What 'GoT' Fans Are Getting Wrong About Sansa

Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

What does Sansa Stark have to do to earn Game of Thrones fans' respect? Please tell me. I truly don't understand the hate, and I want to know why. Morality is not even grey on Game of Thrones; it's some kind of fictional color that only exists in Westeros. But for some reason, the eldest daughter of Ned Stark cannot catch a break when it comes to her actions. I'm not just talking about her unlucky parade of fiancés, either. Sansa's actions are overly criticized on Game of Thrones, and I for one am beyond over it — especially since Arya is praised for what Sansa is hated for.

The first scene of Season 7 showed Sansa's sister Arya slaughtering 90 percent of House Frey without the blink of an eye, and the fan reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I had multiple friends on Twitter promising to name their daughters after this little mass murderer. "Arya's Vicious Revenge Shows Why She's The Best Stark," wrote Hollywood Life. Vulture called it the best opening scene. Hooray for rash decisions — because that's never ended badly for a member of House Stark.

Then Sansa entered a reasonable debate with fandom golden boy Jon Snow, braided her hair like Cersei Lannister, and fans were all too quick to predict Sansa's turn to the dark side. Why does this always happen? Buzzfeed warned us that even her necklace is cause for concern. TV Guide published an open letter declaring to Sansa that "You're Better Than This."

I'm not saying that Sansa is perfect and should not be criticized, and I'm not pitting Arya and Sansa against each other. I certainly don't think that the show is doing that. Sansa and Jon's conflict is balanced; they both make good points, and the consequences of Arya's extreme character arc are starting to show. And all too often they make the same choices, but only one is punished by fans. Both girls rejected Brienne of Tarth the first time they met her.

I just don't understand the reactions, from male and female fans alike. I don't see why we allow some characters to be ruthless, take risks, or strategize in unexpected ways, but not others.

If I hadn't been hearing this and feeling like I had to defend Sansa for years, this probably wouldn't bother me. Fans have criticized Sansa since the very beginning of Season 1, when she was just a prepubescent girl given the chance to go to a big city and marry a prince. She was wrong not to turn on Joffrey, her king and betrothed (even though she was a preteen with little say in the matter). She was wrong to fantasize about marrying Loras Tyrell (even though there was nothing wrong with that). She was wrong not to tell Jon about the Knights of the Vale (even though she literally saved him). I've heard it all.

Ever since then, she has grown wiser, quietly observing her surroundings, stayed alive against all odds, and learning to play the game. She has earned our encouragement far more than our criticism. So Sansa is more of a strategist and a survivor than a murderer — what's wrong with that? Caution is healthy, especially in Westeros. And her hair doesn't mean she's turning evil. And if it does, then y'all should praise that like you praise Arya. I'm not here for the double standards.

To me it reeks (sorry not sorry, Theon) of misogyny, internalized or otherwise. Not to go all Gone Girl on you, but I'm sick of being told to idolize characters who are "not like other girls." Sansa Stark is exactly like other girls, and that means she's strong as hell. So check your hate at the door.