Viewers Are Quitting ‘Game Of Thrones’ After That Controversial Scene

20 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Critics of Sansa’s Rape Scene on Game of Thrones Are Missing the Point.

Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones ended on a sour note: Sansa Stark married the cruel and malicious Ramsay Bolton — an arrangement orchestrated by Petyr Baelish. Of all the despicable things that Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) has done, his rape of new bride Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is easily the worst. ‘I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell,’ she had told Ramsay’s bit on the side. ‘This is my home. If that weren’t disheartening enough, the final scene of the episode depicted the couple’s wedding night, which ended with Ramsay raping Sansa while a tearful Theon Greyjoy watched in horror.

The event was the latest in a long string of indignities that have befallen Sansa Stark: her parents were murdered, she was wed to Tyrion Lannister after her engagement to King Joffrey was broken (which followed a series of public humiliations at the hand of her betrothed), she was forced to flee King’s Landing after she and Tyrion were accused of murdering Joffrey at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell, and she had to deal with the somewhat aggressive affections from Petyr Baelish, who was acting on his longstanding love for Sansa’s deceased mother. But last night’s rape was particularly troubling, as it was the first of the show’s many acts of sexual violence that was actually perpetrated against Sansa Stark — even though she was brutalised by the Kingsguard at Joffrey’s request. During the wedding night, Ramsay forces Sansa to undress and proceeds to violently rape her as he forces his slave Reek (formerly known as Theon, Sansa’s childhood companion) to watch the horrific act.

This show has often been criticised for its portrayal and treatment of women and, I must confess, I found this scene – in a show jam-packed with titillation, female flesh and salty banter – enormously unsettling. While the rape blessedly took place off-screen, what made it even more questionable was that it was reflected in the face of Theon Greyjoy; as Sansa screams off-camera, we watched the emotional trauma of a man who was a witness to sexual violence, which one could argue belittled the actual victim of the violent act. The first act occurred in the pilot in a scene that is reminiscent of Sansa’s rape: Daenerys Targaryen, also placed into an arranged marriage (by her scheming brother, Viserys) when she was just 14 years old, weds the brutish Dothraki leader Khal Drogo. Jill Pantozzi, editor-in-chief of The Mary Sure, wrote that the scene was “not necessary to Sansa’s character development,” nor necessary to further prove Ramsay’s evil nature. Away from another horrific Westeros wedding there was a Schemer’s Convention in King’s Landing as Queen Mother Cersei (Lena Headey) held fantastically bitchy meetings with Lady Tyrell (of the crisp dynasty) and Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen).

Pantozzi noted that Sansa is already a survivor and thus, “rape here, like in all instances, is not a necessary story-driving device.” Other fans and writers seem to feel similarly. But as others have pointed out, Sansa’s primary offense wasn’t rooted in any specific trait, but instead in being precisely what she was raised to be: a lady in an unrelentingly patriarchal society. With naught but a moustache comb and an unfathomable accent he’s managed to get himself a couple of punch-ups away from Warden of the North. ‘I live to serve’ he said, hilariously.

This tricky notion of consent returned last season following King Joffrey’s death, when his parents Cersei and Jaime Lannister, who are bother and sister, have sex next to his corpse in his tomb. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted on Tuesday that she’s done with the show after what she called a “gratuitous,” “disgusting” and “unacceptable” scene. In going forward with the plan to marry Ramsay, she is both scared and resolute—but she has a plan, and like her mentor in deception, Littlefinger, she’s learned to keep her cards close.

The scene is clearly a rape; Jaime forces his sister and lover to comply to his sexual desires despite the fact that she audibly pleads with him to stop. Diana Rigg’s sailor-mouthed Lady Tyrell was in town to demand the release of Ser Loras (Finn Jones) from his imprisonment by the nutty fun police The Faith Militant. She knows she has allies: “The North remembers.” And she knew what will happen on her wedding night—she’s far too smart to assume that Ramsay would respect her the way Tyrion did. Cersei, however, has played an absolute blinder and with the help of her very own Cardinal Richelieu (Jonathan Pryce’s hair shirt wearing High Septum) not only will Loras stand trial for naughtiness but Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) is going to be in the dock too. Arya might be the one training to assume many different faces, but Sansa has been playing a similar game of her own for quite some time—this episode especially included.

Dorne’ adventure with sidekick Bronn (Jerome Flynn, still brilliant), ‘Uncle’ Jaime lost ‘niece’ Myrcella to the Sand Snakes, and got arrested to boot. ‘Sensitive diplomatic mission’ huh? Finally, at the weird assassins’ Hogwarts in Braavos, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) found out what they do with all those corpses she’s been washing (turns out they stick their heads into these enormous columns in this big room and… nope, I’ve no idea what’s going on with this subplot).

And as pedantic as fans of the books (including myself) can be about some of the details, it’s inevitable that the process of adapting and compressing and reworking these stories for television will lead to changes — sometimes major changes. Hopefully, within a few episodes, we’ll see Sansa’s plan in action—ideally it will involve Sansa taking down the wretched family that took her home, starting with Ramsay. So the question is not, exactly, “Why change the books?” Because the answer is clear: Many, many details must be changed, just to make the transition from book series to televised series work. Cersei and Margaery scheme to get their ways and establish their power, whereas the Stark sisters play more passive roles in hiding their true identities and keeping a nearly impossible low profile.

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