SPOILERS for the SONG OF ICE AND FIRE BOOKS by George RR Martin. And possibly for the show.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’m concerned about a possible upcoming plot twist on the TV show GAME OF THRONES. I guess it is my favorite TV show — the only one I watch live, and I usually rewatch it a couple times during the course of the week. (It’s a very, very complicated show; sometimes it absolutely demands a second viewing.) I’m afraid the show is teeing up for a serious misstep that could permanently damage the show’s reputation and enjoyment among the fans, including myself.
It’s the immediate fate of Sansa Stark, the only surviving Stark (as far as most of Westeros knows) and therefore the Heir to Winterfell.
As you probably know, Sansa has lately been under the creepy pedo-uncle “protection” and tutelage of Littlefinger, and his plan for her is alarming to say the least. He has taken her home to Winterfell and betrothed her to the Bastard of Bolton, Reese Bolton’s psychopathic son and recently legitimized heir, Ramsay Bolton. The marraige will, the Boltons think, legitimize their claim on Wintefell and the post of Warden of the North.
But Littlefinger knows Stannis Baratheon is marching from the Wall to attack the Boltons at Winterfell. He feels confident that Stannis will prevail, take Winterfell, and slaughter the Boltons, thus leaving Sansa in possession of Winterfell and the natural choice to be Wardeness of the North. (Under Littlefinger’s control.) While he waits for Stannis to arrive, Littlefinger bugs out south to conduct more scheming with the Lannisters in King’s Landing.
Well, this is a hell of a gamble. If Stannis fails, that leaves poor ladylike Sansa alone in the grip of that stone psycho, Ramsay Snow/Bolton. Ramsay, impressed with Sansa’s beauty and nobility, promises Littlefinger he will never hurt her. But as we all know quite well, Ramsay is incapable of not hurting someone. Cause he’s a psycho killer.
If you’ve read the books, you know this is taking a very disturbing turn. Sansa’s story so far this season is not identical to, but parallels a storyline in the books. In the books, Ramsay Snow/Bolton is married to Sansa’s childhood friend, Jeyne Poole, who is put forward by some faction (I can’t remember who) as a fake Arya Stark, a fake heir to the North. And Ramsay, being the monster that he is, rapes, beats, and brutalizes Arya/Jeyne, and utterly breaks her as a person. It’s said in the books that her nightly sobbing in her tower rooms at Winterfell is demoralizing the entire North.
Is that to be Sansa’s fate? Raped and broken by Ramsay’s torture? You’d think not — Sansa is one of the major characters, a Stark, one of the putative “good guys” in this morally gray universe. And she has already undergone unimaginable torment at the hands of another psycho, the unlamented Joffrey Baratheon, for years in King’s Landing.
But it could be, it could be. Sophie Turner, the actress who plays Sansa, has spoken in several interviews about filming an especially traumatic scene about midway through the season.
This, I think, would be a major mistake. Now, Sansa is one of my least favorite characters in GOT, both the show and the books. She is passive, whiny, spoiled, clings to her ridiculous illusions of chivalry while constantly having her nose rubbed in the brutality of Westeros. And, in the books, by the end of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, she still hasn’t figured out that it’s better to be a player in the Game of Thrones than a pawn. Although she finally seems to be figuring it out, with Littlefinger’s example, in Season 5 of the show.
But as little as I like her, I can’t stand the thought of her being raped. She’s just a girl! What is she, about seventeen now in the timeline of the show? (Even younger in the books.) A gently raised girl, who would have no chance defending herself against that brute Ramsay — who would barely even understand what was happening to her. Many of the characters in the show are monstrous, and they earn in large part a lot of what is coming to them. Like the Hound. Even Ned Stark earned his beheading in a way, by being so rigid and honorbound in the moral abyss of King’s Landing, by being so blind to the evil going on everywhere around him. (Not that he deserved it, of course, but it was a forseeable outcome of his naive and inept course of action.)
But if there’s any character that’s blameless in GAME OF THRONES, it’s Sansa. She’s blameless in large part because she’s so damn passive, but as far as I can recall, she has not hurt, killed or betrayed anyone. She has lost her entire family and is alone in the world except for skeevy Baelish. Violating such a soft and weak character would be like shooting a puppy. Sansa has suffered enough.
You’d think, no, there’s no way they’d do that, it would be monstrous. But the show had made similar boneheaded choices before. Especially, I’m afraid, when it comes to rape.
You know it’s true. Witness the way they stripped Danaerys’s consent from her marriage-consummation scene with Khal Drogo, turning what was an empowering scene for Dany in the books (and a humanizing scene for Drogo) into the frank taking of a teenage girl by a grown man. Remember her tears as he deflowered her.
Witness the absolutely horrific scene last season when Jamie Lannister raped his sister and lover Cersei, right next to the bier holding the body of their dead son, Joffrey. Cersei sobs, “No, no, stop, it’s wrong,” while Jamie throws her down and burrows under her skirts. God! And remember the way the producers consistently disavowed it, too, after that episode aired, claiming repeatedly that it was consensual and it was not a rape, despite the very obvious filmic evidence to the contrary. Even GRRM publicly distanced himself from that scene.
So yes, you’d think the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, would have sense enough not to do that. But there’s every evidence to suggest that no, they don’t.
But this time I really think this would be going a bridge too far. We know Sansa much better than we knew Dany at the wedding in Season 1. And Sansa is a far more vulnerable character than Cersei. I don’t think this violation of Sansa would be something the viewers could forgive. I don’t even like Sansa, but when I think about it I just feel sick. I don’t see that it would serve any purpose in the plot, either. Sansa has suffered for years and years. It’s time for her to start fighting back, and winning. This sort of debasing violence would be a backwards turn in her arc, not forwards.
More than that, it would compound with the other scenes to make me think that the constant prurience and objectification of women’s bodies in GAME OF THRONES is a feature of the show, not a bug — something these guys enjoy for it’s own right, not some gross fanservice they keep throwing in to attract the dudebro demographic. And this would give me a real problem with the show.
I guess this post makes me sound pretty sex-negative, and I’m not really. I have no real problem with all the tits and ass and fucking in the show, except that there’s so much of it, it gets tiresome through repetition. A lot of it is just straight-up gratuitous, and the sexposition is more often than not, ludicrous. It’s not that I think it’s wrong or bad, it’s just boring. But rape? That’s different.
Well, the episode is already in the can, and it airs tomorrow. So all my plaints here are surely for naught. But I can still hope that after the Jamie/Cersei debacle last season, D&D learned their lesson when it comes to sexually humiliating main female characters. One can only hope. But not trust. Clearly not that.