So you hate Tyrion Lannister.
Okay, you’re totally allowed to do that. If I’m honest with myself, I can think of probably fifty reasons off the top of my head that Tyrion might get on your nerves/piss you off/make you want to bash him over the head with a rock. (I mean, ngl, if you really hate Tyrion Lannister - like, not just dislike him, but actively, aggressively hate him - we’re probably not going to make good fandom friends. BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t respect your right to do so; we can happily ignore each other! That’s the great thing about tumblr - all these little sections of fandom that allow you to find people who think similarly. Or who don’t, when you want a discussion!) So my issue is not with the fact that people dislike Tyrion, but with the reasons why people dislike him. (I’ve heard the same thing said about Sansa and Catelyn and other characters, and I agree there 100% as well. But again, I’m probably biased concerning these two as well.)
So recently I’ve seen it suggested that the reason Tyrion employs prostitutes is that he enjoys having some sort of “sexual domination” over women. I’m sorry, but, to me, coming to this conclusion seems to imply some purposeful misreading of Tyrion’s character as presented by the text. We know why Tyrion turns to prostitutes. It’s because he does not believe any woman could ever come to truly love him. Because he literally believes that paying a woman is the only way she will ever sleep with him willingly. And there’s no reason for him to think differently; the ‘Tysha incident’ taught him that. Just last night, I saw someone comment that it seems odd that Tyrion, after suffering the sexual domination of his father, sought out sexual domination of prostitutes. And yeah - that would be weird.
But that is not what is happening here. Speaking of pre-ADwD Tyrion (I’m not touching ADwD Tyrion because I’ve already talked about that at length in other posts, and I don’t think I’m capable of discussing the subject briefly), at least, it’s of essential importance to him that all his sexual relations are consensual. That the women he sleeps with want to sleep with him. And that is why he turns to prostitutes. Because, as Tywin taught him so harshly - when Tyrion was only thirteen fucking years old - the only way a woman is going to come to him consensually is for money.
Again, I don’t understand how this could not be clear from the text. I really don’t. Because we see what Tyrion does with Shae. It’s nothing kinky or subversive - actually, it’s pretty vanilla. He wants her to pretend to love him. Because that’s the only kind of love he’s ever going to get - the kind that’s bought and paid for. That’s pretty fucking tragic, to me, at least.
From this point, I’m going to move to another point of contention when it comes to Tyrion: what moves him not to sleep with Sansa on their wedding night. I think it’s pretty clear given what we’ve just discussed. He doesn’t sleep with Sansa because Tyrion only wants to sleep with women who want to sleep with him - and Sansa definitely doesn’t. Again, the other day I saw it said on tumblr that this is an essentially selfish reason; he wants to feel loved, and he can’t if the person he’s sleeping with is obviously repulsed by/terrified of him. And yes, that’s all true. BUT. Isn’t it also true that the fact that he feels there’s something intrinsically wrong with sleeping with a woman who doesn’t want him - even in a society that says it’s her duty to do so - means he has some basic grasp of morality (beyond that dictated to him by Westeros’ misogynistic mindset)? Why would it even bother him if he didn’t? (Remember, even in ADwD, he only considers sleeping with women who would rather not sleep with him once he’s made the mental leap to “I’m already such a bad person it’s entirely hopless for me to even try anymore.” Even then, he thinks of this as something a bad person does.)
To me, twisting the decision Tyrion makes into something entirely selfish is not that much different from saying, “Well, she only stopped that person from being hit by a car because she would have felt guilty if she hadn’t! Therefore, risking her life to save that person was ultimately a selfish decision.” Really, by this logic, pretty much any decently moral decision can be made into something selfish.
But, even if it’s accepted that Tyrion did something decent by not touching Sansa because she didn’t want him to, we are then told he’s STILL selfish, because he’s hurt and upset that she doesn’t want to. Now, please note I’m not denying that Sansa has it worse in this situation, but let’s take a look at Tyrion’s position. He’s married to a woman who can’t stand the sight of him. She’s openly told him she’s never going to be able to stand the sight of him (and OF COURSE I can’t blame her, but still). He’s keeping a concubine in secret. If his father ever finds out about this concubine, he’ll lose her too, because Tywin forbid him to have her. (Not that Shae even really loves him, but at least she can bring herself to pretend to.) So really, he’s been forbidden from ever having a loving relationship. Of any kind. I don’t know about you, but I’d be feeling pretty damn sorry for myself too. And if that’s selfish, I don’t really give a fuck.
Because it sucks.
And finally, I don’t really have a good segue here, but I just want to touch on this because it’s been brought up a lot lately. (Actually, who am I kidding? It’s brought up a lot always.) The idea that Tyrion killed Shae because he was a misogynist. I’m just going to come right out and say right away that I’m not arguing that Tyrion isn’t a misogynist - because everyone in ASoIaF, even the women, have misogynistic tendencies. Because THEY LIVE IN A MISOGYNISTIC SOCIETY. Even the most fair-minded of them have internalized at least some of the bullshit they’ve heard their whole lives. And I’m also not arguing that Tyrion’s murder of Shae was justified. (For the record, I’m not really sure murder is ever justified. So.)
What I am arguing is that the reaction people are expecting Tyrion to have to Shae’s betrayal is completely unrealistic. Fandom seems to think Tyrion should have confronted Shae that night in Tywin’s bedchambers by saying: “Gee, Shae! You just implicated me in a murder I didn’t commit while humiliating me via my disability in front of the entire court! But that’s okay! Please tell me why you did this.” And I just wonder: Is there anyone in the world who would have reacted this way? Really? Again, I’m not saying killing Shae was the right thing to do! But he didn’t do it because he was a misogynist. Or because she’d exercised her “power” as a woman when she testified against him. He did it because she’d betrayed him. Really betrayed him. In a way Bronn never did.
Sure, Bronn didn’t stand for Tyrion, but he also didn’t actively participate in his downfall either. By testifying against him, Shae pretty much guaranteed that Tyrion would be put to death - and that didn’t really appear to be a source of conflict for her at all. (I will concede that we don’t know this for sure, as we see this all from Tyrion’s very limited point of view, but remember, that’s how he sees it too.) So looked at like that, it’s really not that hard to believe that - after losing everything, culminating in the love he thought Jaime had for him, as well as the love he’d tricked himself into believing he shared with Shae - Tyrion might snap and do something horrible. Horrible, but - in my opinion - not unforgivable. Because it was motivated by extreme human emotion and instability. Tyrion’s convincing himself that Shae loved him had far more to do with his issues with his self-worth than it did to do with any internalized misogyny.
(I actually rather think that, had Shae broken down and told Tyrion she did what she did out of fear for her own life - which I personally don’t believe for a second, but it’s a valid theory - Tyrion wouldn’t have hurt her at all. But that’s entirely speculation.)
I guess what I’m saying here with all of this is that Tyrion fucked up. Not just in his murder of Shae, but in tons of ways throughout the series. But to boil all of Tyrion’s flaws down to his misogyny - and to pretty much reduce his character to only that, while simultaneously erasing some important aspects of his disability experience and how that affects his self-worth - is really over-simplifying a character GRRM put a lot of effort (hundreds of pages of it!) into.
When it comes to ASoIaF, you can come up with some pretty solid reasons to dislike any character - that’s kind of the point, I think! Because you can also come up with some pretty solid reasons to like them. For me, Tyrion - even with all his flaws - is entirely relatable. Even when his actions are frustrating and sometimes downright upsetting, I can always see why he acts the way he does. While I can’t always support his actions, I can always understand them. And that, my dears, is a feather in GRRM’s metaphorical cap!
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