Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Jeyne Substitutions

The show-runners of Game of Thrones made many changes from the the books of A Song of Ice and Fire. Changes are necessary because of the different art forms. Of course, Martin's books are nothing if not sprawling; deletions and consolidations of characters and plot lines are also required.

I've probably liked more changes than I disliked.  But I reacted more to the changes I disliked.

Let's get to the Jeynes.

Jeyne Westerling appeared out of nowhere in A Storm of Swords. She's very vague. So is Robb, since he's not a point of view character. But Jeyne is removed from the action twice over. There is no point-of-view character anywhere near when she and Robb marry. The story is that Jeyne comforts Robb after the "deaths" of Bran and Rickon. Robb marries her to protect her honor after comforting leads to sex. She does not attend Edmure's and Roslyn's wedding.

Apparently Jeyne wasn't exceptional enough for the show-runners. They created a  special woman who isn't like the others: Talisa. a foreign beauty and a feisty healer. I remember an interview with George R.R. Martin. He was discussing the problems with feisty peasant girls in medieval fantasies. He said the feisty peasant girls would be raped. Talisa was a high-born woman, not a peasant. But otherwise, she seems the epitome of the character Martin mocked. At best, she's snarky with Robb at their first meeting. I'd characterize her as disrespectful and rude. Robb is intrigued, but not everyone would be so forgiving. Talisa is lucky Roose Bolton wasn't in command that day. He has no problem with rape. At least, Bolton would force her to work only on the Northmen and restrict her movements.

Robb's marriage to Talisa is much more short-sighted than his marriage to Jeyne. I understand how a teenage boy could break his vow to the Freys--he is trying to live up to his ideals as an honorable man. TV Robb--a grown man--is just selfishly stupid, instead of honorably stupid.

I've written about the Red Wedding here. The fetus stabbing bothered me for several reasons, especially the idea that the death of fetuses is worse than the death of live persons. I get the idea of potential innocent life and the next generation of Starks, but it's hard for me to divorce the death of the Stark fetus from today's political climate.

Then there's Jeyne Poole. Jeyne is Sansa's best friend. According to this wiki, she appears in Game of Thrones. I remember a scene from the Winterfell banquet in an early Season One episode, but don't remember Jeyne appearing again. What if Jeyne had been an example of a little person hurt by the battling lords, instead of Ros? Maybe Jeyne wouldn't be believable as one of  Littlefinger's top aides, but she would have been a true innocent hurt by the war.

Instead the show-runners ignore Jeyne and replace her with Sansa as Ramsay's wife/victim. I was shocked when I heard this. At the end of Season Four, Sansa appeared ready to take her place as a player apprentice if not a player herself. She had learned how to read people and how to hide her own feelings when necessary.

Despite the show-runners' assertions that she is now pro-active, I think she was played by Littlefinger. He even smirked when she agreed to go to Winterfell to marry Ramsay Bolton. Believe me, I tried to convince myself that it wasn't a smirk, but a smile of pride. It was a smirk.

I get the appeal of replacing Jeyne with Sansa. As many have noted, it raises the stakes; Sansa's story stalls at the Vale.

But Sansa is not Jeyne. While it may have happened off-screen (or off-page to be more accurate) Jeyne is a broken woman. She lost her family as and when Sansa did, but she had no name (or brother with an army) to protect her. She had no hope. Littlefinger sent her to one of his whore houses and who knows exactly what she was subjected to.

However rough Sansa had it, however many times she felt alone and frightened, she had the name of Stark. There were some that respected that name.

There are still some that respect that name. If the Boltons need a Stark to legitimize their claim to the North, they can't afford for Ramsay to mistreat/abuse that Stark. Characters in A Song of Ice and Fire were angry enough about the fake Arya--and many knew she was a fake. Abuse of a real Sansa would create more anger.

Sansa has already dealt with the attentions of a sadist in the first three seasons--Joffrey. It's a step back for her to be in the same position again, even if the show-runners try to sell at as Sansa being pro-active.

They're full of shit.

I cursed Benioff and Weiss as I watched Sansa's rape. I considered turning off the show for good. I couldn't do it. Claire McCaskill did. Rhiannon won't recap it any longer. I'll miss her recaps and analyses.

Going forward, I'm not sure what I'll do. Each season, I've felt less psyched for Game of Thrones. It's still must see TV for me. Damn, I watched a season marathon on Memorial Day. The rape scene was as bad as I remembered. I hate rape as a cheap tool of empowerment or revenge motive. I can't expect much from Benioff and Weiss, but I still hope for something better.

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