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You know nothing Jon Snow

Game of Thrones Fans Say Gwendoline Christie Is Too Pretty For Brienne, Rose Leslie Not Ygritte Enough


Oh, fandom. 

Entertainment Weekly is doing 15 days of Game of Thrones coverage and they started with two of our favorite ladies - Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne on the show, and Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte.

EW harkened back to when Christie was first cast in the role. Brienne is a character described as tall, muscular, and all around unattractive in George R.R. Martin’s books and many thought the actress didn’t fit the bill. EW related her thoughts on that:

“All my life, all I’ve ever wanted is for people to say — first of all — I’m pretty. But ‘too pretty’? Is amazing,” she says. “I also loved that they said, ‘Who’s this model?’ I only ever wanted to be a model. This acting thing — three years of drama school — is an accident! I was like, ‘Wow, they think I’m a model?’ I didn’t mind it at all. I knew all the things I wanted to do to become the part. I’ve always been able to look very different very easily.”

The 6′ 3″ actress also spoke with New Zealand’s Stuff about training to play Brienne. She apparently took up kickboxing, quit drinking, lost weight and put it back on in muscle. ”What I think is so brilliant about this show is that it takes an outsider and an archetype which isn’t often seen – the extremely tall woman who has strength that can match that of her male counterparts – and explores that,” she said, also adding, “I’ve been taught how to break a man’s nose with my elbow.”

Of course fans don’t seem to have any complaints now that they’ve seen Christie in action. Leslie, on the other hand, has faced a different challenge – not being Ygritte enough when meeting fans. Her character’s catchphrase: “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” is what’s tripping her up. Fans often ask her to say it when they meet her in person. She told EW:

The only annoying part of the whole business, she says, is that fans tend to be disappointed by her delivery. “I use a different voice — I put on an accent on the show — so when I say ‘You know nothing, Jon Snow’ in my own voice you get a furrowed brow from fans and they’re like, ‘That doesn’t sound like Ygritte.’ And then I got to go into [her character's] accent and do it and it’s a really long boring process for the fan and I’m sure they walk away wishing they hadn’t asked me because it’s such a kerfuffle.”

“Women in Game of Thrones have a harder job because they’re existing within a man’s world,” Christie told Stuff. Looks like it’s the same for GoT actresses as well.

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  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Ms Christie is too pretty for Brienne, certainly. How do I know this? Because George R.R. Martin beats the reader over the head with how ugly Brienne is in the prose. Every five minutes with her it seems some reference is made to her being ugly (and she gets no prettier over the course of the book). But I think Ms Christie has the role down perfectly.

    As for Rose/Ygritte? I don’t know. I think she’s perfect, and having read the books after seeing her, I still think she’s perfect as Ygritte. You know nothin’, Game of Thrones fans.

  • http://www.facebook.com/curtis.owings Curtis Owings

    I took a bit of personal flak for suggesting that Martin, as well as any author dealing with fantasy *fiction*, couldn’t tell stories with all the same force while not making every medieval world so hostile to women… sure historically it is accurate, but it’s *fantasy*. There were no dragons or demon assassins either so why not lose the awful male stereotyping that all “strong” men will treat women like crap. Why does this feature have to be permanent in fiction?

  • Anonymous

    Sure, it’s a problem when it’s in bad taste or exploitative, but Martin is actually making statements about misogyny, female empowerment, and gender roles. For every example of a female being oppressed in his story there is an example of a female finding her power. And more importantly, the depiction of female empowerment in the series isn’t as black and white as you would make it out to appear. There are some cultures within the world where women are as powerful (or more so) than men, and some cultures where they are less powerful.

  • Anonymous

    I always thought the description of Brienne was because she didn’t adhere to lady standards (long pretty hair, manners, delicate nature, gorgeous dresses, corset) and that was why she was deemed ugly. Her being unlady-like was what caused the description. I think Christie fits that role perfectly. She had enough character to grow into for the audience to eventually grow fond of and attracted to her.

    I was expecting Leslie to be considerably less attractive as Ygritte, though, but I think she’s quite awesome in her role.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Brienne’s appearance certainly was relevant in that aspect, as where women are expected to be dutiful, beautiful and every other -ful you can think of, here’s Brienne who is tall, clumsy, flat-chested, etc. That’s not to say that Martin didn’t overplay it in the book at times – it got pretty boring being reminded that she’s ugly.

    But I do think Ms Christie does a great job as Brienne, and I hope she continues to.

  • Laszlo

    If you think it’s played straight and there for some kind of meaningless historical accuracy, you’re wrong. I think the books and series both make it pretty clear that this stuff is there to be commented on and tell stories with. And I think it does it pretty well.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    No, there are several instances, like when she bathes with Jaime, where her outsized teeth, lack of breasts, and thick muscular body are commented on as well, marking her beyond unfeminine into ugly. She talks about how she tried to be girly, it just never worked.

