THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON 5 EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES "UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN". TRIGGER WARNING FOR DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.
The writers’ choices during the past seasons of Game of Thrones have been called into question so many times before, but last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, entitled “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The show has employed many changes from the book series, some that I can understand and some that I cannot.
In last night’s episode, the rape of a female character is used yet again to create a talking point for the show, to create drama, to create pain. I have attempted several times to write an article about this, but I have found so many articles that do it better than I ever could.
Below are articles, recaps, and reviews discussing the event. Emphasis is mine, words are theirs.
Grantland: "… Jeremy Podeswa’s camera lingered on Alfie Allen’s tear-filled eyes, as if his violation was somehow equal to Sansa’s; as if this disgusting act was somehow part of Theon’s long and ugly path to redemption, not a brutal and unwarranted violation. Five seasons in, Game of Thrones is long past the point of earning gold stars simply by showing us the worst possible thing. There’s a fine line between exposing the dirty truth of the world and wallowing in it."
The Atlantic: "Yes, several of the greatest moments of the series—Ned Stark’s beheading, the Red Wedding, etc.—have been horrifyingly violent. But they have also been surprising, moments that may seem in retrospect to have been inevitable, but in the moment were genuinely shocking. Ramsay’s rape of Sansa was exactly the opposite: something that has been building, obviously, for multiple seasons, a profoundly unimaginative extension of Ramsay’s torture of Theon and of Sansa’s abuse at the hands of Joffrey. The only possible surprise (and, yes, I was hoping for it) would have been Benioff and Weiss not following this storyline to its extraordinarily ugly yet entirely foreseeable conclusion."
"If you’ll forgive me for mixing shows for a moment, this isn’t Joan on Mad Men going to bed with the slimy Jaguar guy, using the only advantages she believes she holds as a woman to secure a partnership and financial security. Sansa is a girl whose body has been traded to further someone else’s ambitions. She doesn’t have a choice; she’s never had a choice."
Vogue: “Even worse than the idea of Sansa needing this to motivate her into vengeance is the notion that the Theon character needed to watch her rape in order to snap out of whatever zombie/Reek fugue state he’s been walking around in. I’m afraid that is the show’s interpretation, based on where the camera lingered. But the last thing we needed was to have a powerful young woman brought low in order for a male character to find redemption. No thank you.”
The Mary Sue will no longer be promoting Game of Thrones on their site: “There’s only so many times you can be disgusted with something you love before you literally can’t bring yourself to look at it anymore.”
In total, the show has made choices that go against the books, but specifically in a way that reduces the role of women and removes their agency. To review just a few major moments:
- The show has depicted the rape of several women that were not included in the books, including Daenerys, Cersei, and now Sansa. Both Dany and Cersei scenes in the book that were initially consensual sex scenes, but changed to rape scenes in the show. For what reason? I still do not know.
- The removal of Lady Stoneheart from the show, a character designed to enact vengeance for the Stark family.
- Replacing Arianne Martell with a male character. This is honestly an unforgivable sin to me. I personally had decided not to watch the show until the season was completed, to see if it was worth watching without Arianne. Arianne was a rare woman of color in the series, a woman who sought to restore Myrcella to the throne. Her entire plot centered on not allowing a male heir to replace a female- and she is doomed to exactly this fate in the hands of the showrunners.
The show’s writers have made their priorities very clear. They intend to shock, horrify, and create buzz at any means necessary. We all understand that everywhere in the world they hurt little girls- this is not news to any of us who live in the real world. And now we know that in the writing rooms of the fictional land of Westeros, they will find any excuse to do so.