‘Game of Thrones’ Cast and Creator Respond to ‘Unbowed’ Rape Controversy
Well, here we are again. Game of Thrones is no stranger to controversial depictions of sex, and increasingly prone to scenes of deplorable rape with reckless abandon, and last night’s “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” proved no different. Unsurprisingly, creator George R.R. Martin, producers and cast have now come forth with their own assessment of the latest outrage.
You’re warned of spoilers for last night’s Game of Thrones installment “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (as well as its corresponding book material), but once again the minds behind Game of Thrones have come to the defense of a brutal rape sequence. The latest saw Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) tearfully submitting to her new husband Ramsay Bolton after their wedding, while Sansa’s adopted brother Theon “Reek” Greyjoy was forced to watch the horrific sight.
Outrage expectedly flew across the internet in multiple directions, while episode writer Bryan Cogman spoke to Entertainment Weekly of Sansa enduring such a dark act:
This isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland. Sansa has a wedding night in the sense she never thought she would with one of the monsters of the show. It’s pretty intense and awful and the character will have to deal with it.
Turner’s own perspective of the scene came in stark contrast to the outcry from fans:
When I read that scene, I kinda loved it. I love the way Ramsay had Theon watching. It was all so messed up. It’s also so daunting for me to do it. I’ve been making [producer Bryan Cogman] feel so bad for writing that scene: ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!’ But I secretly loved it.
And while it’s well-documented at this point that literary creator George R.R. Martin intentionally exerts little control over the HBO series (which itself swapped in Sansa for the literary character Jeyne Poole), posts on Martin’s LiveJournal asking for comment yielded a similar response:
Let me reiterate what I have said before.
How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have? Three, in the novel. One, in the movie. None, in real life: she was a fictional character, she never existed. The show is the show, the books are the books; two different tellings of the same story.
There have been differences between the novels and the television show since the first episode of season one. And for just as long, I have been talking about the butterfly effect. Small changes lead to larger changes lead to huge changes. HBO is more than forty hours into the impossible and demanding task of adapting my lengthy (extremely) and complex (exceedingly) novels, with their layers of plots and subplots, their twists and contradictions and unreliable narrators, viewpoint shifts and ambiguities, and a cast of characters in the hundreds. […]
David and Dan and Bryan and HBO are trying to make the best television series that they can. And over here I am trying to write the best novels that I can.
And yes, more and more, they differ. Two roads diverging in the dark of the woods, I suppose… but all of us are still intending that at the end we will arrive at the same place.
In the meantime, we hope that the readers and viewers both enjoy the journey. Or journeys, as the case may be. Sometimes butterflies grow into dragons.
Granted, we’ve yet to see what the remainder of Season 5 holds in store for Sansa’s arc, it should come as little surprise that yet another difficult rape scene for the HBO drama courts controversy. We may yet hear more from showrunners Dan Benioff and David Weiss, or additional comments from the above sources as the latest controversy cycles out, but did Game of Thrones somehow manage to make its troubled portrayal of forced sexuality even worse?