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TWOW and Today's Social Climate


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My biggest concerns along these lines is the social justice types.  They tend to be very ideological, and easily offended.  They are also often perfectly happy to rely on secondhand information, or a blinkered, ideological reading of the material.  They also don't seem to necessarily care about context, unless it is in service to an idea they approve of.

My biggest concern is in the area of sexual assault/underage sex.  This has become a much more fraught issue than it was, even since the last book, much less the beginnings of the series.   And issues of sexual assault and underage sex (Dany/Drogo, for example) have haunted the series since the beginning. One issue is that the upper limit of underage is creeping upwards, and anything under 18 might be regarded as unacceptable by some, especially for purely fictional characters, unless it is condemned, which it might not be, especially if he has plans for romantic involvement for either Sansa or (gulp!) Arya.  Even same-age activity might be considered unacceptable.

And as for sexual assault, the amount is often exaggerated as it is.  I expect that could only get worse, and the definition of that is expanding as well, or at least becoming a lot less clear than it used to be.

And the activists on these issues have access to social media that they didn't really have previously, and aren't at all afraid to use it, either.  We can only hope it doesn't gain any real traction.

He could have trouble on racial issues as well, but since the racial composition of the world was essentially baked in at the beginning, there isn't really much he can do about it, and his treatment of other societies has been generally fair.

Fortunately, it appears that his private life is blameless.  That can lead to cancellation faster than just about anything else.  However, given the prominence of the TV show, I expect that anything bad would have come out by now.  And while there was a bit of a brouhaha over his hosting of the Hugos in 2020 (he apparently mispronounced some foreign names, and lionized some historical SF figures with bad racial attitudes), that controversy seems to have disappeared without trace.  So there is hope on the gaining traction front.

 

Edited by Nevets
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On 11/30/2021 at 6:31 PM, Nevets said:

My biggest concerns along these lines is the social justice types.  They tend to be very ideological, and easily offended.  They are also often perfectly happy to rely on secondhand information, or a blinkered, ideological reading of the material.  They also don't seem to necessarily care about context, unless it is in service to an idea they approve of.

My biggest concern is in the area of sexual assault/underage sex.  This has become a much more fraught issue than it was, even since the last book, much less the beginnings of the series.   And issues of sexual assault and underage sex (Dany/Drogo, for example) have haunted the series since the beginning. One issue is that the upper limit of underage is creeping upwards, and anything under 18 might be regarded as unacceptable by some, especially for purely fictional characters, unless it is condemned, which it might not be, especially if he has plans for romantic involvement for either Sansa or (gulp!) Arya.  Even same-age activity might be considered unacceptable.

And as for sexual assault, the amount is often exaggerated as it is.  I expect that could only get worse, and the definition of that is expanding as well, or at least becoming a lot less clear than it used to be.

And the activists on these issues have access to social media that they didn't really have previously, and aren't at all afraid to use it, either.  We can only hope it doesn't gain any real traction.

He could have trouble on racial issues as well, but since the racial composition of the world was essentially baked in at the beginning, there isn't really much he can do about it, and his treatment of other societies has been generally fair.

Fortunately, it appears that his private life is blameless.  That can lead to cancellation faster than just about anything else.  However, given the prominence of the TV show, I expect that anything bad would have come out by now.  And while there was a bit of a brouhaha over his hosting of the Hugos in 2020 (he apparently mispronounced some foreign names, and lionized some historical SF figures with bad racial attitudes), that controversy seems to have disappeared without trace.  So there is hope on the gaining traction front.

