George RR Martin responds to disturbing “Game of Thrones” scene

19 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Game Of Thrones Is Gross, Exploitative, And Totally Out Of Ideas.

At this point, it’s disingenuous for anyone to complain about Game of Thrones being too violent or disturbing—the series’ five seasons have had a fair share of rape scenes and tremendous acts of violence—but the final frames of last night’s episode, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” were emblematic of everything that has become so off-putting about this season’s writing on the show. The episode closed with one of the show’s most reviled characters, the grotesquely sadistic Ramsay Bolton, raping one of the show’s most sympathetic characters, Sansa Stark, while a sobbing Theon Greyjoy is forced to look on. (Reminder: Theon is, for all intents and purposes, Sansa’s older brother.) I’m not exactly sure what mark the show’s creators were intending to hit with this scene, other than to drive home the fact that pure evil runs through Ramsay’s veins. Across five seasons, audiences have watched as the character—played by Sophie Turner—grew up on screen, with Sansa shifting from a naive innocent pining for a storybook marriage to gradually evolving into a hardened survivor. But on Sunday night, the character lost her virginity to rape at the hands of the psychotic son of her mother’s killer, while her former childhood friend Theon was forced to watch.

From losing her direwolf Lady, to witnessing the beheading of her father Ned Stark, to suffering the brutality and humiliation inflicted by Joffrey Lannister, to being attacked by a riotous mob, Sansa’s lot only seems to worsen over time. We heard about this scene while on the Thrones set in October and were able to briefly discuss it with producer Bryan Cogman, who also wrote the episode (in addition we have an interview with Turner where she gives us her thoughts about the scene). And after fearing sexual assault by Joffrey, by the Hound, by the mob, by Tyrion and potentially even by Littlefinger, Sansa is raped on her wedding night by her new husband, the psychotic Ramsay Bolton, as a tearful Theon Greyjoy, a.k.a.

Cogman seemed to take this question very seriously and took a moment to consider his response. “This is Game of Thrones,” he said soberly. “This isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. Until Sunday night that is, when Ramsay, the current reigning champion of Worstness in Westeros, did what he does best and completely obliterated any sense of innocence and decency this show had left. (At least Tyrion is back, because I don’t think I could have survived the dourness of this episode if it didn’t involve him saving his own life by describing the best way to sell his most valued possession: “You can’t just hand a dried cock to a merchant and expect him to pay for it.”) But I’m getting ahead of myself—this episode is full of worst person all-stars: we have Cersei getting her way by incriminating Margaery and we have Littlefinger betraying Sansa Stark—seriously, that girl cannot catch a break. This activity is an ancient one – much space in “The Iliad” is given to cleaning the body of Achilles’s slain comrade Patroclus while shrouds and ceremonial cleanings are popular in most religions, as a way to prepare the dead to meet the divinity. In the written series, Sansa is still just hanging out in the Eyrie, and her best friend—Jeyne Poole, who has come back to Winterfell impersonating Arya—is the one who ends up marrying and ultimately being subject to Ramsay’s abuse. It’s pretty intense and awful and the character will have to deal with it.” I also asked whether the scene would be as sadistic as the version in George R.R.

It’s Sansa’s wedding day, and her barely concealed frenemy Myranda arrives to draw her bath and give her “helpful” warnings about making sure she pleases Ramsay so that he doesn’t murder her with dogs. Joshua Keating: I didn’t think that anything could top the season-long transformation of Theon into Reek as a deeply unpleasant viewing experience, but that final scene may have just done it, particularly the last lingering shot on Theon’s anguished face that leaves you hoping in vain that he’ll overcome his programming until the second the credits finally rolled.

Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, on which the show is based, it is another young woman Ramsay weds and assaults, in a scene even more graphic and twisted. Bodies mortify quickly after death as the wondrous dance of living mitochondria, immune systems, and intact cells quickly dissolves into an inept pool of chemicals. Sansa’s no fool anymore, and immediately sees the game being played; she asks Myranda how long she’s been in love with Ramsay, and tells her to get out. “I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell,” she says, sounding more like Catelyn than she ever has before. “This is my home, and you can’t frighten me.” She breaks down a little after Myranda leaves—which is fair enough, since she is in enormous danger—but it’s still a wonderfully fierce moment where we see her projecting the kind of strength we’d expect from her father, her mother, or any warrior we’ve seen holding a sword.

The people in charge of the show are free to do what they please with the characters, and viewers should always be prepared for the worst, but the problem here is that the rape scene added no value to the overall narrative. Though there may be relief that so many bacteria are being buried, far from contagion, in general the bacteria that thrive on dead tissue are not the ones that cause infectious diseases. Yes, anthrax and Ebola and a few others exploit a newly dead body, but actually the need for a quick burial is less about disease control than the need to assure that a town doesn’t stink like the back of an unemptied refrigerator.

