Cage match

Author Info: Quixotess is a geek of wordplay, numberplay, names, history, easy logic puzzles, IRC, various works of fiction (particularly speculative fiction), certain aspects of theatre, and local geology. Not computers, though. She blogs at Reconcile and has an IRC channel which she would like you to visit.

This is the Suvudu [Cross-Verse] Cage Match, where we may vote on how characters from various speculative fiction works may fare when fighting each other, tournament style. The order and initial matches were chosen randomly.

I think it’s worth looking at, first because you all ought to have a chance to vote. Second, because of the dynamics surrounding the tournament that i think merit feminist examination.

Some questions: How many of the characters are women? How many of the characters are characters of color? How many of the authors are? Now, how many of those characters are winning?

I think it’s pretty clear that in some cases, as with the Jaime Lannister vs Hermione Granger match, the white male character is winning at least in part because of sexism on the part of the voters. Jaime’s a handsome man, oldest son of a great lord, and an experienced warrior (a very male-dominated profession) and Hermione Granger is a girl whose parents are dentists. In fact, look at what Jaime’s author Martin has to say about the pairing on his livejournal.

[Jaime’s] opponent? Well, he’s really pissed off about that. He wanted Conan or Elric or Aragorn. Instead he’s drawn (they CLAIM it’s random)…

Of course Martin frames it as his character wanting to fight one of these kingly heroes (more on that later), but even if Martin himself didn’t care, you can bet that many of his readers–gritty realism fans, a realm also dominated by men–identify with Jaime.

Speaking of gritty realism, Martin’s written up a little ditty on how he thinks the match would really go [TRIGGER WARNING]:

He’s not going to waste time and effort swatting at birds with his sword, either. He’s encased in gilded steel. What are they going to do, crap on him? He’ll rush right through the birds, and go straight for Hermione. A sword is not a knight’s only weapon. While she’s watching the blade, he will slam his shield right into her face, knock her off her feet. Let her try and mumble those spells with a mouthful of broken teeth.

Martin’s well known for putting a lot of violence in his books, where it fits, but I find it shocking when applied to characters from another verse, especially a young woman. As this piece is written to convince readers that Jaime would beat Hermione in a fight, the effect is not so much “gritty realism” as “alarming glee.”

I don’t mean to pick on Martin (even if he deserves it) because I know that various fandoms as boy’s clubs is familiar to all of us. I see that pattern playing out here.

I think it’s equally interesting to look at those cases in which there is a genuine imbalance of power. For example, see Hiro Protagonist vs Gandalf and Lyra Belacqua (called Silvertongue) vs Cthulu. No points for guessing who’s winning those fights.

Look at how many of the characters in the tournament are gods, messiahs, patriarchs, or kings. I don’t know all of these verses, but I see Aslan, Dumbledore, Gandalf, Cthulu, Conan, Aragorn, and Rand al’Thor. The women and characters of color are likely to be knocked out in the first round here because they’re going up against characters who their authors made all-powerful.

How much we enshrine ultimate power! Most of those with unconventional powers are going down to a very male idea of strength or intelligence; those who win are those for whom sheer power is a big part of their characters. (for example, Arthur Dent lost, narrowly, to the Shrike.) Look also at how many of these characters have some sort of Grand Destiny–that trope which makes it okay to have been born a farmboy, or living in exile, because in reality you are still more important than others in the fabric of the universe. In this sense it’s worth looking not just at the characters’ demographics, but at their abilities and means of power, and the intersection thereof. I’m talking about the difference between conventional marks of heroes and villains–destiny or control over the cosmos–and unconventional powers–like access to information and lying, as with Lyra, or improbable luck, as with Arthur Dent.

Many people in the comments have complained about the inclusion of Cthulu in the contest, predicting that it will come down to a battle between him and Aslan, because who can stand against those two? They might be right, but why? What’s with our preference for these mighty male forces of nature or chosen ones of gods?

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Cage match

  1. Princess Backpack

    I’m still kinda pissed at them for not bothering to find a decent picture of Ged.
    I mean, a book cover that *doesn’t even show him* is probably better than putting up one of his white depictions, but really… IT’S NOT THAT HARD.

