Ah, the 90’s and early 2000’s. It was a perfect time to grow up as a young girl. Buffy, Scully, and Xenia were some of my girl heroes on television. In cartoons, there was Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl from Justice League, Batgirl, and Catwoman from Batman the Animated Series and even though the content was graphic, I read comic books such as Tank Girl, Witchblade, X-Men comics with my favorites like Storm and Rogue and mangas like Sailor Moon. And how could I forget Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider franchise?
These women were strong, intelligent, adapt to their surroundings or enemies that they’re fighting and above all could give their male counterparts a run for their money. It was a great time to be a girl.
But this isn’t a blog post dedicating my love for the kickass heroines of my childhood. In fact, this particular rant is how the warrior woman can go terribly, terribly wrong.
I don’t know of a single person who loves the Dorne plot line in HBO’s Game of Thrones. And yes, I’m apart of that population. In fact, of all the changes and tweaks done in translating the book to screen, this was by far the WORSE. It is PAINFUL to watch especially when Ellaria and Oberyn Martell’s bastard daughter’s, The Sand Snakes were some of my favorites from the books.
I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s back up. And don’t say I didn’t warn you, there will be book and show spoilers.
For everyone who hasn’t watched the show or read the books, Oberyn Martell is a prince of a region called Dorne located in a land called Westeros. He has fathered eight bastard daughters with various women, four of which were with Ellaria Sand, his paramour. Each of his daughters have varying personalities and special skills (fighting or otherwise) that aid their family, the Martells. Sounds great, yeah? It would be a great way to show how Oberyn has trained them to not only defend themselves in a medieval world that is unkind to women, but to be independent and intelligent.
When Oberyn is killed in a Trial by Combat by Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, the Sand Snakes want revenge for Oberyn’s death. Ellaria, the only reasonable one, urges her daughters not to take vengeance for their father. She knows Oberyn’s desire for vengeance is what got him killed. Gregor killed and raped his sister Elia, killed her baby Aegon and her daughter Rhaenys was murdered as well. Ellaria knew how much that anger and pain consumed Oberyn and she couldn’t bear to lose her children and step children. Oberyn’s death was tragic, but entirely legal. He wasn’t forced to fight, he volunteered.
This is great. It shows how pursuing vengeance will only lead to more death and an endless cycle of tragedy. The author of the A Song of Ice and Fire books, George R.R Martin is a pacifist. Pushing a message of the endless cycle of eye for an eye is far from his agenda. And hey, let’s talk about how each Sand Snake is not the same as the other.
Obara is a warrior with her choice of weapon being the spear, Nymeria is a beauty who can carry a dozen daggers on her person, Tyene portrays herself as pious and a true lady, but has a love for poisons, Sarella has an insatiable curiosity, and it’s theorized that she’s in disguise and studying in Oldtown. Supposedly, she’s working with her uncle Prince Doran Martell to destroy the Lannisters and possibly take the Iron Throne in a masterplan that spans almost two decades. But that’s just a theory. Oberyn’s fifth daughter, Elia loves horseback riding and her choice of weapon is a lance, Obella, Dorea, and Loreza are all still fairly young. But Dorea likes to hit oranges off the tree branches with a morning star. In the books, they sound like great and interesting characters.
NOT IN THE TELEVISION SERIES.
Three of Oberyn’s daughters are shown onscreen; Obara, Nymeria and Tyene. Obara is a straight faced, laughably serious, monologuing, spear chucking, meditating, lunatic. She spends most of season five with her face giving the impression that she’s consistently holding in a massive fart.
Nymeria is completely forgettable using the most useless weapon in the series. A whip. Someone tried to steal a page of ‘rule of cool’ from Indian Jones and forgot what made him cool. And the last and incredibly cringe inducing, Tyene is the hyper sexual younger sibling, with a slightly practical weapon choice, daggers. Now, I love characters who desire sex, but are not defined by it. Here’s where I want to tear my hair out. So, she coats her daggers in poison. Poison that reacts to arousal and is slow acting during a fight. So, she planned on killing her opponent by hoping he would get an erection mid fight?
But the ‘et tu, Brute’ moment came to me when Ellaria is revealed to be behind the idiotic plan to kill Myrcella Baratheon (Cersei Lannister’s daughter and Tywin Lannister’s granddaughter), in vengeance for Oberyn Martell’s death. In other words, they planned on giving Myrcella back piece by piece. Now that hurt. Who is this woman? This isn’t the only voice of reason I remember from the books.
Not only did Oberyn hate Tywin Lannister for raping women and killing innocent children, but he wanted to kill the monster who acted on his orders to do so. So, how do the Sand Snakes respond to it? By attempting to and succeeding in killing Myrcella. Princess of the Seven Kingdoms, a female and also a child.
Idiots, much? Absolutely.
But wait, there’s more.
Their rampage of troll vengeance doesn’t stop. These cringe inducing morons, decide to kill what remains of Oberyn’s family because “Dorne will never be ruled by weak men again!” Let me set the scene… Ellaria stabs to death a crippled man, Oberyn’s brother Doran while Tyene stabs his bodyguard Areo Hotah to death. Areo Hotah is THREE times her size in width and height. And he’s taken down by a dagger. A DAGGER THAT IS STICKING OUT OF HER BOOT. YOU CAN SEE IT. Someone didn’t pay attention during their TSA classes. You’re a bodyguard to a prince and the people who tried to kill your royal guests are sitting with you. The LEAST you can do is give a thorough pat down.
