So I finally started watching Game of Thrones. I know what you’re thinking – that I’m a bandwagon jumper – but you’re actually only half-right. I started reading the books when I was in university, so really I’m one of the original fans.
When the series started airing, it was fun to sit back and watch the reactions to some of the biggest moments in the story. Fans shocked over Ned Stark being executed – I’ve been there. The surprise and horror of the Red Wedding – been there too. It was fun to see people getting so invested in a series that I loved for so long. A Song of Ice and Fire (that’s what the books are called, I’m sorry I had to point it out) was the first fantasy series that I really got into as a teen because it had so many varied female perspectives and felt much more grounded. It was great to see so many people loving it, and the story, as much as I did.
When I was reading the books (sorry, I’m not ever going to stop bringing that up), I would get so many people coming up to me (actually, mostly men), talking about the series and how good it was. It was, perhaps, my first true foray into fandom culture (which I have long since left, but that’s another story). I went deep – like multiple message boards deep – reading into fan theories and clues that George R.R. Martin had left in the books about who Jon Snow’s real mother was, who would end up on the Iron Throne, etc.
In short, I was obsessed. I would pass the books on to anyone who expressed a slight interest. I would tell my snobby English major friends that no, this fantasy series is actually really great and really moving. No dice. And when I did talk to people who liked the series, they actively hated my favourite character – Sansa Stark.
At first I was hurt and insulted when people would go on and on about how much they hated her. Ah, to be that young again and not know that sexism knows no bounds! Not even fictional characters are safe from it. The argument was simple, of course. SaNsA iS sTuPiD! She got her dad killed! She’s a useless character! Let’s keep in mind that the character is supposed to be thirteen at the start of the story. Then she’s stuck in King’s Landing with the family that murdered and betrayed her father, she has no idea where the rest of her family is, she’s being beaten and abused by the kid who had her dad executed and she has a creepy old man (the Hound) alternately berating her and trying to get it in with her, while another creepy old man obsessed with her mom keeps using her for his ambition. It’s a lot.
The other criticism came from the fact that Sansa and Arya are so different. This has always been a point of contention between the two characters and fans have used it to justify their hate-on for Sansa. They love to say that they want Arya to kill her, which has always seemed weird to me because the friction between them was like any other argument I’d witnessed between siblings.
It’s unfair to think that a female character who likes dresses and boys is somehow lesser than other characters. It’s a dismissive tactic that’s deeply tied to sexism. To deem the things that are stereotypical “girl things” as unworthy undermines the young people who like to dress up and want to date boys and like being a lady. Why can’t we have both?
However, I do understand that at the beginning of the series, Sansa is a purveyor of patriarchal standards of women – by making fun of her younger sister for being not interested in these things makes Sansa an agent of the patriarchy. But this is also a place where a lot of women start before they realize the system was never built to support them in the first place – a lesson that Sansa learns harshly.
The great thing about Game of Thrones is the fact that the TV show has made the story so accessible to so many more people. There aren’t as many people that hate Sansa anymore – I can actually find people who like her! Like, really like her. In the last few seasons, Sansa has actually become a top tier character. Other writers are talking about how, like, smart she is. How the tables have turned! Now all of you who didn’t like Sansa get to be owned on how wrong you were. This revenge is personal for me.
It’s not just that Sansa is the smartest person on the show (she is), but she’s also one of the only people who not only has the brains to rule, but the empathy to be the best ruler Westeros has ever seen. She’s the only one fit for the Iron Throne, at this point. I don’t care that she doesn’t have a cock.
Sure, Jon Snow is the “true heir”, if we’re going by the rules, and it’s also true that he has a good heart and would be a kind ruler. But let’s be real – does any one really believe that Jon has any concept of what it takes to be a political leader? Ruling seven kingdoms isn’t just about war or fights with zombies. He’s a good warrior, no question, and I think he would be one of the best candidates to be Queen Sansa’s military leader. But Jon hasn’t spent any time at court. He has no idea how to manage political relations. Remember when he didn’t want to take lands and castles away from the people who betrayed House Stark when they won back Winterfell? How he verbally bitch-slapped Sansa in front of everyone for suggesting that they reward loyalty? Jon lives in a dream world where everyone is as honourable as he is, unless they’re an explicit bad guy like Cersei or the Night King. Arya said it herself: “Sansa is the smartest person I know”. So why does he never listen to her?
It’s ridiculous that Jon still underestimates Sansa after everything she’s done and the very valid points she brings up. Even Arya is defending her sister from her favourite sibling, telling him that Sansa is the smartest person she knows. Jon doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t physically fight your way through every battle – Daenerys should also take note. Is Jon politically aware enough to maintain a solid hold on the throne? He can hire the best Hand in the world, but if he has no idea that people would be plotting behind his back, let alone how to get ahead of them, his rule would be tenuous at best.
