Let’s Talk about That Game of Thrones Episode

A.K.A. Bad writing is sexist writing is bad writing, GoT edition.

Spoilers for GoT through Season 5, Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

If you spend any time on the internet, you have already heard of the horrible events of the latest GoT episode. The GoT showrunner’s D&D gave us extra servings of their favorite topping– gratuitous rape.

In the interest of everyone’s sanity, I’m not going to catch us up to this episode. Take my word for it–poor Sansa Stark has been suffering for nearly four seasons now. She has been humiliated publicly by her ex-fiance (the king!), almost raped, threatened with rape, forced to watch her father beheaded. Most of her family is dead. The family members who are alive are presumed dead. It’s not a good time to be Sansa.

Unfortunately for those of us who hate sexism and poor writing, D&D, our resident cackling villains, have taken Sansa on a journey of suffering where everyone is acting either illogically and/or out of character. All so that we can get poor Sansa to the point where she is raped on her wedding night by her new sadistic fiance, Ramsey Bolton.

Take creepy, flesh peddler Littlefinger. A bad guy, absolutely. But thus far, he has proven himself a shrewd and savvy manipulator. He has spies everywhere so he always has the 411. And he’s eeirely obsessed with Sansa. It has something to do with his love for her late mother and how he could never have her. Nevermind that. He would not marry Sansa off to a sadistic creep like Ramsey unless it was for truly great political gain. And he would absolutely know that Ramsey is a creep. He knows everything.

Take the creep Ramsey. He’s been a moustache twirling sadistic villain for a good season or two now. Not at all an interesting character. No shades there. He’s pure evil. We got the point when he tortured and mutilated Theon. And again when he sicked the dogs on his ex lover. There may have been a third or fourth time. I really don’t recall. Evil, we get it. Evil and sadistic. That’s about it. We don’t need the rape scene to teach us he’s evil and sadistic. We know. Sansa knows too– she got it during the awkward family dinner where he reminded her how she was surrounded by people who literally killed her family. Even his dad (the guy responsible for killing Sansa’s mother and brother) told him to STFU and show some manners.

Now, here’s the thing. It doesn’t make sense for Ramsey to rape Sansa. Yes, he’s evil, but he’s been respectful to Sansa so far. He seems to convince Littlefinger that he won’t hurt her (and lord knows Littlefinger would see through a lie). But even if is heart is full of evil, Ramsey is in a tough spot. He needs to stay in line. Once a bastard, now a Bolton, Ramsey is heir as long as he’s the only son around (and as long as he isn’t renounced). But his new step-mom is preggers. Oh noes! The sexist, lackluster writing requires that he ignore any bit of sense so he can rape Sansa on their wedding night.

Bad writing. Sexist writing. They’re all tangled up in each other and there’s no way of telling what came first. One doesn’t excuse or explain the other. Not really. The showrunners made a conscious decision to ignore internal consistency in favor of adding a rape scene that serves no narrative purpose. Bad writing all around. Sexist writing all around.

It’s that same chestnut we discussed many moons ago. Sexist writing is bad writing. Bad writing is sexist writing. Instead of doing something interesting with Sansa’s story, GoT subjects her to horrors we’ve seen before. We know women on the show are raped. And we’ve seen poor Sansa tortured by her sadistic fiance. This was lazy, uninspired writing. It was also sexist. Or maybe it was sexist and lazy and uninspired. There’s no telling which came first, really.

We know Ramsey is evil. We know Sansa is made to suffer. We know Westeros is not an easy place for a lady. There’s no reason why Ramsey needs to rape Sansa. It’s not new information and it doesn’t advance the narrative. It’s not as if the plot the put Sansa in this predicament is interesting and well constructed. It’s like the plot is written around the damn rape scene!

The scene itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Sansa enters the room steel-eyed, understanding the expectations of her wedding night. it’s not like she’s excited to have sex with a weird stranger, but she knows it’s expected of her and seems perfectly willing to go along with it. Ramsey acts respectfully toward her. He asks if she likes the way the room is set up and seems genuinely concerned with her well-being. For no apparent reason, Ramsey questions Sansa’s chastity (she was technically married before. How is it she’s really a virgin?) There’s no sign that her answers push him to a breaking point. That they bring out his inner evil or something. That would be bad writing but at least there would be an effort.

