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TWOW and Today's Social Climate


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14 minutes ago, Apoplexy said:

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.

While it would be interesting to get the viewpoint of characters from the lower classes, they would not differ that much from upper class viewpoints - at least in Westeros (it’s clear that Essosi slaves mostly object to their condition).

 

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22 minutes ago, SeanF said:

While it would be interesting to get the viewpoint of characters from the lower classes, they would not differ that much from upper class viewpoints - at least in Westeros (it’s clear that Essosi slaves mostly object to their condition).

 

They would differ vastly from the upper class. All of the characters in the books are inconvenienced only when there is war or political instability. People in the lower classes have a hard life during peace times and barely survive (if they do) during war times. It's not the same as being someone's property/chattel for sure. But the upper classes have no perspective of what it is lose family members to illness, starvation or precarious work in the same way that the lower classes do. And the status of lower class women is probably the most different from upperclass women. Lower class women were only a few degrees removed from being slaves. 

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5 minutes ago, Apoplexy said:

They would differ vastly from the upper class. All of the characters in the books are inconvenienced only when there is war or political instability. People in the lower classes have a hard life during peace times and barely survive (if they do) during war times. It's not the same as being someone's property/chattel for sure. But the upper classes have no perspective of what it is lose family members to illness, starvation or precarious work in the same way that the lower classes do. And the status of lower class women is probably the most different from upperclass women. Lower class women were only a few degrees removed from being slaves. 

I think that class consciousness would scarcely exist in a pre-industrial, largely rural, very religious society.  Perhaps it might exist in a few cities if guildsmen were in conflict with the elites.  

By and large, I think most of the smallfolk would actually identify with their local lords, unless such lords alienated them.  

The smallfolk do object to injustice (eg the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Sparrows) but I don’t think they fundamentally question the way their society works.

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1 hour ago, SeanF said:

I think that class consciousness would scarcely exist in a pre-industrial, largely rural, very religious society.  Perhaps it might exist in a few cities if guildsmen were in conflict with the elites.  

By and large, I think most of the smallfolk would actually identify with their local lords, unless such lords alienated them.  

The smallfolk do object to injustice (eg the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Sparrows) but I don’t think they fundamentally question the way their society works.

Class-consciousness has always existed in society. Depends on whether you are among the  haves or have-nots. Whether it leads to change depends on how much power the oppressed classes have and how much consciousness exists in society. Smallfolk accepting their lot in life is not the same as identifying with local lords. And not all smallfolk are equal. If you are a merchant, grocer, or farmer that is favored by a local lord, you derive your power from that lord and would be less likely to oppose that lord for the larger good of society. If you are the favored whore of a nobleman who manages to give you a manse to live in and servants to wait on you, you would be less likely to care if that lord mistreats other women, whores or smallfolk. 

Such intersectional characters exist in the books. But their perspectives are not expounded upon. Because this story is not about them.

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22 hours ago, Apoplexy said:

casual depiction of violence against women

I'm sorry but why is this a thing?

Is the casual depiction of violence against men a non-issue? There's much more of that in the books than the casual depiction of violence against women...

This has always bugged me whenever there is a discussion about feminism...mainly third- and fourth-wave feminism.

22 hours ago, SeanF said:

Nobody’s going to suggest that monarchy be replaced by Parliamentary democracy

While a parliamentary democracy isn't happening, I do think that the end of the series will see the government of Westeros change to that of a powerful and centralized but nonetheless constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament--house of lords and house of commons.

22 hours ago, SeanF said:

But, none of them criticises these things through the eyes of the inhabitant of a modern liberal democracy

Dany and Jon are the ones that come the closest with Dany taking the lead.

22 hours ago, Apoplexy said:

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 think that's perfect.

Because the aristocrats are the only ones in the position to change the inequities. As we learn firsthand and secondhand from the Arya POV, the peasantry can't change it (neither can the gentry; and by gentry, I mean hedge and landed knights). They, sadly, don't know up from down a lot of times and wouldn't know where to start. In fact, they'd probably make an even bigger mess of things. Don't believe me: look at the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Arab Spring.

That's why people love Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen (especially Daenerys Targaryen) so much. They are actively changing society for the better because of all the inequities that they see. They are progressivist heroes who still manage to remain grounded and practical.

 

It's also worth mentioning that the core heroes of the story are children who aren't at all responsible for the inequities. In fact, GRRM goes out of his way to repeatedly drive home the message that the children -- lowborn or highborn -- are the ones who suffer the most from all the inequities. They also are the ones who can change the world for the better.

Check this. Have you noticed that almost all of the "child" characters (aka all characters under the age of 20) were put in positions where they got a taste of the other, more unfortunate side of life. Even though Tyrion is headed towards villainy instead of heroism, he also experiences this.

