Jun 152015
 

got-sigils-houses

Since I’m only sadistic with willing partners, GoT season finale spoilers are hidden inside a clicky thingy. You may safely read on if you haven’t seen it yet.

I’m not into fiction (not literature, television, or film) but I enjoy reading about fiction. Maybe that makes me a meta-consumer — a consumer of media about media.

The amateur deconstructionist in me enjoys learning about the process of creating media and hearing people’s thoughts about the finished products. I’m into the nuts and bolts — the material (the scripts, locations, costumes, actors, framing, and editing that literally created the thing) and the cultural (the issues, attitudes, and various systems that affect [and are affected by] the thing).

I’ve been reading about Game of Thrones since it came across my radar years ago, but only started watching it recently. After finding myself with some unstructured time and stumbling onto the HBO Go app, I watched the first episode a few weeks ago, burned through seasons 1 through 4 fairly quickly, and I’ve been watching along with season 5 episodes on Sunday nights (or Monday mornings).

I wouldn’t call myself a fangirl, but I like it enough to continue watching… and continue reading the surrounding commentary. The screen writers’ interviews, reader theories, book/series comparisons, behind the scenes extras about set design, shooting locations, and CGI… it’s all really interesting.

Case in point: Sansa was raped. That was interesting. About that…

I didn’t like the scene — not because I love Sansa’s character, not because I was outraged or disgusted, and not because I think depictions of rape should be censored. I didn’t like it because it wasn’t clear (to me) what purpose it served. We already knew Ramsay was an evil motherfucker, and Sansa was already sympathetic (tragic?). While the scene was in character, it didn’t tell us anything new (about them).

Spoilers Hidden: Click to Expand

I was (and still am) open to the possibility that the scene served some purpose yet to be determined. However, after watching the season finale, I’m still thinking it the scene serves Theon (albeit weakly). In “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (s5/e6), when the camera pans away from the rape-in-progress, the trauma the audience witnesses is Theon’s, not Sansa’s. That trauma (Theon’s) certainly contributed to his testicular regeneration in “Mother’s Mercy” (s5/e10).
In the season finale, Theon finally (re)grows a pair. Sansa sets out to leave Winterfell and meets with Myranda, Myranda’s crossbow, and Myranda’s crossbowingly persuasive suggestion that Sansa return to her quarters (and Ramsay’s sadistic control). Sansa’s resolve is steely, but Myranda’s arrow is pointy. As Myranda raises her weapon, Theon knocks her off the raised walkway — killing her, saving Sansa, and redeeming himself. So far, it looks like Theon’s redemption comes courtesy of Sansa’s rape. I suspected that, but I wasn’t the only one.

Immediately following Sansa’s rape, a lot of people expressed similar feelings in thoughtful, nuanced, opinionated reviews and essays. Other people tweeted — a lot of people — and those tweets weren’t so nuanced or thoughtful.

claire-mccaskill-tweetSenator Claire McCaskill (D, MI) is a representative example.

People said the show went too far, the rape was gratuitous, disgusting, unnecessary (etc., ad infinitum). People tweeted complaints to the writers and I’m sure HBO fielded complaints too. No doubt, there were probably some calls for actual censorship, but for the most part, there were just lot of angry tweets and a few thoughtful essays.

That was the Sansa Rape Backlash.

That backlash spurred its own backlash (the Backlash Over the Backlash, or perhaps the Outrage Over the Outrage). Many sentiments were variations on the following:

If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
Why didn’t you care about all the other rapes, murders, and torture?
It’s fantasy. It’s fiction. Nobody actually got raped, so STFU.
Instead of tweeting about fictional rape, why don’t you do something about actual rape?

If we’re awarding points for the better backlash, I’m going to give it to the initial backlash. The second one — the backlash against the backlash — needs work.

Sure, GoT is fiction, and people have opinions about fiction. It’s art, goddammit, and that’s what art is for[1] — it inspires discussion, debate, and critique. So… do that. Debate the merits of the art, the fiction, or the fictional rape. Discuss it’s necessity, function, purpose, meaning…. all of that.