When Ramsay forced Theon to apologize for “killing” Sansa’s “brothers” (they were really two random farm boys), his intent to make both of their lives hell was made perfectly clear. In King’s Landing, Margaery’s attempt to manipulate the besotted tween king into sending his own mother out of town backfired in spectacular fashion. And then there’s the composition of the scene, as a camera slowly closes in on Theon’s sobbing while Sansa’s painful cries are heard in the background. Two roads diverging in the dark of the woods, I suppose… but all of us are still intending that at the end we will arrive at the same place.” This is hardly the first time “Thrones” has stirred up controversy with its depictions of rape; last April, a sex scene between Cersei and Jaime Lannister was interpreted by many viewers as nonconsensual. But it’s not the extreme torture and humiliation that scene in the book is.” Cogman added that the scene is also “an important turning point” for Sansa. “She’s seen Theon and hated him and thinks he killed her brothers and betrayed them but she’s very conflicted by what she’s seeing there,” he said.

It has a tendency to use rape sensationally and frequently, not to mention the troubling incident last season where a director filmed a rape scene and didn’t even realize it. In general, I’m not a big fan of people getting raped in entertainment as a manipulative way of heightening the stakes, but I’m even less of a fan of people getting raped in entertainment when it accomplishes absolutely nothing. The formidable Sand Snakes give Jaime Lannister and Bronn more than they asked for until they are called off by Aero Heath whom they respect as the leader of their uncle’s guard. Even in the books, where Sansa’s abuse at King’s Landing was more unpleasant, the gauntlet of humiliation and violence stopped when she finally got free of the place.

That was the triumph at the heart of the moment last season when she emerged at the top of the stairwell in black, announcing her arrival as player rather than pawn. Notwithstanding Rudyard Kipling’s aphorism, “the female of the species is more deadly than the male…” the deadliness is temporary because women “must command but may not govern.” Because “She warns him, and her instincts never fail, that the Female of the Species is more deadly than the Male.” Arya, on some kind of strange journey, washes a dead body tenderly, though she still questions what happens to the bodies she washes. This was an episode that said, “Sorry for making you sit through 55 minutes of nothing really happening, but here, enjoy this rape!” Even the supposedly fun stuff has been unsatisfying this season.

Cersei has her issues, but I will argue, not necessarily convincingly, that the terrible things she does in this episode are, in theory, for her son, so she’s not in the running. (She won a few episodes ago because she was a terrible parent.) Ramsay’s motives are … to please his father? The Jaime-in-Dorne story arc hasn’t done much but produce some clunky sword fights that would have looked right at home in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, and Daenerys’s dragons are still stuck in a goddamn crypt. I’m sure the payoffs are still coming, but I’m beginning to wonder if sitting through episodes like last night’s in order to get to them is even worth it anymore. Slave traders capture Tyrion and Jorah– not an unusual scene in a historical fantasy but Tyrion’s lines here are, as always, witty and pungently delivered.

After Ned’s execution, it’s implied that she’s sent to one of Littlefinger’s brothels to be prostituted; whip scars are found on her back before Ramsay ever gets to her. This show has taught me to never hope for the best-case scenario, but even if I wanted to believe that Littlefinger is just hedging his bets, he’s betrayed Sansa in a way that he hasn’t betrayed Cersei, right? So I guess the scene with Sansa could have been even more terrible, but that’s like saying it was merciful for the Bolton men to decapitate Robb Stark and sew the head of his direwolf on his corpse, when they could have taken his head and used it to play kickball outside of the Twins. Westeros is looking more like the Westboro Church as we find ourselves suddenly in an anti-gay trial presided over Thrones’ version of Savonarola, the barefoot High Sparrow. Now that their wacky road trip has been derailed, Jorah and Tyrion hike up the coast, and finally stop attacking each other verbally and physically, and start talking.

The Sparrows, like Savonarola and the Essenes and all the other “Bonfire of the Vanities” practitioners through the centuries, are intent on rubbing out sensual pleasures, like sex and food and art. Given last week’s build-up, I expected something a little more dramatic than the brief fight scene with Bronn and one-armed Jamie that was quickly interrupted by Doran’s guards. They also seem to want to toss science out with the earthly pleasures and return to a trudging paleolithic pace where fire and perhaps something to shave a beard are the only advancements allowed. After some mournful expressions, the conversation turns to something brighter: Jorah’s massive crush on Daenerys and why he follows her so devotedly. “Do you believe there’s a plan for this world?” Jorah asks.

