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What We Can Learn From A Song of Ice and Fire

September 23, 2012

Please note, there are spoilers ahead.  You have been warned.

So I have finally finished, or well caught upwith, A Song of Ice and Fire.

Man, there’s a lot I could say about this series. Some of which, I already have. Yet, it’s such a massive series of tomes that it is hard to really even know where to begin when talking about it. Man, I mean, there is that part of me that has just been lolzing at the intertext and the trope subversion this whole time.

Having now plumbed the depths of this insanity George R.R. Martin has written, I can say quite assuredly that it is the capstone of our Fantasy deconstruction. When combined with post-modern texts like Harry Potter (and the whole damned genre of Urban Fantasy really), and Pratchett’s Discworld, A Song of Ice and Fire really gives us that final push. Of course, with any deconstruction the question isn’t really, “Is this the end all and be all of Fantasy?” but the much more fun, “Where do we go from here?”

What awesomeness awaits us when someone decides it’s time to reconstruct the fantasy genre from the ground up?

Whoever decides to do that, know this:

You don’t have to believe in yourself. All you need to believe is that I believe in you!*

There is something else that I learned while reading this series though. Perhaps, this is the most important aspect of A Song of Ice and Fire that anyone can derive from the series. Truly, the major point to get out of it, from the long-running plots, characters arcs, various drastic plot twists, and the carefully (I would say lovingly) constructed believable world that they all inhabit. The thing to realize is…

Spoilers after the break.


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That George R.R. Martin and his wife must have some really freaky fucking sex.

 

I mean, I’m fond of sex. I think that more novels should have sex and depict the wide variety of sexual acts that we all engage in. More young adult novels need to breach the awkward reality of losing one’s virginity, for example.** There was nothing greater to me than when I read The Chocolate War and Mr. Cormier had his fourteen year old character unashamedly masturbating to some girl he saw and had, like countless 14 year old boys, tucked away into the old spank bank. Sex is a part of life, and it should be a part of literature.

It shouldn’t be the sole aspect of a story though, much like it shouldn’t be the sole aspect of someone’s life. However, it’s an important dimension, and one that needs to be explored more.

Yet, for some reason, there is a lot of stuff that happens in A Song of Ice and Fire where I am just like, “What the fuck is going on?”

For example, there is a scene in the fifth book where Theon Greyjoy (who in an early novel had groped and come on to his sister who he hadn’t seen in over a decade, while she was purposefully masquerading herself as someone else so that Theon would come on…to her?), who has due to the harsh punishments and sadistic pleasures of Ramsay Snow/Bolton has become Reek. Reek being a man-servant/slave/sub to Ramsay who is continuously being humiliated and beaten and treated as some sort of pet. Already, a whole mess of domination that would make most dom and sub pairs go, “Wow, that’s sort of fucked up.”

Did I mention the original Reek had died? And that once Ramsay Bolton claimed to be Reek, and played the subservient to Theon briefly?***

Anyway, due to a complicated series of events, the former friend of Sansa Stark (who is…by the Seven, I can’t even explain this in a parenthetical), Jeyne Poole, is masquerading as Arya Stark, and while masquerading as her becomes married to Ramsay Bolton. Of course, she fears Ramsay because as anyone can see he’s utterly insane (he also hunts women for sport and then possibly fucks their corpses. I feel there’s some conjecture on the necrophilia. Though there’s probably no necrophilia). Also, most people (including Ramsay) know that she isn’t really Arya, but in his drive to control everything Ramsay just wants her to be Arya.

On their wedding night, Ramsay wants to bed his wife and so has Theon/Reek (who gave away the bridge due to the fact that he was a ward of the Starks and grew up with Jeyne/Arya) cut off her wedding dress with a dagger while he watches. Then finding that his bride is not suitably wet after this creepy display, he has Theon/Reek perform cunnilingus to get things ready, as it were.

It’s mind-boggling to begin to unpack the twists and turns of domination, humiliation, and sexual depravity going on in that scene. Frankly, it’s so ridiculous that it almost causes laughter.

The whole series is like that.

From the skinchanger who in his one chapter as a point of view character casually mentions that he likes to be in the skin of a female wolf while she’s getting railed by the alpha male. Sometimes, he’ll hop into the alpha male, or slip into the female, or back and forth, because hey, when you can experience sex from every god damned angle, why not?

To the fact that Petyr Baelish clearly wants to bang Sansa Stark solely because she looks like her mother, and while she poses as his daughter he plays on the father/daughter relationship to demand things like kisses. One scene actually ends with him revealing his masterful plan to get her the perfect marriage she deserves as a highborn lady and then saying, “Now I think that deserves a real kiss, don’t you?”****

Also, during this whole time that Sansa is pretending to be Petyr’s bastard daughter that he lusts after, she is in the household of her aunt. Her aunt who is batshit insane, and refuses to ween her seven or eight year old son from the breast. After her aunt passes away, the eight year old son clings to Sansa (his cousin, though he doesn’t know this) in the same way he clung to his mother: eerily sexually. Many nights see him climbing into her bed and nibbling at her breasts.

