The Game of Thrones Controversy: A “Rat Queen” Sansa Roundtable

Game of Thrones

The four founders of OnWnet are all fans of Game of Thrones. In fact, the first ever meet up of the four of us was at a GoT exhibit. We bonded over the Battle of Blackwater. As a group, we are quite diverse in our life experiences. This means we don’t view things through the same lens. Thankfully it’s also one of the things we love about talking to each other. We can have conversations that dig deeper into a subject than one might if we all held the same opinion.

The recent Game of Thrones controversy led to one of these discussions. After Julie watched on her lunch hour, we burned up the WhatsApp data stream with our opinions. Only one of us had seen the episode in question, but we all had opinions on the larger issues it raised.

Julie: I just finished GoT.

Game-of-Thrones-009Nancy: Opinion?

Julie: I get that if they’re going to swerve from other things in the books, this is one that they could have skipped. But to me, it’s in the book (albeit with Jeyne)…it kind of had to be in the show.  Yes, rape is a highly overused trope to show dominance over a character. But it’s also a thing that happens in real life. A very bad thing. But so are murder, and torture.
I don’t know if I’m phrasing this well…

Frenchie: I feel differently. I dislike how, when it does come to the cherry picking, the default for the show’s creators is always rape. Then there’s them choosing to add rape where there is none like they did last season. GoT IS a very dark and gritty show, yes. But part of the issue is that so many of the abuses are aimed at this one character in conjunction with the overuse of rape as a plot device. Sansa already has her own struggles to overcome/endure; why is that being added to? I also understand that the creators are faced with so many side characters which is why they cut some. If SUCH a serious merging of two characters is going to occur though, it would have made sense for them to actually have Jeyne as a character instead.

I see Jamie’s [Outlander] rape as something different because, without it, there are other things that wouldn’t then happen, yes? With Sansa, I don’t feel the rape is necessary. There’s also the fact that the full breadth of Jack’s [Outlander] jamie-fraser-jack-randall-outlanderdepravity isn’t known until this whereas everyone knows Ramsay is a devil.

Nancy: I have to catch up and decide. Overall I think rape is such a consistent part of this type of society that I’m not sure it can be overused. On the other hand, I’m with Frenchie on that I don’t see why it had to be Sansa thing. It doesn’t feel right in the arc of her character.

Frenchie: At this point, as I mentioned to someone on Twitter, Sansa isn’t really getting that chance to consistently build up her strength. Every time she grows, something new and infinitely more horrible happens to her. If even GRRM was like, “that’s enough for you”, why is it essential that she be the one to suffer even more with no benefit? It’s just gotten to where she’s a token cursed character. Finding out about Jeyne was a mindfuck but I could see it making sense. Not so much with Sansa.

Nancy: I’m intrigued by what the writers said about it, as her marrying the monster to get back what’s hers, but my issue is why do they always miss the mark in the depiction? That’s doesn’t necessarily mean rape, it could mean surrender for the moment. Like I understood what they were getting at in the Cersei/Jamie scene but again the effect was off.

Julie: I would say “token character” is an issue with GRRM anyway. It’s long been a joke that he made too many characters and they had to kill some off.

As I recall (and I might be wrong), this book wasn’t written when the series started, so the show runners probably decided “hey, this Jeyne girl, not so important.” And then GRRM pulls a GRRM and suddenly some character we all forgot about is important and they had to scramble for a fix it. Was it the best fix it? Yeah, no. But let’s face it Sansa is the red-headed stepchild of the Stark kids. Her wolf is killed, she gets betrothed to that fuck Joffrey, married to Tyrion, maxresdefaulther whole family is slaughtered/separated…Sansa is the one GRRM tortures regularly, out of a family that he tortures regularly.

Frenchie: See, that’s the thing. You not being phased by it overmuch is just as valid a reaction as my telling HBO to fuck off.

Rosemary: Now I’m afraid to watch it.

Julie: I’m actually surprised at how I handled it. Maybe it’s because it’s not as graphic as what Starz did with Outlander (it basically happened off camera in GoT with the main context coming from Theon’s face), maybe it’s because I’ve seen one too many rape tropes, but Outlander had me twisting in the wind a lot more. Maybe it’s just because Sansa has never been a fully-fleshed character to me, nor Ramsay or Theon. Especially not on HBO.

Frenchie: One two many rape tropes as reason for being desensitized. If there were ever a sadder truth?

Rosemary: Sad and scary.

Frenchie: At the end of the day, it really could have and should have been handled differently, imo, and I’m done with the writers not trying more by this point. That may or may not hold true for others.

Julie: I’m similarly desensitized to murder in blow ’em up films like Die Hard and Terminator. Anyone remember when True Blood went all fan fiction after season two? Another fine example of HBO doing that, right here.

