06
Jul
13

Pops in Pop Culture: Ned Stark from Game of Thrones

Well, we’ve got a new “thing” here at Dad Moon Rising.

Part of what I do for a living is watch football and “break down film” which is to say I watch the game, then watch it again to figure out who did what and then again to figure out what else happened.

NOW I BRING THE SKILL TO SOMETHING USEFUL – ANALYZING POP CULTURE DADS.

We all know the reflection of fatherhood in pop culture – be it books, movies, television or radio shows (do they do those still?) – is more than a bit bent. We’re not the bumbling stereotypes which make for great comedy and most of us aren’t the distant, almost absent men we see in more dramatic tales.

Still, there are even pop culture dads out there who defy the traditional stereotype as well.

So I’m going to take a look at dads from around pop culture and break down what works, what doesn’t, where they go right and where they go wrong.

Be warned – most of these will probably be a bit nerdy because…um have you met me or read the blog? So no “Two and a Half Men” breakdown here folks. Probably ever. Unless I am held at gunpoint in which case, for the love of Christ send help you lazy bastards.

So anyway, let’s start out with a dad who is a cut above the rest – or is he? – Lord Eddard Stark from George RR Martin’s excellent book series and HBO show, Game of Thrones.

Oh, before we get started, the usual applies:

Seriously, catch up.

Seriously, catch up.

Who: Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark

What: Lord of Winterfell, Former Warden of the North and Hand of the King

Father to: Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Rickon and the bastard Jon Snow

I like Ned. Really there is a ton to like about the character both on the show and in book. Martin did an excellent job making us like him so that when the end of the first book comes and Ned gets his head lopped off we’re shattered. (I TOLD you there were spoilers)

Martin does this a lot.

The entirety of Game of Thrones is about kicking you out of your comfort zone as a reader or viewer, taking your normal expectations and turning them against you.

Because George RR Martin (to be referred to from here on out as the less wordy GRRM) is a rat bastard who feasts on your tears.

Or he’s just really good. It depends on who he’s killed and how much you liked them.

Ned is the classic hero for a sword and sorcery book, which is what GOT appears to be before it shatters your illusions. He’s an honorable man, loyal and ruled by a desire to “do the right thing” which, on the surface seems like a great idea. He passes this down to his kids (mostly his sons because women aren’t exactly empowered in this tale, especially to start) telling them that doing the honorable thing is always the right thing.

Of course, by the time he gets to King’s Landing, we know this is not only wrong, but disastrously so. Ned’s honor is untenable and dangerously naive in the “real world” and it costs him his life, his family their lands and pretty much destroys the Starks completely as they make poor decisions based on some flawed Ned Logic.

Take Robb, for example, also known as the King of the North.

He trusts Theon Greyjoy because they’re like brothers and Ned taught him to trust those he holds dear to him. But Greyjoy, from the beginning, is looking for a way out. He’s not a brother, he’s a captive. Theon knows it and the first chance he gets, he turns on Robb.

This leads to the destruction of Winterfell and the apparent death of his brothers, Rickon and Bran which in turn further sends his mother Catelyn into a panic. She releases Jamie Lannister – an act whose repercussions are felt not long after.

Lord Rickard Karstark is furious at the Starks for freeing Lannister (even if it was something Robb had no idea was going on) and murders two Lannister boys captured in battle in retaliation. Robb then executes Lord Karstark as punishment. There were numerous ways to get out of that, but none of them truly “honorable” and Robb wouldn’t hear of them.

You wouldn’t hurt this dire wolf, would you?

So at a time when he was desperately in need of swords, he casts thousands of men aside for the sake of honor.

The one time he doesn’t heed his father’s words is when he takes a wife, despite promising to marry a Frey. Of course, when all is said and done, Robb knows it was stupid and once he casts the Karstarks away, he needs the Freys badly.

However, because he holds his honor tightly he believes Walder Frey does as well. He can’t conceive of anyone not holding to the sacred laws of hospitality, even a weasel like Walder Frey.

And so we get the Red Wedding.

Rickon is a bit too young for him to understand his father’s words (and frankly the single most useless character in the books) while Bran sees the devastation around him and pretty much chucks all the Stark wisdom out the window.

