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Arya: The Stabbity Stark


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#1

anothermi

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Posted May 12, 2011 @ 12:19 AM

There have been a lot of posts in the last episode thread (1.4) that are more about the Arya character than the episode. Unseelie Dan even asked for an Arya thread, so I decided to start one.

As a reminder, the Mod spoiler rules apply to these threads too. Especially this section:

Most important, plot details from the books will be considered spoilers everywhere except book-specific threads like the "Book vs. Television" thread. It's fine to say something like "This character seems a little different from the books, where he's somewhat nicer" or "I always pictured her eyes being a different color." It's a spoiler to say "Wow, I'm going to be sad when this person dies horribly in the next episode." Note that it doesn't really help much to say "Wow, I'm going to be sad when this person dies horribly in the next episode." If you've read the books, try to keep that information out of the episode threads.


Because I don't have a life I have decided to link to a few of the relevent posts from episode #4 (and a couple in #2) incase you're new and want to see what has already been discussed. (I came late to the forum and read tales of spoilers in the 1st episode thread and therefor didn't read it, so none from it.) These are not every opinion, just ones where most of the post was about Arya and not the episode.

From Ep#2 - The King's Road: (Pro Arya)#161 #178

From Ep #4 - Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things:
(Arya:Con) #70 #97 #110

(Arya:Pro) #107 #114 #120 #123 #127 #167

These were interesting discussions, and while I am among those who like Arya, I'm interested in the perspective of those who don't.
So let the discussion continue...

Edited by anothermi, May 12, 2011 @ 12:21 AM.


#2

Unseelie Dan

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Posted May 12, 2011 @ 5:38 AM

Thanks for creating this thread. I'm very interested in understanding why some people dislike Arya so much and whether or not it's the same set of reasons why others of us feel the opposite.

#3

FoolishWanderer

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Posted May 12, 2011 @ 6:22 AM

I love the name of this thread!

Now, reading through the negative comments, I can see what Scinovium means about her story being disconnected from the main plots. She interacts with Ned, and to a lesser extent Sansa. All I can say in her favour, keeping in mind the spoiler rules, is that she comes across very sympathetically in her POV chapters, I've always liked the Action Girl trope, and she's left-handed like me.

If you have to judge by what's been on-screen so far, and don't care about action girls or lefties, I understand why some don't like her.

#4

kieran555

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Posted May 12, 2011 @ 6:37 AM

While I like the aspects of her character shown thus far, I'm not especially enamoured of the character as of yet, simply because of fairly limited importance to the plot thus far, but then at this stage there's no reason she would be so central of course, so I can see a little boredom compared to other events going on.

That being said, the actress is the best of the child actors and has had several moving, well done scenes which develop the Stark family dynamic effectively, and so I have no problem being patient and waiting for Arya to become more involved with things.

#5

Unseelie Dan

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Posted May 12, 2011 @ 7:36 AM

...I've always liked the Action Girl trope, and she's left-handed like me.

I'm not familiar with this "Action Girl" trope of which you speak. :)

Honestly, it seems to me that Arya and characters like her are only doing the sorts of self-determined "heroic" things that male characters have always done in such stories. And the "bratty" complaints against her don't seem right to me...if it had been a boy throwing a bit of food at his older sister at a party, wouldn't it have been seen as a typical mischievous boyish thing to do?

As for Scinoviun's complaints, well, they seem to me to be more a projection of his/her expectations of what the show should be rather than what the show actually is. Clearly, the show is interested in seeing how Arya navigates her way in this world. It's not clear to me that Bran's experiences post-fall have any connection to the rest of the current narrative--why aren't the same criticisms leveled against him? I suspect the answer to that is that it's obvious that Bran's experiences and development will become important. Why is it any less obvious that Arya's will similarly become important?

Furthermore, without even pointing toward the books I think it's already obvious that the television series is far more interested in its female characters and their lives within this world than is the case for prior screen presentations of fantasy. Cersei's, Catelyn's, Sansa's, Arya's, and Daenerys's lives and choices are clearly as important as those of the male characters. More to the point, each represents different choices by different personalities to find ways to attempt to control their own destinies in the context of this faux medieval world. Just as is the case for the male characters...but with the authorial awareness that the women's choices are much more narrowly circumscribed. Arya is the outlier in this group, she's the one female who is most different than the others and the most unsuited for the roles which are allowed her. It is interesting to see where this leads her.