Frenchie: Real talk: Murder never has and likely never will bother me as much as rape. It’s another reason why I had to be mentally prepped for Jamie even knowing how “vital” it is that certain things happen to him. It’s not about desensitization for me. It’s just how I’m made.*

Julie: But going back to “one too many rape tropes,” can anyone count the number of times they’ve seen/read this? Because I lost count by the time I was about 13.

Frenchie: *this is in fictional context, obvs.
Irl murder is not my bag.

Well, yeah, Julie. And that’s exactly part of the problem. It’s tired and old and a classic example of lazy writing IF it’s used solely as a fail-safe because SOMETHING has to happen.

I’m tired of throwing my hands up because of course Sansa gets raped. Of course. 😕

Nancy: This ^

Julie: Sansa always gets raped, Tyrion always gets forced to ride in the dwarf circus show, and Arya always gets screwed over. GRRM writes in lazy ass tropes.

Frenchie: …the show creators have a right to change things at will. The dissatisfaction is with what they’ve chosen to change. That’s on them. And, like I said, you being unfussed is just as valid as me drawing a line in the sand. You’re by no means obligated to feel the way I do in regards to this and vice versa. Similarly, I’m not directing shame at you for not having an issue with the show’s direction, in case it seems like it.

Julie : Nah, I know we’re just having a good conversation. And I sometimes wonder what it says about me that the only thing that will totally push me over the edge in fiction is an animal getting hurt or killed. People, even kids getting murdered? No so much. Animals, though. 😭

Rosemary: Kids and animals. Can’t do it.

Frenchie: Lmao. That’s like twitter during Hannibal. Everyone crowing “eat the rude” but then “don’t you fucking touch the dogs”. 😂

tumblr_inline_n3vq1263LI1rolohy

Rosemary: LMAO YES

Frenchie: Ngl, I’m part of that chorus. 👏
.
Nancy: NOT THE DOGS NEVER THE DOGS! The rude fucks, yeah, they’re dinner and I’m the same, I’m very desensitized. The rape doesn’t bother me half as much as the insult to her character development. Not sure what that says about me.

So what do you think? Are you done with Game of Thrones and its habit of using rape to advance male character development at the expense of it’s female characters?

Is it just lazy storytelling and you’ll stick around for the parts you still enjoy?

Or do you feel it makes sense in the story and it played out as it should have?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author

Nancy Joyce
Geek, writer, Mother, knitter, and bookseller by day, but by night she reverts to the 10 year old that she really is. Nancy spends her spare time plotting world domination using an army of knitters. Got to keep the weavers in check.

1 Comment on "The Game of Thrones Controversy: A “Rat Queen” Sansa Roundtable"

  1. I have to say, I didn’t make it very far in the books . . . I find GoT to be a better watch than a read. That said, I didn’t know what was supposed to happen or what will happen next. But I like to think that last weeks’ episode wasn’t just lazy rape, but rather a “lest you think he’s tamed” moment mixed with a look at how Ramsey became the monster he is.

    Ramsey in recent episodes showed moments of being “normal-esque”. He seemed to drop a little of his menace when his father chose to legitimize him. There were scenes that made it seem that he was trying to drop his baser instincts in order to embrace his impending lordship. This episode, however, reminded us . . . whether he be called Snow or Bolton, Ramsey is still a monster. A monster who gets his menace honestly. When his father speaks to him about how he came to be . . . it’s the first time we learn that his father isn’t just a slimeball for hire, he’s a slimeball full time. He’s just not as open with it as his son.

    It was also the first real glimpse of Theon returning to his roots. I commend the actor who plays him. You could see more real inner turmoil between his new “Reek” persona and “Theon” persona while watching his master rape Sansa than when the Boltons destroyed his real family. There was a moment where I really thought “Theon might snap and kill this dude!” I don’t know how the story unfolds, but it could yet happen.

    Finally, on Sansa herself . . . I find her to be the anti-Cersei. While Cersei tries to assert power by meddling and arranging people and situations to what she thinks is her advantage in order to gain more power, Sansa is gaining real power in spite of. She started as my least favorite character and in that bath scene before the wedding, I saw the type of transformative sass that comes from all the horrors she’s encountered. I don’t know what GRRM or the show writers have in store for Sansa, but I feel like that rape scene, done moments after her power scene can be a crossroads if written properly. Did it have to be rape? No. But does it make sense in the time and place we find these characters, I think so. I hate rape scenes in any medium, but if done properly, I really think this can go from a horrible low point to a “take the power back” moment. In my mind, we get a “hit me again Ike!” moment from Sansa where she just takes all the horrors she’s endured and takes them out on Ramsey in ways that would make even the senior Bolton blush.

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