  • Anonymous

    They are both too pretty. They put some makeup on Gwendoline to rough her up, but she is not the hideous gargoyle GRRM describes. Not even close. Ygritte is supposed to be attractive, but I doubt she’d be as gorgeous north of the wall, with perfectly plucked eyebrows and nice clean, flowing hair. Same goes for Jon. But It’s TV. Everyone is prettier on TV. Even Tyrion’s scar was toned way down.

  • http://www.thenerdybird.com/ Jill Pantozzi

    But ugliness, just like prettiness, is subjective.

  • Anonymous

    I find it interesting that fans are complaining about the actress who plays Brienne, especially since I’ve had the same thoughts about Peter Tyrion is supposed to be way uglier than he’s shown in the TV show.

  • John Wao

    Why stop there? I say Peter Dinklage is too handsome to play Tyrion.

  • Anonymous

    Aside from the outsized teeth (not sure what that’s supposed to mean), those are all qualities that I’ve seen men on Reddit remark as being attractive qualities. Again, I’d argue that her being unfeminine is more accurate way to describe her than being straight up ugly. She is definitely butch, that much I will concede to.

  • Me

    Everyone says that, even George has said that Peter is way too handsome and also a bit too tall.

  • Jezzer

    They should cut off his nose THIS INSTANT.

  • Clueless Morgan

    The only actress I thought was seriously miscast in GOT is the actress the have for Asha/Yara Greyjoy. Not even in the same league as how I pictured her from the book. It was seriously grating for my wife and I when she first appeared.

  • Anonymous

    I would make the argument, though, that the reason her looks keep getting brought up in the series is because she would likely be receiving constant reminders about it from most people she meets. I imagine this is not so different from the experience of people today who are short, overweight, thin, tall, redheaded, muscular, or have any other physical feature that our cultures deem “unusual” or even “undesirable.” From a narrative perspective, Martin is only driving home the point that Brienne, for all her great qualities, cannot escape the impact of the male (and oftentimes female) gaze. How people see you affects how they treat you.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Absolutely, it’s no mistake that Catelyn’s first thoughts of Brienne are pity, because she’ll never suceed(in Catelyn’s eyes) by winning a husband and bearing children b/c of how ugly she is.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Men on Reddit are not where I would take my cues from, nut YMMV.

    The books have made it very explicit that Brienne’s appearance goes beyond unfeminine. Lyanna Stark was decidedly unfeminine from descriptions, but is still lauded as a beauty of her day.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Having seen the actress before I met her in the books, I can’t help but picture her now. I think she fits well, can’t wait to see her beefed up storyline this season(the trailers look like we will be doing the kingsmoot this year).

  • Singasong

    Briennes Actress is pretty – totally my type.
    But for me it’s more important that the actors of Brienne and Tyrion can keep up with the characters, fill them with life, and not that they’re looking exactly like I imagined them. Briennes actor is just stunning, so is Tyrions. I could’nt care less if he has a cut off nose or if Brienne is “too pretty”, because they match the characters perfectly.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Certainly. But Ms Christie is, without a doubt, prettier on every level than Brienne was ever intended to be.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Yes, he does make that point and he does remind us that she’s reminded about it.

    But he doesn’t half go on about it himself.

  • Anonymous

    Actually I find Christie to be exceedingly unattractive in her role at Brienne. Maybe that’s where our disconnect comes from as beauty is subjective.

    What does “nut YMMV” mean? :(
    Men of reddit have often made me happy and made me sad with their expressions of what beauty is and is not. Their opinions all vary and my husband wouldn’t agree with them even half of the time. I just used them as data pool as to point out the qualities that GRRM has deemed unattractive have been deemed attractive by others. I would agree with what Greg_G’s analysis is below.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Because for some reason, sexism (and racism and homophobia and trans* erasure and ableism and-) needs to be the same in every ‘fantasy’ story.

    The dragons and magic and ogres and alternate dimensions, though?

    Acceptable leaps from reality.

    Every time.

  • Laszlo

    I don’t think that’s true. My experience with medieval fantasy is mostly from games, not literature, but there’s rarely any in-universe sexism in those. In like Elder Scrolls games, the older D&D games, etc., nobody really seems to care about characters’ gender, except when it comes to romance.
    Of course, in practice, there often is, like how guards were all male in Elder Scrolls games before Skyrim, while that one has that infamous quest, but I think these come from plain laziness or insensitivity, rather than some kind of sense of historical accuracy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    I don’t think they’re simply criticizing Martin, though, but aiming a critique at the genre as a whole-how it tends to keep a lot of the bigoted shit from our every day world, even though it has literally no limits. It could subvert or avert these things any time it wants to (a world where sexism doesn’t exist, or homosexuality is viewed as normal and acceptable, etc) and so many writers consistently…don’t do this.