The notion that science, grubby science complete with chemistry equations and sine curves and trying to remember if veins carry oxygenated or unoxygenated blood, is a threat to anyone other than distracted junior high school students, warms my heart. From their twisted Sparrow vantage, fornication and physics are more or less identical – a truly radical thought. “Game of Thrones” is not your college’s course on Arthurian romance, not that it’s a tale of Snow White. Sir Thomas Mallory, a knight prisoner with a bad reputation, follows many of the conventions of his “French book,” from the betrayal of the Duke of Cornwall to the Quest of the Grail and the illicit loves of Tristan and Isolde and Lancelot and Guinevere. Galahad’s humblebrag that “my strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure,” runs counter to the show’s alleged moral compass, with points deducted for bad tactics.

Littlefinger returns from playing matchmaker in Winterfell to find Kings Landing a changed place, and is immediately confronted by Manson-family-reject Brother Lancel, who warns him that the flesh trade will no longer be tolerated. “We both peddle fantasies,” he tells the religious zealot. “Mine just happen to be interesting.” He heads for his meeting with Cersei, where he shares the shocking news that Lord Bolton has wedded his son to Sansa Stark, choosing the favor of the North over loyalty to a “hated Southern house.” Although she’s suitably enraged by this betrayal, Littlefinger convinces her to let Stannis and Lord Bolton fight it out, and then send a force North to confront the victor. And don’t forget Podrick and Brienne lurking in the hills, though given Brienne’s luck, they’ll probably show up three days after the climactic battle. Ancient Hindus and Buddhists often meditated sitting on the charnel ground – the area where dead bodies, sometimes rotting, were placed to be eaten by birds. I’m just guessing, but it seems like a smart way to achieve the dream that has burned inside him since he was a boy: Taking the seat of the Stark lord he jealously hated and marrying the beautiful auburn-haired girl that should have been his.

Only when we fully and emotionally recognize that we are each here on earth for a limited amount of time can we fully appreciate the preciousness of every moment. In a conversation that feels like the verbal version of Minesweeper, Lady Olenna asks Cersei if she has really thought this through, since King’s Landing is still completely dependent on Highgarden for gold and food. One the other hand, we’ve got yet another wedding coming up—Danaerys and Hizdahr zo Loraq—which as you noted, usually portends something horrendous. So Arya made to wash dead bodies is not only for the sake of getting the bodies clean but for Arya’s own spiritual advancement – so that she may make better use of the short while she has to live. Krule: Based on your equally fervent desire for a Reekolution (darn, that’s not as catchy as Reekvenge)—I think it’s safe to say that we’re in agreement?

But the moment you see Olyvar enter the room, you know how this is going to play out: He immediately sells out Loras as his gay sex friend, no doubt for generous compensation from Cersei. I thought Amanda Marcotte made a great point in her post about the rape—last season’s twincest rape was … poorly executed by the show runners and confusing to viewers. Keating: Very true—this was unlike the Jamie/Cersei scene and the various horrors at Caster’s Keep in that the showrunners seemed completely conscious and intentional in how difficult it was to watch. It’s not like we really needed more reason to cheer for Ramsay’s death, Reek’s redemption, (Reekdemption!) and Sansa’s deliverance, but we’ve got it. We haven’t seen Myrcella in a long time, but now she’s all grown up, and currently acting out her own version of Romeo and Juliet with her (non-sociopathic) fiance, Trystane Martell.

Rather than a plot to harm Myrcella, there was a plot to prop her up as a Dornish rival to Tommen, although this too failed spectacularly—and cost Myrcella an ear in the chaos. Jaime and Bronn never went to rescue her, although the Kingsguard knight assigned to protect her gets recruited into the scheme by Doran’s daughter Arianne, and killed by Areo Hotah while attempting to smuggle the princess out of Sunspear.

On the scale of unpleasant things that Arya has had to see and do over the last several years, washing corpses might as well be washing laundry: bo-ring. When Arya insists she wants to play the game of faces again, the girl tells her own story: She too was the daughter of a great lord in Westeros, and she enlisted the Faceless Men to kill her stepmother after the woman tried to poison her.

Arya looks pleased to hear that she’s not the only one with a story of familial vengeance, at least until the girl finishes and her face turns cold. “Was that true, or a lie?” Arya looks confused, which is to say she’s lost the game again. In the middle of the night, Jaqen returns to play yet another round of the game, the one Arya crossed the sea to play—not of thrones, but of faces, of lies.

She looks up indignant, insisting it was true, but he knows better: “A girl lies, to me, to the Many-Faced god, to herself.” Arya demands that they stop playing the game, but Jaqen offers a hard truth: “We never stop playing.” Just ask Littlefinger. He tells Arya that she isn’t ready to become no one yet. “But she is ready to become someone else.” In the books: The blond girl—called “the waif” in the books—tells a very similar origin story, and reveals that part of it was untrue, though she never says which part.

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