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Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken: Why That Scene made no sense

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Seriously. Fuck this shit.

In an attempt to avoid this becoming a swear-filled rant, let’s talk about all the ways that Sansa’s current plotline doesn’t work, narratively speaking.

Because even though technically this storyline appears in the books, it doesn’t happen to Sansa, and — surprise, surprise — female characters are not all interchangeable, even in stories of victimization and violence.

We’re rehashing Sansa’s plotline from the past four seasons. Only this time, it’s more graphic, with added rape. An engagement arranged for her, based on the promise of a grand title and something she really wants (first, the epic romance, and now, revenge and her home)? Awkward family dinners with the people who killed her parents? Abuse at the hands of her betrothed/husband? Sansa trapped in the middle of it all, unable to do pretty much anything of her own will? Check, check, check.

We’ve been here. We’ve seen this. It isn’t interesting storytelling to put Sansa into the same-old situation, complete with familiar scenes, except this time the actress is 18 and so this time, people won’t just attempt to rape her 14-year-old character.

Sansa isn’t showing any character growth

At then end of last season, we were promised that Sansa was going to become a “major player” in the game of thrones. Mostly, this seemed to involve dyeing her hair and wearing a lot of black, but also learning to lie and manipulate people, as she did in the Vale. Yet Sansa has been nothing but a pawn all season, and this week’s episode was no different. Sansa was not a “player” in these scenes. She didn’t attempt to delay the wedding or gain allies or find out information about Ramsay or sweet-talk him or anything. She was a lost child, scared and uncertain how to act, doing what other people told her to do because she trusted they knew best.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, from a character perspective. Sansa is still a child. She’s about fourteen in the show, younger in the books. Why should she act like Margaery Tyrell when faced with the family that murdered her mother and brother? But the show set Sansa on this plotline with the promise that it was going to be empowering for her, that she was going to fight her own corner, and yet here she is, still a victim, facing more violent abuse than ever.

In fact:

The end of this episode felt like Sansa’s punishment for trying to play the game. Not that she has been playing the game, particularly, but the show planted the idea in our minds. It clearly wants us to think that Sansa could be a manipulator like Margaery… and her attempts to do so end in her being raped by Ramsay Bolton. How else are we supposed to read it, except as the consequence of getting involved in things she doesn’t understand? This feels especially clear as the rape scene follows a scene where Sansa has the dark dye washed out of her hair. She can’t pretend to be anyone else. She’s back to being herself — and that self is apparently always a victim, whatever else she might pretend.

The rest of the episode was inconsistent with Sansa’s character. Last week, I thought that Sansa was expressing horror at what had happened to Theon, but this episode suggested I was wrong. She feels no sympathy for him. She doesn’t care what Ramsay does to him. The more generous and sympathetic side of her has vanished. And far from her becoming more shrewd, any insight and understanding she had before has vanished too. She saw how Ramsay acted at the dinner table last week, but when Myranda warned her about him, she acted as though the warning was a lie to scare her. As though Myranda was just jealous and trying to get rid of a rival. And Myranda is jealousbut that doesn’t make her words any less true. Wouldn’t Sansa, after her experience with Joffrey, take heed? Wouldn’t she at least be searching for a hint of truth? A badass moment of “you can’t frighten me” doesn’t outweigh the fact that Sansa should be frightened.

It doesn’t make sense for Ramsay’s character either

I admit, I was a little relieved when I finally saw the scene, because it wasn’t anywhere near as graphic as I expected. But Ramsay had been trying, in his own twisted way, to play the role of the kindly lord around Sansa since he met her. He showed off his power last week at the dinner table, but since Sansa apparently wasn’t feeling sympathy for Theon there, even that didn’t completely ruin the facade. So why, in this moment, did he decide to abandon the game and rape her? Was it because she said Tyrion was kind for not sleeping with her? Was it because he thought she was lying to him? Was it simply because he didn’t see the point in pretending any more — in which case, why did he go through the whole charade of asking Sansa if she liked the candles and saying he wanted to please her? The episode didn’t make it clear, beyond “Ramsay is sadistic,” but it needed to. To be a compelling villain, Ramsay’s actions have to have some kind of internal logic.

And considering what we know of Ramsay, if he had decided to be cruel to Sansa, then why wasn’t the scene more graphic? This is a man who hunts girls and lets his dogs tear them apart. This is a man who psychologically and physically tortured Theon in endlessly inventive ways. I’m so glad it wasn’t more graphic, and I really hope the show ends it there, but if Ramsay’s cruelty to Sansa is so important to the plot, why wasn’t it more developed? Why was it almost perfunctory, like the writers were saying, “well, it’s Ramsay, we need to have a rape scene now”?

