Stark Raving Mad? Some thoughts on Sansa Stark.

An article where I point out that Sansa Stark might just be the hero we don’t want, but the hero we need. Or something. Spoilers if you haven’t read the books/caught up with the show.

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A while ago, I posted this silly article on Junkee. In it, I refer to Sansa Stark dying from a never ending menstrual cycle, because my referential comedy is of the highest standard. There was one comment which I haven’t been able to stop thinking about as I (finally) got enough time to watch the new season. It was this:

“Funny but i gotta say, the hatred and dismissal of sansa stark is really grating. Out of all the awful humans in GOT people hate sansa, because shes a teenage girl with *ew* periods and stuff.”

To begin with, at no point did I mean for that to be an attack on Sansa – if I had to look for some kind of source for my lame jokes, I’d say I was particularly tickled by Cersei’s constant need to remind Sansa she was bleeding from the crotch, particularly in that battle scene. I mean, c’mon, it’s the girls first period, do you really need the Queen bringing it up in public situations constantly? And personally I find Sansa one of the more fascinating characters – in the books there is this very much the tension of discovering if she really has renounced her Stark background. She’s lost her wolf – has she lost her honour too?

In the show however, things are a bit more cut and dry. Yes, she was a brat at the beginning of the show, but you know, also preteen. Did people on the internet really still carry the hate for her? Turns out that yes, Sansa is widely hated, and another comment on the article pointed out, it’s because she’s ‘so insipid’. What got me is that a lot of the people keeping the Sansa hatred flame alive aren’t your run of the mill sexist wankmaesters, but actually some intelligent, well informed types. I mean, there’s a bunch of that too. You don’t see nearly as much venom towards Samwell Tarly, who is actually a character who does insipid things. He is cowardly. But he’ll find his courage and save the day, blah blah blah, classic trope. People expect that, and wait for it to happen. Why don’t they let Sansa have that chance too?

Where does this supposed insipidity in Sansa Stark come from? Because from my point of view, it simply doesn’t exist. Let’s have a look at some of the POV characters which Sansa has to measure up against: Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth and Daenerys Stormborn. One of the things I love about this show is that there are these kickass female characters. That scene where Brienne roundly thumps Jamie Lannister? Actually had me pumping the air. Daenerys begins the show sold as a sweetener for her brothers imperial ambitions – but is so kickass she ends up leading an army and melting said brothers face off. But we have to remember that in this world, this is not the norm. Women do not hold the same power as men.  Cersei is perhaps the most stunning treatise on this – she constantly questions the fact that her power must be authenticated by her attachment to powerful men. She may not be a particularly likable person, but in reality she deserves the throne just as much as those other rich psychopaths, who had the luck of being born as penis wielders. Instead she can only hold the throne  for her husband or her son.

Sansa is barely more than a child, held hostage in the camp of the people who murdered her father. Ostensibly, in this show she has the least power of all. Even Jamie Lannister, in manacles, is in less constant danger than her. Every day that she manages to stay alive and not raped and murdered by the tiny evil king on the throne or any of the hundreds of powerful men around her is a victory for her. So is she insipid?

In my opinion, I think we hate seeing her in this position. I think it is seat-squirmingly uncomfortable to see an intelligent woman being as powerless as she is, not even having the liberty to speak her mind, let alone go where she wants to. I hope we find it abhorrent the amount she is beaten up by Joffrey and his knights. I think on some level we don’t want to have a powerless woman character. Do we wish she could draw a sword like Arya or Brienne? Yes. But she’s not a warrior. Or plot her way out? Perhaps. Or give birth to some dragons. But that  isn’t her. She has no skills or bargaining tools. She’s powerless, but not insipid. She’s naive. She may not even be particularly brave yet – but maybe that’s what’s in store for her. I know some of the things that lie in wait for her from the books, but even those aren’t finished. Sansa is a character nowhere near finished.

So while ethically I’d love for Sansa to stand up to Joffrey, maybe in a knife fight on a bridge, I also respect the internal realism of the show. She doesn’t have that opportunity. She didn’t get the chance to escape like Arya. She has to stay in the castle of sociopaths and be brave in different ways. So hate her situation, but don’t hate her.