Sansa is completely unprepared for anything at all, as Ned has allowed her to dwell in a fantasy world. I understand wanting your child to remain a child and I understand that not bothering your daughter with the dirty real world is the ways things are in terms of both the type of book this is and the medieval time period it takes place in.

It’s true

In fact, Ned indulges both Sansa an Arya – it just happens that it saves Arya’s life.

Allowing her to learn to fight to get it out of her system saves her life multiple times and not just directly – had she not escaped King’s Landing, one can imagine King Joffery would have killed her as much as he hated her.

It probably would have been better, though, to ease Sansa into the realities of life sooner though, given her age an where they were going once Ned decided to become the Hand of the King.

Jon Snow is another child who, ultimately, pays a steep price for following his father’s teachings. Snow actually is able to work within the bounds (or maybe restraints?) of the idea of unwavering loyalty and honor. Despite not having a place in “polite” society because he is an illegitimate child, Snow thrives for a time with the Night’s Watch because of those teachings.

Ultimately though, he lets his guard down and trusts to friendship and honor one too many times and it (apparenly) costs him his life.

I actually don’t believe he is dead – something I hopefully discover I am right about if GRRM gets around to finishing the series. That’s another column though.

Ned Stark is a really, really nice guy who is far too blind to the reality of the world around him and so has not prepared his family for the real world outside of Winterfell.

Would I like him as my Dad?

I like a lot of Ned’s philosophy – I have a bit of a “loyalty” problem myself at times.

But I’d prefer a man who teaches me all of the things Ned teaches to his children and then follows it up with “but here is how the real world works.”

In my mind, it’s my job as a dad to impart values and wisdom to my kids, but also show them the reality of life around them. Sometimes you can cling to your way of doing things, but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to bend with the wind.

You also always have to remember that while your values are nice and all, not everyone shares them.

While not teaching that lesson (or learning it myself) probably won’t get anyone’s head chopped off, there are real life results which can be devastating nonetheless.

So while I like Ned and would totally want him next to me in battle, I don’t think his parenting skills are up to par.

On the other hand, he did give his daughter permission to learn to fight with a sword, so he’s not all bad.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Pops in Pop Culture: Ned Stark from Game of Thrones”


  1. July 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

    So much to comment on here. I apologize in advance if this becomes longer than your actual post, but I am also obsessed with portrayals of dads in pop culture.

    1. Part of the problem with analyzing Ned is that we don’t see much of him in the traditional family setting, where both parents and the kids are all living in the same home. Right off the bat, he goes to KL with the girls and leaves Cat with the boys (but not for long). The only act of parenting we see with the boys is letting them keep the wolves, which is a cool dad move.

    2. Of what we do see, Ned appears to be a very good father to Arya, but not to Sansa as you describe above. Interestingly, Sansa (in her stoic kindness and naivete) turns out to be the most Ned-like of all the children (except maybe Jon, but see below). I’m not sure what this says about his parenting skills.

    3. Jon may not be Ned’s son. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google R+L=J. If that theory is true, and therefore Ned has this additional parental burden, does that change your analysis? I’m not sure if it does, but still. Also, Jon is not dead, or at least not permanently so.

    4. I totally disagree about Bran throwing Ned’s teachings out the window. He, lie Arya, has his own, semi-solitary path, but I think he is constantly asking himself “what would Ned do” and trying to follow the Stark wisdom even as he earns so seriously crazy stuff.

    5. Rickon may have been useless so far, but will pay a prominent role in the rest of the series. I think.

    • July 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Oh I know what you mean re: Jon Snow. Source of much debate among friends of mine and I. (me and my friends? Me and other people I know?). And no I don’t think he’s dead. Hopefully not a revenant either although he and Lady Stark can get together and hang out again.

      I hope Rickon pays off – right now it seems like he was a character Martin threw in and then said “Shit I guess I don’t need him now!”

      Other than that, great stuff man! And be as verbose as you want! 😀

      I expect more of these as I do more of these.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email for updates right to your inbox by magical email fairies named Ted and Sammy.

Join 222 other followers

What I’m Into:

Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages

%d bloggers like this: