Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Game of Thrones and rape

HBO's superseries Game of Thrones has now completely left behind the creator of Westeros and Essos. Television moves faster than that glacially slow writer George R.R. Martin and so the series writers are now creating their own scenarios and storylines, presumably in consultation with Martin. I mean he is still writing those books. Allegedly. He or his spokesperson has said that number six will be out before season six of the television series starts. Personally, I'll believe it when I hold it in my hands and read it.

Of course, the series has always had some differences from the books. After all, television is different from literature. What can be explained in great and loving detail in a book has to be translated to a few seconds or a few minutes of action on the screen. Dramatic license applies here. 

Some of the changes made by the series runners are not so easily explained away, however. That notorious rape scene between Jaime and Cersei last season springs immediately to mind. It was very different from the scene in the book, and what was the reason for that? It seems the same purpose could have been achieved by following the book.

And now we have the complete change of course in the arc of Sansa Stark's story. She's deposited at Winterfell by Littlefinger and married off to the sadist Ramsay (Snow) Bolton, who, quite predictably immediately rapes her, tortures her, and humiliates her. Where exactly are they going with this? 

And what exactly is up with their obsession with the rape, torture, and humiliation of women, scenes of which are visited upon their viewers almost every week? Certainly, life was violent and rape was sometimes a feature of the life of women in the novels. But not to the extent that the show would have it.

Okay, we get it. Life was hard for women in Westeros. And here's a bulletin for you: Life is still hard for most women in the world, including many in the United States. Just ask the Duggar daughters, for example. Or not. It's likely they are so brainwashed that they believe they are to blame for their own abuse.

But back to the more pleasant world of Westeros and Essos for the moment.

Game of Thrones has rightfully received kudos for its portrayal of many strong women characters, from Arya Stark to Daenerys Targaryen. It's something that we don't get to see much of on television, but its constant reliance on brutality toward many of its women characters as the center of its action each week is troubling to me. It's not the kind of thing that I would normally watch, and I know some women have stopped watching because of that brutality. Had I not read and loved the books, I might have already joined them. I still hold out hope that the show will find a way to resolve the issues that it continually raises with this violence. But what exactly would such a resolution look like in Westeros?

Take Ramsay Bolton, for example. Please! Take him far, far away!

Ramsay spent much of a season torturing Theon Greyjoy and turning him into the creature we now know as Reek. It got to the point that I couldn't watch any more. I closed my eyes and ears whenever he came on the screen. And now he has a new victim in Sansa.

He is beyond redemption. So what would justice look like for him? 

It certainly wouldn't be a fast and easy death. He would have to be excruciatingly tortured over several episodes, ending probably in being flayed alive. 

Perhaps, on the other hand, the writers will find a way to keep him alive and lurking, an example of pure evil.

Three more shows in this season. Before the credits roll on the last one, we'll probably know the answers to these questions. One can only hope that, moving forward into the sixth season, the writers might become a bit more creative and find other ways to depict drama rather than by the weekly rape of women. 

2 comments:

  1. Hmmm...I don't know what to make of those scenes, not because I condone the use of violence on TV or anywhere else, but if you realize that GOT is populated by some savage characters and most highly manipulative, it's not a surprise then that they use violence towards women to convey the message; rather, it's an extension of the brutality of that way of life. It was that way in the Middle Ages and certainly Westeros portrays a medieval-esque society.

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    1. I think that is certainly the rationalization that those in charge of the show use to justify their use of rape in plots, but Martin managed to tell the stories in print without totally relying upon it for dramatic effect. Strange that the visual depiction of the stories should rely on it so heavily. I think it may have more to do with our over-sexualized society than it does with Westeros society.

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