Days of our Lives is ending: Sands through the glower-glass.

Waging a brilliant campaign to lose even the most entrenched of its viewers, Channel Nine has dropped Days of Our Lives. On air for forty-six years, DOOL as it’s affectionately known by nobody at all, seemed to be as permanent a fixture for Channel Nine as corporate corruption.

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 If you’re not a pensioner, pregnant person or one of the serially unemployed, this news probably means very little to you. You’re probably saying ‘Why do I care about television sitcoms, I get all the melodramatic drama I need from Labor politics’ which you should stop saying immediately. But what a lot of people don’t know is that ‘Days’ as my grandmother called it, is one of the greatest cultural artefacts this world, nay, galaxy has ever seen.

Created in 1965 in a world with more soap operas than Mozarts bath (what?) , Days of Our Lives swiftly proved itself to be a different animal than many of its counterparts, which were often excessively soppy and nostalgic, if not moralistic and uptight. By the 1970s the show had spearheaded many TV firsts, such as depicting an interracial marriage, or a couple undergoing artificial insemination. More recently the show was the first soap to feature a homosexual relationship. The show featured the usual tropes of soap operas – vast sprees of weddings and funerals, and children of unknown parentage – children who were always ‘upstairs’ until they suddenly emerged fully grown as dramatic teenage heartthrobs. Close camera angles on reaction shots and the narrowed eyes that signified scheming. It kicked off the trend of power couples years before Ross and Rachel, with entire magazines being dedicated to the latest twist of Bo and Hope, Mike and Margo and “Roman” and Diana (hint – it was actually the dastardly John Black). It also had Tom Horton who lost his memory in Korea and came back and romanced his younger sister, but eww.

But by far the most wonderful thing this show ever did was hire my personal hero James E. Reilly. When I started watching in the 1990s, I was a sickly school child staying at home with my grandmother. As I helped her shuck peas, I was exposed to the startlingly insane story-lines of this television maverick.

As I was still deeply in my formative stages, I can only theorise what effect watching the evil, eye-patched Vivian bury Carly Manning miles underground in a coffin, before taunting her for weeks through an elaborate set of speakers. I think I’m probably fine, but then again, I really love daytime television soaps.

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This lady was a recovering alcoholic and was murdered by being bludgeoned over the head with a wine bottle, seriously. That is some deep ass irony.

 The characters of DOOL, already prone to hyperbole were extended by Reilly into a strange hyper-level of genius. Evil mastermind Stefano, who had a habit of abducting the townspeople of Salem (the locale of DOOL) and hiding them on his secret island Melas (Salem backward) and brainwashing them for… reasons. In fact Stefano is all about the brainwashing, and tends to resort to it for reasons of business, personal and recreational nature. It’s almost like he was brainwashed into believing brainwashing is a valid coping mechanism. Somehow, and not even the internet can really enlighten me as to how, his brainwashing caused the ‘Salem Stalker’ to come about, a terrifying serial killer who was adorably termed ‘Jake the Ripper.’

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“Brainwashing” – Stefano DiMeras

 At one point, Reilly orchestrated a story so complex and so brilliant, that the actress Eileen Davidson, who played the role of Stefano’s brainwashed daughter, played not only her character of Kristen Blake, but also four other Kristen Blake lookalikes – including a nun and a man who may have been meant to be her brother. Every single one of these characters at one point pretended to be Kristen Blake, which was plausible, being played by the same actress. Plausible yet confusing. This plot resolved itself by Kristen trapping all her lookalikes on an island. But which one escaped? A decade’s worth of storyline eventually revealed it to be Susan Black, who wasn’t the nun unfortunately. Eileen Davidson won a Daytime Emmy for her masterful attempt at playing herself five times.

 But none of this – none of it at all – compares to storyline of Marlena Evans, who is still in the show to this day (although possibly living in the mountains). Marlena was the vanguard of the coma chic that swept through television in the eighties/nineties like a somnolent wave. She’s been brainwashed, amnesiacal  and stalked more times than she’s had jaunty perms, and at one point Stefano locked her in a golden cage underneath Paris, which was remarkably like Moulin Rouge, but without the songs or Nicole Kidman, thus making it better than Moulin Rouge.