#6

FoolishWanderer

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Posted May 12, 2011 @ 8:23 AM

I'm not familiar with this "Action Girl" trope of which you speak. :)

For those who really aren't familiar with Action Girls, I present the TVTropes link. Warning, that site is an amazing time sink, and contains spoilers for... pretty much everything, really.

In short, it's a woman or girl who does all the regular action stuff.

Possibly more about Ned than Arya, but it strikes me he just can't control himself with her. He talks about marrying her off to a lord, but lets her learn to sword fight. Even when he knows where it will lead. Part of him knows he shouldn't be doing this, but makes no move to change it. Where do you think this path will lead?

#7

Oral La Shoope

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Posted May 12, 2011 @ 4:11 PM

Possibly more about Ned than Arya, but it strikes me he just can't control himself with her. He talks about marrying her off to a lord, but lets her learn to sword fight. Even when he knows where it will lead. Part of him knows he shouldn't be doing this, but makes no move to change it.


I've always felt that Ned's relationship with Arya was very much colored by his relationship with his sister Lyanna, who Arya is often compared to in the books. He tries to teach her her duty (getting married to a great lord, having sons, blardy blar) but can't help but indulge her independent streak because she reminds him so much of his lost sister. She's much more of a Stark than Sansa, who obviously takes after her mother's side.

#8

Unseelie Dan

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Posted May 12, 2011 @ 11:53 PM

Huh. I've totally forgotten that comparison to Lyanna, even though I've read the books twice. It makes sense, though.

What was the age difference between Ned and Lyanna? Was Ned older? I can imagine Eddard and Lyanna as children and that maybe they would have had a strong bond, being the younger children and having similar temperaments. And then that would strongly color his relationship with Arya, especially since Lyanna died.

Even when he knows where it will lead. Part of him knows he shouldn't be doing this, but makes no move to change it. Where do you think this path will lead?

Having read the books, of course I know where it will actually lead. But let's imagine for a moment a world in which everything goes according to how Ned and Cat expected when he left Winterfell.

Well, Arya isn't freakishly big and strong and so, even if it could possibly make sense in this world, it's hard to imagine her trying to be some sort of quasi-knight. Given that her only real familial duty is to wed with another house, and Ned favors her, it's possible that she could avoid that fate and just try to become some sort of one-of-a-kind member of the nobility, traveling here and there doing whatever strikes her fancy. Sort of accommodating herself to the expected gender role, and, when possible, sort of not.

More likely, it seems to me that with Syrio's training...especially if it is years of training...Arya might decide to travel across the Narrow Sea and become some sort of adventurer or fortune-seeker, or at least an extensive traveler. Maybe she would try to become one of the Braavosi?

I'm not sure that it's certain that she is doomed because she is refusing to conform to Westeros expectations. If she matures some more and becomes at least a little more careful about what she says and does, then it's not clear to me that she couldn't find a way to make herself an exception. This would depend upon her father's acquiescence or assistance, but I think Ned's already demonstrated that he would do such a thing if he understood that Arya would never be happy otherwise.

Of course, all sorts of things could go wrong...including her killing someone who offended her (or, more likely, tried to rape her).

But it just doesn't seem to me that given the Stark temperament and given that Arya seems to be a fierce example of this, that attempting to force her to conform would be any more likely to work out for the best. Quite the opposite, it seems to me. I'm not convinced, as others are, that Ned is making a mistake. He may well be more wise than he realizes.

ETA: Who is responsible for the stabbity neologism? Because it's an awesome word and the wag deserves credit for it.

Edited by Unseelie Dan, May 12, 2011 @ 11:15 PM.


#9

anothermi

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Posted May 13, 2011 @ 2:14 AM

ETA: Who is responsible for the stabbity neologism? Because it's an awesome word and the wag deserves credit for it.

I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but I encountered it in another forum on a completely different topic. It was already in common use there and generally referred to the kind of look Arya gave Joffrey when Lady was sentenced to death ( the "I'm Gonna Stab You 4 Realz" look) - only more in jest. So I have no idea how it came about.

It came to mind when trying to find another way to describe her "stick 'em with the pointy end" training, and the "-bity" part sounds little, just like her.

Edited by anothermi, May 13, 2011 @ 2:18 AM.


#10

NoirEtoile

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Posted May 13, 2011 @ 6:32 PM

I think Arya's day is coming...in terms of mattering more to the main storylines. That's kind of been projected by the focus on her, yet she's largely, as noted, disconnected and unaware, until Ned begins talking to her, how complicated things are.

I'm very curious about this line from Arya "that's not me." It's so modern. It seemed anachronistic.