There is no narrative reason why Sansa and Ramsey couldn’t have consensual sex. She seems perfectly willing to go along with it until he orders Theon/Reek to watch. And even then, she starts taking off her clothes.

But, for some reason that is not at all apparent in the scene, this is not good enough for Ramsey. He rips off her dress and orders Theon/Reek to watch Sansa become a women. The camera cuts to Sansa’s face for a few seconds then to Theon’s horrified reaction.

This is the worst of it yet.

His reaction becomes more important than hers.

What. The. Fuck!?!?!

That’s bad writing– plot doesn’t happen to main characters to motivate side characters–and it’s really, really sexist. We’ve all seen movies where the wife is killed to motivate the hero (better known as fridge stuffing).

The plot went through a lot of terrible contortions to put Sansa in a situation where she was at risk of sexual assault. All of these things were decisions on the parts of the showrunners. That is how fiction works. Writers make decisions and those decisions shape the plot, the characters, the world. GoT is not based on real life. It is not based on history. There are ice zombies and dragons and 800 foot tall walls. All of these things are DECISIONS. There is nothing inevitable about Sansa’s plot. This is not about her becoming a woman or a player in the game. She doesn’t need any more motivation– she’s surrounded by people who killed her family. That’s plenty motivation. The only possible narrative reason for this scene was to motivate Theon. That is not okay.

That’s bad writing.

That’s sexist writing.

This plot was boring. It was predictable. It was repetitive. And it was sexist.

Unfortunately, GoT has been all of the above.

(And before anyone tells me not to watch if I don’t like it. Well, one that’s a stupid argument. And two, I watch so I can take part in these conversations and because the hate coursing through my veins makes me feel alive).


The Rapiest Show of All

I am not afraid of rape on my TV screen. I greedily consumed all 14 Netflix-available seasons of Law and Order SVU in far less time than I’d care to admit. I realize that rape is a thing that happens, both to men and women (though you wouldn’t know it from watching TV). I understand that rape is a bad thing and that rapists are bad people. I doubt many would argue these points, even the most misogynist of people.

But, lord, does Game of Thrones love to remind us that WOMEN GET RAPED. I say women, because (mild spoilers), to date, only one man was threatened with rape/almost raped. To be fair, we never see anyone raped on the show (unless I wasn’t paying attention), but, lord, do men like to remind women that THEY CAN AND WILL GET RAPED. And, boy, do bad guys like to THREATEN TO RAPE WOMEN.

In last night’s episode, (more mild spoilers) there are three instances of rape threats:

1. The Hound tells Arya she’s lucky he found her. Would you believe it, but there are men who would rape a little girl like her. Also, he saved Arya’s sister, Sansa, from being raped by random dudes. DOES ARYA REALIZE THAT PEOPLE WOMEN GET RAPED IN THE GoT UNIVERSE?

2. The douchey soldier dudes threaten to rape Dani, and her servant, after they triumph in battle. One asks to see her cunt. Yes, they use the c-word. Also they have a fun window-dressing prostitute who doesn’t speak.

3. Geoffry (refuse to look up the spelling since google images will show me his horrible face) threatens to rape Sansa after her new husband has passed out drunk. He even threatens to have his guards hold her down while he does it. JUST IN CASE WE DIDN’T REALIZE GEOFFRY IS A BAD GUY YET.

Yes. The rapists are not the good guys. But, on this show, almost no one is a good guy. Even the good guys think little of a woman being raped. That’s just what happens to women. They deserve it for the crime of having tits and a vagina. Men are always reminding women they can/will be raped, as if to put women in their place. Look. You are the weaker sex. You will be over-powered and violated and there is nothing you can do about it.

Rape is not viewed as a horrible thing. It is a commonplace, accepted reaction to the presence of a woman.

I wouldn’t go so far to say that GoT glorifies rape. But it normalizes it. It presents rape as not that big of a deal. The constant threat of rape towards women, especially young, strong women, turns women into victims. We are constantly reminded that this amazing warrior, this feisty child, this woman with magical dragon powers, is nothing more than a potential rape victim.

And, sure, we can say “it’s pretend” all we want. But lets not pretend that we don’t internalize fiction. Lets not pretend that TV, movies, and books do not affect us. Lets not pretend that it’s OKAY to make a TV show where women are victims and pawns as often as they are players.