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 And in 1996 she was also possessed by the devil. My illness by this point was basically gone, and motions were being made to return me to school. But there was absolutely no way I could miss the exorcism attempt by John Black, who by the way, woke up from a car accident coma and decided to be a priest, but had also raised two children with Marlena – or perhaps that was his twin brother Roman? I cannot be bothered to verify this, because this article needs to be written sometime before the sun explodes. By various methods, including slapping myself in the face so hard that I looked like I had a temperature, I managed to get myself another day eating kippers with gran. And thank God I did. Because that day, at the climax of the Marlena possession storyline, she turns up to a charity fundraiser and summons a swarm of bees on the guests.

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 This moment, beyond any work of literature, film or music, is what inspires me to write. I like to think before this I might have gone into architecture or medicine.

 James E. Reilly was eventually unfulfilled by the limitations of DOOL, which I can only imagine involved him pitching a story where the town time-travels into the heart of the sun and opens a casino for dinosaurs made out of pants – and it being summarily rejected. In retaliation he created the TV show Passions, which revolved around another town named Salem, but starred a 300 year old witch named Tabitha and her talking doll. After DOOL suffered terribly in ratings, he was asked to come back as head writer and given carte blanche to do whatever he goddamn wanted, before he died of a heart attack in 2008 – the same year Passions was cancelled.

 It’s entirely likely that Days of Our Lives will be picked up by a cable company, much as its sister-soap Young and The Restless was by Foxtel. There it can continue its trend of starting the career of many of our most beloved actors – such as Supernatural star Jensen Eckles.

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Amazingly, he played a demon hunter on DOOL too.

 But I like to think that in the style true to its form, the day after Days of Our Lives disappears from Channel Nine, a new TV show will take its place – which looks eerily familiar. It will have on an eyepatch, and claim to remember nothing – nothing at all. And its name will be something like Trays of Our Wives or maybe Lays of Our Drives. And behind it all was Stefano, brainwashing the show into the future.

Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards – Written Word

Hi folks, so I know I spend a lot of time spruiking various things, like my plays and publications – but I have another thing. I’ve entered SOYA in the written word capacity. If I win, I get $5000 in Qantas flights. This is actually amazing timing, because lately I’ve been planning on writing a novel, which is very much in the style of this blog, and it requires a whole bunch of travel for research. Hence this award would be spectacular. And if you’ve ever wanted to read a whole novel worth of crap by me, this would help you too!

It would be pretty much balls-out fantastic if could you go to my profile: http://www.soya.com.au/entrant/patricklenton/ and like some stuff and share it around. It apparently helps if you do that? Thank you so much.

Your fellow motorist.

 

It would mean so much to me my heart would burst out of my chest and spray you in gratitude.

It would mean so much to me my heart would burst out of my chest and spray you in gratitude.

To the Frighthouse

This is  story I read at Penguin Plays Rough at the State Library earlier in the year. PPR do the most innovative and fun events in the literary world. You should give them your first borns.

To the Frighthouse

The lighthouse squatted over steep cliffs like a drunk woman in high-heels peeing in a gutter. Years of high winds and crashing waves had shattered the once proud architecture, until it looked like nothing more than an old cupcake. Thick mist curled around the grounds, obscuring the horizon and seeping into the lawn. Walking through the fog was like being licked by a giant ethereal tongue. Somewhere in the distance echoed the call of ravens suddenly taking flight.

A lesser man might sprout goosebumps like a fertile box of cress. A weaker man might feel that squirming sensation deep in his gut, like a tiny cat was trying to get comfortable in his stomach, but which was actually fear. But not I – for if there’s one thing a writer of the genre of horror can withstand, it is the puny emotion known as fear. If fear was fire, then I would be a fireman, able to stride through the roaring flames, chuckling madly and rescuing fistfuls of babies, completely immune to the burning heat. As a horror writer, I would routinely face terror unfathomable to others, and also knew enough to identify the tropes and cliches with ease.

