With Game of Thrones back on the box I usually read and hear interactions along the lines of ‘DID YOU SEE THRONES!’ and ‘OMFG EVERYBODY DIED!’ and generally people losing their sh*t over the writers’ cunning and evilness. However, this year there been quite a bit if negativity. Is Thrones no longer the golden boy? Is it ‘dull’? Has it gone too far?
Yes. No. No. They’re my answers, but it does seem at odds with the forums and social media feeds I’m seeing. Namely because of that rape scene. Thrones has received a lot of criticism for *spoiler?!* Sansa being raped by her husband Ramsay. People have said they’ve stopped watching because this went too far, and it was gratuitous as it has no narrative value. I struggle with this.
The scene was handled very differently from the Thrones sex scenes where women are often prizes to meet men’s base desires in a man’s world–it was presented to us as (in my mind) it should be–brief, uncomfortable, a cruel act, and implied. I don’t want to watch rape, not even implied, but I accept that I will have to in shows as it happens–Thrones is not the first show to portray rape and it won’t be the last. I’ve sat through it in soaps–which are typically family shows. Joan *spoiler* endured it in ‘Mad Men’ with similar treatment in a very real world of women struggling for power in a ‘man’s’ world. Thrones is not a kids’ show and it’s screened after the watershed.
As for going too far? Thrones did that for me last season with that exploding head scene. That really shocked me and it stayed with me. Yet, this is a show that has these moments. It’s a brutal world that, and for the most part, defies narrative formulas. Oberon should have won and would have in most other works. I’m hoping the series doesn’t play the ‘shock of the series’ game and these moments are natural and organic.
As for the ‘not of narrative value’ criticism–I don’t think rape should have a narrative ‘value’. Because if it’s the trigger that strengthens Sansa to make a stand and determine her own fate then in a way it ‘justifies’ the rape. In plenty of other shows this would’ve been the turning point for Sansa or Reek, and Ramsay would’ve gotten his comeuppance. Not in Thrones, and you can’t criticise the show for doing what it does best and defying tropes. If you’re expecting sudden turns of fortune–five years in–then well done for maintaining your hopes, mine were trampled at the red wedding and crushed with Oberon’s head.
People have also said the rape is evidence of misogyny in the show. Thrones is very much a man’s world, but that doesn’t make the show misogynistic. It’s fantasy. It also has some strong female leads. People who claim misogyny overlook Brienne, Olena, Marjory, Catelyn, Daenerys, Aryia, the Red Witch, Cersei. Okay, many of them have to toe the line in this male world, but several of these were/are their own person and those that aren’t pull some pretty powerful strings. This kind of argument could be turned into a men issue, with Theon’s cock amputation, and a homophobia issue with the church asserting itself against homosexuality. Yeah, having to deal with homophobia on the news all the time, I would prefer it wasn’t in an escapist fantasy show, but then if we stripped our dramas of anything that anyone could find offensive we wouldn’t have drama. We wouldn’t have anything.
I love TV Thrones. I was going to write about it every week, but with studies I haven’t had much time, and to be honest, even when it’s a slower episode it’s so good I can’t find much to mull over and talk about. Plenty of people are critical of this season’s slower pace, but Thrones typically has extensive periods of buildup which usually involves talky scenes of scheming and intrigue and seed sowing for the pay offs as the series closes. Perhaps people are too used to binge watching and not having to wait for these pay offs. If you want 50 minute stand alone stories that have their own set up and finale then Thrones is not the show for you.
With the movement of characters from Westeros to Essos, the games changing after season four, and religion weakening the noble houses’ grip on power over the people, season 5 has had plenty to offer so far. Just don’t expect a quick path to a happy ending. There are few innocents in this fantasy world and whoever reaches the end of the run will have endured horrors to earn true survivor status, and whoever ends up on the iron throne, well, I’m sure they would’ve had to do some pretty bad things to get there.
Unless there’s a prolonged dip in quality I’m certainly sticking by Thrones to see it through to the bitter(sweet?!), and no doubt bloody, end.
What did you think? Was Sansa’s treatment a step too far? Is Thrones losing its way?