As far as television is concerned, the rape scene where Ramsey Bolton rapes Sansa Stark while forcing Theon Greyjoy/Reek to watch ranks as the most disturbing scene I’ve seen on a screen in a very long time. I’ve read the books so the scenes that included Ned Stark’s head being sliced and the Red Wedding were not anywhere close to shocking. This….this was a fear that started welling up last week with the marriage proposal and slowly became a nightmare with the actual nuptials being performed in Winterfell. I was so hoping that Sansa was not going to be the victim of Bolton’s sadism while at the same time knowing that in this world a newly married women, whether she liked it or not, was going to be used on her wedding night. It was profoundly distressing.
It also created a huge reaction on the Interwebs, including some tweets by a Senator.
The Missouri Senator gets kudos for watching Game of Thrones but to call the scene “gratuitous” destroys a whole lot of credibility on whether or not she’s a regular. The series is a pantheon of sex and violence that matches George R.R. Martins books fairly well. But the question should not be whether or not sex and extreme violence should exist in fictional stories. Such things have existed in great literary works for centuries. The questions should be much more nuanced.
Does the rape scene represent the book?
While Sansa Stark is not raped in the book, the character of Jeyne Poole is on her wedding night with…..Ramsey Bolton. And the scene is far worse.
Should be television viewer have expected this?
Ramsey Bolton is a disgusting individual that is the closest thing to an absolute sadist that exists in the serious. The producers of Game of Thrones set up the wedding scene when Sansa and Littlefinger were overlooking Moat Cailin, and Sansa was debting on whether or not to proceed to Winterfell. Viewers had to have been screaming the TV for Sansa not to go because Ramsey was going to do something horrid. It was a guarantee.
Does the scene advance the characters or the story?
In the scene Ramsey may have sealed his own fate as when he commits the rape. If Sansa doesn’t kill him then Reek will; don’t forget that during the scene the camera focuses on Greyjoy as tears stream down his face. And Sansa has been vacillating back and forth over being a real player in the Game or a scared doe who is simply the victim of numerous instances she can’t control. Sansa knew this was going to happen the moment she accepted the marriage. Her overthrow of Ramsey didn’t begin with the rape, it began before that, probably solidified by the dinner scene in the last episode. The rape magnified the idea that Sansa was no longer the victim. She’s accepting the situation because it’s going to lead to a larger goal. Sound crazy? Then you haven’t been really watching Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones is not anti-woman, nor is it a television show that uses sex as a cheap shot at getting viewers. Lest we forget this…
Remember that debate? Not too long ago the series was lauded for its powerful female characters and edgy political play where the ladies often had ultimate power while the men played with swords and lost body parts. Now that some of those women are weaker (often because of other women) the outrage begins that male producers are picking on females and portraying them as victims. It goes both ways, people. People seem to forget that Theon Greyjoy had a season, an entire season, where his only scenes were those in which Ramsey Bolton tortured him, including horrific mutilation and sexual abuse. Not much of a peep was said there.
It is a fictional series by-the-way. The sensationalism of sex and violence is plenty over-the-top but in a way that expands and provides depth to the story. And the television version of the story avoids the morass that the books have become; devoid of the constant carousel of characters on questionable quests don’t ever seem to acquire resolution. Yes, the Sansa’s rape scene was awful to watch and I would rather have not seen it. But he politicizing, the phony indignation, and arrogance of claiming the moral high ground is nearly as disturbing as the scene.
I wish I could turn THAT off instead.