GOT Show spoiler warning. Relatively book-safe, minus some excluded scenes.
I’ll start by saying that I love both Arya and Sansa as characters – both are refreshingly complex and multidimensional young women who are deeply explored and beautifully acted in this epic series. I believe very strongly in Ned’s words that his daughters are two sides of the same coin – both have been thrown into an impossible situation, and have to use their at times wildly different personalities to adapt and survive.
The big issue, however, that I see within the GoT fandom, book and show alike, is the raging hard-on for Arya’s rebellious tomboyism pitted against Sansa’s feminine stoicism. I have a MAJOR problem with that, because both girls are flawed, both girls have moments of weakness, both girls are whiny and clueless at times, both girls have a level of self-absorbtion, and yet Arya is forgiven for this while Sansa is largely disliked for having similar issues. I can’t help but wonder if it’s her very girlishness that’s the cause. Is the universal love of Arya because she likes swords over songs? Is that even fair?
The Flaws of the Stark Girls
Sansa from day one is ridiculed for her girlish “naivety” – her desire to be a wife and mother, and live as an eventual queen. Meanwhile Arya is loved from day one for being cheeky, boyish, and wild. It’s interesting because within their universe Arya is the naive one – Sansa’s dreams are very realistic with what’s expected of women in Westeros, and that’s something that our modern minds absolutely hate, apparently.
When the shit hits the fan, the girls are separated into two very distinct and difficult situations and have to adapt accordingly – Arya manages to escape but now she’s a young girl who is completely lost, at first in the city and later into the wild world. Sansa on the other hand is completely trapped with no room to even voice her rebellion, let alone act on it. Which is why cutting out her very prominent wedding scene from the book (in which she refuses to kneel to Tyrion at the altar) more than bothered me – it really, really pissed me off.
With the start of season four, we see the long term effects of their ordeals is really starting to show. Both their dreams were shattered the day Joffery had Ned’s head taken off, both exposed to violence and emotional devastation. Both girls have to learn how to adapt now, and as Arya slowly loses her humanity and Sansa is forced to grow a backbone, the hate for the older sister continues despite her developing into a stronger character.
My very co worker complained about her today, having seen the season 4 premiere. “I can’t stand Sansa, she’s so whiny. She hates Tyrion and is always crying. I mean, sure, his family killed her family but…”
So here’s a young girl, 14 years old, who watched her father’s head get cut off, was regularly abused physically and emotionally, humiliated publicly, forced to denounce her own family, believes most of her siblings to be dead, almost raped, forced to marry into the family who systematically ruined hers, promised a way out only to have to taken from her multiple times. Now she refuses to eat because her mother is dead, too, and as far as she knows she’s the only living Stark left but jesus christ why is she crying again?
How dare she cry.
How dare she show sadness and pain through tears, her only outlet, where Ayra is now creepily stabbing people through the throat as a means to show her pain. But no, Arya is badass because she is coping with her tragedies through sociopathic violence, where Sansa won’t, and actually can’t because she will have to deal with the consequences of her actions immediately, and brutally.
This is the root of my issues right here. Sansa and Arya’s lives suck tremendously right now, they are both children who have had to face unimaginable trauma, and they will both be, for lack of better terms, fucked up for the rest of their lives for it. But because Arya is wild and uncontrollable, because she CAN be, and Sansa has no room to lash out even if she wanted to, the latter gets hated for it.
It bothers me that a large portion of the GoT fandom is in essence shaming Sansa for reacting to abuse the way most humans react to abuse.
I really can’t stand that hypocrisy. I can’t in one breath celebrate Arya’s “badassesness” while ignoring the very clear and obvious signs she is losing it. And I can’t hate on Sansa for being naive while ignoring the desperate position she is in. “She’s so stupid for believing that she would be able to escape with the Tyrells.” “She’s so stupid for trusting a drunk former knight.” IS she, though? Are we honestly going to fault her for daring to dream that her abuse might actually end? That someone might actually still show a shred of kindness? She’s a fool for holding on to her humanity, I guess.
Again – I love both girls, for their charms and their flaws – but I would argue I love Sansa more, because anybody in her situation would feel stressed, alone, scared, and sad, confused and desperate – let alone a CHILD. And can we remember that part? Yes, Sophie Turner is a stunning young woman but Sansa Stark was an 11 year old girl in the books, and while the characters are aged up for the show their situations are the same. Please tell me again how an 11 – 13 year old exposed to this sort of life is supposed to act?
Anyway, this is more rant that reason, perhaps, but it’s something I feel very strongly about. Also, check out PolicyMic’s great take on the subject!