A small note on this week's rape in Game of Thrones.Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spoilers, obviously.

There's been a lot of back and forth about the latest rape in Game of Thrones: whether it was a rape considering the Ramsay Bolton-Sansa Stark marriage was arguably consensual; whether Sansa is a "strong woman"; whether the showrunners are putting rape onscreen gratuitously; whether it's "realism" or sexual assault porn or whatever else.

I have another issue with it. The rape seems to me the least interesting choice for both Ramsey and Sansa's characters. Ramsey is a vicious bastard because he's a bastard. Marrying Sansa strengthens his claim to be a legit nobleman. It could have been interesting if Ramsey actually treated Sansa decently because she is the only woman whose opinion matters to him. He's a sadist, sure, but he wants to be legitimate.

And then, of course, the show has some suspense. Can he keep it up? Or will he revert to habit?

Likewise, it could have been more interesting if Sansa had seduced Ramsey, owning her power and position, rather than just waiting for him to rape her. After all, she knew she was marrying the guy, so the sex can't have been a total surprise. Why not show some agency?

The rape is predictable and adds nothing to the story. Other choices might have added something new, and fresh, and compelling.

Is it gratuitous? The best sex scenes, like the best action scenes, are dramatic. They reveal character. They are about the characters trying to get what they want. If there is no change in the relationship, and no revelation of character, then the sex scene is gratuitous.

By that standard, Ramsey forcing himself on Sansa isn't, strictly, gratuitous. It changes the relationship. But he's done far worse things (torture, mutilation, treachery, hunting people down for sport) and Sansa has had worse things happen to her (murder of her entire family). The rape reveals nothing new about either character. A scene of aftermath in which Sansa reveals that she was raped, and what it means to her, might have been more revelatory.

But then, HBO's business strategy is not necessarily to make the best TV shows, but to make must-see shows that can't possibly be on network TV. From that point of view, we're talking about the scene, so it's all win for them.


Ugh. Totally agree and you lay out exactly why it frustrated and disappointed me — it reveals nothing other than what we already know about both characters. I guess you could maybe argue now we know Ramsay can't be domesticated by nobility or something, but that wasn't exactly a burning question since he's a torturing rapist psychopath who feeds people to dogs. It's also decidedly not from the books, which I don't care about except that it was a deliberate choice by the writers, not simply following the canonical trail of the source material into dark corners.

I also loathed how they climaxed the scene on Theon's face — as if HIS experience of the assault is what really matters.

It was gross and beneath the show. Perhaps there will be some majestic turn of events in subsequent
episodes to justify it, but judging by the show's track record with this stuff — nope.


By Blogger Elan, at 1:18 PM  

This may be one of the few things written about the scene that I actually agree with.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:04 AM  

I agree with some of the complaints about this scene except that it adds nothing to the story. I'm aware of some spoilers, and it seems that the scene (including the way it was shot) is actually quite important to the larger story, and that this will become clear in an episode or two. It's best to watch or read a story to the end before second-guessing whether something was handled the right way or was superfluous or not.

By Blogger Unknown, at 6:32 AM  

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