    One of the few places people can escape the pain of the everyday is through books, and yet fantasy is consistently keeping a lot of that pain for no other reason than it’s ‘realistic’.

    Even though it’s fiction.

    It’s not just a critique of ‘why’, so much as ‘why always always ALWAYS’.

  • Anonymous

    Another reason why I’m ok with the constant reminders is thanks to that whole Rue casting kerfuffle in the Hunger Games movie, where there was all that backlash at a black actress being cast as a character that many people saw as white, despite the author describing Rue’s brown skin several times throughout the book. People tend to overlook certain details, or even transpose ones they find more appealing, in order to conform a story or a character more to their liking. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a story that spanned thousands of pages, people forgot many details about certain characters. I can see fans of Brienne wanting to make her more attractive and “traditionally” feminine in order to better see themselves as her, or to better picture her as an object of desire. However, this wouldn’t fit with the struggles that Brienne has to deal with because of her lack of conformity to traditional feminine standards. And sometimes authors are subject to the practical demands of their medium. Though that doesn’t necessarily explain the excessive descriptions of food…

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    This is a very good point. The author may very well be trying to prevent people from erasing a very noticeable struggle in order to make the character more ‘palatable’.

    I’m hearkening to the (current) kerfuffle with the Nina Simone film biopic being made, and how angry people are that Zoe Saldana is being cast to represent her. Saldana, a thin, relatively light-skinned, straight-haired mixed black/latina actress who conforms to a lot of mainstream beauty standards, representing a heavy, dark-skinned black woman who was always perceived as being ‘particularly ugly’.

    People are amazing.

  • Anonymous

    No one has ever complained that Tyrion isn’t ugly enough on the TV show though the books went to great length about that too.

    Edit: Oops someone DID say it in these very comments! My bad

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Seriously. She looks like a sweet girl-next-door type.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    “and she gets no prettier over the course of the book”

    What, were you expecting a makeover chapter?

  • Anonymous

    Both of them are talented actresses, especially Ms. Christie, and I think complaints about her looks make little sense – there’s a limited number of 6’3” skilled female actresses in the world, so I’m satisfied that they found one at all. (Same concept as Peter Dinklage being “too old and not ugly enough”, but to a lesser degree.) And whatever she looks like in real life, she doesn’t look greatly attractive when she plays Brienne – I suspect it comes down to giving people unflattering haircuts. Granted her Brienne isn’t hideous either; but again, ref. to Dinklage, who still possesses a nose.

    I don’t think Rose Leslie looks like Ygritte – her appearance and demeanour as the character don’t have the edge of toughness to them that I would expect from a willing – but likely that’s mostly my disappointment that they couldn’t find an actress with Merida hair, which is closer to how I imagined her.

  • Anonymous

    What does “nut YMMV” mean? :(

    “but your mileage may vary” plus typo, I would guess. Internet-speak for “opinions differ”.

  • http://twitter.com/nivenus Arthur O. Niven

    Well, Christie kind of *is* too pretty to play Brienne, but it doesn’t bother me too much. After all, Dinklage is *way* too good-looking to play the explicitly ugly Tyrion, but hey, he does his job (exceptionally) well so I let it pass. The same goes for Christie as Brienne.

  • Anonymous

    It’s integral to the story GRRM is telling that Westeros is a crappy place to be. It’s not just women – it’s also dwarfs, cripples, bastards, and anyone who doesn’t fit into the roles that society tells them to adopt. After Ned’s death, practically every remaining narrator was a member of some kind of excluded or oppressed group. (My main complaint is that we don’t have any major non-aristocracy narrator yet – there’s been some discussion of class in Brienne’s chapter, but not from a first-person perspective.)

    If you’re going to tell the story of the oppressed, oppressed people are going to exist. There are works of fiction to which your complaint applies well, where discrimination against women is retained out of habit even if it serves no narrative purpose, but A Song of Ice and Fire is not one of them. You’re asking that the story remove what it’s about.

    Also, on another matter, for quite a while good fantasy stories for women (and, especially, for girls) were considered to be ones that showed girls overcoming discrimination. The fact that some of our preferences have changed to fantasy fiction not including discrimination in order to show that it isn’t a necessary part of societies doesn’t mean that people who wrote in the former vein were wrong. They were being feminist, just in a different way.

  • Michail Velichansky

    Not ALWAYS always… there are writers working really hard to create fantasy where this isn’t true, eg. N. K. Jemison, Jenn Reese (granted, fantasy disguised as sf), Rachel Swirsky. A lot of writers in kidlit (your pre-teen and YA books, that is) are trying to do fantasy that is more diverse and less assumptive of sexist or racist tropes.

