Recently I came across a post that I found particularly disturbing. WhatCulture.com posted a list of “6 Game of Thrones Characters Everyone Hates.” Joffrey Lannister, Lysa Arryn, Viserys Targaryen… the list is fairly predictable. Number 6, however, I have issues with. Here’s an excerpt from the post regarding “hated” character number 6. I’ve taken the liberty of bolding the harshest bits.
“Sansa has a rare talent as a character; while she is incredibly annoying, and many fans hate her with a passion, she isn’t a character that would make it onto fan’s list of characters who deserve to die. While saying that, not many would feel saddened by Sansa’s death if it were to occur.
What has Sansa done? Apart from being utterly useless and whiny, she sold out Arya and Nymeria to the King, calling her father out as a traitor, calling for her mother and brother to recognise Joffrey and pledge loyalty, despite her family’s hatred of the Lannisters, mainly for not seeing Joffrey for what he really was, and taking his side against her own family on numerous occasions.”
Sansa Stark. So, what is it that makes everyone seem to hate her so passionately? Honestly, it’s hard for me to tell you why someone would hate her. Sansa is my favorite character in the entire series. It’s easier for me to tell you why you should love Sansa. Here are three big reasons:
1. She’s strong. – The number one criticism of Sansa seems to be that she’s a weak character. It’s a word I often see associated with Sansa, and there’s no basis for it. You want an example of Sansa’s strength? How about the fact that she’s alive. There’s no greater show of strength in Game of Thrones than simply surviving. It’s no easy feat. Not only is she alive, but she’s alive and surrounded by Lannisters, by enemies. She’s in close contact with Cersei Lannister and Joffrey Baratheon, arguably two of the shows most dangerous characters, every single day. The fact that she’s found a way to survive is astounding, and damn it, it’s strong.
2. She represents a unique strength. – My favorite thing about Sansa is that she’s uniquely strong. She represents a strength that television often doesn’t show. Feminine strength. Sansa tears down the notion that a strong female character has to be dressed to fight, sword in hand, and breaking womanly tradition. Sansa Stark was raised a lady. Catelyn and Ned didn’t raise her to be a soldier; they raised her to be a lady. She was never a tomboy. Sansa loves songs, knights, sewing, poetry, and other feminine activities of her time. She’s incredibly feminine in all traditional senses of the word. But here’s the important thing. Feminine doesn’t mean weak. Sansa enjoys putting on a lovely dress and having polite conversations with handsome knights in shining armor. Arya enjoys exploring the forest, sword in hand. These interests don’t mean anything about the strength of these characters. Both are strong. Perhaps in different ways, but interests do not shape strength. Any woman with feminine taste is not automatically weak. That isn’t an ok opinion to have. You wouldn’t call your mother weak because she enjoys embroidery, or your dad weak because he likes baking, so why is it ok to call Sansa weak because she doesn’t have the “stronger” interests that Arya does? It’s not. It’s a sexist idea that our generation should really be over.
3. She’s learning how to play the game. – This is a big one. I expect Sansa to be a big player in this game, because she’s learning how to play it. She’s learning when to lie, when to keep quiet, and when to stand up for her opinion. She watched her father die because of his honesty, and she’s learned not to make the same mistakes. When she’s asked her opinion on Joffrey, she doesn’t immediately share her true feelings. She’s cautious. She tests her situations. Sansa knows better than to say everything she wants to say. She’s smart enough to see the mistakes that others have made, and she’s learning from them.
As for the specific things that the article called Sansa out for, it really isn’t fair to hold Sansa accountable for “not seeing what Joffrey really was.” It’s easy to forget that Sansa is a child. She isn’t a grown woman. She doesn’t have years of experience to draw on. When the series started Sansa was a young girl who lived her life with her head in poems and songs about kings and queens. Joffrey was a cute boy who noticed her and wanted to make her a queen. Of course Sansa was blind to his cruelty. She wanted to love him. Sansa wanted to be a queen. It’s also easy to forget that characters aren’t privy to everything that viewers know. Often we saw evidence of Joffrey’s cruelty when Sansa wasn’t even around. She had no way of knowing everything that we knew.
Of course she knows better now. She sees what Joffrey is, and I’d be inclined to say that she sees this game of thrones more clearly than most characters in the series.
If she plays the way I think she will, Sansa Stark might still get her chance to be a queen, and I think she’ll be a great one.
If you want to see the list of “hated characters,” here’s the link: http://whatculture.com/tv/6-game-of-thrones-characters-everyone-hates.php
Also on the list: Theon Greyjoy. The argument against hating him is one for another day.