But if you’d like to critique the critiques instead, by all means, go right ahead. But please, for fuck’s sake, try to do it well.

trogdor-the-burninator-img“Shut up” is not an argument. Asking why someone didn’t care about other fictional violence (or actual violence) isn’t an argument. Telling critics that if they really cared about rape, they should do something about actual rape isn’t an argument. Reminding people that GoT is fiction isn’t an argument. Telling people that if they don’t like it, they shouldn’t watch it isn’t an argument. They’re all non sequitur.[2]

Oh… and to the armchair historians and pop anthropologists… Stating that rape was commonplace “back then,” or that non-consensual sex within marriage wasn’t considered rape “back then,” isn’t an argument either.

The Sansa rape backlash was not about what would or would not have happened in the late medieval period. The backlash was about the use and depiction of rape in an episode of a fantasy television series in 2015.

Sure, if we ignore the dragons, GoT is loosely based on the late medieval period[3]. But clearly, the writers and producers make a number of choices that deviate from historical accuracy… like the absence of pubic hair, pit stains, and leprosy. The writers and producers make choices about what to show and how to show it (otherwise, you’d see a lot more characters taking dumps in chamber pots).

And here, I guess I’m backlashing against the backlash over the backlash. The irony is not lost on me.

My point, if I have one, is that GoT is art and art encourages discussion, debate, strong feelings… all of that.

Don’t like discussion? Then don’t read it. (heh)

trogdor-the-burninator-game-of-thrones-dragons


[1] For the love of the Old Gods and the New, I’m not looking for a discussion about the nature and/or the purpose/s of art.
[2] Ok… maybe technically, those are arguments, but they aren’t good ones. Logical fallacies aren’t valid arguments.
[3] I think? Actually… who cares. Say it was loosely based on the early Jurassic period. My argument still stands. (also, dragons > dinosaurs = FACT)

  10 Responses to “your arguments suck: Game of Thrones edition”

  1. Ehhh.. I guess I didn’t see it as so gratuitous, more like predicted. Yes we knew Ramsey was a fucker and we knew the marriage would turn sour… but it was more of a question of when he would unleash his wrath on her. The scene gives us that answer (or at least me). Remember, up until that scene, Ramsey had played nice to Sansa. If it hadn’t been that scene, it would have had to been something else to represent the shift in his nature and to show what he planned to do with Sansa. The fact that his plan was to use her as a vessel for lineage before inflicting worse harm made the whole rape scene, well, logical to me.

    The Theon twist that came up in the finale was the more gratuitous part. Though, I did see it as more of the characterization of that which is Sansa. Her romanticism and naivety keeps her on this path of putting her safety and well being in the hands of terrible people.

    • Remember, up until that scene, Ramsey had played nice to Sansa. If it hadn’t been that scene, it would have had to been something else to represent the shift in his nature and to show what he planned to do with Sansa.

      I thought Ramsay stopped playing nice with Sansa in the prior episode during the dinner scene with Reek/Theon. Ramsay makes Theon apologize to Sansa for killing her brothers, and then informs her that Theon will be walking her down the aisle because he’s the closest thing she has to a relative (because all of her blood relatives are dead). Granted, it was as much about cruelty to Theon as it was to Sansa, but I thought that was the turning point in his outward behaviors.

      The Theon twist that came up in the finale was the more gratuitous part. Though, I did see it as more of the characterization of that which is Sansa. Her romanticism and naivety keeps her on this path of putting her safety and well being in the hands of terrible people.

      Oooohhh… I love this interpretation. You’re right on about Sansa, and it IS a perfect demonstration of her romanticism (and perhaps, her lack of common sense and inability/refusal to save herself). I was so chuffed about Theon’s “redemption” that I hadn’t even thought of what it illustrates about her — thanks for this!

