Welcome back to Nerds & Beyond‘s first Women’s History Month series! As a reminder, throughout the month of March, we will be highlighting different women in pop culture — fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — who we think exemplify accurate and honest portrayals of women in the mainstream media and use their voices to empower and uplift.
One of the strongest character arcs throughout the Game of Thrones series is the transformation of Sansa Stark. When viewers first meet Sansa she is a starry eyed teenager who dreams of a more glamorous life than the North can offer her, and by the end of the series we watch a transformation into a cunning and capable politician — so much so that she becomes the Queen of the North. Sophie Turner provides a beautiful and compelling portrayal of this character that draws you in, which is good, because Sansa’s story is certainly one to pay attention to.
Not many people could survive the many horrors Sansa had to face from such a young age. Her dire wolf is killed, her father beheaded as she watches, her betrothed makes her look upon her father’s head placed on a spike, and she must hear of her mother’s and eldest brother’s horrible deaths — yet Sansa endures. Sansa continued to endure past the emotional and physical abuse at the hand of her could-be husband Joffrey and his mother Cersei, and through the torture she received at the hands of her second husband, Ramsay Snow. Sansa does not break under the crushing weight of devastation that is constantly surrounding her — instead, she uses these experiences to become cleverer, bolder, and more capable.
“I’m a slow learner, it’s true. But I learn.”Sansa Stark, Season 7 Episode 7 “The Dragon and the Wolf”
Sansa not only survives the horror she experiences throughout the eight seasons of Game of Thrones … she wins the game. She is constantly learning, constantly evolving, and is always playing the game, even when it seems like she may not be. As Cersei Lannister put it plainly for everyone to understand, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground”. Sansa, although it took her a while to blossom into a contender for the throne, succeeds by the end of the series in doing what so many of the other characters in the series could not: Sansa is alive, she has her own throne, and she has a kingdom of loyal subjects who actually trust in her capabilities as a leader. Sansa is proof that if you want to overcome your enemies, you have to learn from them.
While Sansa’s ability to learn from her torment and despair teaches her how to be smarter and emotionally stronger, it does not alter who she is at her core – a compassionate, gentle, and loving soul who maintains loyalty to her loved ones until the bitter end. Many who have gone through the torture that she has would turn a cold shoulder to the world, Sansa embraces the world for what it is and tries to make it better however she can.
Game of Thrones is full of many endearing characters that teach audiences many lessons – Sansa is perhaps one of the most impactful role models to come out of the series, particularly for those who have faced unimaginable abuse and loss.
Check out a compilation of Sansa’s journey below, and stream Game of Thrones on HBO Max.