On the 17th April 2011, the television adaptation of Game of Thrones was aired. For those of us who had never read the books, the show introduced us to several new female characters and their narratives. One of these characters was Sansa Stark, the daughter of Catelyn and Eddard Stark.
Sansa is so desperate to leave her home of Winterfell that she begs her mother to let her be betrothed to the King’s son, Joffrey Baratheon. This is the beginning of her character’s torment. Her pet direwolf is killed as punishment because her sister’s direwolf bit Joffrey. All of this furthers Joffrey’s (and his mother’s) desire to mould her and manipulate Sansa.
When Sansa’s father Ned is accused of treason, all of her family’s servants in the capital are killed and she is coerced into writing to her family and having them swear fealty to Joffrey. At court, she pleads to Joffrey to save her father’s life and the court agrees, until Joffrey calls for Ned’s execution. Joffrey forces Sansa to look upon the spoke on which her father’s head is placed. Scared and traumatised, Sansa begs to be sent home but instead Joffrey insists the are still to be married. Sansa becomes so scared and brainwashed that when offered condolences for her father, she claims they are all traitors and she is loyal to Joffrey. This does not do her any good as when her brother wins a battle against the Lannisters (Joffrey’s mother’s family), she is beaten in front of the court as payment for her brother’s crimes.
Sansa is told by her future mother in law that the more people she loves, the weaker she will be. Forced to stay in King’s Landing and to now marry the uncle of the king, Sansa had at this point of the show been manipulated and held almost hostage at the hands of the Lannisters.
Sansa’s mother and brother Robb are murdered in cold blood at the Red Wedding. This was an event that itself victimised several female characters. To start, they show a tradition where they carry the bride to the wedding bed. This is called a Bedding Ceremony. Robb Stark’s pregnant wife is repeatedly stabbed in the bump and killed after which Catelyn slits the throat of their betrayer’s daughter wife (something on its own completely messed up) before having her own throat slit. These characters all succumbed to their fate because the king had a grudge against their family.
The worst to happen to Sansa is when she is sent to marry Ramsey Bolton, who had taken over as King of the North from her brother. His father was also the one who had personally murdered her brother. She is manipulated into marrying him by being told that it would her way to avenge her family. Ramsey was a sadistic man. At one point in the show he fed his stepmother and baby brother to his dogs, whom he purposely staves. Once wed to Sansa, Ramsey beats and rapes her; he continues this most nights. He locks her in her room with no chance of escaping. When someone offers her help, it backfires and the maid who is blamed is mutilated.
After all this suffering and manipulation, Sansa eventually rises up with the help from several strong women. Brienne of Tarth and Sansa’s sister Arya both come and help her take back her power. Ultimately, Sansa becomes the Queen of the North and is given power and responsibility.
Although the show has a bad history of how it treats women and their representation, it also has some of the most badass and incredible characters, queens and warriors. It shows how they grow from their trauma, but it also sometimes ruins their development and has them come of whiny and weak. In the end, the few good representations really do make a difference and matter.
Girl Museum Inc.