Somebody very important has gone missing! Specifically, it’s Arianne Martell. She’s missing from the Game of Thrones season 5 casting list, and people are angry. Some of the complaints are because Arianne is a strong female character.
Reaaaaally? Is it possible that George R.R. Martin really created a strong female character?
Like, a real one? Or one who can twist her butt in line with her boobs? Cause that doesn’t count.
Arianne Martell is female, and she’s a character. Past that, I can’t really say. In theory, Dorne’s gender-equal inheritance system makes Arianne a possible symbol of female empowerment. In practice, Arianne spends most of her time 1. mindlessly fretting about her chances of succession and 2. making incredibly stupid choices because of her insecurity. In her main plot arc, she spends most of her time botching her plans and thinking about how much she wants to bang some emo knight. This knight has silver hair striped with black. He has purple eyes! He rides a unicorn! OK, I made that last part up. But he actually says, “Men call me Darkstar, and I am of the night.” Oh, for fuck’s sake!
Was he born evil with the eyes of a cat, though?
I’d be able to forgive if Arianne just had a weakness for Darkstar, the sparkly dude from seventh grade fanfiction, but unfortunately she has few other redeeming qualities. Despite supposedly being raised to become the leader of a large and powerful kingdom, she’s hotheaded, immune to reason, and thinks that she’s smarter than she really is. Then again, plenty of princes share the same flaws. Why condemn Arianne?
What really kills Arianne as a “lady-power!” character is not her temper or her choice in men, it’s that her authority derives from her power to seduce men into going along with her plans. She desperately wants to be a leader, but she’s unable to exercise authority without acting through a man she’s slept with. (She’s also easily defeated by any male authority figure.) Arianne’s powers come from the mysteries of her all-powerful body, rather than from, you know, being a goddamn princess anointed by the holy hands of the deities. She comes across as less a potential player than a neckbeard fantasy—the woman who, by the power of her sex alone, leads “good guys” to ruin, the treacherous Dark “M’Lady.” She’s a bit similar to Cersei, really, except that Cersei was trapped in a bad marriage and was raised to be a queen-wife, not a queen in her own right. Arianne doesn’t get that excuse.*
It doesn’t help that Martin writes Arianne as if he’s letching over the character through her own thoughts, so that Arianne is constantly musing about her appearance and sexual experiences when she should be thinking about developing a step two for her latest cunning plan. Poor Arianne, perhaps she isn’t stupid, she’s just written that way.
As for Arianne’s disappearance from our screens—well, plot-wise, Arianne’s doings don’t seem to connect to any of the show’s emphasized storylines, so I wouldn’t be surprised if her story was cut for expediency’s sake. I’m sure that, were there world enough and time, Arianne would be included, mainly because she gets her tits out a lot. However, there’s always the hottie Sand Snakes of Dorne, and they have tits and weaponry.** Sorry, Arianne.
* Biological aside #1: How do these characters have so much sex and so few babies? There’s no plastic, so no proper barrier methods, and no birth control pill. There’s some sort of mysterious, nasty-tasting abortifacient, but taking it regularly would be probably be unpleasant at best and dangerous at worst. Yet young, unmarried women keep having raw sex in a patriarchal society which harshly punishes bastardy. It all seems to work in the “sexy female characters can have lots of sex because they are old enough to wank over, but they can’t have kids because they’re not old enough for me, the author, to think of them as mothers” sort of way. Why can’t we do something new? Maybe Arianne could go around birthing bastards and granting them titles? Or we could read Mary Gentle instead.
** Biological aside #2: All the racial, gender, and historical issues aside, one of the biggest fantasies that Game of Thrones peddles is the fantasy that despite centuries of inbreeding, almost every noble character is still physically attractive by 21st-century standards. Of course, almost every female character is basically a lingerie model, but it even holds true for the men—you don’t hear about stubby legs, bad eyes, or gigantic chins. Even generations of Targaryen brother-sister incest results in “smoking hot Caucasian elves with mystickal purple eyes and silver hair” as opposed to “holy shit, how did that get out of a uterus alive.” In reality, Tyrion might be one of the more attractive specimens, and not just because he refrains from spitting game about “the night” at the ladies.