Of all the characters in Game of Thrones, perhaps none have been the focus of as much controversy as Sansa Stark.
The ongoing discussion about the show’s use of sexual violence boiled over in Season 5, when Sansa was raped by Ramsay Bolton after being forced to marry him.
Fans threatened to quit the show. Critics picked sides and wrote thinkpieces about it. And the cast and crew have been left to defend their views ever since.
In fact, they’re still getting asked about it. In a wide-ranging Time story about the imminent return of the HBO series, Sophie Turner the 21-year-old actress who plays Sansa suggested the controversy generated by that infamous rape scene could be the start of an important conversation.
This was the trending topic on Twitter, and it makes you wonder, when it happens in real life, why isnt it a trending topic every time? This was a fictional character, and I got to walk away from it unscathed Lets take that discussion and that dialogue and use it to help people who are going through that in their everyday lives. Stop making it such a taboo, and make it a discussion.
Hmm. Let’s parse this response.
To start with the positive: Turner is absolutely right that there needs to be more conversation about sexual violence in the real world. Too often, stories like Sansa’s get ignored or shouted down or even turned against the victims themselves. And that’s when they come up at all. Many more victims are shamed or blamed into keeping silent, and never report these crimes at all.
But then Turner tries to reframe the controversy as a “dialogue” about rape in the real world, and that’s where I get lost. Yes, Sansa’s rape scene got fans and critics talking about sexual assault. But that conversation was more specifically about how sexual assault is used and portrayed onscreen, by shows like Game of Thrones.
That, to me, seems like a conversation worth having as part of a larger and more general discussion about sexual abuse. That, to me, is helping people dealing with it in real life (albeit in an imperfect and indirect way), because it’s one step in the difficult process of questioning the way our culture understands assault and consent, and how and how much of it it we want to see reflected in our art.
It’s wondering whether we really need so many rape stories in popular fiction, or, if we do, how best we can ensure they’re not exploiting the very characters we’re seeing victimized. It’s asking whether it’s worth triggering people who’ve suffered similarly horrific ordeals in their real lives. Or if, by reinforcing the idea that the threat of rape is basically inevitable for women, we’re just making sure it stays that way.
I don’t have any good, clear answers to any of those questions or the hundreds of others we could raise and I’m not sure Turner does either. Which is fine! It’s not her job to come up with an elegant solution to rape culture. It sounds like she’s making a clumsy point that the discussion about rape culture should move beyond “should Game of Thrones have included a scene where Sansa is assaulted” and into “what do we do about it now?” And she’s right, it should. I just think she’s not getting that that’s where the conversation already was.
As for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, meanwhile, they stand by their decision. “This is what we believed was going to happen,” said Benioff. And here’s Weiss:
We talked about, is there any other way she could possibly avoid this fate that doesnt seem fake, where she uses her pluck to save herself at the last? There was no version of that that didnt seem completely horrible.
Which … fine. Yes, once you marry off Sansa to the most purely evil man in all of Westeros, a man who’s already been established as extremely violent and excessively cruel, it does make perfect sense that their wedding night would be a horror show.
But let’s not forget that Benioff and Weiss and their team made the decision to put Sansa in that position to begin with. (They can’t even use the “but the books!” defense here, since this doesn’t happen to Sansa in the books it happens to a different character). Or that Game of Thrones has been turning rape into drama since its very first episode, in which Dany cries all through her wedding night with Khal Drogo. (FWIW, this encounter is framed as totally consensual in the books.)
The squeamishness around that scene was never about trying to make conversations about rape taboo. It was about asking why rape is treated so cavalierly onscreen, especially when it’s so tough to talk about offscreen. That’s the dialogue we’re having right now.
Read more: http://mashable.com/