  2. lian

    I think Hermione losing to Jaime is absolutely laughable.

    Hermione is cunning, courageous, and freakishly resourceful. She’s been up against Death Eaters, for heaven’s sake! Jaime is arrogant and *does not have magic to his disposal*. He wouldn’t even get close enough to harm her.

    (while I agree with S. Brust’s one-liner “no matter how powerful the sorceror, a blade through the back will seriously cramp their style” [somewhat mangled], that refers to assassin vs. a wizard, not a duel situation.)

    1. Quixotess

      I completely agree. Notice how Martin’s vision of Jaime beating Hermione is predicated on her casting the bird spell as her attack. There are a lot of comments under that match that really underestimate Hermione. For example, I saw a few saying that she had no battle experience and didn’t know how to take pain. Those are of course things that men are generally supposed to be quite good at. I guess they missed the torture scene from the seventh book, not to mention her involvement in several magical battles in which people certainly died. It’s true that Jaime has more experience than she does, but as Feast shows, the benefit of that experience is a) completely gone in the case of weapons mastery and actual physical fighting now that he’s lost his sword hand, or b) probably outmatched or evenly matched by Hermione, as it’s about tactics and smarts, which she has in abundance. Plus, yeah. Magic.

  3. Kat

    Yeah, I checked last night and voted for Hermione. And I’m a member of GRRM’s fanclub, knighted and everything, but seriously…all the spoilers are right there in the description of that match. How can a guy known mainly for his swordsmanship, missing his good hand, defeat a wizard? I think most of these matches are going to come down to popularity and/or numbers of fans who come out. I know there are a bazillion Harry Potter fans out there, but these matches seem to be geared toward the epic fantasy crowd (based on the picks, and the people responding in the comments) and a lot of those fans like….testosterone-fueled badassness. (Much to the dismay of the not-small contingent of vocally feminist fans of GRRM.)

  4. Milli

    And check out another female:
    It has her husband showing up, failing to rescue her, and the last line asking who will save her now.

    The whole thing is pretty gross. It’s one thing to peg the super powerful against the super powerful, but throwing in a bunch of relatively normal (for scifi/fantasy values) in there and the whole point falls apart. Especially when the normal people are mostly women.

    And putting in God and an Old God is just silly, unless they’ve got ways for them to be defeated planned already.

    George RR Martin lost a potential fan with that right up, hardcore. That right up made me ill.

  5. dillene

    Sorry- you think Hermione is going to throw birds at someone when she’s in a fight for her very life? The words you are looking for are “Avada Kedavra”. Let’s see Jaime’s armor deflect that.

    As long as they’re letting deities onto the field, I’d like to put Tiamat and Sekhmet out there. And frankly, I think Kali would wipe the floor with Aslan.

  6. Jake Jesson

    [Moderator note: This comment has been edited down at Quixotess’s request ~ Mary]

    I’m not particularly convinced that godlike strength and godlike intelligence is a male concept – do I understand that phrasing correctly? I find it odd, myself – and annoying – that Ultimate Power only tends to end up in the hands of male characters, and if it ends up in the hands of female characters, they either choose not to do anything with it, or don’t do anything with it because of some emotional failing.

    This seems to be an issue no matter what area of the fantasy genre you go for. I can’t offhand think of popular female characters with Ultimate Power in written fantasy, so I’ll go for a couple fantasy TV shows as completely random examples: The anime/manga “Bleach”, in which the single most powerful character is a teenage girl with the power to literally undo, stop, or erase any event or object in existence… but ends up being useless in a fight because her will isn’t strong enough. Instead, her effective superpower appears to be crying and occasionally healing someone. Or how about Gaia from Captain Planet, the Goddess Who Can’t Do Anything? Silly examples, I know, but they serve to illustrate.

    I don’t see why men tend to get the All Powerful button pressed for them, and women get the shaft. Sheesh. But is this because Ultimate Power is a male concept? Hardly. It’s because we live in a sexist society.

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