(as the title says, herein be spoilers… you know… and dragons… though given the show, way less dragons than you might expect)
So I’m having weird thoughts about the reaction I’m seeing online to last night’s Game of Thrones (s08e02). First of all, I want to point out that I really liked the episode. Some of the initial reaction I’m seeing is that some people found it boring. This part doesn’t surprise me. It was a very talky episode. Those are my favorites. I’m also the guy who’s favorite episode of Netflix’s The Defenders was s01e04, wherein all the heroes sit in a Chinese restaurant and have dinner. I get that I’m the guy who likes character building episodes more than just seeing a a bajillion people in one CGI army smackdown with a bajillion people in another CGI army. Granted, it feels like that’s what we’re going to get next week, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy that too. But, this is what I like better. So that sets some framing, I guess.
That out of the way, what I’m seeing a lot of today is negative reaction to Arya’s sex scene from last night. I’m going to assume 99.999% of people reading this post are fans of the show and have already seen the episode, so they know what happened. But for the 0.001% who is reading this because they are curious what I have to say even though they haven’t seen the show so don’t know what’s going on… one of the main characters, Arya Stark (played by Maisie Williams), has spent the the last eight seasons growing from an elevenish-year-old tomboy into an accomplished badass eighteen-year-old godless killing machine. On last night’s episode, while she is waiting for the the impending war with an undead army that is scheduled to start in the morning, she suddenly decides that “hey, I might die tomorrow, and I’d rather not do so a virgin.” So, she finds Gendry, a boy that she had a crush on when she was twelve and fucks the shit out of him. And the internet went nuts. This surprises me… a lot. Doing a quick, and completely non-scientific glance at the inceldweebosphere seems to imply that there is a pretty large reaction to the general tone of:
“this is horrible… they shouldn’t have done this. This is so unnecessary. Yuck! Disgusting! Oh god my eyes! Don’t do it! It’s like watching my little sister fuck! So uncomfortable. No no no!!! Noooooooo!!!!!”(don’t read Reddit threads… I do it so you don’t have to)
And this is echoed outside of said dark corners of the internet by more reasonable people. Apparently moments after she dropped her clothes and mounted him, Google searches for the age of the actress SKYROCKETED (for the record, she’s currently 22. She was actually 14 when she was playing an 11yo). And even the next day, I see a lot of people still talking about how incredibly uncomfortable they found the scene. Now this surprises me. For starters, I’m decidedly not in this camp. When the scene went down, I was very much on the side of “hell yeah, you get you some girl!!!” This is a sentiment which was apparently echoed by Williams co-star Sophie Turner who posted the following entirely NSFW reaction to instagram while watching the show:
So I’ll note that Turner has done approximately a bajillion interview over the last several years sort of playfully implying if not outright suggesting how much she wants to fuck her TV sister in real life. This is par for the course for her. It’s totally her hobby. That said, it’s also what I expect out of the inteldweebosphere. For the last several years, Maisie Williams has been like the number one celebrity whose likeness has been appropriated for deepfake porn videos (don’t look at me like that… I just know stuff!). What I expect for her … let’s say “fanbase” … is something more akin to the reaction people had for Lindsay Lohan or the Olsen twins… countdown timers til their 18th birthdays because “that’s totally the day where it will be ok to hit that” or whatever. Not that there’s any indication that any of those women would have been even the slightest bit into any of the middle aged dudes drooling over them. Especially not for Arya, whose entire character is based around the fact that she’s just as likely to cut your throat for offending her as anything else. But, that is the reaction is what I expected.
And for those who don’t necessarily just want to fuck an underaged TV character, but are still superfans of the character on the show. I expect the reaction that I and Turner had. I did not at all expect such a vocal rejection to her getting laid. Not at all. I figured there’d be some. Sure. But I expected a lot more posts of “OMG! FapFapFap!!!!” than there are. I mean, for HOVA’s sake, you got to see her actual sideboob. People have been CGIing her head onto naked bodies for years just to be able to pretend this was a possibility. I mean, even aside from the deepfakes, she has over 9million instagram followers, and she posts sexy photoshoots of herself regularly. I honestly just expected the Internet to be full of people who were overjoyed.