Arya is arguably more interesting than Sansa -- but I contend the younger sister is an indulgence for me, since her world is a child's word at this point. I want to see what she does when shit hits the fan in her life in a big way.

#11

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Posted May 13, 2011 @ 7:08 PM

I'm very curious about this line from Arya "that's not me." It's so modern. It seemed anachronistic.


I watched that episode with my best friend and he actually said out loud, "That sounds so New-Agey! It's just wrong!" right at that point. It does sound a bit off.

#12

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Posted May 13, 2011 @ 7:39 PM

The scenes involving Arya are one of my favorites: it's harder not to root for her than to resist the smell of pizza.

I would not agree, though, that she isn't part of the plot (non-reader here); for instance, the Mycah/Joffrey/Lady, at the center of which she was, has brought important changes in the relationship between Sansa and her... ewww, fiancÚ, and has sprung revelations such as, paraphrasing, "Whoever is not us is an enemy", and "We can't be at war among us."

Since then, she's followed her inclination of learning some skills reserved for the opposite gender, with a little help from her father. I do think this will come into play, whether it is to see how her dreams get crushed or how she and Needle get to save the day down the road.

The actress is a natural and her performance enhances her scenes rather than detract from them.

#13

NoirEtoile

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Posted May 13, 2011 @ 10:48 PM

Slight correction: Like Bran, Arya is the catalyst for the tension between the Starks and the Lannisters. In that regard, she's been vital to the plot, thus far. Her moment before the Queen was pivotal. I wish she'd been as adept at talking as she is with being rebellious. I wish she'd spelled it out in no uncertain terms EXACTLY what happened. Maybe Joffrey would'v caved.

The Queen took satisfaction seeing her get so angry she was ineffective and inarticulate. At a moment when she needed to really step it up, her youth and impetuosity did her in. At least Sansa had the presence of mind to lie and defer. Arya was just furious and vague. That's a lie! Feels good, Arya, but it doesn't help much in making the case that this fuckin' boy pulled out a sword on you.

#14

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Posted May 14, 2011 @ 10:30 AM

Arya is probably my favorite character; she's a young girl struggling against expectations and trying to find her place in a world where she just doesn't fit. I get why Ned indulges her, but he's doing her no favor since she's still supposed to marry to further alliances and raise young lords. I think Ned doesn't really understand either of his daughters. I also get the feeling that at Winterfell, Arya was allowed to run wild which will not work at King's Landing. She's of an age where she needs more guidance but there's nobody willing or able to give it to her.

Maisie Williams is an astonishingly good actress. I hope this is the springboard to a long career.

#15

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Posted May 15, 2011 @ 3:46 AM

I'm hoping against hope that "all hell" doesn't break loose before Arya gets to complete her "dance" lessons. A proper "lady of the North" may need to know how to "dance" once Winter is here.

#16

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Posted May 15, 2011 @ 8:47 AM

I get why Ned indulges her, but he's doing her no favor since she's still supposed to marry to further alliances and raise young lords. I think Ned doesn't really understand either of his daughters.


I think Ned always has his sister Lyanna's fate in mind, and is -- perhaps without quite realizing it -- trying to hedge his bets with his two very different daughters. In the role he has chosen for Sansa, he seems to be trying to re-make Lyanna's fate by following the same traditional path, but this time, without his dear kinswoman's being torn apart in a great conflict between the Houses. Of course, they didn't even land at King's Landing before he began to discover, "What could go wrong in allying Sansa with the Baratheons?"

But in his actions with Arya -- even as he argues against it -- he reluctantly recognizes Arya's nature, and gives her what she may need to survive (1) her nature itself, and (2) the winter to come, as anothermi said. Arya is another bastard, cripple, broken thing. And she seems to arouse misgivings and rancor in others, because it seems she could chose to be other than she is. But my guess is, she's right: she can't.

#17

Unseelie Dan

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Posted May 15, 2011 @ 3:19 PM

And she seems to arouse misgivings and rancor in others, because it seems she could chose to be other than she is. But my guess is, she's right: she can't.

Yes, exactly.

I don't mean to imply that there's no such thing as pragmatic conformation and I certainly don't mean to imply that conforming is always and everywhere some sort of offense against one's true nature. That's simplistic and reductive.