Which is why I have chosen to write my next book – ‘Night of the Living Sled’ about an innocent sled ride which swiftly becomes less innocent – in an abandoned lighthouse in Maine, USA. I’ve found myself able to save bucketloads of money by taking my writing vacations in places that others, who are not lords of the chill, would go mad simply to behold. So as the storm clouds roll in over the foreboding architecture, and lightning flashes illuminate the tracks of giant dogs and velociraptors, I only laugh. Because it’s nothing that I don’t automatically expect. I even think I see, for a split second, a pale woman’s face staring out of one of the top windows. Amateurs.

Later that night, I am writing by the light of the open fire. ‘“There’s no such thing as a cursed sled” screamed Molly, the chambermaid, blood streaming from her eyes and pooling in her frilly little apron and staining her feather duster.’ I dipped my quill into my inkpot, and finished the line. “Oh really” rasped Grandpa Jonathan, the racist ex-banker. “Have you ever seen a little film called… Citizen Kane?”’ I am interrupted by  a rapping at the window. I open the door to discover a dripping wet elderly gentleman, covered in a large raincloak. Thunder cracks and in the distance a wolf howls.

‘Boy, ye must leave this place, for ye are in grave danger.’

I sigh, and identify him. ‘You must be the caretaker.’

‘Nay, boy. I am the caretaker, and let me tell ye, this place is host to a spirit malevolent and      spiteful, that has plagued humanity since -’

‘The dawn of time’ I suggest, cleaning my glasses with my cravat.

‘Nay, the 1970′s.’

I fixed the caretaker with a stare, and packed my pipe with more tobacco. The old man had skin like an unfashionable leather purse, and stringy grey hair like the pubic thatch of Beelzebub himself. He lifted a shaky arm and scratched at his neck with his hook for a hand.

‘The old hook for a hand’ I chuckled. ‘Classic caretaker.’

‘I’ve got two!’ the man exclaimed, brandishing his other hook wildly.

‘Tis why I don’t use an umbrella.’

‘So what’s the story. Indian burial ground, terrible murders? Are you a ghost? You’re the ghost, aren’t you.’ I started prodding him in the face, his skin as dry as the inner sole of a shoe.

‘I am not a ghost’ the caretaker said, somewhat sullenly.

‘Well, prod me then.’ I told him.

‘What?’ he answered, slowly.

‘Prod me, and then we’ll know that neither of us are ghosts. It’s called the Shyamalan Protocol.’

Reluctantly the old man prodded me, and I gave him a satisfied nod. None of us were ghosts. Although, I was now bleeding, thanks to being prodded by a hook-handed monstrosity.

‘If ye really want to learn the truth, ye must follow me into the basement. But I warn ye, everyone else who has even gone into the basement has…’

I finished his sentence. ‘Died horribly? Gone mad?’

‘Gotten wet shoes. The plumbing is none too sturdy. You tool.’ he mumbled the last part, and I asked him to repeat what he had said.

‘Uhh, I simply said – you fool!’ and chuckled malevolently as we descended into the bowels of the lighthouse.

The basement was indeed uncomfortably wet, and apart from hosting a mixed family of raccoons and cats, there was nothing strange about it. That is until the caretaker opened up yet another set of stairs.

‘Another basement?’

‘Yes, this basement has a basement!’ and cackled wildly. ‘Spooky’ I said glumly, starting to recognise there was a little more to this place than the same old tropes and idioms that I was used to.

Holding up a flickering lantern which barely illuminated the mould covered walls, the caretaker began speaking in a long monotone.

‘They say that one night the devil came here and gave birth to a dog, aye, but not just any dog, a devil dog from Hades with glowing eyes and a preternatural ability to do sudoku puzzles. Did he do them well? Nay, but better than most dogs. And others say that something, something unknowable crawled from out of the ocean and nested in the roots of this lighthouse, and now it’s working on Mitt Romney’s campaign staff, and yet others claim that this is the lighthouse where Virginia Woolf wrote her story ‘To the Lighthouse’, yet the original title was ‘To the Frighthouse’ and in the end of that manuscript someone got stabbed all up in the vagina, but then the editors changed it.  Oh aye, they say a lot about this place. They have a lot of opinions.’

In the third basement of the basement, we ran smack into a group of teenagers and a dog.