 

I have very similar worries. I remember the Hugo kerfuffle, and all I could think about is how they're going to react when that clip of George saying that Hitler was nice to dogs inevitably resurfaces :wacko:

A few weeks ago, I saw someone raging online about how George wrote Alyssa Targaryen (the younger) in FaB, since she was written as very enthusiastic about her sex life. They weren't upset about the incest angle (since she was married to/sleeping with her brother) but that Alyssa was 15. While I can definitely understand the impulse not to want to sexualize a teenager--especially when written by an older man--there's also the consideration that even fifty years ago, people were sexually active at a younger age than they are now. These things change over time (for instance, people generally got married younger and had more children in the 50s and 60s than in the 20s and 30s, and were more religiously observant too). Plus, Alyssa's enthusiasm was clearly supposed to be funny rather than sexy.

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3 hours ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

I have very similar worries. I remember the Hugo kerfuffle, and all I could think about is how they're going to react when that clip of George saying that Hitler was nice to dogs inevitably resurfaces :wacko:

A few weeks ago, I saw someone raging online about how George wrote Alyssa Targaryen (the younger) in FaB, since she was written as very enthusiastic about her sex life. They weren't upset about the incest angle (since she was married to/sleeping with her brother) but that Alyssa was 15. While I can definitely understand the impulse not to want to sexualize a teenager--especially when written by an older man--there's also the consideration that even fifty years ago, people were sexually active at a younger age than they are now. These things change over time (for instance, people generally got married younger and had more children in the 50s and 60s than in the 20s and 30s, and were more religiously observant too). Plus, Alyssa's enthusiasm was clearly supposed to be funny rather than sexy.

Some people can’t distinguish between praising a writer’s work, and endorsing his attitudes.

John Campbell had some pretty unpleasant views (even by the standards of his day) but that doesn’t mean he was not a good writer and editor.

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On 12/4/2021 at 8:56 PM, The Bard of Banefort said:

A few weeks ago, I saw someone raging online about how George wrote Alyssa Targaryen (the younger) in FaB, since she was written as very enthusiastic about her sex life. They weren't upset about the incest angle (since she was married to/sleeping with her brother) but that Alyssa was 15. While I can definitely understand the impulse not to want to sexualize a teenager--

--I can't.

It's inappropriate. Whether people like it or not, teenagers are very sexual. I don't see any point or privilege in hiding the truth of adolescent hypersexuality. And what does him being an old man have anything to do with it. He's the one telling a story--would it be better if it were an old woman talking about a young woman's sex life or (comparatively) a young man's bedroom prowess? I don't know. It's silly. I'm not saying you're wrong but the upheaval that will occur inevitably will be silly. 

Sure, it's a bit unusual for a teenaged girl to be so openly and loudly sexual compared to say a teenaged boy or a middle-aged woman....but it's common enough.

I would go so far as to call it healthy.

On 12/4/2021 at 8:56 PM, The Bard of Banefort said:

there's also the consideration that even fifty years ago, people were sexually active at a younger age than they are now. These things change over time (for instance, people generally got married younger and had more children in the 50s and 60s than in the 20s and 30s, and were more religiously observant too). Plus, Alyssa's enthusiasm was clearly supposed to be funny rather than sexy.

I think Alyssa's enthusiastic sexuality is also played as a foil for Saera's more grasping sexuality.

Between Alyssa, Saera, Viserra and clearly Gael, the Targaryen princesses were definitely alpha females.

Shame that their father never saw and respected that. He could've mobilized them into dragonriders, took a page out of the Dornish book and secured more power for the Targaryen family.

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This reminds me of a discussion about Hoster Tully and what the most horrible thing he did to Lysa was.   Now being a pretty constant reader of this series I get why Hoster thought he was doing Lysa a favor.   I don't like it, but I don't think anything he did was without love and a sense of honor.  Ah daughters...I think I was most saddened by the show watchers entering book conversations.   It's bad enough with those of use who did both and can't keep the scenes straight, but come on, read the book before posting.  Of course I quit posting for 6 months once over something a video gamer posted in a topic.   I get wanting to join a conversation and being fascinated, but try to listen to the actual story and those who read it for a minute...What damage is done is done TWOW or no--but as naive me said back before it happened--we got at least an ending.   A terrible ending I wish I could scrub from my memory, but an ending nonetheless.  TWOW will continue the madness begun in AGOT.   A person who doesn't enjoy that madness really shouldn't be joining in conversations if they cannot be separated from their contemporary thinking.  ASOIAF is not a modern tale.  I wish we could chat with some of the great past posters who we haven't seen in the past 8 or 5 or 3 years (the extent of my acquaintance--Man, wasn't that great being a lurker and just reading all the amazing stuff! Remember your mind being blown over the Theon Durden idea???)    Discussion is all we have at this point.  

