Feminism

How Does the Internet Feel About Shae? (Game of Thrones Spoilers!)

FYI, this post will spoil yesterday’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Laws of Gods and Men.”

Oh, poor Tyrion. He stands falsely accused of murdering his vile nephew Joffrey, and he’s now on trial as the Crown introduces “witness” after “witness” sealing his fate. There are, of course, several people (Cersei included) who can testify to how much Tyrion openly and vocally despised Joffrey, and the Maester (long Tyrion’s enemy) mentions that Tyrion took his poisons, but the truly damning testimony comes courtesy of two supposed allies who unexpectedly turn into enemies.

First up is Varys, the Master of Whispers who has spent the previous seasons aiding Tyrion, providing cover for him to see his girlfriend, Shae. Varys purposely takes quotations out of context in order to make it sound as though Tyrion directly threatened Joffrey. He also suggests that Tyrion was “sympathetic to the Northern cause.”

And then there’s the whammy: Shae herself, the lover who previously experienced what appeared to be a genuinely loving and happy relationship with Tyrion, which went downhill when Tyrion tried to send her away for her own safety. She refused, and Tyrion pulled a Harry and the Hendersons by telling her she was nothing more than a whore to him. He then sent her to a ship, accompanied by his faithful (!) sellsword companion Bronn. Bronn reported to Tyrion that Shae boarded the ship safely and left Westeros (an obvious lie and a third betrayal).

Shae takes the stand and lies, straight up painting Tyrion as a monster and saying that he plotted to murder Joffrey as a way to woo his wife Sansa. She’s clearly angry on the stand, referring to the fact that Tyrion sent her away as nothing more than a whore. It’s unclear whether she was also under any threat from Cersei or Tywin to testify but she looks very nervous and it stands to reason that she knows how dangerous the Lannisters are and would probably have chosen to just leave town had she had the option.

Having read the books, I knew this was coming (or at least, I was fairly confident it was coming – Shae’s character is very different in the books, so her plot could have been changed). I also knew that the Internet’s reaction was coming, and I knew it wouldn’t be pretty. The betrayal of all those characters, and Shae in particular, is shocking and upsetting. I wonder how people will react on social media?

Oh:

https://twitter.com/Parresiasta_PT/status/465679017426042880

https://twitter.com/kawanprather/status/465675210927382528 (It appears the user has deleted this one, but it linked to an instagram photo stating that Chris Brown was right. I’ll try to find an archived image. It was at http://instagram.com/p/n4SbtXNcgb/)

https://twitter.com/jack_nas/status/465669735867092992

https://twitter.com/LikeMance_/status/465669759636631552

Here’s one that goes a step further to attack the actress who plays Shae (Sibel Kekilli, who once worked in pornography):

Now let’s be clear: fuck Show-Shae. Seriously. Not because of what she did at the trial, but because it all happened due to her turning jealous of Sansa, which is frankly ridiculous. (I won’t address Book Shae here, but let it be known that I don’t think her character is necessarily better, there. Just different.)

Shae is a woman with zero options who rose up from being a common camp follower to a royal handmaiden and consort to the King’s Hand in, like, a few months. There is no way that a woman who has lived Shae’s life would suddenly get jealous because her lover is forced into a marriage with a child who hates him, just like everyone in the Seven Kingdoms is constantly forced into marriages. That shit is a fact of Westerosi life.

But once we accept the fact that the writers made her into a jealous girlfriend trope ages ago, her actions at the trial make absolutely perfect sense. From her perspective, the man she loved turned on her and called her a whore and told her to leave forever, and on the way to the ship, she was apparently kidnapped by the most powerful people in Westeros and forced to testify. Would a smart woman in that position suddenly do the heroic thing and sacrifice her own life for the man who spurned her so coldly? No – a smart woman would do what she’s told and get the hell out of town as soon as possible. And Shae is a smart woman – those are the only sort of women who get along in the Game of Thrones world.

So anyway, that’s my mild defense of Shae as a bit of a chaser to the raging misogyny. Feel free to discuss her character and what is sure to be an ongoing and ever-strengthening anti-Shae hate fest. But (on that note), please, book readers, don’t spoil further than this episode for the non-readers!

Also feel free to talk about how Peter Dinklage is the greatest actor on that show and he fucking nailed it.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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24 Comments

  1. I never really got very invested in BookShae, maybe because of the limited POV the book employs. So her “betrayal” of Tyrion, while shocking and sad, never really emotionally hit me in any way.

    The TV show is so different though. They’ve so humanized so many characters (Tywin, amirite?!) that it’s hard not to empathize with their plights. Yeah, Shae’s betrayal is a real kick in the teeth emotionally, but it’s understandable. What did they think was going to happen when Tywin said “have her brought to my tower?” Like you said, what she’s doing is the only thing that makes sense now. I just feel terrible for both her and Tyrion, knowing what they had, and knowing what’s going to come very soon.

