the box of orden

Feminism in Legend of the Seeker: An Analysis

To brief, this will be a long post, so sit back and get ready.

Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. The theory of the political, economical and social equality of the sexes.

This is the definition of feminism, and what will be explored is not just women’s rights, but the equality depicted between men and women, and how empowering both are.

 Legend of the Seeker does something rarely executed well, especially in the context of a fantasy tv series, it creates a female empowering, feminist friendly show WITHOUT using a big flashing sign saying ‘here is your feminism, now stop complaining’. It is also one of the rare examples of an equally gendered society, specifically in fantasy fiction, where most fantasy set in a medieval European society undertakes the general rules of history, with rape, war, misogyny and un-empowered women. Legend of the Seeker, however, shows us a generally equal society where women are just as badass, powerful, educated and respected as men.

Small examples and analysis:

Sam Raimi created the show… that’s right the same guy who created Xena: Warrior Princess, a largely badass feminist show from the 90s.

Legend of the Seeker is about the legend of the Seeker, not just the person himself. So, arguably, the show revolves around the Confessor just as much, since she is a part of that legend. You can’t have a Seeker without a Confessor… Maybe without a wizard and a Mord-Sith, but not without a Confessor. I quote “A Seeker cannot travel without a Confessor, and a Confessor cannot travel without a Seeker.” – Zedd in Confession.

Specifically, you cannot have Richard without Kahlan, they complement each other. This is the equality depicted between men and women, right there in the two main characters.

Kahlan and Cara are two completely different women, but they are both empowered, strong and confident and better yet their differences bring them together and they support and care for one another.

The show includes many different female characters, from young to old and all show themselves to be powerful and confident. It’s a society where women own bars and aren’t sexually exploited (Bianca, the tavern keeper in Mirror), they can be prostitutes with actual emotions and stories and without being sexualized (Resurrection) Mothers who act rather than react (Emma, Brigid, Tarrilyn, Martha, the mother in Baneling) There are young girls who dream of an ideal life (Annabelle), there are women who are simply proactive and don’t just stand around (Ana, Verna, Nicci) and finally women in places of power who are respected (the Mother Confessor, the elder of the Minders, the Prelate, Shota, Mord-SIth, Queen Milena, Queen Cora)

Kahlan is powerful, incredibly so, and her power is never diminished, only encouraged. Her presence in the show is never diminished to her beauty, or her kindness.

Nobody ever comments on Kahlan’s physical beauty, or undermines her, or mocks her.

Kahlan is important because she doesn’t stick to any sort of stereotype. She’s not delicate, nor is she crude. She isn’t outspoken nor a pushover. She’s quite nobly empowered. And most important, she’s a hero who has a part in the storyline. Note that in Reckoning, the Boxes of Orden would never have worked if it wasn’t for a Confessor. The Stone of Tears would have been lost forever if it hadn’t been for Kahlan.

Kahlan is just the pragmatic leader who seems to want to do what’s right and save her people from immense suffering. She’s very noble, but in her scenes with Richard, you can specifically see her for someone much more ordinary and down to earth.

Cara gets the best character development, and she never becomes more feminine, or more like Kahlan in order to be heroic. Typically, male characters play the role of tortured, emotionless, brooding anti-hero, it’s nice to see a female character get that.

Cara isn’t defined at all by her sexuality, and she doesn’t play the part of a token gay.

A main character who is unashamedly bisexual. It’s never pointed out. She’s never demonized for her sexuality.

The male protagonist is protected by two women and an old man, and that’s never pointed out mockingly by anyone, because why should it? Who undermines the power of a Mord-Sith, the Mother Confessor and a Wizard of the First Order?

All the characters can individually take care of themselves, no one is the emotional baggage.

Richard is an incredibly brave and strong character, but he is also compassionate, emotional and caring. He is the most emotional of all four main characters, he is seen crying more than the others, he experiences a wide variety of emotions that are more than just rage, bitterness, pride or shock, that is associated with the toxic masculinity of fantasy heroes.

I don’t notice much toxic masculinity in the show. Even the D’Harans aren’t prying on women and solving all their problems through violence.

Richard lacks the common traits of a male protagonist, he’s not aggressive, he wasn’t intimidated by powerful women nor does he belittle those he knows for having emotional and personal issues. The Seeker is a quality character with very likeable traits, and some that are very unconventional. He is kind, compassionate, loving, affectionate, empathetic and in context quite positive.

Typically, the main male hero will harbor amazing, perfect and heroic traits while those around him have the rather interesting and moderately good traits. However, to point it out with Richard and Kahlan, they both have very similar traits but they focus on their opposites. They both harbor historically masculine traits such as; vigor, anger, pragmatism, logic, courage and determination. While also having historically feminine traits such as; compassion, kindness, emotions, empathy and positivity. This ensures that they both are heroic, however, they both lean further to one side in comparison. To reverse typical gender roles, Richard would (arguably) lean toward having more feminine traits such as those listed above, while Kahlan would (again arguably) lean toward having more of the latter masculine traits.