Nymeria and Obara borrowed a teleporter from Grandpa Rick Sanchez and somehow appeared aboard a ship holding Trystane, Doran’s son. And guess what they plan to do? If you said, kill him, you’d win the million prize. Now, keep in mind, this is Oberyn’s nephew, probably around fourteen to fifteen year’s old. Nymeria challenges him to a duel, but while his back was turned, Obara stabs him through the face with her spear and they both laugh like psychopaths about killing their young cousin.
So let’s surmise….
Ellaria and the Sand Snakes were mad at Doran Martell for not immediately waging a war against people who are economically and militarily superior to him. And apparently, everyone in his kingdom can’t see the madness in going to war when you’re at a complete disadvantage and thought it was okay to kill their leader. No one opposes the Sand Snakes, no one other ruling family gets even a little irritated about this. Not to mention, I don’t think Elia or Oberyn appreciate their oldest and revered brother and family being killed for this.
Oh, and get this. In Westerosi culture (different from Dornish culture), a bastard is considered a curse. These ladies, even Ellaria are all illegitimate children. Doesn’t help with the stereotype. Oh, and they commit the worse crime in Westeros…kinslaying.
These women are the scariest combination of both stupid and insane. And they’re given the plot armor to continue their premature ejaculation all over Dorne and the Seven Kingdoms.
Okay, now that the painful part is over with. Where does the satire in my mind come in? And let me make it perfectly clear, that I don’t think it was done intentionally to be satire. But if someone had a bright idea to show how over the top these girl power tropes could be, it would make a fantastic satire comedy
These four women are ridiculous. Not just eccentric, but bordering on the line of hyperbolic. If you were to make a parody of them, and place it side by side with the original, you could not tell what’s the parody and what’s not. My listed heroines of the were strong warriors, but they had personalities and lives of their own. Each sister is nearly unrecognizable to the next. They aren’t just women who fight because they have a purpose, the Sand Snakes of the television show throw themselves into a battle they would surely die for, and they’re not true warriors. When it comes down to it are just giggling cowardly psychopaths who couldn’t hold their own in a real battle. Sure, they talk a big game. But they’re a chihuahua imitating the bark of a German Shepard. They kill crippled people, defenseless people, children and warriors who have their backs turned to them. They do it for the sake of power and the name of their dead father. One who is probably rolling in his grave.
Xenia, Wonder Woman, and Lara Croft were strong characters not because they were physically strong, but because of their multifaceted personalities, intelligence and applying their skills. But often, when someone wants a female character to be strong, they just make her very good at wielding a weapon, give them loud boasts and ultra serious personalities. HBO’s Sand Snakes aren’t strong, they’re just psychopaths with weapons. What made Xenia and Wonder Woman so compelling was despite the troubles they face, they keep their compassion. Tank Girl is hilarious and has a loud personality to match her loud hair. Catwoman has her own ambitions and desires, but still has a conscious and helps Batman if he needs assistance.
They’re not to be messed with, but they are willing to help others (some characters are more willing than not). They avenge their partners, or victims if necessary, but it’s with a sense of justice, not nonsensical blood thirst.
If one was going to make a satire similar to Starship Troopers about the warrior bruiser found typically in fantasy, the Sand Snakes would be a perfect example. It would be hilarious. But it would be hilarious because the writer wants you to laugh at the characters. They’re not supposed to be considered heroes, they’re meant to be mocked, and then they get a swift just end to their rampage. In Game of Thrones, I think the writers wanted us to root for the Sand Snakes or at least like them in a Cersei Lannister or Euron Greyjoy way. Whereas Cersei and Euron are delightfully bad and they’re interesting enough to carry a story on their own, the Sand Snakes and Ellaria are not. If that was their intention, they failed miserably.
The Sand Snakes don’t represent the “badass” female character. They are not empowering by any means. You know who is badass? Arya Stark, Brienne of Tarth, Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, even Daenerys Targaryen. I don’t like Dany’s character, but that doesn’t take anything away from her character. I mean… hell, I could go on with characters from the book as well. They’re not awesome because they wield weapons and kill people, they’re awesome because they’re great characters. Who don’t remain one dimensional. The Sand Snakes are a mockery of that archetype.
There’s a reason why Wonder Woman (2017) was empowering. Despite being new to a world where she wasn’t born to, despite how much training she had received, what she has gone through and more. Diana keeps her compassion, and her desire to help others. And bring peace to the world of mortals. She’s brave, rushing across No Man’s Land with only her sword, bracers, and shield. Even though there was a chance she could die, she knew she had to help the people on the other side of the trenches. There’s a rush going through my blood just thinking about how cool that was.
Those Xenia rejects are and never will be empowering to young women. Maybe to the future black widows, and angels of death.
Maybe my eyes are deceiving me. Maybe there’s a twist to all of this in later seasons. I doubt it. But maybe there is and I’m not seeing it ‘properly.’ If there’s any doubt that the Dornish storyline isn’t a perfect textbook example of sloppy writing, I leave you with this clip. Complete with the proper reactions from other Game of Thrones characters. These men have degrees in writing by the way. Keep that in mind.