    And holy crap, Peter Dinklage’s “here is the moment you all finally pushed me over the line” moment was GOLDEN.

  2. Shae was not “kidnapped” she came back to get revenge on Tyrion. She was fucking clean away and she came back, Bronn did not betray him either. That’s all your own conjecture.

    I don’t see how you could have read the books and interpreted the the next few chapters as anything other than Shae getting revenge on Tyrion.

    The show version of Shae is very shallow but they gutted a bunch of characters and the basic plot is still there, just very rushed

    1. OK first of all you seem super angry for some reason, fyi.

      Second of all, you’re suggesting that Show Shae got on a ship, sailed away (that much has to be true for Bronn to have not lied to Tyrion), and then immediately sailed back to King’s Landing where everyone had threatened to kill her, because she heard about Joffrey’s death and Tyrion’s trial and wanted to come make absolutely sure that Cersei managed to convict him? Because….that really makes no sense. Martin’s razor, my friend.

        1. In the show, Tyrion arranges for a ship for her to leave King’s Landing and entrusts Bronn to get her onto it. Bronn returns and looks super suspicious while telling Tyrion she left. Tyrion asks several times if Bronn was followed and instead of answering Bronn tells him to relax. It’s blatantly obvious that Bronn turned her over to Tywin instead of seeing her to the ship as he was meant to.

  3. Alternatively, they could take the show in a different direction from the book – like True Blood – and have a mini plot with Shae getting thrown into the dungeons with Tyrion. There’ll be a few episodes of her trying to fit in, making a few friends with other inmates, dealing with abusive guards, and eventually leading to an escape where she meets up with a fellow prisoner on some quiet back-road of Dorne. All the while narrated by someone sounding a lot like Morgan Freeman.

    It could be called the “Show-Shae Redemption”.

  4. 1. I understand getting emotionally vested in a TV show and the characters therein.
    2. I do not understand tweeting about the character like they’re a real person (almost all those tweets are written in the 2nd person, addressed TO Shae, like she’s going to read them).
    3. Why do people think she had any impact on the actual outcome of Tyrion’s trial? Literally, the scene before showed Tywin and Jaime deciding Tyrion’s sentencing after the foregone decision that he’s guilty. This whole trial was a show meant to scapegoat Tyrion so the public would think the Lannisters care a whit about justice, and then they can drop the whole thing (and be quietly grateful that someone got rid of Joffrey for them). Shae was the icing on the cake, not the deciding factor.

    Tyrion’s reaction to Shae’s testimony tells me that he believed Tywin had forced her into it, not that she had done it of her own accord. If he thought Shae had really turned against him, I think he would have accepted his banishment to the Wall as punishment for how he treated her (because I think he honestly felt guilty about it). Instead, he does the only thing he can to remove Tywin’s power to completely control the outcome – he clearly wants to get back at his father for forcing Shae to testify.

  5. I love how they don’t know that Shae’s betrayal happens in the books too. No, she’s not responsible for what Shae does. (It’s actually pretty difficult. I mean, if we go that way, Tyrion should’ve never fallen in love with a prostitute he hired. It makes their entire relationship complicated because he might fall in love, but she still thinks of it as business.)

    Shae was always kinda flat for me in the books (though I like her more in the TV series). I actually spent much of A Clash of Kings getting her mixed up with Alayaya.

    The point about forced marriages being common in the Seven Kingdoms is an interesting one. Though breaking off an engagement tends to result in…Well, it was the end of House Targaryen, and (as far as most of the Seven Kingdoms is concerned) the end of House Stark. So yeah, she should understand that forced marriages don’t mean Tyrion actually loves Sansa.

  6. Seems to me that Cersei would have offered Shae something in return for her testimony. Shae was long gone by the time the murder happened so she would have had to have been coerced back.

    Of course, considering the philosophy this blog promotes at what odds? If one believes in a universe randomly thrown out into time and space going nowhere meaning nothing and slowly succumbing to entropic heat death, in which human beings are simply random collections of atoms and molecules with no more intrinsic value than the dirt upon which we stand, how can we produce any basis for saying that Shaes actions were objectively morally right or wrong. From her perspective they may have made sense. Like you say she’s a sensible woman, why not betray the man who loved her? If there are no eternal consequences for her actions, and indeed no objective basis NY which we can adjudge the rightness or wrongness of any such actions, why not? And why would the moral codes of human beings be any better than those of the white walkers or something like chimps?

      1. Maybe it was built by the same company that built Discworld? That would explain the violations of not just physics and astronomy, but Geometry OMFSM on page 2 of the 1st book. Just as believable as Andrew’s argument, but with more documentary evidence.

    1. The argument you’re making here is the moral argument from divinity. You obviously haven’t thought this all the way through, or looked up other people thinking it all the way through, because the moral argument from divinity leads to a tautology (“God is God”) that ultimately says nothing whatsoever about morality.