Poor Sansa.

She also was once publicly beaten bare-breasted on the orders of the King, who was her betrothed.

I mean, public beatings on people of lower social standing, and their connections with bedrooms… Well, let’s just say I’ve read more than a few interesting historical and anthropological papers theorizing about the relations between masters and slaves, or lords and peasants.

 

Of course, what’s the real kicker at the end of the day is that, all of it is just so over the top. As I have already said, most of the weird sex stuff is almost humorous. I’m reminded of some of the fetishes that get dredged up for Cracked articles because they’re just so far out there that while yes, there are tons of weird photos and erotic, it’s just too fantastic to be taken seriously anymore. All of the weird sex stuff, is ultimately just sort of an interesting side note. The type of stuff that makes you wonder just how weird it would be to be a guest in the Martin household on a particularly cold New Mexico night.

The real kicker to me is actually the legitimate sex stuff.

Much in the same way that films with unsimulated sex can become uncomfortable to watch, the legitimate sexual questions that popped up within the series can be sort of weird. It’s interesting, because when sex scenes are viewed as legitimate in the series, there’s often a fade to black. There may be some description of foreplay, but it’s there to help characterization.

I’m reminded of when Jon Snow is preparing to make love to Ygritte underground and he provides her with what she dubs, lord’s kisses. The fact that Jon took it upon himself to please Ygritte with his mouth says something positive about him (or at least I think so). It also sketches out a dynamic of their relationship, and helps to reinforce Ygritte’s view of the world and of Jon. To her, any sex act that she’s unfamiliar with but Jon knows must be a result of his life growing up with Lords and “kneelers,” south of the wall. Not you know, the fact that they’re both in their mid to late teens.

After this brief scene though, it fades to black with some clever and interesting reference to something they were talking about before things got all hot and steamy.

While I joked after reading the first hundred or so pages of A Game of Thrones, that I knew George R.R. Martin’s favorite method of pleasing a woman was to fingerbang her, that wasn’t really what got me thinking about the sexual dimensions of the series. It was actually a Catelyn Stark scene.

Early on in the series, after Robb declares himself King in the North, Cat’s main concern starts to be that he’ll need to produce an heir. There’s a really brief page or so, where she’s trying to imagine her son as a Lord, and as a King. In this brief passage, she suddenly wonders about his virginity. As a reminder, at this point in the novels he’s fifteen or sixteen, and has lead a relatively sheltered life.

Cat basically consoles herself with the idea that he had to have at least made out with Jeyne Poole a little. Her reasoning is not so much that Jeyne and Robb ever showed much interest in each other, but that it’s just what (based on her experience growing up with creepy Petyr and her insane sister) boys and girls do in the Castle environment. She then consoles herself further with the presumption that since her son was friendly with Theon and Theon was well known for banging peasant women, that her son had probably banged one too. Also, he and Jon Snow are like brothers (since they’re half-brothers, after all), and Jon Snow being a bastard must just be banging women left and right because of his insatiable bastard’s sex drive. Certainly, her reasoning is, her son has screwed some peasant girl’s fat friend or gotten sloppy seconds before.*****

There is then further awkwardness when Robb does marry, and his young wife goes on regularly to Cat about how they try to create an heir, “several times a day.” Note, this is once again a pair of teenagers. It’s highly implied that despite Lady Catelyn’s bawdy imagination, Robb actually is as awkward and socially stunted as you’d expect a boy raised in a castle where his parents’ word is literally law, and his life is a rigorous schedule of training and education to be. So yeah, he was a Virgin King.******

Robb’s wife is the girl that he lost his virginity with, and she with him. It’s sort of sweet in a sense, especially since there was a whole Florence Nightingale thing going on too.

The thing is though, once again, his wife then goes on informing his mother of their sex life.

Now I understand that it’s a very different culture, and they are all obsessed with ensuring the continuation of the Stark line, but it just never sat well with me. Like I said, the whacky sex stuff that occurs in the books is comical and farcical on several occasions, but the actual dimension of sexuality in the novel raises interesting, if sometimes uncomfortable, questions.

Ultimately, it’s good that the series has all of these aspects, and I hope to be weirded out by more novels in the future…

 

 

 

 

*: Yours will be the drill that pierces the heavens! Since after all, if Neon Genesis Evangelion is the deconstruction of boys piloting giant robots, Gurren Lagann is the genre reconstructed.

**: Outside the realm of comedy, obviously.

***: Though when we think of that time period, one begins to question whether or not Ramasy were merely “dom-ing from the bottom,” as it were.

****: Or something equally creepy. He often asks if she has kisses for Daddy. It’s fucking weird.

*****: I’d imagine the Starks are so Gods damned honorable that Theon could get Robb to “jump on the grenade,” as it were, out of a Lordly duty to his subjects.

******: Or the much better insult lobbed at Quentyn Martell in the fifth book, a Man-Maid.

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One Comment
  1. An alternate title for this post “Of Myrish Swamps and Skinchanging”

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