Problematic Ships: An Abridged List
I told myself I wouldn’t think about this issue today, but my brain had other ideas, so …
With the insistence by some that my current OTP is reprehensible because it’s inherently dubcon, I thought I’d take a look at some other popular ships that have problematic elements, but get “romanticized” anyway. Click the cut to be schooled, you deviants!
If they don’t say shit about Ramsay Bolton and Theon Greyjoy. Especially if they’re fans of both shows. Are you really saying that the relationship between Ragnar and Athelstan is comparable to the grotesque that is THRAMSAY? Really? No one…
Oh, I know. There was some woobifying going on but, overall it was what I expected. Which is great and has produced some art that would make you cry or drool, depending on your preference.
What bothers me is that most of us into Athelnar are completely aware of the issues inherent in the ship (can’t say all but the ones I know), as well, but it doesn’t stop a certain few from being contentious crap monsters about it. Yet they ignore it from another fandom that they’re active in. They should take their crusade to all points on the fandom map. Point out the troubles for other fans. Show them the truth and the light or whatever they call it….
To be fair: Athelnar is the most popular ship in this fandom; avoiding it entirely is impossible in a way that avoiding Thramsay in GoT fandom wouldn’t be.
However, GoT also has a fuckton of other problematic ships, and they’re more or less unavoidable in that fandom. In fact, one of them—Dany/Drogo—actually is very comparable to Athelnar (sheltered virgin falls for barbarian owner.) It also has the added squick factor of her being way underage (13 or 16, depending on book or show) and in show canon, he actually assaults her on their wedding night. Yet not only is this ship fully romanticized both in canon and in fandom, it’s ubiquitous, and almost never even questioned.
It’s pretty darn easy to understand why people would freak out about Athelnar and not Dany/Drogo, though: We’re used to seeing women as way underpowered in relationships. We’re definitely not used to seeing a man in that position. It’s not just the m/m that people object to; it’s also Athelstan being in a “weak” role usually reserved only for women. Nevermind that his power relative to Ragnar is several times greater than Dany’s relative to Drogo; he’s still far more weak than a man ever “should” be, AND he’s non-macho to boot. Quelle horreur. Hell, I think this is probably a big part of why people deny the clear romantic subtext in canon. They just can’t wrap their brains around a man playing the same relationship role that women usually play in those plot tropes.
So, yeah. GoT is overrun with seriously problematic ships (including SanSan and Sansa/Petyr; Gendrya, Tyrion/Shae … I could go on) but because most of them are m/f, and sexism has brainwashed people into believing that power imbalance is normal/desirable in het relationships, few get their panties bunched about them. Meanwhile, we tag everything that even hints at Athelnar because it’s so ~controversial~. W’ev.
Gwendoline Christie is the actress for Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones. She stands at 6 feet 3 inches tall and took swordfighting, horseriding, and stagefighting lessons for her part, as well as gaining 14 pounds of muscle, to accurately portray Brienne. (x)
She was also terrified of cutting her hair because she’d spent her life believing it was one of the only things that would make people see her as feminine despite her height. In an interview with TV Guide she said:
I struggled for a long time with [cutting] my hair, but then I’m grateful for the opportunity to realize that femininity doesn’t have to come from hair or any of those traditional female archetypes of appearance, So, that’s been exciting actually. I can’t speak with any kind of authority whatsoever because I’m just an actor and I only have my opinions, but I do think it’s really refreshing to have a woman depicted on a mainstream TV show that doesn’t obey typical aesthetics of females and the way they have been portrayed in the past. And I’m really excited to be portraying one of those women. And I hope that her popularity signals a greater expansion of people’s views about men and women and that gender types can be more flexible.
I love this woman.
Come to think of it: That thing I love about Vikings is also why I loved Primeval so much. Connor and Abby—beta male and alpha female—were originally just nerd/action-girl sidekicks, but midway through s3, they started becoming leads in their own right. By s4/5, they actually were the show’s protagonists, even if they weren’t the team leaders. (And that show had probably the most satisfying finale ever, right up there with Leverage.)
I also love Criminal Minds for continuing to develop Reid as a real character (as much as any procedural has character development.) And I like that the MCU has put a beta male—Coulson—in a leadership role. Game of Thrones isn’t full of beta males (Tyrion might be thought of this way, perhaps), but has a ton of alpha females with their own rich storylines.
I keep watching plenty of other things for other reasons (Arrow’s practically canon OT3, for instance), but yeah. Anything that gives beta males and alpha females plenty of time in the sun? I’m there.
So fucking happy this sexy fucker is going to be back on my TV, even if he is playing Charles Manson. He’s been doing almost nothing but stage the last two years, and I miss his damn face.
#forever grateful for oberyn martell#the only character who consistently criticised and fought and raged against the all-pervasive culture of rape & sexual sadism#and who sought retribution for the rape of his sister not because it brought dishonour to his family#or sullied her femininity#but because it was a heinous violation of a human being that got buried in silence#he was determined to give voice to it; and to keep giving voice until it couldn’t be ignored any more#to be as unflinching and ruthless and relentless as the man who brutalised the person he loved#jfc the show needed this embedded voice of resistance so badly; one voice against a tide of complicity and complacency#[this character was everything this performance was everything i’m so fucking torn up about it]
Agreed. As a book reader, I knew his fate going in, but I hoped that the show would give him his due. Not only was I not disappointed, but my expectations were well exceeded. It was a bold move on the show’s part, and it paid off gloriously.