For me, the scene made absolute sense. For much the same reason I believe Harry Potter and Hermoine Granger fucked in the tent in the woods during the last Harry Potter book (see the “Sexy Ships and Head Canon” episode of VoxPopcast for more details… had to get the cheap plug in). To me this is the natural extension of the Arya character. She is an 18-year-old young woman (HBO actually “randomly just happened to tweet” her current age a few hours before the show, as if to say “hey, she might be fucking tonight, so you know… she’s legal”), who has lived a life of trauma. She’s seen her almost her entire family die, some in front of her eyes. She has been kidnapped. She has been homeless. She’s been betrayed by people she trusted. She has straight up just murdered like five dozen people. And for all she knows she will likely be dead in the morning from an approaching army of ice zombies. If this is the case, “I’ve got 8 hours of downtime and I’m still a virgin. Hey, maybe I’ll fuck the dude that I’ve had a crush on since I was 12” is a completely reasonable course of action. And in fact, she LITERALLY says almost exactly that in the scene where she does it for explaining her reasoning.
My friend Max suggests (and I’m inclined to agree) that earlier in the episode she was considering fucking The Hound, another character that she at least has some level of trust in. But he’s gross and old (50ish) and someone interrupted, so she thought better of it. I feel like if this had gone down, everyone would have still been grossed out by it. You’d think that the inceldweebosphere would be all into it… after all, isn’t that the dream? That nubile young Arya comes to you and asks you to show her the ways of carnal love? I personally think The Hound would have turned her down. For one, he realizes that she IS too young for him. While not exactly a father figure (he’s her former kidnapper, the show is complicated) he does have something of a mentor relationship with her. Plus… she likes to slit people’s throats, and I feel like he’d say “yeah, there’s no upside in this for me.” Gendry however, who has also always had a crush on her and is closer to her age, couldn’t resist her.
That said, there was maybe a moment where you could see on his face, some concern. There was a bit of “I really like this girl. But she’s scary. She kills people. And she’s being really aggressive. And waving a sword around. And I feel kind of emasculated here. Is this a trick? Is she going to stab me in my slee… oh shit… TITTIES!!! Ok, I guess I’m in.”
Another friend, Nat suggested to me, that that might be a part of the problem. Maybe some people are put off by a young woman displaying sexual agency. He does have a point. She’s certainly not laying back and thinking of
EnglandWinterfell. This is a woman who is basically saying “look, I’m horny. I need it now. Service me, and make it good!” And maybe there’s some of that involved here.
But I really don’t think it’s that simple. I feel like it’s more than her just being scary. Or even more than the idea that women might have agency. And despite what people are saying, I don’t think they JUST think of her as still underaged, even though the character has literally grown up before their eyes. I feel like there’s just a little something extra there with her. After all, the show has had no shortage of underaged characters having sex. Even ignoring the rapes on the show, Jon and Ygritte are at most 17, the first time they have sex (yes, I get that he’s a boy… but she isn’t… so even with the double standard). In fact, in the book versions the characters are younger from the start and bang… or are raped… on the regular. For Arya it feels like there is something extra where people want her to continue to be more “innocent.” Despite the fact that she’s probably one of the least innocent characters on the show. She certainly has one of the highest bodycounts, and she’s pretty much been a sociopath since BEFORE she even started going through trauma. She just hadn’t had a chance to have sex… mostly because she’s been so busy with all the murder and all.
I kind of wonder if that’s the key. Despite all the murdering, Arya is — at least in her on way — one of the most pure-of-heart characters on the show. Despite all the murder, pretty much everyone she’s killed kind of deserved it. She’s a righteous sociopath. So that’s what I’m wondering. Were you one of the people who was put off by the scene or no? And if so why? Is this a thing where sex is seen as more impure than her murders, and last night’s show somehow moved her too far along the madonna/whore spectrum? Did it humanize her too much? Do you just want her to somehow be beyond carnal needs? Or is there something I’m missing?
Oh… also, I want Lyanna Mormont to sit on the Iron Throne.