  2. I’m gonna step outside the conversational box here (neither watch nor read GoT and am ok with that.)
    What I *am* is a Homestar Runner fan and you completely won me over by including Trogdor.
    (altho’ I could have done without the earworm of Strongbad “singing” the theme song… but I did that to myself, so no fingers pointed. :-D)

    Thank you.

    • I will not confirm nor deny that I have a full set of Homestar Runner figurines on my shelf, a window decal on my car, and a plush “talking” Cheat toy in my possession.

  3. The Sansa rape backlash was not about what would or would not have happened in the late medieval period. The backlash was about the use and depiction of rape in an episode of a fantasy television series in 2015.

    Thank you! It makes me want to set things on fire when people act like the writers had no choice about how to handle rape. Yes, given the source material it was unavoidable, but it’s 20-fucking-15 and not only did no one involved have a gun to their head, but the writers already had to alter the source material to make it even semi-feasible to film. I promise the world would not have fucking ended if a couple of rapes had happened off screen or if Sansa had been allowed to be the viewpoint character of her own goddamn rape. That’s the thing that pisses me off most about that scene – that they made it about Theon’s trauma, not Sansa’s.

    Oh… and to the armchair historians and pop anthropologists… Stating that rape was commonplace “back then,” or that non-consensual sex within marriage wasn’t considered rape “back then,” isn’t an argument either.

    Thiiiiiiiiis. For one, credible sources or GTFO. For two, even impossibly perfect sources would be completely fucking irrelevant considering we’re talking about a fantasy show in 2015. If realism is somehow suddenly a concern, what the fuck is up with the dragons, ice zombies, magic, prophetic dreams, face stealing assassins, body switchers, murderous shadows, etc? Oh, and characters groomed to modern standards (even north of the wall!), and wearing modern makeup. It’s almost like Game of Thrones is not a fucking documentary!

    Okay, I feel better now.

  4. here’s the thing: these books (i only read the books) are a collection of spiraling brutalities and rape is just one more horrific brutality. can anybody explain to me why everybody is upset by this one rape in the context of all the tortures, killings, and generally escalating violence?

      • i’m not saying it isn’t horrible. i was aware of the commentaries. i was kind of surprised to hear how it played out in the show, because that’s a departure from the books, but it was a pretty horrible rape the way it happened in the books even if it came out differently and there didn’t seem to be a lot of furor over that, and also it seems weird to me to pick out that ONE HORRIBLE RAPE to suddenly get all upset about because there’s a succession of horrible rapes, murders,and tortures that everybody seems just fine with.

        it’s kind of like everybody being all surprised that a governor of new jersey is corrupt.

        me, i thought maybe some of the salient points about the brutality of the world martin has created could have been done in, say, two fewer volumes and i’m just left wondering why THIS particular rape so late in the game has people all upset about the use of rape or even violence in general as either filler or motivation for female characters.

        we all knew before the wedding that it was going to go very badly. what i do not get is why so many people are looking at this one rape as if it is so far beyond all the rapes that preceded it.

        • i was aware of the commentaries.

          My apologies for the suspicion — the way your comment was worded made me think it might have been troll-y.

          what i do not get is why so many people are looking at this one rape as if it is so far beyond all the rapes that preceded it.

          That’s a valid question. In response to a post on Denying Thumper, people asked the same question. Dual Drew conjectured:

          “I find it very interesting that people have fixated on this one scene, as there have been so many others, and suspect it’s because Sansa is the “pretty girl” that most people relate to.”

          My response was this:

          “It’s not an argument against your thought per se, but I’d frame it differently. People are fixated on this scene because they know Sansa and like Sansa (or, they feel sympathy for her, even if they don’t like her character). Violence against people/characters we know and like (as ‘people’) always feels worse than violence against those we don’t know or don’t like (as with Cersei).”

          And what’s above is my answer to your question. It’s certainly not the answer, but I think it’s reasonable. Then again, perhaps it’s just that the rapes hit some sort of a tipping point where people decided it was too much.

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