After watching Monday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, this is the first opportunity I’ve had to properly sit down and think carefully about my exact feelings regarding the events of the episode. The ones that don’t include me blindly swearing, of course. Be sure, though: there’s a lot of those. And a lot of major spoilers. If you haven’t watched 5×06 yet and have somehow managed to avoid seeing the massive shitstorm that erupted upon its airing – turn back now. Unless you don’t mind spoilers, in which case read on. On my bookshelf I have the complete set of ASOIAF though I haven’t got around to reading them yet. They’re long books and I have minimal time. One day I will grace myself with their considerable superiority to the TV series but for now please bear in mind that although I am going to weigh in on the current discussion, I can only offer so much in terms of relation between both media formats.
[Major Spoilers Below!]
All that being said, I know that Sansa Stark actually has a storyline in ASOIAF. Her autonomy and strength of character develop in a genuine and complex way rather than these elements of her characterisation being completely ignored or considerably misconstrued by showrunners D&D. Now – I’m all for changes in book-to-film/book-to-TV adaptations. There’s no denying that. Sometimes they’re great but sometimes they make me wonder if I’m actually watching the same story and characters that were originally laid out. Typically I assess changes by two criteria; I will accept them providing that they:
1. make sense
2. add something new
but still remain within the realms of pre-existing story elements
Unfortunately, the raping of Sansa Stark by Ramsay Bolton does not comply with number two of my criteria. Arguably not even number one, although I will hold my hands up and say that Ramsay Bolton raping his wife does make sense given the twisted, psychopathic and abusive character that he is. But that’s just that, isn’t it? He didn’t rape his wife, at least by ASOIAF standards. Jeyne Poole was previously the victim to this horrible, disgusting and vile marital maltreatment but instead Sansa was left to step into her shoes.
Now, anybody who has ever lain eyes upon the ASOIAF books has probably been left with the question “how do they even fit that much of the story into the TV show?” The answer is, of course, that they don’t. They leave things out, understandably! I don’t blame them. Otherwise we’d be stuck with each episode being a six hour long word-for-word extravaganza and even I would quickly bore of that (I can barely make it through Lord of the Rings, c’mon). What any good producer of an adaptation like this then should do is comb through and select/delete subplots as necessary for the overarching good of the show, not based on pure desire for the violent and abusive. In Harry Potter a great number of interesting, dynamic subplots were thrown aside by the producers of the films to make way for more awkward Harry/Ginny moments and in Game of Thrones there is little difference. Even more subplots and minor characters are discarded in the TV adaptation but the true, sickening difference is that D&D had any number of directions to take Sansa’s character in that didn’t involve her being raped. In fact, they had all these directions laid out for them: printed, word-for-word in ASOIAF by the talented George R. R. Martin. Instead, they pulled this horrific plotline from a character they’d decided not to explore in the tv show (one which, ultimately, holds no importance other than to highlight again what a sadistic maniac Ramsay Bolton is) and forced it upon a barely-legal Sophie Turner, eighteen at the time of filming. Quoted directly from Benioff himself, one half of D&D, this was a “subplot [they] loved from the books” to which they had been planning to include very early on in development of the show [source]. Yup, read that again. They had specifically been looking forward to including this scene. I want to vomit at the idea of them imagining it with a – what, fourteen? fifteen? sixteen? – year old Sophie by their sides. I think this, more than anything, really manifests how sick D&D are and how little they care about the treatment of women in modern media, more specifically how rape is the only suitable, the only ‘exciting’ story they can imagine for one of their female characters – even for one they “care about almost more than any other”.
The most important thing I want to go on to fight back on is the select few people who don’t consider the scene unnecessary or exploitive of D&D. I’ve seen a great number arguing the differences between glorification and depiction and whilst there really might seem to be a fine line here between the two, rape is most certainly showcased as a glorified act. Perhaps on a two-dimensional level the actual physical scene itself illustrates a depiction of it but the context of the plot has to be considered alongside this and it one hundred percent points towards glorification. Sansa being raped wasn’t necessary to the show. She already had enough grounds to hate the Boltons and want to exact her revenge upon them without this happening. There isn’t a logical reason for the whole Sansa/Ramsay plotline that I can come up with. The only explanation is that the showrunners decided they needed to include it because they couldn’t find interest in a female character elsewhere (largely a fault of their own. I found Sansa Stark very interesting prior to being sexually abused by her husband and I’m sure many agree). Why, I’m sure they imagined fans would begin to grow disinterested in the girl if something violent didn’t occur.
The scene was there then for only those reasons: shock factor, interest. Even after the criticisms they received when Jaime Lannister raped Cersei over the corpse of their dead son back in Season Four, they still ignored the negative response they knew they were going to cause because, low and behold, it meant free publicity because all us feminist fools started a wave of verbal rioting across all social media platforms.
Honestly, I’m so done. I’m pissed off and furious that such a wonderfully complex character was reduced to a docile, naive little girl again for no fucking reason. My only hope for Sansa now is that she burns beautiful and bright like a fire, setting every fucker who ever did her wrong alight. And yes, D&D are included in that. Burn in hell, bastards.