But I do think that there's a continuum in non-pathological human personalities spanning choice to determined on one axis and conforming to non-conforming on the other axis. People whose "natures", whatever those are, are more the result of their own choices have much more range of movement with regard to where they want to be along the conforming<->non-conforming continuum. But people whose natures are more determined, less amenable to their own choices, have little range of movement about where they want to be on that continuum. Some people can't help but conform very deeply. And other people can't help but non-conform, also very deeply. Most are more in the middle, on both axes.

Arya's nature is both determined and non-conforming, I think. She really has little choice but to be who she is. I don't think she can even imagine being someone different than who she is. Conforming really isn't even conceivable to her in a way. Some people are like this. Whether it's truly inherent or the product of a bunch of environmental influences, or both, is beside the point. The point, in my opinion, is that we oughtn't make value judgments about people based upon our own individual experience of our ability to make choices about who we are and how we conform. If it's easy for me, that doesn't mean it's easy for you. And if it's hard for me, that doesn't mean it's hard for you. And, more to the point, if it seems essentially right to me, that doesn't mean that it's essentially right for you; and if it seems essentially wrong to me, that doesn't mean that it's essentially wrong for you.

I think that people make unnecessary and hasty value judgements about this eternal tension between individuality and social conformance. Some people are strongly inclined to make conformance a virtue, inherently (not merely pragmatically). And other people are strongly inclined to make individualism a virtue, inherently (not merely pragmatically). But it seems to me that the virtues and vices of each exist only contextually; and, also--and perhaps more importantly--the assumption that each individual is in complete control over how they evaluate this implicit contest and that they can choose which side to embrace...well, that's an unwarranted assumption.

Not only is it not clear that one is better than the other for every person, but it's not even clear that every person would be able to choose it were they able to unambiguously decide.

And then lets put this in the context of an expected conformance that many, perhaps (hopefully!) most, of us would agree is objectively unjust. Should a slave be expected to conform to the social expectation of conformance to slavery? But not only that, should a slave be expected to non-conform to the social expectation of slavery? This is a good example of why personal narratives truly do matter, why they should be taken seriously. In the context of feminism, it took some time for it to start privileging the narratives of individual women rather than the narratives of theorists about how women "are" and "should" behave.

So I think we should be sympathetic to Arya, both because we have seen indications that conformance isn't really an option for her and because she's non-conforming to an unjust social structure. But also we should be sympathetic to Sansa. Is it Sansa's "responsibility", even to herself, to non-conform to the same unjust social structure that Arya is fighting? No, it's not. I don't know that Sansa could choose to be non-conforming but, even if she could, I don't think we can condemn her because she does not.

#18

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Posted May 16, 2011 @ 1:11 AM

I wonder if Arya's left-handedness will turn out to be a plot point. The fact that she is learning to use a sword with her left hand while most people will be using their right and be trained to fight right-handed opponents might give her an advantage in a fight. I'm not sure if it does make that much of a difference when it comes to sword fighting, but just a thought.

#19

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Posted May 16, 2011 @ 7:52 PM

Well, her little eavesdropping episode this week certainly makes her more and more vital to the plot. It`s too bad her 'dancing' lessons are likely curtailed with the return to Winterfell, but I think she's probably picked up a lot already...

#20

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Posted May 16, 2011 @ 11:54 PM

I wonder if Arya's left-handedness will turn out to be a plot point.

And I wonder if the running joke of Arya being mistaken for a boy foretells a future ploy she is going to use.

Edited by anothermi, May 16, 2011 @ 11:55 PM.


#21

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Posted May 17, 2011 @ 2:17 AM

And I wonder if the running joke of Arya being mistaken for a boy foretells a future ploy she is going to use.

One would hope so, because scruffy or not it isn't very believable unless they're setting us up for that.

#22

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Posted May 17, 2011 @ 7:02 AM

Although someone else pointed this out in another thread: She's wearing pants. In a society with strict control of gendered clothing, one big marker like "wearing pants" is enough to override almost all other gendered markers when someone is trying to determine the gender of a strange person. It isn't that obvious to a modern viewer because pants are no longer heavily gendered, but from within the story it makes all sorts of sense.

#23

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Posted May 17, 2011 @ 4:03 PM

Also, hairstyle is less heavily gendered. When you look at men like Viserys and Loras wearing fairly long hair, Arya's messy mop could be a boys.

#24

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Posted May 17, 2011 @ 7:07 PM

I think that people make unnecessary and hasty value judgements about this eternal tension between individuality and social conformance. Some people are strongly inclined to make conformance a virtue, inherently (not merely pragmatically). And other people are strongly inclined to make individualism a virtue, inherently (not merely pragmatically). But it seems to me that the virtues and vices of each exist only contextually; and, also--and perhaps more importantly--the assumption that each individual is in complete control over how they evaluate this implicit contest and that they can choose which side to embrace...well, that's an unwarranted assumption.

