too weak to recover from a story of unrequited love?


It wasn't merely a question of unrequited love that brought on LF's obsequious behavior to the Stark+Tully ladies, most notably Cat, Sansa, but to the attentive reader, also Lysa. All evidence points to the idea that LF at his core is a submissive man, all too happy to do the bidding of the auburn haired, dominant women.

His submissiveness is obvious once he marries Lysa. In spite of his personal embarassment, he makes very loud and wild, passionate love to Lysa. He yield's to Lysa's will. He is pushed into a corner to such an extent, that incapable of overpowering her, the only choice left to him is to murder her.
Clearly the sign of a weak man.

#9 Mladen

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:47 PM

An astute observation mladen, it also seems tywins father was submissive to that woman he was with. I think you have a great point about it running in the lannister family. This is something I had not even considered.


well, it goes even deeper. Look at Lancel who was Jaime 2.0 in relationship with Cersei, and then look at Genna, who is clearly dominant in her relationship. So we have Joanna, Cersei, Genna, as dominant Lannister women, and Tytos, Tywin, Jaime, Tyrion, even Joffrey and Tommen... Mycella again showed dominance over Trystane... Lionesses seems dominant over lions... It's one wonderful switch of places when it comes to nature... Also, lioness is symbol of adultery in heraldry, and look at Genna and Cersei...

#10 E-Ro

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:50 PM

We should also discuss Cat/Ned relationship? I always thought of their relationship as equal partenrship, but there are scene where Cat demontarted she is a bit dominating...

Discuss away, I am curious what scene you are referring to?

Great OP Eadie and E-ro! What a team you make!
There are some excellent questions raised in this thread:
Now, regarding Little Finger,


It wasn't merely a question of unrequited love that brought on LF's obsequious behavior to the Stark+Tully ladies, most notably Cat, Sansa, but to the attentive reader, also Lysa. All evidence points to the idea that LF at his core is a submissive man, all too happy to do the bidding of the auburn haired, dominant women.

His submissiveness is obvious once he marries Lysa. In spite of his personal embarassment, he makes very loud and wild, passionate love to Lysa. He yield's to Lysa's will. He is pushed into a corner to such an extent, that incapable of overpowering her, the only choice left to him is to murder her.
Clearly the sign of a weak man.

First, you are too kind. Second, this post is really excellent. I couldn't agree more with this on LF, he really is a sub. He yields to her will as you say, and also he doesn't really have much of a choice as in the vale has has no real power. I think I am seeing a pattern here, the characters that are the most dominant in every day life seem to be the most submissive ones when in private, with their lovers.

#11 WinterKing

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:51 PM

What about Jon and Ygritte? I always found him the passive one in this relationship.

#12 Father of Hosts

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:52 PM

As far as Jaime changing regarding his feelings for Cersei, I think the evidence is there in his last few chapters. When he think about returning to King's Landing, it is not to return to Cersei, as it was for every other chapter. His only goal is to return to the king. This is done unconsciously, I think, by Jaime, and only manifests physically when he burns the letter.

I guess, in a sense, Jaime has unconsciously made a decision to retake control in the relationship.

Perhaps there is hope for everyone's favorite Kingslayer.

ETA: Great OP, by the way.

Edited by Father of Hosts, 10 July 2013 - 07:55 PM.


#13 Mladen

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:57 PM

Discuss away, I am curious what scene you are referring to?


In Winterfell, especially in the scene where Lysa's letter arrives and they discuss the future, it seems to me that Ned has always lived with the fact of being number 2, and that's the role he was accustomed. And Cat is this strong woman. She persuades him about Joffrey and Sansa marriage, about Jon's enrollement in NW... They have partner conversation, but somehow all what Cat wanted, Cat got...

#14 Broken Fox

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:59 PM

I think Ned always took Catelyn's counsel into consideration because he loved and respected her, but no, he was not submissive to her. At all.

Edited by Broken Fox, 10 July 2013 - 08:00 PM.


#15 Father of Hosts

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:00 PM

I think Ned always took Catelyn's counsel into consideration, but no, he was not submissive to her.


Agreed. I would refer to the incident when Cat asked about Jon.

#16 TalalOfDorne

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:07 PM

We should also discuss Cat/Ned relationship? I always thought of their relationship as equal partenrship, but there are scene where Cat demontarted she is a bit dominating...


Im always torn on this. I dont really think either was dominant. I think they thought of it as equal partnership, but niether of them was afraid to try and assert his or her opinion.

But I guess Ned can be a bit more accepting in giving up his opinion(I dont think submissive is a fairly accurate description). I mean he says things like "Who am I to argue with a Tully". But of course I dont think thats the case all the time.

15-6?

#17 TalalOfDorne

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:08 PM

By the way great post Eadie

#18 Winterfellian

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:10 PM

Interesting thread. About Dany’s submissiveness, two very different scenes come to my mind. When the marriage to Hizdahr was being planned she steadfastly refused to wash Hizzi's feet and instead is him who washes hers. But on the flip of the coin we see that she feels joy when Daahrio lets her tied his boots for him. Notice the similitude of the gesture. In both cases, there is bound to be some kneeling at the feet of both men. The only difference is that Dany of course has actual feelings for one, while basically despising the other one. It could suggest a willingness in Dany to submit out of love (one fire to love/one treason for love) or at least Dany before epiphany in last episode was.


While I wouldn't say Stannis himself is completely a submissive in his relationships, contrary to what D&D will tell you, I do think theres something to be said for him being submissive in relations with Melisandre. In his unending quest to exact justice upon the realm and take his rightful throne, I'd imagine Melisandre sort of provides him with the "escape", if you will, of actually being submissive in one area of his life for a change. Of course, Stannis would never actually talk about this, but I'd imagine that's essentially how his relationship with Mel works.



I don’t know about this. Mostly, because Stannis’ association with her began when he was seduced by the power she offered. He meant to use her and her power to claim the throne he considered rightfully his but in a reversal of roles, he is the one that becomes the instrument of her and her God.

The fact that Mel chooses the word instrument to refer to Stannis is very telling because it suggests he is a mere tool to facilitate Mel’s/R’hllor’s designs. The “instrument” has no conscious say in the matter, nor does it knows it is being employed as such. I feel this is the case with Stannis and Mel. Stannis started off his association with her intending to be the player and without realizing it ended up being just the instrument.

#19 E-Ro

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:11 PM

What about Jon and Ygritte? I always found him the passive one in this relationship.

Yeah, he definitely was lol, funny, in a society built on the men asserting themselves and "taking" a wife, jon became the sub.(nothing wrong with being the sub, of course) /laugh.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':laugh:' />

#20 Mladen

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:11 PM

Agreed. I would refer to the incident when Cat asked about Jon.


Im always torn on this. I dont really think either was dominant. I think they thought of it as equal partnership, but niether of them was afraid to try and assert his or her opinion.

But I guess Ned can be a bit more accepting in giving up his opinion(I dont think submissive is a fairly accurate description). I mean he says things like "Who am I to argue with a Tully". But of course I dont think thats the case all the time.

15-6?


Yes, but look at that. Different husband would make quite a fuss about it, and he just handled it quietly... They are equal, but there are times that Cat truly dominates his will, Sansa/Joffrey marriage and posoition of the Hand is certainly best example of it.

Yeap, 15-6...