 

It seems like the apocalypse that is the Long Night will wipe the slate clean and give the kids of the story the latitude and power to make positive changes.

 

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11 minutes ago, BlackLightning said:

I'm sorry but why is this a thing?

Is the casual depiction of violence against men a non-issue? There's much more of that in the books than the casual depiction of violence against women...

This has always bugged me whenever there is a discussion about feminism...mainly third- and fourth-wave feminism.

While a parliamentary democracy isn't happening, I do think that the end of the series will see the government of Westeros change to that of a powerful and centralized but nonetheless constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament--house of lords and house of commons.

Dany and Jon are the ones that come the closest with Dany taking the lead.

I think that's perfect.

Because the aristocrats are the only ones in the position to change the inequities. As we learn firsthand and secondhand from the Arya POV, the peasantry can't change it (neither can the gentry; and by gentry, I mean hedge and landed knights). They, sadly, don't know up from down a lot of times and wouldn't know where to start. In fact, they'd probably make an even bigger mess of things. Don't believe me: look at the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Arab Spring.

That's why people love Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen (especially Daenerys Targaryen) so much. They are actively changing society for the better because of all the inequities that they see. They are progressivist heroes who still manage to remain grounded and practical.

 

It's also worth mentioning that the core heroes of the story are children who aren't at all responsible for the inequities. In fact, GRRM goes out of his way to repeatedly drive home the message that the children -- lowborn or highborn -- are the ones who suffer the most from all the inequities. They also are the ones who can change the world for the better.

Check this. Have you noticed that almost all of the "child" characters (aka all characters under the age of 20) were put in positions where they got a taste of the other, more unfortunate side of life. Even though Tyrion is headed towards villainy instead of heroism, he also experiences this.

 

It seems like the apocalypse that is the Long Night will wipe the slate clean and give the kids of the story the latitude and power to make positive changes.

 

One of the (many) reasons I hated the show  was it’s condemnation of those who wish to change the system

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21 hours ago, Apoplexy said:

And the status of lower class women is probably the most different from upperclass women. Lower class women were only a few degrees removed from being slaves. 

I would like to pushback on that.

If anything, I think that lower class women actually have more freedom than upper class women.

20 hours ago, Apoplexy said:

Such intersectional characters exist in the books. But their perspectives are not expounded upon. Because this story is not about them.

Are you sure?

Arya Stark is an intersectional character. She has spent more time being traumatized by warzone horrors than she has spent in any kind of comfort, privilege and security.

Brandon Stark is also an intersectional character being that he is both a highborn boy, a middle child and a cripple.

Both characters have been starving homeless orphans for quite some time. And it hasn't even been their fault.

A lot of the people who would complain about the overwhelming privilege of these aristocrats and how biased the story is haven't even come half as close to experiencing what Bran, Arya, Dany and Tyrion experience.

That's a good point that GRRM (whether he knows it or not) is making. Just because you are of a particular sex or a member of a particular social class, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are more or less privileged than anyone else.

Cersei Lannister has been the most powerful woman and one of the most powerful people (regardless of sex) on the continent for almost two decades. Yet, she was and still is miserable...bemoaning the fact that she was born female and that she wants the power and freedom that maleness grants. But she doesn't realize that she is more powerful and more free than 98% of the men in Westeros...if not the entire planet.

Take Robert. Again, most powerful person on the west side of the Narrow Sea. One of the most powerful people on the entire planet. You would be wrong to say that he is privileged given how miserable he was. He'd be happier and more fulfilled if he was a bourgeoisie sellsword adventurer from Essos or if he was a Stormlander peasant.

The ones who are really privileged have enough food, adequate shelter, no drama/expectations, individual identity and a family who loves them. Honestly, the peasants were winning. Because no matter what, the number of rooms that your tent/house/keep/manse/castle/palace has, you can only sleep in one bed and one room at a time.

That's what characters like Sansa and Theon have learned the hard way. Contentment is key.

The second Wonder Woman movie was about just that. The question of privilege and the joy of contentment.

It's a simple concept. But I don't think (most) people -- regardless of political or sociocultural leanings -- in the Western world are really ready for that lesson.

Edited by BlackLightning
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5 minutes ago, SeanF said:

One of the (many) reasons I hated the show  was it’s condemnation of those who wish to change the system

Exactly.

It turned the likes of Jon and Dany into heinous criminals and exalted/glorified characters who were either passively or actively cruel like Littlefinger, Branbot 9000, all the Lannisters (including St. Tyrion), the slavers or were dangerously apathetic like Arya and the Hound.

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On 2/23/2022 at 9:39 PM, 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.

 

Yes, there are things I find iffy in the books as well, and that I wouldn't mind GRRM toning down a bit in TWoW and ADoS, but in today's climate such things often reach absurd levels, which could affect the story in a bad way.

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2 minutes ago, BlackLightning said:

Exactly.

It turned the likes of Jon and Dany into heinous criminals and exalted/glorified characters who were either passively or actively cruel like Littlefinger, Branbot 9000, all the Lannisters (including St. Tyrion), the slavers or were dangerously apathetic like Arya and the Hound.

To the two dicks, Tywin, Cersei, LF are the people to emulate, and it was a good thing that the Starks learned from them.

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1 hour ago, BlackLightning said:

I'm sorry but why is this a thing?

Is the casual depiction of violence against men a non-issue? There's much more of that in the books than the casual depiction of violence against women...

This has always bugged me whenever there is a discussion about feminism...mainly third- and fourth-wave feminism.

the point is while both sexes suffer from violence in a brutal world like this one, women particularly suffer from sexual violence much more than men ever do.  

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Even though I personally think that George goes overboard with the depiction of sexual violence, and with the misery porn in general—we don’t have to be constantly reminded of something to know that it’s there—I haven’t really seen many fans take umbrage with violence in ASOIAF. Instead it’s things like whether or not shipping Rhaegar and Lyanna makes you a pedophile. This Reddit thread from the other day, for instance, gave me pause (much more so the comments than the original thread): https://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/sy58hs/spoilers_main_is_there_any_way_it_wasnt_rape/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

It’s not really a balanced critique: people get so hot and bothered by power imbalances in relationships, but not by the other messed up elements of this series, like all the casual murder. Like I said before, I think GRRM goes overboard with the sexual assault, and I wish the younger characters were older, but so few people seem to care that Arya is stabbing people to death at 9 or that 15-year-old Dany described the sounds of hundreds of Astapori dying as the “sweetest sound” she’s ever heard, when those are, at the very least, just as disturbing. There’s this ability to compartmentalize in one case but not the other.

 

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17 minutes ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

Even though I personally think that George goes overboard with the depiction of sexual violence, and with the misery porn in general—we don’t have to be constantly reminded of something to know that it’s there—I haven’t really seen many fans take umbrage with violence in ASOIAF. Instead it’s things like whether or not shipping Rhaegar and Lyanna makes you a pedophile. This Reddit thread from the other day, for instance, gave me pause (much more so the comments than the original thread): https://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/sy58hs/spoilers_main_is_there_any_way_it_wasnt_rape/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

It’s not really a balanced critique: people get so hot and bothered by power imbalances in relationships, but not by the other messed up elements of this series, like all the casual murder. Like I said before, I think GRRM goes overboard with the sexual assault, and I wish the younger characters were older, but so few people seem to care that Arya is stabbing people to death at 9 or that 15-year-old Dany described the sounds of hundreds of Astapori dying as the “sweetest sound” she’s ever heard, when those are, at the very least, just as disturbing. There’s this ability to compartmentalize in one case but not the other.

 

It’s the peculiarly American form of Puritanism he complained of, although, TBH it’s true of all Western societies.

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54 minutes ago, EggBlue said:

the point is while both sexes suffer from violence in a brutal world like this one, women particularly suffer from sexual violence much more than men ever do.  

However, men are much more likely than women to experience execution and torture.  Enlightened people in this world massacre adult males;  savages kill or enslave  the women and children, too.   That’s where sexism works against men.

 

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18 minutes ago, SeanF said:

However, men are much more likely than women to experience execution and torture.  Enlightened people in this world massacre adult males;  savages kill or enslave  the women and children, too.   That’s where sexism works against men.

 

You are talking about extremes here. The percentage of women that experience domestic violence far exceeds the percentage of men that experience extreme forms of violence such as torture.

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2 hours ago, Takiedevushkikakzvezdy said:

Yes, there are things I find iffy in the books as well, and that I wouldn't mind GRRM toning down a bit in TWoW and ADoS, but in today's climate such things often reach absurd levels, which could affect the story in a bad way.

It doesn't have to affect the story in a bad way. Unless GRRM suddenly decides to make medieval westeros into an anachronistic modern society, some consideration of criticism will improve the story IMO.

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2 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

I'm sorry but why is this a thing?

Is the casual depiction of violence against men a non-issue? There's much more of that in the books than the casual depiction of violence against women...

This has always bugged me whenever there is a discussion about feminism...mainly third- and fourth-wave feminism.

Violence against anyone is never a non-issue. But modern men are not likely to experience extreme forms of violence due to it being depicted casually in popular culture. On the other hand women are extremely likely experience domestic violence if it is dealt with in a casual nature in popular culture and talked about casually within society. If this doesn't make sense to you, I have nothing further to say.

