I'm uninterested in the Viking popular culture development erasing warrior girls

This submit comprises spoilers for The Northman

There is a background character in The Northman you in all probability blinked and missed. However her look, nevertheless transient, electrified me greater than another thrill in director Robert Eggers’ bombastic new Viking epic (and that is saying one thing).

Amleth (who embodies the standard hypermasculine Viking warrior ideally suited that dominates as we speak’s trendy reimaginings of this historic historical past) is partaking within the spoils of a violent raid on an harmless village. Then an armor-clad girl on horseback storms into the shot. Bearing all of the visible markers of a army chief, she rallies the conquered villagers, waving a flag and calling upon robust warriors of any background to affix her combat — earlier than using off, by no means to be seen within the film once more.

However I spent the remainder of its runtime eager for the film that would’ve been, if solely she had been its predominant character as a substitute.

Do not get me fallacious: I love what The Northman does with Alexander Skarsgård as its lead. However let’s be sincere, by far essentially the most underwhelming a part of Egger’s enthrallingly refreshing movie is its drained previous Revenge-For-My-Daddy-King storyline that is been shoved down our throats numerous occasions earlier than, by every thing from Hamlet to The Lion King

But I digress. As a result of as a dork for this period of prehistory, I am particularly a fan of Eggers’ entry into the current popular culture development placing Vikings in main TV reveals, movies, and video video games(opens in a brand new tab). From Historical past Channel’s surprisingly nice Vikings sequence to Netflix’s newer Norsemen and Vikings: Valhalla reveals, Marvel’s field office-breaking Thor motion pictures (notably Ragnarok), and the wonderful 2018 reboot of God of Struggle, I am residing for this historic Nordic second within the mainstream.


‘Murderer’s Creed Valhalla’ tells a Viking epic with shocking new brilliance

However I am additionally sick of every one making the identical actual mistake by sidelining the perfect a part of real-world Viking historical past: absolutely the badassery of their warrior girls (AKA shieldmaidens).

The very fact, fiction, fable, and misogyny behind shieldmaidens  

Now, to his credit score, Eggers is a stickler for historic accuracy in his motion pictures. 

That is why the anonymous feminine army chief in The Northman is a deliberate acknowledgment of current archaeological proof suggesting that Viking warrior girls actually did exist, which consultants beforehand doubted. In keeping with interviews, the film character is loosely based mostly on the well-known grave of a high-ranking Viking army chief(opens in a brand new tab) (recognized as Bj 581) long-assumed to be male — till DNA proof revealed in 2017 definitively proved she was feminine


How correct is ‘The Northman’ to Viking historical past? Properly, it’s a Robert Eggers movie.

In The Northman, Amleth’s prophesied demise (delivered by none apart from Björk) alongside along with his “King’s tree” imaginative and prescient implies that his downfall is just the primary chapter in his daughter’s bigger story, as she fulfills her future of changing into an incredible Viking Queen. We’ll rely that as yet one more nod to precise archeological proof that management roles within the Viking Age have been way more gender-fluid(opens in a brand new tab) than beforehand thought.

However for the love of all that’s Freya, why is all this Viking warrior girl badassery nonetheless saved so squarely within the background of The Northman?

Nearly each different popular culture story set within the Viking Age is responsible of the identical oversight. God of Struggle and Thor definitely embody the robust mythological feminine characters central to Norse lore, just like the Valkyries and goddess Freya. The Vikings TV present brings that illustration a step nearer to residence by depicting real-world Viking girls battling alongside males. However solely 2020’s Murderer’s Creed: Valhalla online game provides gamers the choice to play as a Viking feminine protagonist. Even then, although, getting the possibility to play as a girl shouldn’t be the identical as getting a narrative particularly grounded within the perspective of a Viking shieldmaiden.

Why is all this Viking warrior girl badassery nonetheless saved so squarely within the background of ‘The Northman’?

In all equity, although, we will not blame the sidelining of warlike Viking girls completely on The Northman and its ilk. Till fairly not too long ago, girls’s significance in Viking society was sidelined by historical past itself(opens in a brand new tab) too.

Historical past, notably prehistory pieced collectively by way of thousand-year-old archeological finds, is not as laborious of a science as we would like it to be. Constructed on a basis of information that rely closely on the subjective interpretation of artifacts, it is coloured by the biases of our trendy, male-dominated society. The impression these biases can have on our understanding of gender dynamics within the Viking Age grew to become very clear within the response to the 2017 DNA evaluation research of the so-called Birka feminine Viking warrior’s grave

Anya Taylor-Joy and Alexander Skarsgard share a kiss in

I like a witchy Anya Taylor-Pleasure, however this illustration is lacking a struggle hammer.
Credit score: Focus Options

After the skeleton was confirmed to be feminine, some archeologists jumped to the conclusion that the grave should’ve by no means belonged to a army chief within the first place, then, regardless of containing ample qualifying artifacts. However debate over the Birka feminine Viking warrior grave solely deepened an current divide inside the archeological group over Viking girls’s function within the social hierarchy.

Many consultants nonetheless negate the mounting proof of girls being current for the hostile Viking invasions(opens in a brand new tab), and discoveries of even extra feminine warrior graves(opens in a brand new tab), together with the historic accounts of Viking girls becoming a member of in warfare(opens in a brand new tab) — insisting that the statues and depictions of battle-ready Viking girls are solely symbolic(opens in a brand new tab) slightly than indicative of real-world shieldmaidens. Either side of this debate accuses the opposite of recent biases, implying that both sexism or feminism clouds the opposite’s objectivity. 

The ladies written out of the Viking popular culture development

We do not but have conclusive solutions on how pervasive shieldmaidens have been within the Viking Age. However their absence from The Northman, other than the few seconds afforded to the one confirmed incontrovertibly actual, tells us rather a lot about which narratives we’re inclined to imagine as we speak, even in a movie stuffed with magic. 

I am all for Robert Eggers’ close to obsessive fixation on grounding his movies in real-world information as a lot as potential. However precisely which model of historical past is he giving extra weight to — and whose perspective do these variations omit? 


No, the Valkyrie from ‘The Northman’ is not carrying braces

Very similar to motion pictures, historical past is a narrative we inform ourselves to make sense of the world. And albeit, I am simply uninterested in the Viking Age getting used completely as a setting to justify depictions of unfettered hypermasculinity, to train the identical previous male-centric anxieties about patriarchy, by way of the identical cookie-cutter male hero archetype, in the identical story instructed over and time and again. 

Frankly, I am simply uninterested in the Viking Age getting used completely as a setting to justify depictions of unfettered hypermasculinity.

This is not actually a feminist call-out. It is a declaration of utter boredom — a plea for popular culture’s Vikings to attempt on actually something apart from muddy blood-soaked males, if just for the change of tempo. Out of anybody, I assumed that possibly the director of The Witch would’ve identified how invigorating it may be to immerse trendy audiences within the perspective of girls who have been too usually written out of their very own histories.

However maybe Eggers selected to sideline shieldmaidens in The Northman as a franchise play, to hype up The Northwoman, if you’ll (god, please do not let this turn into an precise actuality). Most certainly, although, it is simply the identical lack of creativeness that turned actual Viking girls right into a fable.

Originally posted 2022-04-27 09:05:34.