Dude Acts Like a Lady (and Vice Versa)

12:32 PM

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Several weeks ago I blogged about masculinities and Hegemonic order in Westeros. I would like to take up a bit of space in my corner of the interweb and continue to talk about gender and how gendered paradigms operate in George R. R. Martin's universe. This week our class watched Season 3, Episodes 4-6 and I could not help but take notes on the incessant fainting of Jaime Lannister. These "faintings" are revealed to the viewer starting in the opening minutes of 4.4 with other instances of the same to appear through the following episodes. Through looking at these particular scenes and examining how they play into the overarching plot between Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth, I am hoping to demonstrate the degree of fluidity/flexibility between their dynamic gendered roles. There is a certain ebb and flow in their relationship that suggests that strength, emotion, heroism, or vulnerability (just to name a few) are not traits that inherently or  solely exist within any specific sex but, rather, all of these traits are possible within either sex in Martin's universe.

The representation of these traits within both sexes is very Butleresque* and these subversive acts seem to align with Butler's theories on gender performativity**. Butler states in Gender Trouble that "gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being" (Butler 43). The "masculine" acts of both Brienne and Jaime seem to align with this structure. We only understand Jaime and Brienne's acts to be masculine (or feminine) because of the way in which society has ensured our understanding of these acts to be masculine (belonging to men) or feminine (belonging to women), but Brienne and Jaime subvert these ideas.

In the opening scene of episode four (which takes place in the day(s) following Jaime's loss of his hand), we are introduced to a weaker Jaime. He is noticeably unsteady on his horse and eventually falls to the ground as Brienne of Tarth begs the Bolton bannermen to assist him.

This weakness along with Brienne's assertiveness in scenes with Jamie relegates him to a role more aligned with the maiden in need of saving. Later in this same episode, Brienne even calls Jaime out as he complains about the situation in which they currently find themselves. She says that he "sound[s] like a bloody woman" ("And Now His Watch is Ended"). Now I will admit that I stated earlier that gendered traits do not belong to one sex or another in Martin's universe and Brienne is certainly making a comment that seems to suggest otherwise. However, I would like to draw a line in the sand and say that there is a big difference between social understanding of gendered traits and actual practice. Although the characters in the series believe, similarly to our own society, that certain traits belong to men and women, several characters' lived experiences negate these social stereotypes (Brienne, Arya, and Ygritte are all shining examples that go against these gendered stereotypes).

But back to Jaime...In the following episodes Jaime continues to display similar behaviors. He first falls to his knees in relief after Roose Bolton reveals that Cersei survived the Battle at Blackwater Bay. Later in this same episode, Jaime and Brienne are in a bath with one another. Both of the characters are naked (signaling their vulnerability) and Jaime reveals his side of the story regarding his slaying of the Mad King. He is emotional in this scene and between the emotional weight and, perhaps, the affect of his injury, faints in the tub. Brienne catches him in much the same way a knight might catch a fainting maiden. The way in which the shot was framed is quite similar to other depictions of fainting maidens who are caught by men.

This relationship between Jaime and Brienne clearly demonstrates a flip (and a flop) on the usual script of romantic entanglements. Interestingly, this dynamic between Jaime and Brienne becomes a mutual cycle in which each party takes turns becoming the savior and the saved, meaning that these two become something of a true equal pairing. 

Of course prior to Jaime's weak depictions and being saved by Brienne, he saves her from being raped by Roose Bolton's men, lying to Locke by telling him that Brienne is the daughter of a wealthy father in Tarth and that the land that she is from is known for their abundance of sapphires; a treasure that he assures Locke will be his if Brienne's honor remains in tact. And although I will not give away any significant spoilers, I know that Jaime will, in the context of this particular relationship, be taking on the savior role again in the coming episodes.

This cycle of gendered role exchange between Jaime and Brienne, in my eyes, demonstrates that Martin's universe is much more progressive in terms of gender relations than it may first appear. Men and Women alike are capable of subverting gender through performance. Although the characters in the show understand the world to have certain gender expectations based on sex, there are several characters that demonstrate the fluidity of this paradigm by "doing gender" (even if it is the gender that is not aligned with their sex).

*In reference to renowned gender scholar Judith Butler
**Butler proposed that gender is something that we "do" and not something that comes from within.

Works Cited:
"And Now His Watch is Ended."Game of Thrones: Season 3. Writ. David Denioff & D.B. Weiss. Dir. Alex Graves. HBO, 2013. Xfinity On Demand. 21 April 2013.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1999. E-book.

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  1. I think it's a great depiction of how well relationships can work when we realize that all people have moments of strength and weakness, and both feminine and masculine traits. It's hard for me to say that gender fluidity should always happen in equal parts (it would be a tough sell to claim that every person is equal in traits that society defines as "feminine" or "masculine"). However, the portrayal of this relationship does a great job of slashing expectations of who should save/aid who in any given situation.

  2. House Lorch, that was a fascinating analysis of gender roles in this set of episodes. In particular, I like how you discussed the example of Jaime fainting and Brienne catching him like how a man would catch a falling maiden. I look forward to the upcoming events of Brienne and Jaime that you hinted at.

  3. I really enjoyed this analysis of Jaime and Brienne's relationship and gender fluidity. I recall being surprised by Brienne's comment about Jaime sounding "like a bloody woman" but after reading your blog, it makes sense.

  4. You're certainly right that the bathing scene is loaded. As happens so many times in Martinverse, I think it pairs with the cave pool that initiates the Jon/Ygritte affair. So much as I agree that Jaime is the swooner and Brienne the dominant in this scene, there is also a sexual undercurrent to it--that striking shot where she is angered and stands up naked in front of him seems to disarm him in some way. Brienne brings out things in him that Cersei does not--the emotional vulnerability, the verbal aggression, the competition. I wonder if his inability to have an authentic sexual coupling with her is another aspect of his crippling--which is caused both by his incestuous past as well as his symbolic castration with the loss of the hand. The scene you are hinting at in episode 27 is the purest example of a knight rescuing a damsel in distress in the entire series, but it only happens after she has rescued him both physically and emotionally.

  5. I have to agree with everyone that has posted before me. Jamie and Brienne have an interesting dynamic that can only be expressed by them because they are both proud of who they are and they are both knights in the realm. I think that if they were to have met under different circumstances, their relationship would be very different and it would have changed the course of the show.

  6. Back at it again with great analyses of gender roles and masculinity. I really disliked Brienne’s comment to Jaime about acting like a woman. I find Brienne to be so empowering and wish that should would look at her gender as something to be proud of. I like the gender role reversal between Brienne and Jaime so much.

  7. Speaking of woman in Game of Thrones there is talk that season 6 is going to be the "season of the female characters". Do you think this is because there has been backlash of the portrayal of women in the series or just something they are doing at their own choosing? I tend to think the former is the largest reason behind the decision but the optimistic side of me says that they now have a better chance to focus on these characters because they are branching out from the books.


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