2 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

Because the aristocrats are the only ones in the position to change the inequities.

I would refer you to the French Revolution and the Indian Independence movement to rebut that. 

 

2 hours ago, BlackLightning said:

Are you sure?

Arya Stark is an intersectional character. She has spent more time being traumatized by warzone horrors than she has spent in any kind of comfort, privilege and security.

Brandon Stark is also an intersectional character being that he is both a highborn boy, a middle child and a cripple.

Both characters have been starving homeless orphans for quite some time. And it hasn't even been their fault.

A lot of the people who would complain about the overwhelming privilege of these aristocrats and how biased the story is haven't even come half as close to experiencing what Bran, Arya, Dany and Tyrion experience.

That's a good point that GRRM (whether he knows it or not) is making. Just because you are of a particular sex or a member of a particular social class, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are more or less privileged than anyone else.

Cersei Lannister has been the most powerful woman and one of the most powerful people (regardless of sex) on the continent for almost two decades. Yet, she was and still is miserable...bemoaning the fact that she was born female and that she wants the power and freedom that maleness grants. But she doesn't realize that she is more powerful and more free than 98% of the men in Westeros...if not the entire planet.

Take Robert. Again, most powerful person on the west side of the Narrow Sea. One of the most powerful people on the entire planet. You would be wrong to say that he is privileged given how miserable he was. He'd be happier and more fulfilled if he was a bourgeoisie sellsword adventurer from Essos or if he was a Stormlander peasant.

The ones who are really privileged have enough food, adequate shelter, no drama/expectations, individual identity and a family who loves them. Honestly, the peasants were winning. Because no matter what, the number of rooms that your tent/house/keep/manse/castle/palace has, you can only sleep in one bed and one room at a time.

That's what characters like Sansa and Theon have learned the hard way. Contentment is key.

The second Wonder Woman movie was about just that. The question of privilege and the joy of contentment.

It's a simple concept. But I don't think (most) people -- regardless of political or sociocultural leanings -- in the Western world are really ready for that lesson.

All of these are aristocrats that were subjected to extreme situations. These extreme situations are not the same as the daily struggles and moral dilemmas that people with little to no power face.

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58 minutes ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

It’s not really a balanced critique: people get so hot and bothered by power imbalances in relationships, but not by the other messed up elements of this series, like all the casual murder. Like I said before, I think GRRM goes overboard with the sexual assault, and I wish the younger characters were older, but so few people seem to care that Arya is stabbing people to death at 9 or that 15-year-old Dany described the sounds of hundreds of Astapori dying as the “sweetest sound” she’s ever heard, when those are, at the very least, just as disturbing. There’s this ability to compartmentalize in one case but not the other.

People have expressed criticisms of casual violence in the books, especially in Dany's case. Power imbalances in relationships just seems to be the criticism du jour.

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10 minutes ago, SeanF said:

It’s the peculiarly American form of Puritanism he complained of, although, TBH it’s true of all Western societies.

With all due respect to George, I think people react negatively to his sex scenes because they're. . . not great. But I've already talked about my feelings on that in other threads.

I agree that these sentiments are more internationalist than a lot of people want to admit. The easiest way to tell is by the spelling: Americans use a particular kind of spelling (favor vs. favour, romanticize vs. romanticise, etc.), and I've read enough forums by now to notice that we're not the only ones who complain about this stuff. In the case of American culture, I think that a lot of our prudishness is the result of how the booming porn industry/sexual revolution of the postwar era turned sexuality into something commercial, which made it more cynical and uncomfortable. In some ways we're starting to see that in other western countries too (ex. nude beaches are less popular now because of camera phones). 

That said, I believe it was Angela Nagle (Irish journalist who writes a lot of cultural stuff) who pointed out that nowadays, seemingly progressive people consider an 18-year-old who goes out on a date with a 40-year-old to be something inherently abusive and wrong, but that an 18-year-old girl on OnlyFans who caters to 40-year-old clients is empowering/sex-work-is-work. I have noticed this mentality creep into fandoms too. Like there are a lot of people who are horrified at the idea that Sansa may be attracted to the Hound, but are completely unbothered by 11-year-old Arya seducing and murdering Raff the Sweetling (seriously, how does this not come up more often? lol). One is clearly more cynical (and depressing) than the other.

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20 minutes ago, Apoplexy said:

You are talking about extremes here. The percentage of women that experience domestic violence far exceeds the percentage of men that experience extreme forms of violence such as torture.

This is a world at war.  The big danger for women is rape.  The big danger for men is death in battle, execution and torture.  The equal danger for both sexes is starvation.

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