Okay, fandom, can we talk?
I’m aware the majority of the noise about the portrayal of Jeyne Westerling is taking place on other websites (I know it’s on w-i-c, I frankly haven’t had the nerve to go over to That Other Website) but I just feel like this is something we need to address anyway. I have a lot of thoughts about this and don’t know if this is anywhere near complete, but whatever.
So far, what we know about show!Jeyne (who I am going to take as a fleshed-out version of Jeyne Westerling, because I am pretty certain that is who she is) involves a lot of crossed wires and conflicting information. Based on the sources we have (none of which are confirmed), we know she may be calling herself “Lissa” or “Nissa”, though other sources cite her name as Jeyne, she may be a nurse, she is probably saying she is from Volantis (though it is uncertain whether she’s referring to her ethnicity or where she grew up), she probably has connections to the Crag and Rickard Karstark saw fit to toss racial and gendered epithets at her.
The only source I’ve seen referring to her actual personality (which you can read here), though unconfirmed, seems to paint her as strong and sympathetic. I’m sure fandom would hate her for that anyway, since the previous female characters who fit that mold (Catelyn and Ygritte come to mind) are often hated, but the image we’re getting is hardly traitorous-spy-slut-bitch. If that source is fake, and it’s entirely possible that it is, it leaves us at square one.
Square one being that we don’t know her.
Where are we getting ‘traitorous-spy-slut-bitch’ anyway? Concern about trusting the show to do right by a major WOC character is valid. The last prominent interracial relationship on this show was Daenerys and Drogo and they managed to turn a sometimes problematic relationship from the books into a ten-car pile up.
But a large portion of white dudebro fandom seems to think it’s impossible she could ever be anything else and frankly hate the idea that she might be. And they are not using any actual evidence to back this up. Her connection to the Red Wedding in the books is entirely unintentional and there’s not a shred of evidence to suggest that’s changed. And the speculation that Karstark might have some valid reason to say what he did is very iffy to me.
Sorry, did I say iffy? I meant bullshit.
Onionjulius did a great post yesterday breaking down Rickard Karstark and the various reasons why he is not particularly credible, which I suggest you read. Karstark is never meant to be a particularly sympathetic character and the notion that he suddenly is because he yells at Catelyn, That Evil Awful Bitch and uses racial slurs towards Jeyne, That Evil Slut Spy, is so transparent it’s laughable. Even if there were something off about Jeyne, it implies her crime is a. being a woman, b. being of non-Westerosi (code for ‘European’) descent and c. not knowing her proper place for either of these things. If that’s what you want to argue, be my guest but for the love of god, be honest about it, don’t try to pretend it means she’s done anything beyond that and prepare for the sensible portion of this fandom to slap you into oblivion. Because you’re fucking wrong.
I also find the people who say that book!Jeyne was white (even if they’re not condemning the fact that show!Jeyne is not) to be troubling. Her grandmother was a “maegi from the East” who is in all probability Maggy the Frog, the woman Cersei recalls meeting in AFFC. Even if Jeyne’s grandmother is not Maggy, though I know there are some white people (Valyria, etc.) in the East, Kevan Lannister’s tone about her and her “blood” did not suggest blonde-Targ-Valyrian to me. You’re welcome to argue that point, but it seems pretty evident the showrunners are on my side. What makes book!Jeyne ‘white’? The fact that Catelyn didn’t mention her race? That doesn’t mean anything. There may not have been stress put on her ethnicity in actual scenes with her (and how many of those were there?) but that doesn’t make her white. Clearly her ‘doubtful blood’ was enough for the Lannisters to decide she was subpar.
People seem to be assuming that book!Jeyne was pure, innocent, sweet and stupid, which is problematic anyway and then they take one look at Oona Chaplin’s headshot and decide she’s an evil spy. And they honestly don’t see what is wrong with this. Or they say Oona can’t possibly play a sympathetic character when she has, in fact, done so several times.
HERE’S A SUGGESTION.
I’ve seen people saying the ‘nationality’ change is to account for her accent, too.
Nobody has to watch the Hour or go through her entire filmography to watch the show but for the love of god, the least they could do is not make stupid, unfounded, racist assumptions without actually doing their research.
There is nothing to suggest so far that the woman we’ve seen on this show might not be nervous and hesitant in front of her mother-in-law, that she might not cry when dragged in front of Jaime Lannister and forced to answer for traumatic events in her life, that she’s had sexual partners before Robb (and if she had, let’s go back to the fandom slut-shaming books, please). There were enough spaces in between book!Jeyne that making her present and giving her agency is just that. Provided the show doesn’t do something awful, the change in her personality will be that we know her, not that she is a different woman.
As for the person who compared her to Shae (and I love Shae), I’d love to see your list of reasons as to what these two women have in common. More than one. I’m waiting.