It seems like a comment made by the show that this world, different to ours, has no conventional rule of gender. Women are tough, badass, intelligent and soft, and so are men. There are no double standards.

They are both incredibly competent in leadership and battle. There is no time when the hero has to come and save the ‘incompetent female partner’ who can’t hold her own in a fight, if one of them comes to help, it’s in the sense of companionship, not making one character superior to the other.

Legend of the Seeker doesn’t pit men against women, or try to make a point of men having a higher value in such a medieval fantasy style society. It depicts men and women as being of equal status, and the two working together to overcome adversity and finding strength in one another rather than pitting femininity against masculinity. This the essence of what feminism is.

Cara protects Kahlan less so because Richard ordered her to and more so because Kahlan is important, and Cara cares about her. Cara attempts to comfort Kahlan on numerous occasions, specifically in Dark and Bound, and this is Cara’s attempt at supporting her friend, something she’s never done before. It’s good to see an unconventional friendship of women supporting women that isn’t just stereotypical and bland for the sake of it.

Kahlan and Cara dislike each other in the beginning, and for reasons that don’t make you roll your eyes. Cara murdered Dennee, Kahlan has the ability to destroy Cara with one single touch. Note: their hatred has nothing to do with romance. So often, women in fiction are made to have tension with each other because of men or power. As if, men are all women think about, and only one woman can be empowered at a time. And at no point are the two thrown into any love triangle for the show to milk for drama purposes.

Kahlan and Cara’s tension and feud isn’t used simply for drama purposes, it actually has purpose and is part of their character development. It isn’t used just for the show to put in a ‘cat fight’ to attract viewers and exploit female anger and make it sexy.

Richard and Cara are a platonic friendship where they love each other out of respect not romance. There is no underlying sexual tension whatsoever, they care for one another and believe in each other. Cara’s belief in Richard never falters, and he accepts Cara’s sarcastic, Mord-Sith nature and he understands her. They’re completely different people who do care about each other, and they aren’t teased as a possible romance. Even Cara’s proclamation in Extinction that she loves him is covered by the fact that she isn’t ‘in love’ with him, he’s just the first person to see her as more than a Mord-Sith and to actually care for her.

Other random notes:

No distinct gender roles! Men can cook and women can chop wood and both are totally badass on the battle field.

 Kahlan and Cara are never referred to (by anyone) as sluts, whores or bitches (quite surprising since it’s found in just about every fantasy/medieval show)

Even the antagonist, an awful tyrant respects women, which is a huge change from the books. He doesn’t rape, and he isn’t offended by them in places of power.

Also, sex between Darken Rahl and the Mord-Sith seems more consensual as compared to the rape in the books.

Nobody ever second guesses Kahlan’s legitimacy and power because ‘she’s a woman’.

 No tragic misogyny in society for the female characters to ‘overcome’ to show that they’re badass and powerful, they just are.

There are no blatant ‘women are just as good as men’ comments just to appeal to feminists who watch.

Costumes are ‘sexy’, not sexualized.

Equality in male and female sexualisation and fanservice.

Honestly, not many shows let the male protagonist be sexualized as much as the female characters. He literally has the lowest neckline of them all.

No erasure of sexuality!

Bisexual in the supporting cast! Lesbian Mord-Sith! Gay D’Haran soldier! AND (just to top it off) cross-dressing (not that it’s a sexuality but it deserves a mention)

Zedd dressing up as a woman to save Kahlan’s life and NOBODY judges. And then “it seems you have an admirer” … “Is there any reason why I shouldn’t?”

Cara is very in control and sexually empowered, and she isn’t slut shamed for it.

Also, in that context, Kahlan is a virgin. Is it ever brought up? No, not even in Torn, because it’s a man made construct that demeans women.

NO LOVE TRIANGLES

No killing of LGBT characters for no reason.

No gay characters defined by their sexuality.

Men and women in supportive friendships that believe in one another.

Umm… Richard somehow knows how to deliver a baby??? And he is involved in Dennee’s birth and doesn’t just stand back and look in disgust. 

Nobody ever gives Cara a lecture on being a good person, because they just embrace that she is as she is, and they love her anyway.

GIRLS GO TO SCHOOL! Girls in D’Hara and the Midlands are educated! I love it! 

An entire episode dedicated to showing the main characters greatest fears, and a majority of them are losing the people he loves.

And wow is that… a male/female friendship that isn’t sexually driven, nor survives off them being sarcastically nasty to each other and undermining the other.

Okay but can be talk about Chase’s family!! I love them! And badass mother/wife Emma Brandstone just risking her life for her husband and family instead of sitting idly by while Richard and Kahlan save the day.

Also, the fact that there little kids who are badass (Ren, Rachel) and then older people who are badass (Zedd, Adie, Verna) It just goes to show that in their land you can be badass no matter how old you are.

Isn’t it great seeing the Richard in a difficult situation being rescued by Kahlan and Cara, and then not assuring them he ‘had a handle of the situation’ to protect his fragile masculinity. And when he’s so thankful for Kahlan saving him in Bounty. 

OR when they both get themselves out together in Denna.

