Well, everyone, Game of Thrones is back on television, and though we here at LGG&F have decided to forego doing weekly reviews, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it on occasion and rip it a new one. Given all the previous seasons, especially Season 5, it should come as no surprise that Season 6 is just as sexist and horrible. Thus far, Season 6 has spent its two episodes reducing female characters’ development in order to build up male plotlines and engage in harmful gendered stereotypes. And hey, since we’re only two episodes in at the moment, there’s no telling how bad the show plans on getting in the future.
Massive trigger warnings for rape, bestiality, mutilation, and abuse up ahead.
I don’t think I will ever stop being amazed by how badly Game of Thrones handled its Sansa-Theon-Ramsay plotline. This storyline wasn’t a joy to read about in the book either, but it was something that had a lot of meaning and purpose, and Game of Thrones missed every single point the book made. One of the show’s more glaring problems is that it replaced Jeyne with Sansa.
Unfortunately, this switch lead to a lot of arguments about which girl should have been abused—Jeyne or Sansa. On the one hand, Sansa’s already an abuse victim. But on the other hand, so is Jeyne. This conversation can be somewhat problematic, as it can imply that one girl deserved to be abused more than the other. Let me just say that neither Sansa from the show nor Jeyne from the books deserved what happened to them. Not in the slightest. But in terms of which girl should have been the victim if we absolutely had to have a victim, that would most definitely be Jeyne.
Due to Jeyne’s socioeconomic status and the role she was born into in society, A Dance with Dragons opens up a discussion about rape culture that it otherwise couldn’t have had. Jeyne needed to be the victim, because it forces us, the readers, to confront an uncomfortable truth about how we view victims of rape.
Massive trigger warnings for rape, abuse, and mutilation up ahead.
With the possible exception of Cersei’s penance walk, the Jeyne-Theon-Ramsay storyline in A Dance with Dragons was both one of the best and also one of the worst reading experiences I’ve suffered my way through. The whole thing is incredibly uncomfortable. I can think of very few villains worse than Ramsay, and his treatment of both Jeyne and Theon is so appalling that it’s difficult to imagine anyone so evil.
Game of Thrones’s fifth season attempted to tackle this subplot. Unsurprisingly, it failed. The show was also incredibly offensive in the process. At face value, this seems like an odd thing to say. What happens in the show is nowhere near as bad as what happens in the books. In Game of Thrones, Sansa replaces Jeyne, Ramsay rapes her, and the whole thing is rather senseless. In the books, Ramsay does a lot more than rape Jeyne. He threatens to mutilate her—her body is covered in his bites marks—and he forces her into acts of bestiality. On top of all that, he rapes Theon by proxy, since he also forces him to help in Jeyne’s torment as well. It’s worse than I just made it sound. Significantly.
Yet A Song of Ice and Fire does not treat this subject matter the same way Game of Thrones does. What happens in the books is awful, but it’s not just for shock value. The storyline tells us a lot about a person’s identity and autonomy, about rape culture, and about the monsters who hurt us. There’s a lot to unpack here, so for this post, I’m going to get into Theon’s issues with identity and then talk about Jeyne and rape culture in a second post.
When Game of Thrones’s fifth season started, I knew that there’d be some things about it that I wouldn’t like. That’s true for any story—you have to take the good with the bad—and that’s been especially true for Game of Thrones. When Game of Thrones is good, it’s pretty decent, but when it’s bad, it’s fucking horrible. The unnecessary Jaime-Cersei rape scene comes to mind. But while I knew that the show would continue to have its faults, I didn’t think it would be this bad.
For those of you who don’t know what happened, Game of Thrones dug itself into yet another hole with the episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”. That episode’s ending scene is the worst thing ever. It’s so bad that I’m not even sure I can accurately represent my rage and disgust logically. Instead, I just want to scream and set things on fire. The hole the show just dug for itself is so deep, I’m not sure that it can climb back out again. I’m also not sure that I want it to. It deserves to rot down there.
In case you couldn’t tell, there’s a trigger warning for rape and abuse up ahead.
Well, Game of Thrones is really heading into darker territory this week. While Jon Snow weighs his options at the Wall, Daenerys responds to Ser Barristan’s murder with murder of her own, and Ramsay Bolton uses Theon to torment Sansa, because you know, the Sansa-Theon-Ramsay storyline is still something that everyone really wants to see and isn’t creepy and unnecessary at all.
Trigger warning for abuse, assault, and gore after the jump.
So far I both love and hate this season. As Game of Thrones will be finishing up before A Song of Ice and Fire, it makes sense to me that the show would start deviating from the source material. After all, in the next few years it’s going to spoil some pretty big plot threads for everyone, but by deviating, it can at the very least avoid some spoilers. I like that these changes can leave me wondering what will happen next, but on the other hand, it leaves me worried for numerous characters and how well the writers will handle their new storylines. In particular, I’m terrified for Sansa.
Trigger warning for rape, violence, and Ramsay Bolton up ahead.