I am excited to read TWOW.   My 2022 ASOIAF calendar came today and I love this one as much as the 2019.  I still get a kick out of knowing what's depicted in the pictures without reading the passages.  I am still eager to find swords and match them up with bad ass heroes because ASOIAF is on the whole an excellent read.  If Martin ends things exactly as the others ended their telling I suppose I will love and hate it like so much of what happens in this tale.   Medievalish Westeros transports me from here and now, for all its warts and disregard and cruelty it is not here and now and occasionally makes me grateful to be here and now with this wonderful story.   This is our community.  We have been collectively waiting a very long time to find out if Jon is dead or what misery awaits our Sansa.  If anything threw a blanket on TWOW I would think it was the simple time between books.   Martin has a unique fandom.  The real fans will read this blasted book whenever it appears.  At least I know most all of us who have posted in this will be reading TWOW, too.   Contemporary thinking can't dampen an epic read when the story is this good.  

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15 minutes ago, Brother Seamus said:

I'm a social justice type and I couldn't care less about any of the things you're talking about. Anyone who complains or criticizes can just be ignored. This fear of "social justice types" and "woke liberals" etc. is 99% a bunch of right wing nut job propaganda.

I'm right there with ya. A lot of the loudest voices on Twitter and Reddit are being conflated as some kind of majority when they aren't.

On 12/7/2021 at 5:46 PM, Curled Finger said:

This reminds me of a discussion about Hoster Tully and what the most horrible thing he did to Lysa was.   Now being a pretty constant reader of this series I get why Hoster thought he was doing Lysa a favor.   I don't like it, but I don't think anything he did was without love and a sense of honor.  Ah daughters...I think I was most saddened by the show watchers entering book conversations.   It's bad enough with those of use who did both and can't keep the scenes straight, but come on, read the book before posting.  Of course I quit posting for 6 months once over something a video gamer posted in a topic.   I get wanting to join a conversation and being fascinated, but try to listen to the actual story and those who read it for a minute...What damage is done is done TWOW or no--but as naive me said back before it happened--we got at least an ending.   A terrible ending I wish I could scrub from my memory, but an ending nonetheless.  TWOW will continue the madness begun in AGOT.   A person who doesn't enjoy that madness really shouldn't be joining in conversations if they cannot be separated from their contemporary thinking.  ASOIAF is not a modern tale.  I wish we could chat with some of the great past posters who we haven't seen in the past 8 or 5 or 3 years (the extent of my acquaintance--Man, wasn't that great being a lurker and just reading all the amazing stuff! Remember your mind being blown over the Theon Durden idea???)    Discussion is all we have at this point.  

I am excited to read TWOW.   My 2022 ASOIAF calendar came today and I love this one as much as the 2019.  I still get a kick out of knowing what's depicted in the pictures without reading the passages.  I am still eager to find swords and match them up with bad ass heroes because ASOIAF is on the whole an excellent read.  If Martin ends things exactly as the others ended their telling I suppose I will love and hate it like so much of what happens in this tale.   Medievalish Westeros transports me from here and now, for all its warts and disregard and cruelty it is not here and now and occasionally makes me grateful to be here and now with this wonderful story.   This is our community.  We have been collectively waiting a very long time to find out if Jon is dead or what misery awaits our Sansa.  If anything threw a blanket on TWOW I would think it was the simple time between books.   Martin has a unique fandom.  The real fans will read this blasted book whenever it appears.  At least I know most all of us who have posted in this will be reading TWOW, too.   Contemporary thinking can't dampen an epic read when the story is this good.  

