Musings

The trope of the wise and emotionless character, ughh

The more knowledge and wisdom you gain, the more emotionless you get….right? At least, that’s what stories seem to be selling.

In my recent watch of Game of Thrones (affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales through this link), it has this one trope that makes me wanna shake my fist or pull out my hair or do all the emotional things the trope claims I shouldn’t be doing. Spoilers ahead, stop now or forever hold your peace.

Gosh, Bran. The “super wise, nearly-all-knowing figure who then loses all feelings” trope. I adored how Game of Thrones speaks to our various perceptions of power and challenges our assumptions, and this is one place where I in particular pondered deeper than where the TV show at least ends (and maybe it goes further in the books, or maybe it’s supposed to leave it hanging for these exact sort of ponderings outside the story; either way, I’m on board). So while I don’t like this trope, it’s just one way the show approaches the concept of power and how the world sees it.

"I'm not angry at anyone." - Bran Stark, Game of Thrones
Yes, this is a horrible resolution photo, it’s the only one I could find, bear with me here 😛

I think it’s such an unassuming trope, one that kind of sneaks under the radar and makes ya think “Yeah, if I just had more discernment and understanding of the grand scheme of things, I’d freak out a whole lot less.” And that could possibly partially be true, but then it kind of makes it seem like those in-real-life people who deny having emotions and think about everything “calmly and rationally” and analyze everything are just better than those trying to lead with their emotions along for the ride as well. This is how we get leaders who don’t demonstrate compassion when someone is pouring out their heart and struggling. It perpetuates this idea that “If victims of oppression would just let go of their anger and see the big picture, that’s the real problem here.”

Good, wise people, and good, wise leaders who do see the big picture, I’d like to think they are willing to enter into lament alongside those they serve who are suffering. That righteous anger leads to enact justice and demonstrate mercy. And I think someone who sees the grand scheme of the universe, maybe could possibly have learned something about being in touch with their feelings and others’, would react strongly to injustice or pain because they’ve seen the results of that, they’ve seen where it leads.

That sounds like I’m just hopping on some social justice bandwagon, and sure how this trope contributes to privilege is an important component at play here, but more selfishly it’s personal too; I’d like to think my tears can be a strength, not just a weakness. And I’d like society to think that sometimes emotions come from a place of wisdom, that they’re not opposite ends of a spectrum but inseparable pieces of being human.

As far as I remember, that trope tends to show up as a “good guy” thing across most stories that use it, it doesn’t tend to lead anywhere bad. (If you know an example I’m missing though, let me know!) And I’d love to explore that more in a story, to see it viewed positively at first and then turn sour, similar to how Daenerys’ bent towards justice goes too far.

So kudos to George R. R. Martin and all the team that put this story together, especially in exploring themes of power. I don’t yet know if this is further explored in the books or will be as more is written there, but these are my musings I ponder of a possible other story, a possible other theme to explore in a separate character and realm even.