Why It Doesn’t Matter Who Jon Snow’s Parents Were

The memes for those who aren’t watching #GoTS7 are hilarious.

(And if you have no idea what that sequence of letters means, I apologize. Come back next week when we might be talking about something more relevant to the entire world, not only those of masking our sorrows in pop culture. Check on Wednesday. Because the finale airs Sunday).

For the rest of us, eagerly awaiting the 7th episode in the 7th season, the hours spent trawling the Internet for fan theories are best not tallied.

(PS for you lot — if you’re not caught up on the latest, don’t read on until you are).

I need to talk to you about something that has been bugging me ever since Gilly’s observant question about the meaning of the word “annulment.” Two episodes ago in EastWatch we learned one of the most famous bastards in all of fiction, Jon Snow, might have been married. Not only that, they were of noble, even kingly blood.

This was no surprise to us, the faithful, since close readers of the books have long suggested that R+L=J (Prince Rhaegar and Lady Leanna made Jon). With Gilly reading of the marriage in the text, completely ignored by Sam, I’ve been bittersweet moping. Up until then, everyone in the world of Westeros thought Jon was the result of his father Ned Stark’s wandering eye while he was away at war.

Moping because while we know the truth, did Catelyn Stark ever suspect in her heart of hearts, that her husband never betrayed her? Though she told everyone his ‘bastard’ was living among them, even groused with him about it now and then, maybe she nursed hope with each time she heard, “that wasn’t the Ned Stark saintly way” as men shook their heads in confusion over Jon.

A string of clues that the baby’s mother was someone else have been planted for several characters ….. now we await the moment that Jon (and everyone else) finds out.

I’m sad for Ned and Catelyn – happy for Jon that he wasn’t the case of his father’s shame – sad our figures of honor will not relish in the truth. If this is a story about anything, its about families. And the Starks are at the heart of it all.

On the other hand, I don’t need Jon to be royal to sit on the Iron Throne. (Which his true father’s birth makes him, as the grandson of the mad king, he’s the ‘true’ heir to the throne).

In fact, I’m moping for another reason now.

Until now G.R.R. Martin’s intricate world has suggested that the wilest one would rise up to claim the 7 kingdoms.

For 7 years we’ve been rooting for Tryion, Jon, Sansa or Daenerys, not because they held legitimate claims, but because they were earning the right to sit on the iron throne. An idea that runs counter to royalists and notions of privilege  very much in keeping with contemporary battles.

We don’t like the Lannisters, especially not Cersei, because they were born to the thorne, abuse their power, and consume their wealth without regard for others. (Remind you of anyone??)

We like our heroes to have merit and pluck. We want them to see the little people, like us, break the wheel of oppression, and cheat death. That makes them royal.

That makes them fit to rule our hearts and hearths.

Enough of the incest-is-common-in-royal-lines so an Aunt-Nephew marriage is fine. Down with the existing paradigms of royalty and ruling.

Yes we want Jon to have the masses adore him as he deserves for his brooding self sacrifice (though this week his idoicy cost us, and the good guys, a dragon).

And of course we want Daenerys to be rewarded for being the first person (not to mention woman) in the history of that world not to use dragons to unleash terror on civilians.

But these rewards don’t have to be because their of royal blood. Maybe in spite of it.

Let’s hope there’s a cinderella they’re bringing out in Season 8 who will remind us that what the world needs now is pedigree or lineage or wealth in their leaders. We need heart. And I’m not only talking about Westeros. Obvs.


Stop Saying There Were No Black People in Medieval Europe

I’m a woman with a doctorate who also happens to love popular culture. Most of the time cinema or television is where my mind goes to rest, regroup and rejuvenate.

Men in Moorish dress for a parade in the city of Orihuela, Spain

Sometimes, like last week, the nerdy side and the contemporary side clash. That’s exactly what happened when I read criticism of John Boyega’s comments about the HBO hit Game of Thrones. He made an eloquent point:  there are no black main characters who are not slaves, liberated slaves, or working for the advancement of white people in the series watched by millions of viewers around the world. We make an event of it in my house, shunning social media for 24 hours until its available in the vast corners of the realm like Qatar.

(If you’re not into pop culture, the show is based on the series of books by G.R.R. Martin and set in a mythical civilization akin to medieval Europe.)

There weren’t black people in medieval Europe, wrote commenters on every thread where the original GQ interview was regrugitated. Different versions of the same protest included there weren’t that many or be happy there are some tan white people and let them pass for non-whites.

Expanding on the theme: Boyega was a nobody and now he has opinions. He should be glad he got one and keep his mouth shut.

Hadn’t any of these people read or seen a performance (or one of the films) of Othello? Shakespeare’s play alludes to the history of Moors on the Iberian peninsula. Othello is a black man married to a white woman encited to jealousy by a devious advisor. Okay so maybe not, being a 3 act play, etc. What about the film with a once relatively unknown Julia Stiles, Josh Harnett and Mekhi Phifer, set in high school?

Speaking of Shakespeare, here is a writer in Elizabeath England who was ultra conscious of the ravages of importing people, spreading colonialism, and building empires. Again, was everyone sleeping through The Tempest in high school? (That’s the one about the white sorcerer who lands on an island and makes the native his slave…)

As I lamented the lack of awareness about European history last Friday night – yes I am THAT friend, weekend buzz kill in our ever approachign 40s – my friend said she didn’t learn about the Moors in Spain until college. That gave me pause.

This gave me pause.

When did I first know that the Moors, aka people from Africa, set up in Spain and Portugal from the 8th (MIDDLE AGES) to the 15th century, running things very, very well, until they were expelled aka kicked out, ushering in the Spanish Inquisition and the decline of the Spanish empire? To this day towns like Alcoli do re-enactments (think Civil War battle replays) of the army sending the Moors out. In fact there are festivals all over Spain that commemorate this history that most Americans probably never learn.

Moors and Christians Festival

Was in it AP European History in 11th or 12th grade when my teacher, as passionate about history as he was about being the school’s assistant soccer coach, taught us that along with the Moors, the Spainish divested themselves of their moneylenders, aka Jewish residents, and therefore triggered an economic crash ending the golden age of Spain? (Fine so what we once used to describe “Moors” no longer exists as an identity for a people group they are a mix of ancestors including African and Arab ancestry….)

Was it he or my college professor who made the link for us that the expulsion of the Moors, Jews, and anyone else who was different, was a prelude to the dangers of expelling people, on par with the later roundup of anyone who was different in Hitler’s Germany?

You know what memory is like.

Slippery at best and a quick footed dancer even in sleep.

I couldn’t tell you right now (or ever)  if it was in my high school or college history class that we learned, in today’s terms, immigrants are good for social and economic diversity. At the end of my first year I found out I didn’t have to take the European History because I had placed out on my AP test. My professor was sheepish and apologized since I had done extra work to be eligible for a Honors section of the course.

At the end of my first year I found out I didn’t have to take the European History because I had placed out on my AP test. My professor was sheepish and apologized since I had done extra work to be eligible for a Honors section of the course.

“That’s okay,” I said after a moment of GTFO ARE YOU SERIOUS I WASTED A SEMESTER??? “We wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

Sounds like I was an ass-kisser, and  it’s true I can be very diplomatic.

Yet this particular professor I stayed in touch with and became my lifelong friend. Who knows – maybe we would have met later on in The World Since 1945 and it would have been the same. There was no honors section of that course, four of huddled around a desk in her office on which papers, books, and notebooks teetered in stacks that would inspire the makers of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She tried to convince me to become a history major since I had enough courses – all I had to do was add one more senior seminar.

I was already double majoring in Psychology and English because my favorite professor in that department – also my advisor – made the same argument (all I needed was two courses). Ready for the ‘real world’ or the next step in my life I said no and went on to graduates in literature.

All this to say do I only know about the Moors in Spain because of passionate teachers in my life? Yes.

We need passionate teachers who can inspire writers to grow up and tell the stories of those who are on the margins. Because those people also transmit knowledge that becomes tacit as we grow older.

We need good teachers so we can be more accurate keyboard warriors.

When we’re educated well we aren’t threatened when others want to join the table. We support them because we know a flourishing society is when all members contribute.  help spark a conversation about the current mainstream. Whether or not people are prepared to listen.

We can spark a conversation about the current mainstream. Whether or not people are prepared to listen.


Why Mother’s Day is a Hoax

If you live in the Middle East as an expat mother, you get to live your special day several times. There’s Arab Mother’s day which is celebrated on March 21st and then be appreciated again during UK Mother’s day (which floats depending on the year but also a Sunday in March).

And then American Mother’s Day which is the second Sunday in May.

Not that appreciating mothers is a bad thing. We have upped the sappy greeting card and breakfast in bed to social media posts with flashback photos and odes to maternal sacrifice.

Men have tried stimulating the pain of labor with somewhat hilarious results.

But do stay at home mothers get to say that they work?

Do mothers who work outside the home get paid the same for doing the same job?

Can they find jobs after ‘taking time off’ to start their families?

For producing “the miracle of life” do women get an adequate amount of support or time to adjust to the addition of each child in their families?

In the process of producing children, do they have access to the healthcare that won’t bankrupt them?

And, most perhaps most important of all, do women get to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be mothers? I don’t know a woman from any culture who hasn’t had social pressure or governmental encouragement to embrace the “most natural” of all instincts.

My second crime novel, No Place for Women, alludes to the idea that the world is not a safe place for women.

If we revered mothers and motherhood as much as we say, our legal and social codes would be far, far different. Mothers would get more maternity leave, better pay, and experience much less guilt from the heaps of judgment heaped on them.

I hate to be the voice of doom and gloom. It is much easier to buy a card or upload a photo.

This Mother’s Day, I hope we can realize how much further we still have to go in advancing the rights of mothers all over the world. Because that is a gift we would be giving all women.