I mean, lookit what we got: An actively bisexual, feminist man of color became one of the most popular characters on the show—one of the ones held up as a rare beacon of honor and hope in this cruel and corrupt world. I hope people realize how groundbreaking he really was.
It’s not just about showing more sex from a woman’s perspective. It’s about who has the right to be turned on
I like this, but I think it states something kinda obvious: that mainstream entertainment is made by straight (white, cis, etc.) men, for straight men. Any elements that might have interest to other demographics are more or less incidental, and—this is important—they are almost always done in a way that won’t upset the dudes.
Like it or not, even if they’re not a majority population, dudes have the lion’s share of economic and political power; no-one making any wide-distribution product of any kind, including entertainment, can afford to risk alienating them. Even products that are specifically made for other people are packaged and marketed in a way that won’t upset the dudes. (Why else would tampon packaging be so “discreet?”) In order to change things, marginalized demographics don’t just have to prove that we’re worth serving; the men at the top of the power heap have to prove that they’re not going to disappear if their comfort isn’t being adequately accounted for, and progress that direction has been slow. It’s been proven time and again that other demographics can and will watch things that aren’t inclusive of them, but the reverse just isn’t true, yet, at least not in a way significant enough to be considered in business decisions.
In terms of mainstream movies and TV, that means we’re just not going to see more than a few minutes here and there of men’s sexualized bodies being portrayed in ways that appeal to straight/bi women and/or queer men. However many of us they may attract with such things, we’re counterbalanced by the risk of losing the guys who find such portrayals uncomfortable. Sure, we get a lot of shirtless muscle boys and such, and we do find them droolworthy, but if you notice: they’re almost always portrayed in a way in which the dudes can imagine them as avatars for themselves, so they don’t feel either left out or put in a submissive position. To do so would be to risk losing them as audience, and when you’re talking about things with such huge budgets, that’s simply not a risk they can take. Studios are in business to make money, not social change. They’re not going to piss on their most-lucrative demo just because the rest of us are tired of being ignored.
As other demographics gain real-world power, we are finally becoming more attractive target markets. But instead of incorporating the needs and wants of these customers into the creation and marketing of mainstream products in a way that might alienate the dudes, we’re just seeing more niche-market products, created and distributed in such a way that dudes can avoid them.
A perfect example of this is the LEGO Friends debacle: Instead of getting more girls and women in LEGO sets, we got boxes of pink and purple ones, shelved well away from the rest of the product line. Girls get the illusion that they’re being served, while boys don’t have to deal with the discomfort of having girls in “their” space. No doubt some people think that such targeted, exclusive products are a good thing for marginalized groups—hey, we have something that’s just for us!—but when you realize that they make stuff this way to avoid having to integrate us with the guys who rule the world, the shine kinda comes off. There’s no progress in having a room of our own if the rest of the house is still off-limits to us.
If, then, we’re being underserved because of the risk of losing the customers with the most real-world power, how can we change things? Well, we do it in ways that Game of Thrones is doing: We push boundaries, a little at a time, while still giving the dudes enough candy to keep them around.
To be clear, GoT has a ton of fail, especially compared with the books, the disproportionate nudity and sexual objectification of women not the least of it. However, it’s also done things we don’t often see in other dude-accommodating media: the m/m sex scenes for instance, or the dick shots. And of course the wealth of well-developed female characters shouldn’t be downplayed. I don’t like the pointless sexposition (though did you notice there was a lot less of it this season?) but if it’s keeping dudes in front of their screens so they can also get some exposure to things outside their usual comfort zone, then so be it. The more they realize their dicks aren’t going to fall off if they see a non-sexualized warrior woman in real armor, or Loras and Renly getting it on, the more of those scenes they’re going to tolerate in the future. And the more they tolerate it in entertainment, the more they’re going to deal with it in the real world, too.
GoT reax: short version
Will post tomorrow a lengthy deconstruction of the whole season, but for now:
Jon/Samwell is so canon. I adore them.
So, everybody was all stoked about Tyrion’s speech at the trial in episode 6 and how it was Emmy worthy and such. If he gets an Emmy (and he really should), I think it should be for his acting during the conversation between himself and Oberyn in this most recent episode. Oberyn did most of the talking, but Tyrion acted the shit out of that scene. It was just flawless. His facial expressions were simply divine, and the way he starts breaking down at the very end out of just overwhelming relief and emotion…transcendent.
Singer of classical stuffs.
Shameless fanthing.Queer/Genderqueer. Feminist. Progressive. Gen X. Northwest snob. Journalist and media-deconstruction nerd. Happily married and an adoptive parent of a most excellent little boy. Endless pontificator on topics both sublime and ridiculous. Expect both breathless pop-culture squee and wordy rageflails about social justice.
My "home" fandom is Primeval, but these days I'm most heavily into Vikings, Game of Thrones and Arrow. Check my fandoms masterlist to see the other stuff I usually post about. If it has a kickass chick, a charming rogue, and/or an adorkable nerd in it, I probably like it.
I'm an incurable OT3 shipper, particularly of the alpha male/beta male/alpha female flavor, but I ship some pairs, too (het, slash and femslash.) See my ship list for details.
I don't have much time to make fanworks these days, but I have a few fics up on AO3 and some vids on YouTube (under Talea100.)
Fun fact: I had crushes on both C-3P0 and Data.