**SPOILERS** DO NOT READ ON UNLESS YOU HAVE WATCHED UP TO SEASON 4
In a land where bloodshed is rife, beheadings are the norm, and attendance at a wedding is practically a death sentence, the writers of Game of Thrones (yes that includes George R.R. Martin himself) could have easily taken the sexist route by having its female characters fall apart in this misogynistic medieval world, forcing them to become mere chess pieces in a male-dominated political game. They did not choose this route. Instead, in what is perhaps its most revered and compelling aspect, Game of Thrones is brimming with women who challenge their medieval conventions and constraints with their determination and strength, becoming formidable opponents to both men and women alike.
When we think of GoT‘s headstrong females, our mind is immediately occupied with images of Daenerys ‘Khaleesi’ Targaryen who is marching towards Westeros with a small company of loyal dragons, an army of 8000 highly skilled soldiers, and 3 men who are completely at her mercy. Or how about the impressive Brienne of Tarth ? The 6ft 3″ blonde warrior could even give the beloved Hound a run for his money in a duel. Not to mention Theon Greyjoy’s sister, Yara Greyjoy, the commander of the Iron Islands’ entire naval fleet, who, as we saw in last week’s episode, is pretty handy with an axe.
Yes, these female characters reject the stereotypical forms of feminism, for these women are physically well-built, display signs of overt masculinity, and are clearly uncomfortable when faced with ideals of femininity, favouring chainmail and steel over dresses and flowers. However, what is so great about this show is that the writers have not simply put a woman in a suit of armour, shoved a sword in her hand and said, ‘Hey look feminists ! We’ve challenged social expectations – our women don’t sew or cook, they fight and kill in battle !’ No. There are in fact many female characters in GoT whose lack of physical prowess and skill in battle is more than made up for with their cutting wit, subtle astuteness, and unparalleled intelligence. I mean, I would not want to be on the receiving end of Lady Olenna Tyrell’s sharp tongue, nor would I want to be caught in the middle of a political mind game between the menacing Cersei Lannister and the devious Margaery Tyrell !
I have recently introduced two of my friends to the Game of Thrones universe, and when I remarked to them about all the strong females in the show, they both said ‘Yes. Well, except for Sansa.’ Yes, sadly, whenever someone is asked who their favourite GoT character is, poor old Sansa Stark rarely makes the top of the list. However, having been a loyal fan of the books and an avid watcher of the television series from the very beginning, I can comfortably say that by Season 4, the beautiful Sansa has made it into my top 5 favourite characters to watch, and is, I believe, one of the strongest female characters on the show.
Ah there she is. With her stunning red hair, flawless bone structure, and beautiful physique, Sansa is the epitome of the perfect Lady of Westeros. She looks far too fragile to survive in such a brutal world as the one she lives in. The fact that her sister is Arya Stark doesn’t help her image. If you compare the two side by side, there is no doubting that Arya is the obvious choice when it comes to who is the most spirited and resilient – I mean, the girl is only 11 years old yet she can already wield a sword AND she’s killed THREE people with it ! Even when we are first introduced to the sisters in Season 1, Episode 1, we see Sansa happily enjoying her embroidery classes whilst Arya sneaks out to play bow and arrows with the Stark boys. If that isn’t juxtaposition then I don’t know what is. Okay, I admit it, even I was frustrated with Sansa at first; throughout Season 1, all she did was moan about how ‘Southern’ she wanted her hair to look, stuffed her face with lemon cakes, and spent her time daydreaming about marrying a handsome knight and being rescued from her wintery tower, all whilst rejecting her Northern roots, practically disowning her family, and pining after the psychotic Prince Joffrey. Yes, at first, Sansa seemed the stock ‘Damsel in Distress’ character, incapable of doing anything for herself or processing any thought which didn’t consist of pretty princes or gorgeous gowns.
However, we are currently on Season 4, and in that time Lords have been beheaded, Commanders have been exiled, Kings have been poisoned, and, yet, Sansa Stark remains. She is the Lone Wolf in the Lion’s Den (Starks vs. Lannisters reference incase you didn’t know….), but has so far managed to emerge with all her body parts intact – surely we have to give a teenage girl credit for such an impressive feat ! Seven Hells, even the brilliant Tyrion Lannister has felt the sting of the Lion’s claws, leaving him with a scar he will carry forever. Still, poor Sansa has had to withstand a lot of mental suffering during her stay at King’s Landing – she witnessed her father’s beheading, suffered abuse and humiliation at the hand of our dearly departed Joffers, was forced to marry Tyrion ‘the Dwarf’ Lannister, and silently endured the death of both her mother and her brother. Did she scream ? Did she run ? Did she drop kick Joffrey in the face ? Or call Cersei an evil, miserable bitch ? No. Sansa has never ceased to be anything but ladylike, graceful, and polite, but it’s not because she’s too brainless to do anything else, but because she understands that this is the only way to survive.
Brienne of Tarth once told Catelyn Stark that she had courage, ‘Not battle courage perhaps but, I don’t know, a kind of woman’s courage.’ This is exactly what Sansa has – her hopes and dreams may have been ripped to shreds and fallen to pieces around her, but she slowly learns to use her femininity to her advantage, wearing her innocence and naivety as her battle armour. Like Tyrion once said to Jon Snow: ‘Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.’ So Sansa Stark sits prettily in her little cage, repeating her curtseys, and singing like a little dove, but she endures. She learns how to play the game of thrones, and has blossomed into one of its leading participants, unlike so many of her other female comrades who have been eliminated (Ros the Whore, Catelyn Stark, Lysa Arryn, Talisa).
So there we have it. Sansa Stark is not a warrior, she is not a soldier, she is not a killer, she is not a rebel. But she is a survivor. Personally, I truly believe that eventually Sansa will be the one to reclaim Winterfell in the name of her father and House Stark. I mean, Bran’s off beyond the Wall messing around with direwolves, three-eyed ravens and strange blonde-haired boys, Jon Snow is a loyal brother of the Night’s Watch, and Arya, whilst a complete bad-ass, is slightly out of control. It’s all down to Sansa. LONG LIVE SANSA !
Also, the way Sansa bitch-slapped her ridiculously annoying cousin Robin in the latest episode was applause-worthy.