And the consensual relationship between Richard and Kahlan can be summed up by the line “I’m sorry I kissed you, I won’t do it again if it upset you.” … when would a man ever?

Look closely at how much attention Richard and Kahlan pay to each other when one talks, they actually listen to and respect each other.

The Mord-Sith aren’t as sexualized as they could have been, especially if the director wanted to truly fulfil some BDSM fantasy.

Richard and Kahlan talk about their feelings (romantic or not) with each other like actual mature adults.

The Sisters of the Light/Dark are badass

Female villains

looks at episode Princess The writers actually did THAT!

I love that throughout the episode they refer to Richard as ‘rescuing’ Kahlan, and then PLOT TWIST Kahlan gets herself out and Cara comes to the rescue and saves her life in the sword fight.

“You must always defer to the opinion of your masculine betters” … “there is no such thing.” STILL ICONIC!

But I love how Richard is uncomfortable about having all the women flirting with him, and ‘slipping garter belts into his pockets’ and leaving invitations for him. It’s a play on how women hate when they get catcalled and men make advances on them. It’s almost weird to see the other way around… a man being lusted after by every woman in a show and finding it uncomfortable. Look what society has done to us.

The obvious ridiculousness that is Rothenburg and how misogynistic it is, seems to be a mock of most period dramas where women are ‘empowered’ but treated like shit anyway.

Torn just mocking the ridiculous drama of love triangles, and then the entire thing being solved by Richard and Kahlan talking about it.

Kahlan and Cara actually have purpose in the show. Kahlan confesses people to help with their quest. Cara repels dangerous magic, and revives important characters who die.

I love how Kahlan and Cara are never referred to, lovingly, as ‘different to other girls’ and that’s why their S.O love them. Like no, they’re badass, and so are other women. 

I love how Richard and Kahlan are more than just ‘lovers’ and they spend 2 years together and they have this precious unbreakable bond through killing d’harans together and saving the world. So much more than your average romance.

Also, Richard and Kahlan are never a ‘thing’, no one ever is like ‘oooh you two in love?’

OH and in Identity, when Griff is like “but you’ve got Kahlan” and then Richard says “Kahlan and I aren’t…” Like, he could have said  “stay away from my lover, we’re almost a thing” (or however he would say it idk) but no, even though he is interested in her, he doesn’t allude to being in a relationship with her. 

 Prostitutes who are portrayed as people!! Whether they enjoy their profession or not, they aren’t used as a scene to appeal as being ‘sexy’ just because it’s a brothel, legit, medieval equivalent to the strip club scene in every modern tv show.

Nicci’s empowering ‘I serve only myself’ remark, as if women need to align with the Creator, the Keeper or the Seeker in order to live their lives.

Just about every female on the show is sexually empowered, none are slaves to any man’s desires.

THAT MAN IN THE TAVERN IN BOUND! He seems like a stereotypical misogynist pig but Nicci seemed in control of the situation and he was actually concerned when she started to bleed.

In Unbroken both Richard and Kahlan equally use “my wife” and “my husband”

The “So you’re saying…” “If you want to…” in Torn, and then the two initiating it.

The fact that Kahlan is the one to propose sex in Torn, and you see that the possibility never even crossed Richard’s mind.

I love how little make up all the actors wear. I love seeing season 1 Kahlan’s freckles. It’s so…realistic? Like every fantasy medieval show has the actors looking impeccably flawless with perfect make up. It means so much to girls growing up in a toxic environment of having to always look good, seeing Bridget Regan being absolutely beautiful without make up is honestly so empowering.

Cara never has a ‘coming out’ moment because in the Midlands, it doesn’t matter who you love.

Arguably, the only unfeminist bit in the show is when Richard says “Four men against one woman, I think she’s the one in danger.” But honestly, it can be excused because 1. Four heavily armed D’Haran soldiers are pretty intimidating and Kahlan was scared and she would have died. 2. The writers wanted to make a point of ‘she can’t defend herself’ … ‘oh shit, maybe she can, what a fucking badass, let’s not disrespect kahlan amnell again’. 

This show is so freaking feminist, and it honestly is just amazing. If you ever wanna watch a show with a cynical feminist eye, watch LotS, it will make you happy. I love seeing men and women portrayed as equally badass/compassionate on screen, and seeing sexualities represented. It’s a pity the show only got the two seasons. 

If anyone has anything they’d like to add, feel free :) It is definitely not finished. I may even find more.

When to Capitalize

Traditional English convention has one rule: if it’s unique, capitalize it.

For example, the following would be capitalized:

  • a person’s name, including the title (Duke of York)
  • a specific place/location (the Misty Mountains)
  • a specific people group (the Drow)
  • a unique object or group of objects (the Boxes of Orden)
  • a brand-name object (Corvette)
  • a person that is sacred or held in high regard (Her Majesty)

The following would (traditionally) not:

  • a person’s rank when not referenced as part of their title (the duke)
  • a general location (the mountains)
  • a combination of people groups that share a similar trait (humans)
  • an object that is not brand-specific (spark plug)
  • a common object (the cloak)

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