This post contains spoilers regarding episode four of Game of Thrones, season eight.
The latest episode of the beloved HBO show has angered fans and celebrities alike, due to the racial insensitivity and disrespectful use of sexual violence as a storyline.
Sansa Stark experienced a hugely controversial plot point in season five; the horrific rape at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. In episode four, the Hound has a conversation with the new Lady of Winterfell and uses some gross language.
"I heard you were broken in. Broken in rough," he says, while sitting in HER HOUSE. Sansa replies by saying, "Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would have stayed a little bird all my life", she says.
Sansa explains to the Hound, who harassed her as Joffrey's former minion, that she is no longer afraid of him as she’s seen "much worse" since.
The Hound tells Sansa that none of the bad things, i.e. Ramsay Bolton and Littlefinger, would have happened to her if she had left King's Landing with him.
The problematic language grates on many fans, as the word 'rape' is never uttered and the Hound essentially blames Sansa here for her own assault. She was a child when she met the Hound, why would she leave anywhere with him?
Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.#GameOfThrones pic.twitter.com/TVIyt8LYxI
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) May 7, 2019
Jessica Chastain, who co-stars with Turner in the upcoming Dark Phoenix film, has joined the chorus of critics. Chastain is a staunch supporter of the Times Up movement for equal pay and representation in Hollywood, and #MeToo is close to her heart.
The actor tweeted her displeasure at the show’s choice to use assault as a narrative device;
“Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger,” she wrote. “A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The little bird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.” YAS QUEEN.
Thank the Lord, Sansa escaped Ramsay alongside Reek/Theon Greyjoy and later gave him the gruesome death he deserved. I'm sure we all remember the hounds scene? Revenge is served COLD by the Starks.
After the backlash surrounding the rape scene in season five in 2016, writer-producer Bryan Cogman explained that the decision for Sansa to be raped on her wedding night by Ramsay Bolton was the only realistic narrative option. Rude?
He continued, "Yes, it would have been hugely satisfying for Sansa to have a shiv up her sleeve and gut Ramsay, but that’s not Sansa. We can’t all be Arya, most people in that situation, they have to play a longer game."
That entire interview seems like a massive cop-out to us. The show clearly still has zero grasp of how to discuss sexual assault, as the Hound so callously proved.
Sonia Saraiya, an experienced Vanity Fair critic has elaborated on why the scene didn’t work for her. She explains that Sansa’s reaction to the Hound’s comment rang false for the character.
“She just sits there and takes it,” she writes. “It feels like a repudiation of both of their character arcs- and, as I have said again and again this season, a missed opportunity for growth and connection.”
Sansa has yet to have her hero moment and regain revenge, but we're guessing it may be her who gets to put the final nail in Cersei's coffin? Just a theory.
The show also received criticism for its treatment of people-of-colour, specifically regarding Missandei's death. Ava DuVernay, the iconic black female filmmaker, called the show out on Twitter for it's brutal killing of their sole woman-of-colour.
The lack of diversity is pretty noticeable, and the series rarely involves female directors.
By the time it ends, #GameofThrones will have aired 73 episodes. 2.7% directed by women (2 eps, both had same director). 4 episodes in which a woman had full or partial writing credit (5.5%). 2 women writers ever. Last time a woman credited as a #GoT writer was 2013.
— Mo Ryan (@moryan) January 4, 2018
Just five percent of the 73 total episodes were directed by women, and it comes across in the show's writing habits.
Namely on sexuality and assault as plot tools; it's rare that the female characters escape rape. DB Weiss and David Benioff, Y'all need to step up thy game in future, or you'll lose female viewers.
Don't shut out female writers, we have a lot to offer and deserve a seat at the table.
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