Sansa isn’t just smart, she’s politically savvy. Spending time in King’s Landing and with Petyr Baelish has taught her a lot about how to maneuverer a court for personal gain. Jon can rally a lot of men to fight for him, but Sansa’s getting good at that game too. Look at how she was able to solidify Arya’s trust when she figured out what Baelish was up to. Tyrion respects the hell out of her and was willing to fight for her in the Battle of Winterfell. Brienne has gone above and beyond for her to the point where their bond is unshakable.
It takes incredible strength and courage to be able to slide relatively undetected at a court like King’s Landing in the middle of a war and somehow make it out alive. Sansa critics assumed that her staying silent was a lack of courage but it was a really smart move on her part. There’s being outspoken and then there’s being reckless. Sansa was able to get a lot of information by staying out of the way (as much as possible). She probably has more insight into Cersei’s plans and intentions than Tyrion at this point. And still, no one will listen to her.
Her ability to read people is almost as good as Varys, if not better. She understands immediately what’s going on between her brother and the dragon queen and she even has the audacity to tell a woman with two dragons that men are easily manipulated when in love. Sansa can see the long game when most of the people around her act impulsively. Before the Battle of Winterfell, she was the administrative master, the only one to note that the armour they were making had no leather, that they didn’t have enough food to feed everyone let alone dragons. She’s literally the only one who knew that Cersei wasn’t going to do shit about the army of the dead.
Need I go on? I’ll go on.
The main point that sets Sansa apart, however, isn’t her political game and it isn’t her big brain –although I think that alone is qualifying. Her most important characteristic that makes her more fit to rule than anyone else is her humanity. Jon has it, but Dany and Cersei really don’t. At least not in the same way.
Sansa may have been raised like a lady, like both of them, but she wasn’t quite raised with the same entitlement. Daenerys was told all her life that the throne was stolen from her family. Cersei believes that her family is the only one who should be on the throne. Sansa never had those pretentions. Ned Stark didn’t have interest in ruling so he never raised his children to be that preoccupied with it.
People who think they’re owed something, like a throne, don’t think that they need to justify their right to rule. After everything she’s done, how can Cersei make the case for herself? And really, how can Dany? Sure, she wants to change the world and break the wheel but it also has to be done totally on her terms – she needs to be the one to do it. She doesn’t want anyone else to be able to do it. I’m sure she would burn me alive for saying this, but Dany is not unlike Cersei in her constant need for power and spotlight.
I don’t want to deny the mistreatment and abuse that both Dany and Cersei have suffered, but they’ve also had access to an insane amount of power that they have then been able to use to enact their revenge. They turned their suffering into (somewhat justified) rage, and when pain turns to anger it blocks any ability to connect with other people. Sansa has experienced just as much (if not more?) grief and suffering as the other two queens, but it’s never taken away her humanity. She’s never been spiteful. Anything that is done to Daenerys and Cersei is framed by them as a personal loss and becomes a vendetta. When Sansa takes revenge on the people who hurt her, like torturer and rapist Ramsay Bolton and the conniving Petyr Baelish, she actually makes the world a better place for everyone.
Sansa can connect from a shared space of suffering. She weeps over Theon. She’s concerned about what will happen to the people of the North and their freedom if Dany or Cersei become queen. Again, I have to point out that she’s the only person who’s worried that they won’t be able to feed people when everyone is holing up in Winterfell for safety. Her personal losses haven’t clouded her vision for what’s best for her people, not just what makes her feel good.
I think it’s because Sansa understands what it means to not have power and authority, to be a pawn in a political game played by people drunk on power. Not having a voice is humbling. She understands, deeply, the losses that happen during the game of thrones. She can identify with the masses more than anyone currently in line for succession.
Would you rather be ruled by someone who thinks the throne is theirs because of their status? Or would you rather bend the knee for someone who knows first-hand how utterly corrupting that power can be?
With all this talk of cock being a legitimate requirement for rulership, and with so little time left and no hints that power actually shifting in Sansa’s direction, I’m a little concerned that my wish isn’t going to play out. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the books will never be finished, so the show is the only way I can see this story resolved. I’ll be so disappointed if the writers go for the easy win and have Jon on the throne. Seriously, I will be the first one to start Justice for Sansa protests.
Ideally, here’s how I see it all play out: Jaime kills Cersei (and also dies in the process because he sucks), Daenerys kills Jon (because she wants to rule), Arya kills Daenarys (duh), and Sansa becomes Queen of Westeros because she’s the smartest fucking person in the room. Brienne leads the Queen’s Guard and Tyrion is Hand to the Queen. Arya is her most trusted advisor and sniffs out traitors.
Queen Sansa doesn’t marry anyone because frankly, there’s not a man in Westeros who is at her level. In fact, she never marries and has a series of lovers because she knows men ain’t shit and if she got married all the men in the room would want him to be king – just because he has a dick.