The Stark Girls Are Just Surviving

Sansa's sexy descent down that staircase in Game of Thrones' eighth episode in Season 4 "The Mountain and The Viper," nearly rivaled Rachael Leigh Cook's in She's All That (or hell, Chyler Leigh's in Not Another Teen Movie): a teenage girl suddenly morphs into a sexual siren, much to the chagrin of one of the only men in her life (let's not count reclusive Robin). But Sansa Stark's got something going for her that makes her starkly (pun not intended) different from Laney Boggs or Janey Briggs in their late '90s frivolity — I mean, besides the fact that her descent down the stairs was not accompanied by "Kiss Me." Her transformation is a mode of survival. In fact, both she and her literally-laughing-in-the-face of death sister Arya, are exemplary of the fact that in Game of Thrones, women make grave transformations in order to survive. And what prompts the necessity to survive? Fear.

It's Darwinism, really — survival of the fittest. What must one do and sacrifice in order to survive the game of thrones, in which you live or die? Given the imminent and very real fear of death for the Stark girls, with their father's beheading firmly planted in their memories, they've both gone down pretty grim tracks in order to live.

Let's look at Sansa and Arya. When we met the two girls, they were impressionable and had their whole lives ahead of them — they even had Winterfell, direwolves, you name it — the Starks had it goin' on. They didn't even have their periods yet! Sure, Sansa had her Are You There, Seven Gods? It's Me, Sansa moment, but Arya hasn't yet (as far as we know of — who knows how she and her ever-Beckett like dialogue with The Hound would dissect that one). But after witnessing Ned's death, Arya began her journey to become a desensitized killer, and Sansa, via torture in King's Landing and pretty much everywhere else goes, has gone on to latch onto a man whom she likely fears, but needs to trust because he's her only semi-alliance. That sexy walk down the stairs in her new revealing outfit? It's a sick, twisted coming of age, and it's born out of fear. She's not having a strong sexual coming-of-age, she's having an odd, jilted ascent into her womanhood, thanks to all of the trouble she's managed to survive in both King's Landing and The Eyrie.

Similarly, as badass of a character as Arya may be, that girl is in a mode of survival, so brutalized by what's she's seen that hearing her supposedly only-living relative is dead sends her into a show-stopping moment of uproarious laughter. Her throat-stabbing ways make us applaud (nothing had me cheering louder than when Arya slit Polliver's), but c'mon — it's her survival tactic.

The moves these women make are not parts of the feminist argument. And if in the game of thrones, you live or you die, then a large number of moves will be made out of the fear of death. These sacrifices and survival tactics these women have used are then just their ways of playing the game of thrones, whether they want to or not. For these two girls, it's a matter of necessity, not a matter of choice, which thereby negates the whole feminist argument — both girls were thrust into their fates, adapting as they had to.

While the two Stark girls have made very different choices in order to survive, they still aren't choosing their moves in order to be strong, they're choosing them in order to simply stay alive in this game.

Image: HBO