Abstract: (I include these abstracts entirely on behalf of my academic friends who get scared by walls of text.) Not everyone likes Jon Snow. I take this opportunity to lend my support for the acknowledged (yet illegitimate) son of Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell. This will be the first in a series. You’re welcome.
Just to be clear, I’m talking about Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, and not Jon Snow the British Journalist and Television Presenter. (That dude must get tired of being told how little he knows.)
I want to state upfront that I’m mostly going to be talking about Jon Snow as portrayed in HBO’s television series Game of Thrones, based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ll be talking about the existing seasons, with hardly any mention of the books they are based upon. (I would have liked to have said *no* mentions but I know me, I’ll be doing some light references to the books.)
So if you’re a Game of Thrones TV Viewer and not a Book Reader (an Unsullied vs. a Sullied) I promise that I won’t be spoiling things to come. If you’re not up to date on the show and you don’t want to be spoiled, take my advice and stop reading. I make no promises for what might happen in the comments section. (But I can urge people to be spoiler-free, please. Especially in regards to that thing about Jon Snow that many of us suspect but hasn’t yet been confirmed or debunked. THAT thing. Or maybe that other thing.)
This post will be the first of several posts, discussing several negative aspects of Jon Snow or the Jon Snow storyline. I had originally planned on knocking out a quick post, but the original was turning into something big enough to keep a horde of Wildlings out, so I opted to break it into smaller, digestible chunks. Anyone who reads the entire thing will be my friend for life. It is known.
The Defense of Jon Snow
My boy Jon is sort of the Westeros equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield: he doesn’t get any respect.
Well, that’s not quite true. As Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark’s acknowledged bastard, he had some advantages but his social mobility had a hard ceiling. Never knew a mother, had to suffer Catelyn Stark’s scorn (and probably Sansa’s too), in the household he rated somewhat less than Theon Greyjoy, the ward/hostage of Ned Stark. (Recall that when King Robert came calling, there was no place for Jon near his family, although Theon was seated with them.)
When Ned was required to serve as Hand of the King, his intention was not to take Jon with him to court, but to leave the bastard at Winterfell.
Leaving Jon with Catelyn, who despised him.
So Jon joined the Night’s Watch for a chance to make something of himself (and get the Seven Hells away from Cat) but discovered that the ancient monastic military order was full of criminals, thieves, rapists, and old men. Castle Black might have just as well been named Mos Eisley.
His first major expedition as a man of the Night’s Watch ended up with him a captive of the Wildlings north of the Wall, with death one misstep away. At that time, the catchphrase “You Know Nothing, Jon Snow” was born and has followed him doggedly.
But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. It’s a given that characters in Game of Thrones have problems and burdens. Ned lost his head, Cersei’s power as regent was quickly marginalized, Tyrion suffered a tremendous reversal of fortunes, Arya watched her family butchered, etc. All in all, Jon might have got off easy.
So what am I defending Jon Snow against?
I’ll get to that. Look, this is Game of Thrones. Things take time. You’re all lucky I’m not going on about what I had for dinner recently (Indonesian peanut saute with tofu, if you must know. If I was GRRM, not only would this blog be gripping and exciting, but I’d be crazily describing the meal.)
Who Loves Jon Snow?
Well, everyone right? I’m talking among book readers. (Yes, I know I said I’d be talking the TV depiction of Jon, don’t worry. Let me do my thing.)
Over the years, I’ve convinced a fair amount of people to read the books. When I read the first book, I was consumed with the evangelical proselytizing mania that many people get from reading these books.
I needed to have lots of people read them so I’d always have someone to talk to about Westeros, Daenerys, the Starks, the Lannisters, etc. My wife read the first book and then she shot past me in her reading. I bought A Game of Thrones for my dad and for my niece; I convinced half a dozen people at work to read them.
So what does this have to do with Jon Snow? Here’s what:
I am working from an incredibly small, nowhere near statistically meaningful sample of people, but everyone I know who has read the books loves Jon Snow.
We get a lot of point-of-view chapters from Jon, and we see he’s a decent guy. Super decent. And like most of the Starks, he has to deal with a lot of heavy stuff.
Ned Stark was our number one hero for awhile, but with Ned dying, what Stark do we latch onto? We don’t get Robb chapters (even though he’s off doing awesome things, or so Catelyn is told), and it’s Jon that we get to follow on a hero’s journey. (Bran has a different journey. Differently compelling.) We get a lot of Jon. Sweet, thoughtful, disrespected Jon.
I had kind of assumed, biased as I was and reinforced with the similar viewpoints of my book reader colleagues, that everyone loved Jon Snow.
But I was wrong.
Not everyone was as invested emotionally in Jon Snow’s story. I’ll repeat, this was more the HBO Game of Thrones depiction of Jon, and not the book Jon Snow, that was getting less than positive attention.
I’m not saying all television-watchers were disliking Jon, it’s just that those who did complain about Jon were proclaimed watchers and non-readers (of this particularly series. Not saying they were illiterate.)
Most of the complaints I’ve heard come from podcasts recapping or in general discussing the show. There is usually a consensus when it comes to affection for most characters. Everyone loves Tyrion. Everyone loves Arya. Everyone hates Joffrey (except for the guys who run The Joffrey of Podcasts, but that’s satire.) But not everyone loves Jon Snow.
This lack of investment in Jon would confuse me. It was almost like someone not liking Tyrion or Ned Stark.
So, what complaints were being made about Jon Snow or the Jon Snow storyline? They mostly boiled down to these points:
- Jon Snow is a boring Paladin-type character.
- Jon Snow is a flip-flopper.
- Jon Snow is a bad boyfriend. Bad!
- Jon Snow is a whiny dummy.
I’ll try to address these in turn. I’ve also tried to see the validity in their complaints. As usual, my point is not to change hearts and minds, but to express my thoughts and offer someone a chance for discussion. Pretty enlightened of me, I know. Boom.
I mentioned above that much of the Jon Snow-related complaints arose from Game of Thrones (the TV show, remember) related podcasts. I recognize that someone podcasting about a show has an incentive to highlight negative points, if only to be interesting and engaging. Just having a gaggle of hosts rubber-stamping a show isn’t much of a compelling podcast. So I’m okay with people focusing on what’s not working for them. I appreciate these points, and think they generate good discussions. Or stuff like I’m typing now. So, I’d like to discuss. But enough about me being extra-sensitive, let’s begin.
I’d like to take a moment to credit in some fashion the Jon Snow artwork. The images of Kit Harrington are obviously from HBO’s Game of Thrones.
The nice black and white image was found at :
Jon Snow with the blue-eyed Others in the back was found at:
Jon Snow kneeling with Ghost was found at:
I make no claim to any of the artwork obviously, but I do make some claim to the text of this posting. So there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2013 Some Rights Reserved