Hear hear! ASOIAF is just a great story, period. I trust George R. R. Martin to tell it. 

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  • 2 months later...

One obsession on forums right now is whether or not GRRM's insistence that people were married in their early-teens is historically accurate or not. It's a valid debate, but you can't go a week without seeing it pop up, and people usually get pretty heated about it. I think part of it is just that after ten years, we've run out of things to talk about, but at the end of the day, age clearly works differently in this series than in real life (and it's not necessarily consistent either). I'm hoping that George comes out at some point and says that the years are longer in Westeros, mainly because the story would make more sense then, but also because this fixation has gotten so wearisome. (Also, sorry, but I simply don't believe that this many people online just so happen to be experts in Medieval culture. I say this as someone who is currently pursuing an MA in history: it's a comparatively small field. And the farther back in time you go, the smaller it gets).

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On 2/19/2022 at 6:57 AM, The Bard of Banefort said:

One obsession on forums right now is whether or not GRRM's insistence that people were married in their early-teens is historically accurate or not. It's a valid debate, but you can't go a week without seeing it pop up, and people usually get pretty heated about it. I think part of it is just that after ten years, we've run out of things to talk about, but at the end of the day, age clearly works differently in this series than in real life (and it's not necessarily consistent either). I'm hoping that George comes out at some point and says that the years are longer in Westeros, mainly because the story would make more sense then, but also because this fixation has gotten so wearisome. (Also, sorry, but I simply don't believe that this many people online just so happen to be experts in Medieval culture. I say this as someone who is currently pursuing an MA in history: it's a comparatively small field. And the farther back in time you go, the smaller it gets).

This seems to be a case of myth overtaking reality, and I'm referring to the story itself.  I can recall only three marriages of girls under about 16: Daenerys, Sansa and FArya.  And with Daenerys and Sansa, objections or concerns were raised by other characters about how young they were.  Tyrion in particular wasn't happy.  As for FArya, that situation is so toxic her age is one of the less concerning things about it.  In any event, the timing of their marriages was dictated by external political considerations, and while their ages were inconvenient, it wasn't a bar.

As for real life, my impression is that girls from the nobility especially, tended to marry early (16-ish).  Henry Tudor, whose coronation ended the Wars of the Roses, was born when his mother was 13.  However, that was considered young even then, and she had health problems as a result.  Still, it did happen. 

I can see a problem if GRRM had romance intended for Sansa or Arya, since he had originally planned to have more time pass during the story.  I'm sure he will figure something out, if need be. 

As for the issue of children's activities in general, I will modify a famous line from the books.  Children in Westeros grow up a lot faster than in modern America or Europe.  As they did historically. 

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Evolution of thoughts and stances is inevitable. I would go so far as to say if someone doesn't evolve on their opinion on things in 20 years, it a sign of fundamentalism, intractability and stubbornness. There are so many things that I personally would have ignored five years ago that I just cannot find tolerable today.

So I am not surprised that some things that were written over two decades ago have not aged well. Younger readers are bound to view things differently. And calling social justice advocacy and 'wokeism' a problem is the hallmark of people who are either anti social justice or are allies of social justice advocacy but lose their minds when it is pointed out to them that some of their own conduct was wrong/inappropriate. Also, people having a problem with sexuality and teenagers has nothing to do with 'wokeism'. That's just conservative thinking IMO.

GRRM is writing his books for a modern audience after all. If readers have a problem with some aspects of the books, I'm not surprised. My suggestion would be don't read the books if compartmentalizing is a problem. Having said that, that does not mean all criticism of sexism, sexual violence etc should be off limits. How much an author focusses on gore, sensationalism, shock and titillation is definitely fair game.

 

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1 hour ago, Apoplexy said:

Evolution of thoughts and stances is inevitable. I would go so far as to say if someone doesn't evolve on their opinion on things in 20 years, it a sign of fundamentalism, intractability and stubbornness. There are so many things that I personally would have ignored five years ago that I just cannot find tolerable today.

So I am not surprised that some things that were written over two decades ago have not aged well. Younger readers are bound to view things differently. And calling social justice advocacy and 'wokeism' a problem is the hallmark of people who are either anti social justice or are allies of social justice advocacy but lose their minds when it is pointed out to them that some of their own conduct was wrong/inappropriate. Also, people having a problem with sexuality and teenagers has nothing to do with 'wokeism'. That's just conservative thinking IMO.

GRRM is writing his books for a modern audience after all. If readers have a problem with some aspects of the books, I'm not surprised. My suggestion would be don't read the books if compartmentalizing is a problem. Having said that, that does not mean all criticism of sexism, sexual violence etc should be off limits. How much an author focusses on gore, sensationalism, shock and titillation is definitely fair game.

 

For what it’s worth, I technically am a younger reader—I’m less than a year older than AGOT :p 

The show was at its peak when I was in high school, so that pulled kids my age into reading the books. Sadly, at this point there probably aren’t too many teens picking up ASOIAF. The zeitgeist has passed, and ASOIAF now has a reputation for possibly never being finished, and most people don’t want to get invested in a series without an ending. But now I’ve wandered off-topic ^_^

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On 10/17/2021 at 4:24 AM, SeanF said:

You're right about the joylessness.  This is a tale about royal and aristocratic folks, in a quasi-medieval world set at war.  Of course, the world outlook of every one of these characters is going to be very different to that of middle class folks in a prosperous modern liberal democracy.  Martin has created a pastiche of medieval Europe, but even had he depicted it with perfect accuracy (and how could one tell?),  these people would have very different values to our own.

Condemning people for being "entitled", for using violence to settle political disputes, for believing men are superior to women, that the aristocracy is born to rule, just seems plain silly to me, given that in this world, pretty well everyone believes such things.  Either it's simply a device to bash characters that the poster doesn't like, instead of just saying "I don't like X", while giving a pass to characters they do like, or else one can only wonder what pleasure they could actually derive from reading this tale. 

One can argue that there are characters who are more enlightened than the norm, or less enlightened, but one has to cut them a good deal of slack for the circumstances of their world being very different to the circumstances of our own (at least, in the West).

What do people believe?  That men are superior to women (even  powerful women can't entirely shake off what they've been brought up to believe.  Even in as relatively enlightened a place as Dorne, Arianne thinks any man she marries will be co-ruler, not just consort);  that one's bloodline guarantees one the right to rule ("there must always be a Stark in Winterfell", does not depend on that Stark being a good person);  that the lives of the Smallfolk are not as important as those of the highborn (some characters like Arya, Dany, Ned, Edmure, Catelyn would disagree, but most would not);  opinions on slavery do vary between and within societies, and crucially, whether one is a slave or a master;  in war, cities that offer resistance will be sacked ,  and the smallfolk of the enemy are fair game for pillage (a humane commander will try to prevent murder and rape, but pillage still causes starvation);  hostage-taking, the use of torture, and employing child soldiers may be crimes under the Geneva Conventions, but are entirely normative in this world; traitors face execution. 

If reading about such things is "problematic" then this is probably not a series that such a reader will derive any enjoyment from.

 

It's my understanding that we're meant to think critically of these harmful societal and power dynamics, and I've always interpreted the medieval patriarchal setting as essentially a hyperbole of our own.

As for problematic...   GRRM is of an age with the Second Wave Feminists, an era when feminism was making great strides in women's right and introducing critical thought in mainstream society against sexist and patriarchal cultural norms.  Second Wave Feminism is also known for its lack of intersectionality, silencing non-white voices and reducing class struggle to an aspect hetero-patriarchy.  I keep this in mind when reading these books (and I've been reading them since 2005).  These books are hella feminist, but lacking in proper representation of class and race struggles.

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3 hours ago, Isobel Harper said:

It's my understanding that we're meant to think critically of these harmful societal and power dynamics, and I've always interpreted the medieval patriarchal setting as essentially a hyperbole of our own.

As for problematic...   GRRM is of an age with the Second Wave Feminists, an era when feminism was making great strides in women's right and introducing critical thought in mainstream society against sexist and patriarchal cultural norms.  Second Wave Feminism is also known for its lack of intersectionality, silencing non-white voices and reducing class struggle to an aspect hetero-patriarchy.  I keep this in mind when reading these books (and I've been reading them since 2005).  These books are hella feminist, but lacking in proper representation of class and race struggles.

Well, I’d be surprised if Martin (or any reader) actually favoured the kinds of political structures that the books portray.

However, the narrative does favour House Stark, who are, seen objectively, feudal overlords who wage war brutally, if not quite as brutally as the Lannisters do.

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18 hours ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

For what it’s worth, I technically am a younger reader—I’m less than a year older than AGOT :p 

The show was at its peak when I was in high school, so that pulled kids my age into reading the books. Sadly, at this point there probably aren’t too many teens picking up ASOIAF. The zeitgeist has passed, and ASOIAF now has a reputation for possibly never being finished, and most people don’t want to get invested in a series without an ending. But now I’ve wandered off-topic ^_^

This is anecdotal of course, but I know a handful of teenagers who are reading the books. I wouldn't know how many new/young readers the books are gaining. The rate has probably declined.

The 'let's not look at aristocrats/monarchs/oligarchs/multi-millionaires/billionaires through rose colored glasses' is a sentiment that has become mainstream in the last decade or so. I think the way readers perceive the books has a lot to do with when they started reading rather than their age. If you've invested decades reading the books, you are more likely to defend the books due to nostalgia/invested time. If you've read them a couple years ago, you would be more willing to criticize the books because you don't have that much of an emotional attachment to the series.

I personally love downton abbey and have rewatched it multiple times, but even I can see it's a story that does not question systemic inequality and launders the reputations of aristocrats. Its the same with the books for me, I enjoy reading them for the fabulous characters (Jaime Lannister is my absolute favorite character to read) and political intrigue, but I also see there are a lot of inconsistencies and problematic themes (incest, casual depiction of violence against women, etc). I personally think you can enjoy a story and at the same time recognize it will probably not age well a few years down the line. I really don't blame new readers for finding the books problematic.

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3 minutes ago, Apoplexy said:

This is anecdotal of course, but I know a handful of teenagers who are reading the books. I wouldn't know how many new/young readers the books are gaining. The rate has probably declined.

The 'let's not look at aristocrats/monarchs/oligarchs/multi-millionaires/billionaires through rose colored glasses' is a sentiment that has become mainstream in the last decade or so. I think the way readers perceive the books has a lot to do with when they started reading rather than their age. If you've invested decades reading the books, you are more likely to defend the books due to nostalgia/invested time. If you've read them a couple years ago, you would be more willing to criticize the books because you don't have that much of an emotional attachment to the series.

I personally love downton abbey and have rewatched it multiple times, but even I can see it's a story that does not question systemic inequality and launders the reputations of aristocrats. Its the same with the books for me, I enjoy reading them for the fabulous characters (Jaime Lannister is my absolute favorite character to read) and political intrigue, but I also see there are a lot of inconsistencies and problematic themes (incest, casual depiction of violence against women, etc). I personally think you can enjoy a story and at the same time recognize it will probably not age well a few years down the line. I really don't blame new readers for finding the books problematic.

I personally do think that ASOIAF questions inequality a fair bit, especially Dunk & Egg. Maybe it’s because most people are so far removed from it in real life, but I find it a bit strange that with all the criticism of age differences and child brides the past few years, very few people have anything to say about the incest. (Granted, you could also say that GRRM has tried to be more critical of it recently, seeing as he wrote a less romanticized take on Jaehaerys and Alysanne in FnB).