      What I’m saying is that your argument is nonsense, and no educated theologian attempts to use it because it’s nonsense. I don’t really know that it’s a good idea for you to come onto a skeptical blog and advance an argument that even apologists don’t try to use.

  7. Sorry if this is a repeat of someone else’s comment (didn’t read very thoroughly) but Tywin Lanister seems to be someone that wouldn’t put all his eggs in one basket. It’s possible that he used Shae by promising Tyrion be sent to the wall if she testified against him, and then hinted that if she didn’t, he’d be found guilty anyway and he’d be killed. That way, if Jaime doesn’t come with his offer, he still has a chance at continuing the line (I know the Knight’s watch can’t father heirs, but since he doesn’t care about Jaime’s oath, why would he care about Tyrion’s forced oath to the Knight’s Watch?)

    That’s a big stretch, though. There’s nothing in the show that hints at that (I don’t read the books) and I don’t know that they’ll spend time backfilling plot and explaining her testimony. But, if it helps those that love Shae, that could be our secret reason she wasn’t awful.

  8. I think it’s certainly in the realm of possibility that Bronn saw her to the ship and was unaware she was brought back off, or she was grabbed en route or even upon arrival. Cercsei is a very determined character with the resources of a Lannister, so she could’ve had an eye on Shae’s happening and whereabouts before Joffrey got killed.

  9. I hated her in the books (and felt really well when it was finally justified) but her annoying, whiny show portrayal just amplified that. This whole jealousy bullshit was boring and all her scenes made me cringe. I can’t wait for episode 10.

  10. I’ve struggled with Shae all along because of the deviations from the book, the jealous girlfriend act that indeed makes no sense, and the fact that the actress playing her is one of the show’s few weak links. In trying to make her more sympathetic than in the book, it seems like the showrunners just threw everything at the wall and nothing really stuck. She turned down the money and escape that Varys offered, demonstrating that she did truly care for Tyrion. She also seems to have cared about Sansa (she told Roz she would die for Sansa, when Roz warned her about Littlefinger), and she’s betraying her too. I never understood why Tyrion didn’t just say, “Look, my father will TORTURE AND KILL YOU if he finds out, so please let me get you out of here,” as it seems like Shae really needed it spelled out.

    I will be interested to see what Bronn had to do with it. It was obvious to me from his shiftiness that Shae didn’t get on that boat. But like Shae, Bronn is a much more prominent character in the show, and actually very likeable.

    1. Bronn was likable in the books. Shae was pretty much a blank slate. I think the show writers are just not very good at creating characters that aren’t tropes. Talisa Maegyr was the same. They created a character, and she was a boring trope.

  11. Now let’s be clear: fuck Show-Shae. Seriously. Not because of what she did at the trial, but because it all happened due to her turning jealous of Sansa, which is frankly ridiculous.

    Yeah, I place this one squarely on the show-writers who wrote themselves into a corner when they changed Shae’s character. This was bloody preposterous.

    I am sad but not surprised at Twitter’s reaction. There are some people out there who are just… eugh. I’m glad you’re calling them out on it.

  12. I’m not confident that your assumption about how Shae ended up back in Kings Landing (via kidnappings on the way to the ship, with Bronn lying – either to cover up his failure to protect her or as because he’s part of the plan to capture her)

    There are a couple details that militate against your interpretation:
    1. It’s inconsistent with Bronn’s behavior. Bronn’s not exactly loyal; but he knows what side of his bread is buttered and he shows every sign of genuinely liking Tyrion (witness the way he held Tyrion after imprisonment, even though doing so gains him nothing and potentially undermines Cersei’s plotting against Tyrion). Also, he knows Tyron well enough to know that Tyrion’s promise to double any bribe someone posts Bronn to betray Tyrion is as good as gold (unless that someone is Tywin – the source of Tyrion’s gold – but I’ll address that shortly).
    2. On the issue of Tywin: Bronn is probably savvy enough to know that Tyrion can’t out bid his father, so he’d probably betray Tyrion if Tywin was the one doing the bribing. Keep in mind, though; as much as Tywin hates Tyrion, he had no reason to act against him until the purple wedding (also no reason to be subtle about it, even if he chose to act against Tyrion). Tyrion sent Shae off with Bronn BEFORE the purple wedding.

    Cersei would certainly have reason to intercept Shae before the people wedding; but Bronn would be unlikely to bet on her over Tyrion at that point – he’s witnessed how successful Tyrion has been against Cersei, up to that point.

    3. ‘No one enters or leaves the city’. You recall Tywin’s order the moment Joffrey died? It’s quite likely that all ships headed out of the bay would be intercepted and searched as part of this lock down.

    4. Cersei’s gift. Remember the ship Cersei asks Oberan to give Marcella? She says something about it being built by the finest shipwrights; but that could simply be cover. It seems quite Cersei-like to give the ship whose apprehension was the lynch pin in her take down of Tyrion to the daughter who Tyrion had taken from her and sent off to be a hostage (on another ship). Also, it smells of foreshadowing.

    Just something to consider.

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