‘Let me guess, you guys are here solving mysteries?’

The youths, a lot skinnier, tattooed and pierced than the Original Scooby-Doo gang, gave each other shifty looks, until one said.

‘Umm, yeah.’

The caretaker was trying to pat the dog, a mangy German Shepherd with bloodshot eyes and tattered ears.

‘Old man – I probably wouldn’t pat Scooby over there, he looks fairly rabid.’

‘Not to worry’ said the old man, through a locked, frothing jaw. ‘I’ve got me own rabies to worry about.’

‘So, kids, what’s your verdict. Is there really a ghost, or is it just old Mr Jenkins in a monster mask?’ I asked.

‘Umm, dude, have you got any meth?’

I was starting to think they weren’t mystery solvers at all, unless the mystery was how much meth they could take. And I was also starting to feel… uneasy. There was something about this entire situation that didn’t quite add up. Was there mystery and suspense? Yes. But the clues were more baffling than illuminating. Sometimes I regretted this foray into the realm of horror – my first book had actually been some Australian Literature, a novel called ‘Secret Rural Family Town’. It was a prize winning tale about a young man who seeks to understand the meaninglessness of it all but instead finds out a series of secrets about his family and the small town that he finds so suffocating. But then I was drummed out of the lucrative Aust. Lit market by Peter Carey in a violent fistfight in a small Melbourne pub. David Malouf gambled on the fight and won fifty dollars as a result. Ever since then i’d been forced to earn my coin in the world of spooky thrills.

‘Through this door, master, lies the answers that you seek. The dark shadow that lies over this lighthouse.’

I hesitated, mind racing furiously like an angry horse. Now was the climax, the twist at the heart of every ghost story. What could possibly be beyond the door that I wouldn’t be prepared for in some way. The ghost of a tiny girl, banging her fathers dismembered head against the door of a car. Or something more literary, perhaps, like the ghost of my own humility, which takes the form of Jim Belushi from either Ghost Busters or Blues Brothers, or a strange mashup film called ‘Ghost Brothers.’

I pushed open the door, and discovered a tableau that I will never forget until my dying day. At a table, playing a robust game of Dungeons and Dragons, was Stephen King. He was rolling a handful of dice and staring down a forlorn looking George R.R. Martin. Terry Pratchett was making margarita’s. Stephen King looked surprised at my entrance, and then shamed. He scuffed his foot against the floor, looked me in the eye and said ‘Happy Halloween.’

'Wooooooooo' - Stephen King

‘Wooooooooo’ – Stephen King

I looked back at him and said ‘It’s not Halloween, Stephen King. Halloween was last week.’

10 Potential Spinoff Shows from ‘Game of Thrones’

I’ve decided that since Game of Thrones is the best show ever, HBO has to capitalise on its success and create a spree of spinoffs from the same world. Here is my pitch to them. Now I just have to wait for the money to come rolling in.

 1. How I met your Mother of Dragons

Fun and sassy sitcom about Daenerys Stormborn, living in New York and falling in and out of love. Jorah Mormont played by Neil Patrick Harris.

 2. Jon Snow’s Feelings for Snow

Jon Snow solves murders in the cold wastes beyond The Wall.

3. Melisandre’s Puppy Rescue

Because the night is dark and full of terriers.

 4.  Seventh Devan

Davos Seaworth’s second youngest son struggles to raise a respectably R’hllor fearing family. “I don’t care if it’s senior prom, you’ll join your mother and I in burning the icons of false faiths!”

5. Suddenly Cersei

Life’s tough for a gal in the big city – especially when her hunky twin brother is in town!

 6. Stark House

A more Dickensian Winterfell, with bleak servants and starving orphans. Hodor is just sad, instead of comic relief.

7. Ramsay Bolton’s Kitchen Nightmares

Roose Bolton’s legitimised bastard son helps failing restaurants survive via methods which mostly include flaying.

8. Seaworth Change

Davos Seaworth leaves behind the cut-throat world of monarchist politics and becomes Sigrid Thornton in a small town. Will he discover love with the hunky and mysterious Diver Dan?