Not only is it not clear that one is better than the other for every person, but it's not even clear that every person would be able to choose it were they able to unambiguously decide.


This, especially, Unseelie Dan. But really, every word of what you wrote. And you've helped me critique, and at least try to correct, my own innate resistance to Sansa's conformity.

#25

Unseelie Dan

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Posted May 18, 2011 @ 10:47 AM

Thanks, Pallas429. It was partly written as a critique of my own resistance to being sympathetic to Sansa.

#26

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Posted May 18, 2011 @ 1:46 PM

I'm finding it interesting - and completely endearing - that Anya doesn't want anything to do with traditional gender roles, but is absolutely furious whenever she's mistaken for a boy.

In reality, I'm a girly-girl, and one who has a certain amount of sympathy for Sansa, but I love the way George RR Martin and the showrunners are developing a dynamic here that seems to say that girls (and boys) come in all types and that doesn't make one more essentially 'female' or 'masculine' than another.

#27

Unseelie Dan

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Posted May 18, 2011 @ 5:31 PM

but I love the way George RR Martin and the showrunners are developing a dynamic here that seems to say that girls (and boys) come in all types and that doesn't make one more essentially 'female' or 'masculine' than another.

Well, this seems to be a complex and confusing issue for many people. To me, it's self-evident that whether one is comfortable in traditional gender roles is a distinct question than whether one has an internal identity of the opposite sex.

Pre-op transsexuals generally want to be identified as their target sex and gender. Someone who isn't a transsexual but who is uncomfortable in their traditional gender role, or even is more comfortable in the opposite sex's gender role, is not necessarily desirous of being identified by others as the opposite sex and may, indeed, greatly dislike it.

This does raise the question in my mind about the relationship between sex and gender with regard to identity. That is, if, for example, there were no defined gender roles then would sex be that important to any/most person's identity? We might mildly dislike it if people get it wrong, like how we dislike it if people are wrong about other mostly incidental facts of our biology. Or we might not really care at all. I don't know. But it seems interesting to me to both strongly care that one has a social identity of a particular sex and yet reject the gender roles of that sex.

I'm not saying that it's incoherent...it might be, it might not be. Really, I'm inclined to think that it reveals something important that isn't incoherent. For one thing, if a society has relatively strong gender roles, then creating an identity that moves outside those boundaries is a very distinct thing from embracing the alternative gender role. And then also maybe there's something else going on. While I don't think that Arya has a choice in whether she conforms, I do think that the fact that she does not conform has been internalized by her into her identity and it's important to her. If she were seen as a boy, then the non-conforming part of her social identity would be lost. Perhaps that upset her, too.

In the end, I think the point is that she doesn't want to be a boy. She wants to be a girl who does some of the things that boys do. That's an important difference.

#28

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Posted May 18, 2011 @ 5:37 PM

She's also, at this point, very proud of her father's position. When the guards at the gate questioned her she became every inch the offended High Lord's daughter, for all that she was dirty and wearing pants.

#29

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Posted May 18, 2011 @ 5:40 PM

Yes, for all she is most unconventional, she has been raised to a life of privilege and respect, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Arya show a little noble entitlement and commanding attitude.

#30

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Posted May 19, 2011 @ 1:59 AM

Wanting to do what boys do, doesn't mean one wants to be a boy. Arya is fine with being female, just not interested in being a lady or stuck in that role. Hell, I'm sure a lot of the ladies feel similarly but have no alternative, not even in their imaginations. This ability to want something you have no images of for yourself is what distinguishes Arya. She is so innocent and honest about her feelings that the tomboy shares them directly with her father. He's amused and bemused by Arya. Neither Ned nor Arya have any pre-set or stock reactions to her difference....yet.

He's not threatened or afraid his baby girl is a potential lesbian. She's not at all clear, it seems to me, the implications of the life she'll have if she doesn't go into the expected conventional role. Arya just knows that path is not for her.

If Arya does have to pretend to be a boy at some point, it may be freeing.

But I'm betting Arya will want to be Arya, and on her terms, not masquerading as male but openly female living by her own terms.

I think it would be awesome if Arya in Winter Fell carves out a unique place for herself in the Stark family, setting a new place if not a new tradition. After all, who's going to be too put out as long as one of those brothers produces heirs in abundance?