    Not saying it’s not an issue, it totally is, and Martin (for all that I am obsessed with the books) is an example of it. But it’s not unnoticed, and people are working to do better. They just haven’t blown up the way Martin has.

    This is not disagreement. This is me saying “agreed, but have hope!”

  • Lady Viridis

    On the other hand, Peter Dinklage is considerably more attractive than Tyrion is described in the books, and yet no one seems to complain about him.

    A lot of the actors and actresses in the show didn’t necessarily match the image of them I had in my head, but once I’ve seen them act, I’ve never had any cause to complain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Oh, you’re absolutely right. There are exceptions to this. You have to do a little digging, but they’re out there. One of my favorite fantasy series is Through Wolf’s Eyes, set in a medieval-like world, but has a lot of women in positions of power and influence, alongside a female lead and a well-rounded cast.

    Another one I love is the Crossroads series, in which the majority of the characters are people of color (they hearken to southeast asians) and white people are the minority. And, thankfully, it doesn’t try to pull the ‘now white people are oppressed’ or ‘white people are special’ portrayal-they’re just a minority.

    You and I are pretty much in the same boat-I love Game of Thrones too, and the only reason it’s getting all this criticism/attention is because it’s, one, just another example of a tired fantasy trend, and two, it’s super popular.

    I do wonder, though: do you think young adult novels are more diverse than ones aimed at adults? I actually thought they had a bigger problem with representation.

  • http://twitter.com/zaewen Zaewen

    Same with Ser Jorah Mormont, he’s a far handsomer man than he is in the books.

  • http://twitter.com/BeholdTheHair Mitch

    So very agreed. No offense to Gemma Whelan, of course; I’ve seen nothing thus far to convince me she’s a poor actress, she just *really* doesn’t fit the image of Asha as conveyed in the books. At the very least, she needs to die her hair black and cut it to pixie length.

  • Life Lessons

    As a tall and big girl I know exactly how Ms. Christie feels!! Enjoy it and go you!!!! Oh and you should be considered for Wonder Woman. :)

  • Danie

    Oh man. TV Ser Jorah flat out does it for me.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Yes, of course I was. (No, I wasn’t. It’s a reference to events in the later books)

  • http://twitter.com/keewa Oliver Kealey

    You’re aware that most of the descriptors of Brienne we get are from the eyes of Jaime Lannister right? The prettiest pretty boy ever there was? The one who compares every woman to Cersei, constantly described as one of the most attractive/perfect women in the Kingdoms?
    He’s biased as all hell before his heel/face turn. For all we know Brienne might have one chipped tooth and he’d point it out every chance he got.
    The other descriptors we get are from Brienne herself, who is hardly the most body confident of the characters in Game of Thrones either.
    You guys (Brienne’s too pretty crowd) need to bone up on Unreliable Narrators, especially in POV oriented works.

  • http://twitter.com/Piquerish Piquerish

    I find both of them perfectly suited for their series roles. If we are to adhere to each jot and tittle of the novels, we’d be in a different series altogether now, and one that would take seventeen years to complete. They are marvelous actresses and I’m glad they are there. Valar Morghulis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shelley.french.7 Shelley French

    Gwendoline Christie is amazing as Brienne of Tarth… I can’t quite get over it, nor the adorable relationship between her and the (once-hated-but-still-finding-it-difficult-to-like-due-to-him-pushing-Bran-out-of-the-window) Jaime Lannister… it makes for VERY engaging viewing.. and I never want it to end! I have a total girl crush on her.

  • Anonymous

    At the same time, Ygritte would not be described as pretty by anyone, north or south of the wall, with her round face, pug nose and crooked teeth (let me know when any of this is something you’d use to describe Rose Leslie) and Jon still thinks of her as beautiful.
    And when it came to casting Brienne, they were arguably more limited in their choices than when they were casting Ygritte (all that was pretty much required for Ygritte was a red wig/dye). They needed a freakishly tall woman who could put on muscles and most of all be all that and do the part justice, and she does so I’m fine with it.

    Worst of it all is… the “fans” who are so preoccupied by how “pretty” these actresses are, are not male fans. That’s kinda depressing.

  • Anastasia Nemcova

    Christie is perfect as Brienne because she brings the traits associated with masculinity such as physical power but she is clearly all woman. Leslie is also perfect as Ygritte because without the glamour make up the other actresses get to wear she’s rough looking just like in the book, true she doesn’t have a round pug face but she does have a long one with a large chin which works if you’re doing “ugly” and she has a cocky, almost lipless smile with crooked teeth which fits Ygritte well. Jon Snow is actually far more beautiful than she is if you look at them together.

  • Anastasia Nemcova

    I thought that too but it all changed when she vowed to rescue her little brother, I loved her in that moment and now I would be angry if they swapped the actress. I don’t give a damn about her hair, I just got over it.