Game of Thrones: Traumatization as Entertainment?

by May 25, 2012
filed under Entertainment

Game of Thrones - Sansa

I am fed up.

Fed up with creators of shows putting in traumatizing scenes just to try and enhance the suffering a female television character.

Much like a lot of other people, I have been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones. I read the first 4 books back when I was in high school and really enjoyed them. So when I heard it was going to be made into a television show, I was definitely interested.

And I was enjoying it, until the episode from a couple weeks came on.

Now, if you don’t know the plot of the show, there are seven families that are all vying for the throne of Westeros (the mythical country the books is set in). There is a lot of murder, backstabbing and generally unhappy things in addition to a lot of nudity, bloodshed and sex. One of the houses is the House Stark, headed up by the honorable Ned Stark. The Stark family has 6 children, Robb, Jon, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon.

For the purposes of this post, I am going to be talking about the eldest daughter, Sansa. She is a teenager (not much older than 14). In the beginning, she is vain and self-involved, excited that she is betrothed to Joffrey Baretheon, the king’s heir. Except, Joffrey is, to put it politely, a huge asshole. Sansa is essentially a prisoner, having to convince everyone that she is in love with her husband-to-be, despite having witnessed her father’s execution. She is abused: One scene even sees her whipped and stripped of her clothes for Joffrey’s amusement.

Now, these scenes happen in the books. I know that the purpose they serve is to highlight the hopelessness of Sansa’s situation. She is at the mercy of powerful people who can do anything to her. It also helps to highlight how smart and resourceful she is. Sansa manages to manipulate Joffrey in order to save certain people. Despite her situation, she makes the best of it by pulling some strings behind everyone’s backs. That is why she is one of my favourite characters.

Now, you think that would be enough. We can see that Sansa is in a horrible situation. But noooooooo. You see, the episode added a new, kind of gross, surprise. Sansa is caught up in the chaos of a riot brought about by Joffrey getting hit in the face by manure (ok, this part I could handle). Sansa is attacked and nearly raped a by a group of men, only to be saved at the last moment by one of her abusers and Joffrey’s right hand man.

Look, I get it. This is a world modeled off of the middle ages, where women weren’t exactly treated well. But there was literally no reason for that scene to be in there. We already are made aware of Sansa’s helplessness. She is a woman who has been raised in a life of privilege to be a lady. Her life has been filled with sewing lessons, dancing and singing. We know that she is not a fighter. So why the rape attempt?

Why is it when women are in a terrible situation, the consequences is usually sexual violence? It is basically putting a huge spotlight on her to tell everyone “Look. She is a woman. This is what happens to women. Look.”

There are many, many ways for people to suffer in fictional media. Maybe people should get more creative in their thinking.

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