9. Lysa Arryn’s Aerie Tales

Settle down for a night of spooky tales in the eeriest aerie in Westeros,  told by a crazy woman breast-feeding her preteen son.

 10.  Two and Halfman

Tyrion Lannister, Charlie Sheen and a pack of barbarians would actually be a fairly amazing show.

“Nobody Wants You” – my talk to undergrad creative writers

I spoke on a panel at my old university yesterday, which was officially titled ‘Life After Uni’ and unofficially ‘Negotiating the Black Hole’. It was to the current creative writing students. I was really excited about this, immediately intrigued to see whether I could collate all my writing experiences into one cohesive message. Would it be a message of hope, or perhaps a kind of blighted subterranean bell driving the townsfolk mad? We were asked to present a list of everything we’ve done and the challenges overcome and where we are now, with vaguely a five minute time limit. After that it would be opened to the audience to ask questions.

The more I thought about this, the more concerned I was that my writing had no message. I was too sporadic, being a playwright at one point, a literary editor, some short stories, poetry boyband member, that time I pitched a film about an octopus to Rian Johnson – what the hell did it all mean? So in typical me style, I completely over-prepared. I was adding notes on the train down. None of the other panellists even had notes.So what I ended up doing was speaking for way too long about the things I’d done – derailing my own conversation with funny anecdotes about hotels in Tasmania, which I cackled over, before I ran out of time and had to move on to the next speaker (which was entirely fair as I’d gone WAYYYY overtime). All the other panellists were funny and informative, but I’d felt there was no real cohesion to what I’d said, there was no lesson. It sounded just like I’d read my resume.

'AND NOW I WILL READ MY ENTIRE LINKEDIN PAGE, FOLLOWED BY SOME STORIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD. PS - IF YOU WRITE FOR A LIVING, YOU WILL DIE ALONE AND UNHAPPY. Peace out.

‘AND NOW I WILL READ MY ENTIRE LINKEDIN PAGE, FOLLOWED BY SOME STORIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD. PS – IF YOU WRITE FOR A LIVING, YOU WILL DIE ALONE AND UNHAPPY. Peace out.

I did have a message buried in there, which was that I didn’t feel qualified to give advice, because everything I’ve done has been like a particularly haphazard experiment. And at this stage I can point out certain things that definitely have worked, and some things that look like they might be working and some things that I hope do work. But I’m still in the middle of the experiment, so writing up my science report and handing it in would be premature. I suppose it doesn’t end until I’m dead. But, in writing terms, I suppose I can give some advice to young writers  on good places to start the grand writing experiment, which I didn’t really feel like I got to do.

When it came to questions, I only had the time/opportunity to give two bits of advice. The first was write for or edit the uni newspaper, because that always looks good for any writing position later on and will give you actual skills. Then I insulted that paper, talking about how when I was there it looked like a cross between a kidnappers ransom note and a Lenin retrospective. (I picked up a current copy and it looks really good now btw – not to mention there was some dudes excellent butt on the cover).

Then, as closing remarks, we were asked to give one piece of advice. I was torn between something generic like ‘don’t isolate yourself, get out there and make friends and contacts’ or something more philosophical.

What I went with was something along the lines of ‘Just remember – nobody wants you. You’re doing something that nobody in the world actually needs. It’s often useless and frivolous.’

This wasn’t meant to be a barrage of ill-placed ‘real talk’. I still remember my alcoholic lecturer coming in and telling us ‘nobody would be successful ever’. What I was trying to remove is the concept of entitlement. Far too many writers believe they are being hard done by, because it’s a very difficult craft and industry. But the industry owes you nothing – so you have to work hard to make your place. Think outside the box, be professional, be organised. If your plays aren’t being produced, produce them yourself, if you think there should be a walrus themed poetry night, organise it. You can’t rely on favours – but if you are out there making yourself known, opportunities might come up, things might happen.

It was meant to be an inspiring kick up the ass, and to move away from the chic helplessness a lot of failed writers cultivate. But as per usual, I fucked up my word hole.  So now I’m writing it. Because writing is awesome and is a much more efficient medium to impose information on others. And as for some kind of cohesive message from my writing practice? Nothing except for possibly ‘I enjoy doing it still’.