“Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the cool girl.”
- Amy Elliott Dunne, Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Girls aren’t supposed to be good at getting revenge, and we aren’t even supposed to want it. You know, hide your crazy and start acting like a lady, keep it together even when you fall apart. Something that’s cruelly, stupidly ironic to me is the condescension and derision of “unattractive” female emotions in so-called feminist circles and in this particular case, anger and vengeance and the desire for power, in other words, traditionally masculine sentiments. It’s acceptable and even lauded if we’re weaponizing our femininity with pointy heels and bright red lipstick and winged eyeliner, or performing our anger, the embodiment of self-righteous indignance, but god forbid we express opinions that make people uncomfortable or actually challenge the complacent.
“Holy water cannot help you now/A Thousand armies couldn’t keep me out/I don’t want your money/I don’t want your crown/See I’ve come to burn your kingdom down.”
Game of Thrones has many flaws* as does its source material, A Song of Ice and Fire, but one aspect of society it gets right is the pervasive effect the patriarchy has on the psyches of the women subjected to it. “Seven Devils” scores the trailer for the second season of the series and it’s foreboding to say the least. You’ve got Daenerys Targaryen, a prime example of what happens when you demean, sexually abuse, and emotionally manipulate a young woman: she comes back livid and she brings dragons. Then you’ve got Arya Stark, another misplaced princess who’s watched her whole family be cut down before her eyes and now is being trained to be a murderous assassin, all by the age of 11. And there’s Cersei Lannister, the rightful queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros who’s all sharp edges and icy fire, a victim of marital rape and abuse for 17 years who lashes out to extremes, not caring who she takes down in the process. (I have a Cersei Lannister funkopop doll because she’s extraordinarily strong and as important a representation of femininity as Sansa Stark or Brienne of Tarth since Cersei’s not a bad woman- she’s a bad person. But, she’s absolutely adorable in doll form and her eyebrows are extremely on point. Check it out.)
I’m aware of the importance of staying calm and controlling our anger in day to day situations and of upholding the moral high ground as much as possible but at the same time, it gives me visceral satisfaction to see righteous anger portrayed as an entirely valid expression of womanhood. Good women aren’t supposed to be righteously angry and bitter about what they’ve undergone, they’re not supposed to want to hurt others who have hurt them, because they’re supposed to know better. It’s the idea that we’re supposed to be the Daisy Buchanan, the beautiful little fool, with the starched dresses and long hair and the unconditional devotion and acceptance for those who deign to love us because we don’t deserve it by pure virtue of our construction.
“Seven devils all around you/Seven devils in your house/See I was dead when I woke up this morning/I’ll be dead before the day is done”
To repeatedly hammer a blunt nail, I’m awful at hiding my feelings, but I was never good at being pitiable either. The voyeuristic image of the wounded woman, the pretty, ethereal girl languishing in bed, rendered invalid by virtue of her own ugly mind, and therefore easy to stomach for those who prefer that women be silenced in their negativity, wasn’t ever something I could muster. When my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I didn’t stop washing my hair or wearing pretty dresses: I took a heavy mallet and smashed all the porcelain figures he gave me for birthdays and holidays over the years (it was our tradition). Then, I took a purple pen to all the grammar mistakes in the 20-page love letter he wrote me and set the letter on fire, and unceremoniously burned a stray condom I bought when I was 15 in a giggly fit with my best friend. For the record, the chemicals in the latex are rather flammable.
I don’t believe that anger is inherently conducive to progress but it’s definitely something that exists in all of us, and bottling it up to extremes only to have it erupt at the worst possible time is not a practical plan of action. But it’s a sin isn’t it? The seven deadly sins, the seven devils, are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, and wrath is the first and possibly the openly destructive to the fabric of our society. At the end of the day, it’s really hard to be a good person; I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy and I’m decidedly not always successful at it. But it’s important to try to be as honest as we can with the world and that includes taking into account our anger and sorrow and everything that ultimately acts as a setback to being good people. I don’t believe that petulant righteousness serves any real purpose but genuine candor in all its forms is more valuable than anything else. The devil himself lives inside us all, and I’m going to embrace him because it takes far too much out of me to fight his existence.
*(shameless plug, I’m covering Game of Thrones for the Female Gaze in a few weeks so look out for that)