This post is a rant that contains spoilers up until the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Here’s our new mascot, spoiler-cat who will save you from spoilers if you stop scrolling.
I’ve said that I hate Game of Thrones on multiple occasions. In the wake of Ned Stark’s beheading I hated Game of Thrones.
When Robb and Catelyn died at the Red Wedding. Hated Game of Thrones.
Oberyn. Hated Game of Thrones.
There’s a ton of other times where characters have suffered needless injustice and I’ve hated the show, only to come crawling back to the epic saga, with beautifully crafted characters, scenes and 2015 Dragonheart-esque CGI.
But tonight was a turning point for me. I hated it because it had a scene crafted in poor taste. I’ve been complaining to people for the last week or so about how I was concerned that the show was deviating from the books so much, and how this has affected pacing, never mind the butterfly effect these changes are creating. Let me first say that I’m not a book reader, but I have explored some of the future plots already (sometimes involuntarily via spoilers).
So let’s start at the point where Sansa Stark is not even in Winterfell in the books. Yeah she’s not there, and yet by the end of Season 5, Episode 6, she’s being raped by Ramsay on their wedding night while an impotent Theon watches. The worst part is that she is there of her own free will, or at least as part of a plan she’s supposedly constructed with Littlefinger.
I’m finding this hard to believe. Since arriving in Winterfell, Sansa has been moving on the spectrum from in-control boss lady to the cowering child she was in the wake of her father’s death in King’s Landing. So it’s been hard to get a grasp on what the end game is here, considering the fact that she had options before re-entering Winterfell.
I was struggling with my reaction in the wake of the episode. After all, great story-telling can rile you up, make you feel indignant and want to kill the bastard who’s responsible. That’s why Jack Gleeson was such an amazing villain in the form of Joffrey Baranister (lol). And sometimes violence, and sexual violence is part of a bigger picture, or perhaps an inciting incident.
But this was different.
This scene did not reinforce that Sansa is always seen and treated as a thing by all her captors. It did not reinforce that Ramsay is evil to the core. It did not reinforce that Theon is impotent physically and mentally. Why does it not reinforce these constructs? Because all of these things have been constantly communicated to us, to the point that we don’t need a disturbing, show-invented rape scene for this to be conveyed.
Via a Facebook friend. I WOULD HAVE CHEERED. I get it. GOT is nasty brutish short. But is it this repetitive? Maybe. pic.twitter.com/pKLTkk8eZx
— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) May 18, 2015
Looking at those gifs up top, I guess we can all reflect on how we can often be okay with grotesque violence and other forms of sexual violence in this and other shows when they are happening to sideline characters, or people of a lower class in this world (especially in Game of Thrones). Oh, a whore died, oh well. Hey look, a stable boy being sodomised – boo-fucking-hoo. I think this is especially true with sexual violence which often acts as a filler in this cruel world.
But TV Show Sansa is the first Stark to be a victim of sexual violence so far, and it just seems to rub you the wrong way. Is this because we’ve seen Sansa and actress Sophie Turner grow up in front of our eyes on screen. Is it because she’s a STARK, for goodness sake, not some low born! Who knows?
You be the judge of your own interpretation.
What I do know is that this sexual violence is provoking, but that does not make it good storytelling. As I mentioned before, I am not a book reader, so I don’t know where the show has cut out brutalities that are present there, perhaps. But I think the show runners need to use whatever narrative devices they choose, responsibly. And in this case I believe they did not.
UPDATE* Just wanted to add that I know something like this (if not worse) happens to a different character, Jeyne Poole and that’s why I added the bit at the end on reflecting on our reaction to the show and how we somehow place atrocities in a hierarchy not unlike the class system in Westeros itself.
Here’s some more posts about Game of Thrones I wrote when I was feeling better about the show:
About the Author: Stephen is a Game of Thrones fan who is starting to think he should just read the books instead. Catch more movie and TV show ramblings from him on Twitter @thesnagel.