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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Buckle Buckle Swash Swash

Meet Gwendoline Christie, Your Maid of Tarth

If you don’t know Song of Ice And Fire (better known to the mainstream as Game of Thrones), like I do, you might not be that interested in Brienne Tarth, but here’s why I am suddenly interested in her:

Brienne Tarth is the only daughter and heiress of Lord Selwyn Tarth of Evenfall Hall; she had three siblings, none of which survived childhood. Larger and stronger than most men, Brienne is a skilled warrior and longs to be a knight. She has an awkward personality, but is also honest and stubborn. She holds a naïvely idealized notion of knighthood despite the insults she receives from many knights, who call her “Brienne the Beauty” to mock her ugliness.

So, yeah, I have a weak spot for not-overtly-sexualized skilled fighting women with giant swords.

George R.R. Martin had this to say about Gwendoline Christie‘s casting when he announced it last night:

This was another one of those cases where there was hardly any debate. The day the first batch of auditions went up for the role, we looked at a dozen actresses who were reading for Brienne and one actress who WAS Brienne. Gwendoline gave a great reading, and her look was just perfect. No, when she auditioned, she did not look she does in the photo above. She came in looking… well, like Brienne.

As a writer interested in creating female characters who can perform the same narrative roles (like the Guide, for example; the Young Sidekick; or Papa Wolf) as male characters, I’m very aware that one of the easiest ways to do it is to remove her sexuality, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to make her unattractive (and not in the Hollywood Homely sense, either). It’s a technique that is problematic, to say the least, but when I read and watch current media, it’s one I am willing to put up with, until our culture grows up a bit and the majority of our female action heroes aren’t either boobtacular or infantilized. Or both.

Bring on Brienne!

(via Super Punch.)

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  • Komiyan

    Anyone know how tall she is? I’m tempted to say she’s almost too pretty, but I think that photo is her all fancied-up, in some battered armour she’ll look about right. 

  • Leslie Golson Weinberg

    she is apparently 6’3″.

  • Komiyan

    Awesome, definite approval. 

  • Ceili

    Problem with Brienne (and as I mentioned in the article yesterday) is that GRRM takes it almost -too- far. There’s constant mentions of how ugly she is and how no man could ever want to be with her and how Jaime practically flinches at the sight of her and how sorry Catelyn is for her appearance and blah, blah, blah.

    Would it have killed GRRM to make an attractive lady knight? When I first found out that one of the Rainbow Guard was female I was all “FUCK YEAH”, I love lady knights to death (as I said yesterday, again, I do main a paladin after all XD). Sadly, she tipped the scales in one direction as much as Loras tipped them in the other and seems to serve as little more than a joke to many characters (though I do love her).

    I just wish she could be an attractive character -and- a lady knight. 

  • Donna Dickens

    I always believed that Brienne is SUBJECTIVELY ugly. Like, in the context of the civilization that she lives in. She’s blond and freckled and if she’d been shorter or slender or not as broad through the shoulders, she’d have been more attractive to the people who’s eyes we see her through. Even when in Brienne’s perspective, everything about her appearance is based on how other people perceive her. She’s got no objective way of knowing if she’s attractive or not.

    I always thought Brienne was an attractive lady knight that no one could see because she bucked too many narrowly accepted paths for women in Westeros.

  • Komiyan

    I was fine with her being nonpretty, since most other women in that series are described as beautiful, but the constant ramming it down our throats got really super tiresome. Here’s Brienne! Did you hear she’s ugly? So ugly! Here is Jaime think she’s ugly. Really ugly. Like a cow. Ugly. 

  • Alex Lee

    I always read that, though, as them foisting off their insecurities on
    her. In a world where men are considered to be more important because
    they are stronger, braver, etc., Brienne manages to hold her own, and
    then some.

    She’s strong, she’s brave, she acts knightly, she’s stubborn, she’s resourceful, and I could go on and on. So
    what’s the one thing left for people to take digs at? Her appearance.
    And I especially thought it was relevant from Jaime, as he was trying to
    wrestle first with being imprisoned and later the loss of his hand.

  • Ceili

    Well, yes, that. Honestly I’d be fine with her being average to plain, it really is the constant reminders that are most irritating. 

  • Amanda

    Jaime may go on and on about how hideous she is, but he and others note that her eyes are beautiful and she still gets a rise out of the lads (IF YA KNOW WHAT I MEAN, which you do, and also is the least spoilery way I can phrase that). That said, it’s an important part of her character that she’s ugly.  like, Walder Frey’s children levels of unattractive. GOD FORBID a woman’s value is in her stalwart courage or physical strength or prowess with a sword.

    To be honest, I think this may turn out to be a real missed opportunity to disprove the entertainment industry conceit that a prerequisite for being talented or castable is being thin and pretty. Here’s a character who is universally described as being sorely unattractive, uncomfortable with her femininity, manish and awkward and thick, and they cast someone who at worst can be described as ‘not conventionally beautiful”. Yes, she’s very, very, very tall. She’s also very, very shapely. Brienne is described as being bulky and square and thickset, and that’s… FINE, that’s Brienne and I’m okay with it.

    ASOIAF has a sexy lady knight in it, and it’s Dacey Mormont, for all the good that did her.

    I just, eh. I’m sure she’s a good actress, and I’m sure they’ll ugly her up like crazy, but this casting comes as a disappointment to me.

  • daphne ries jalique

    She’s 6’3”.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. And we see her through Catelyn’s eyes, so our view of her is obstructed by Catelyn’s thoughts, which are basically “motherhood motherhood I have babies motherhood oh no, this poor girl is too ugly to be a mother, like me, because I’m a mother, and I have children exceptJonSnowfuckthatguy.” 

  • Arielle Sorkinator

    I hope they bulk her up like mad. Time to hit the gym, girly.

  • Bella

    I can only speculate, but I think the reason GRRM goes overboard with his description of Brienne as “ugly” is to take her out of the realm of being sexually objectified.  That way, people could really see that her skills & talents as a knight earned her place on the Rainbowguard, and not her appearance.  It’s one of the few merit-based appointments for a woman in the entire book. 

    So, it’s important to see Brienne in that light.  Ironically, Brienne is still seen as a sexual object to be used & discarded by the Bloody Mummers.  Interestingly, Jaime’s being turned off by her looks in the beginning allows him to gain a grudging respect for her as a knight and as a person of honor.  So, ultimately, it looks like Jaime’s respect for Brienne will develop into a genuine affection for her.  That sword fight they had in “A Storm of Swords” was thinly-veiled foreplay, IMO.  :-)

  • Sulinna Ong

    I’ve always imagined Miranda Hart in my mind’s eye as Brienne whilst reading the books.

  • Jen

    You have to remember though that we’re always seeing things through other characters’ point of view, and Brienne is very self-conscious about her appearance. She’s always been told she’s a freak so she thinks of herself that way, and it’s constantly on her mind when she interacts with others. She’s kind of like Tyrion in that respect.

  • Patricia Luke

    I don’t get why everyone keeps insisting she’s not that attractive. I don’t know what anyone else saw in Jaime’s eyes in that bath scene with her, but what I saw was first surprise then attraction. Brienne is “one hell of a woman”. I haven’t read beyond the third book but am now inclined to do so to see if anything ever happens between her and Jaime because she has fast become one of my top three favorite characters.