I think social criticism of art is fair, but I also don’t necessarily believe art has to be moral, especially when you consider how morals change over time.

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1 minute ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

I personally do think that ASOIAF questions inequality a fair bit, especially Dunk & Egg. Maybe it’s because most people are so far removed from it in real life, but I find it a bit strange that with all the criticism of age differences and child brides the past few years, very few people have anything to say about the incest. (Granted, you could also say that GRRM has tried to be more critical of it recently, seeing as he wrote a less romanticized take on Jaehaerys and Alysanne in FnB).

I think social criticism of art is fair, but I also don’t necessarily believe art has to be moral, especially when you consider how morals change over time.

I think that injustice in this world is strongly criticised, to varying degrees, through the POV’s of Jon, Tyrion, Daenerys, Brienne, Arya, and Catelyn.  We do get to see just how bad war, slavery, sexism, racial prejudice, lordly selfishness, can be for ordinary people, through their points of view.

But, none of them criticises these things through the eyes of the inhabitant of a modern liberal democracy, which is fine, because liberal democratic values would be anachronistic in this setting.  Nobody’s going to suggest that monarchy be replaced by Parliamentary democracy, or that marriages between same sex couples should be recognised. 

These six characters are aware of injustices in this world, to varying degrees, even though they share many of the prevailing values of this world.

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21 minutes ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

I personally do think that ASOIAF questions inequality a fair bit, especially Dunk & Egg. Maybe it’s because most people are so far removed from it in real life, but I find it a bit strange that with all the criticism of age differences and child brides the past few years, very few people have anything to say about the incest. (Granted, you could also say that GRRM has tried to be more critical of it recently, seeing as he wrote a less romanticized take on Jaehaerys and Alysanne in FnB).

I think social criticism of art is fair, but I also don’t necessarily believe art has to be moral, especially when you consider how morals change over time.

ASOIAF does indeed question inequality, but that criticism is from the perspective for aristocrats and nobles who are themselves responsible for those inequities. It seems a bit like when large corporations donate some money to charity and at the same time exploit their employees and don't pay adequate taxes. This is ultimately a story about monarchs and feudal lords, so any theme of social equality is window dressing at best. The key for me for enjoying the books is recognizing what they are and what they aren't.

I'm not that surprised about the lack of criticism of incest. Because incest is currency that the books use, you cannot separate it from the books. If you have a problem with incest, the books are not for you. So most people who read the books have to ignore the incest as a custom of the times. The criticism of age differences and child brides is more 'rational', for the lack of a better word. Older men creeping on younger women is sometimes romanticized in the books and some of the child brides are too young even for medieval times. And as you say, GRRM has become more aware of how he portrays relationships recently, so even he is evolving.

And I agree, art does not have to be moral. But I personally appreciate art more if it stands the test of time. I know this a whole different genre, but most of george carlin's satire is just as relevant today as it was decades ago. That's quite a feat considering how most comedy routines age.

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17 hours ago, Isobel Harper said:

As for problematic...   GRRM is of an age with the Second Wave Feminists, an era when feminism was making great strides in women's right and introducing critical thought in mainstream society against sexist and patriarchal cultural norms.  Second Wave Feminism is also known for its lack of intersectionality, silencing non-white voices and reducing class struggle to an aspect hetero-patriarchy.  I keep this in mind when reading these books (and I've been reading them since 2005).  These books are hella feminist, but lacking in proper representation of class and race struggles.

I agree. One Brienne challenging gender roles does not do much for common folk women. Dany might lead a khalasar, but that doesn't help the status of women in that khalasar all that much. Non-white women would say then (and probably even today), that non-white men, while not anywhere close to being feminists, were/are bigger allies than white women. The lack of intersectionality is a constant theme in the books.

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