It was un-graphic enough for people to claim that it “wasn’t that bad.”

We are unambiguously supposed to feel Sansa’s pain here. But I’ve already seen the arguments appearing online. It was Sansa’s wedding night, what could she expect? Yes, he wasn’t the nicest about it, but, I mean, she’d known she would have to sleep with him. It was bad, but it wasn’t rape, because medieval times, husband’s rights, it’s just what’s expected!

I have no doubt that the writers wanted us to feel sympathy for Sansa by making her a victim — but if that was their goal, they’ve failed. The show has featured so much rape and violence and misogyny that it’s harder to make it have an impact now, and people are definitely responding from that perspective. And if the scene doesn’t even have an effect on the show’s apparent target audience, what was the point of including it?

It focussed on Theon over Sansa

Which is, of course, the real reason why the writers wanted to retain Jeyne Poole’s plotline — it’s part of Theon’s story. Even though Sansa got most of the screen-time here, it felt like the story of his emotional struggle. Even after hearing Myranda’s tales of Ramsay, we didn’t get much of a glimpse of Sansa struggling with herself, deciding whether to go through with the wedding, agonizing over what to say, but the five-second shot of Theon’s face as he struggled to say his own name was enough to remind of us all the complicated things that Theon is going through. And when the episode ended, there was a lot of focus on Theon not being allowed to leave, not being allowed to close his eyes. It ended with a close-up of Theon’s tear-stained, agonized face as he watched, while Sansa’s face was shown only briefly before disappearing from shot.

Of course, a part of me is very glad that we didn’t get a close-up on Sansa’s face instead of Theon’s at the end of the episode. But if you are going to torture your young female character, at least give her emotions screen-time and weight. If you’re going to treat her like this, respect her enough to let it be her story. Have the stomach to show her, and not the agonized witness.

So why, then, did they give this storyline to Sansa? Why have Littlefinger come up with such a nonsensical scheme, why have other characters go along with it, why change Sansa’s  story so drastically and add more victimization to the storyline of a character who’s been almost defined by victimization before?

Well, we know the answer, don’t we? They really, really wanted a reason to rape Sansa Stark. Sansa is “the beautiful one,” the “innocent one.” The feminine one. The tragically beautiful victim. Of course they wanted the chance to subject her to rape while claiming that it was part of the books, that it was character development, that it puts her on the road to strength. She’s precisely the sort of character that writers always want to torture, who’s seen as needing to suffer more and more before she can “rise above it” and have vengeful, murderous strength of her own. The delicate flower, the thing that must be crushed for a male character to have a story arc of redemption, or for shock value, or, at best, so she can “evolve” into something “stronger.”

And all this in an episode called Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. All this in a plotline that they’ve said, again and again, is about Sansa leaving weakness behind and becoming the person she was always meant to be.

Rhiannon

Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

101 thoughts on “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken: Why That Scene made no sense

  1. Ugh yeah, this was awful. On some level, I’m not shocked, because Sansa has always been the most victimized character on this show and it was only a matter of time before they took it to this level. But still, I hate that the writers taunted us with a more capable, stronger Darth Sansa at the end of last season only to turn around and make her a pawn again. And it’s even worse if the rape is just being used as a plotline to get Theon/Reek to redeem himself. I’d much rather have Sansa slit Ramsay’s throat herself.

    1. I know! I’m so upset that the writers think that she needs to be married to this nutjob and tortured before she can come into her full power! The end of season 4 was PERFECT! That was it, right there! And then they took it away from her.

  2. This plotline doesn´t make sense at all. For another character yes, but not for Sansa. It doesn´t fit in with the rest of her story, who she is (the Boltons shouldn´t want any connection with her, as the Lannisters and the Freys are pretty much the only support they have left). It doesn´t fit with Littlefingers moves or anything.

    To be honest, I haven´t even watched the episode, I don´t want to see more pointless cruelty to Sansa. Outlander yesterday was enough, and yet that´s in the novel. But one more redhead in deep shit? (Even if Sansa is dyeng her hair nowdays). No thanks.

  3. Yeah, I’m done with this show. Third unnecessary rape scene of a female character who gets her fair share of shit in the books, put in the show only for shock value – or worse, to make a male character ‘complex’ (this, at least, was the excuse for the Jamie/Cersei rape). I’m through. I don’t see the point of this anymore.

    Sansa’s options from here on out are a) she’s saved by Brienne, b) she’s saved by Stannis, or c) she’s saved by Theon who finally gets his balls back from the man who took them away. The retrieval of the penis > Sansa’s rise to power… or at least the chance for her to find peace.

    One of the things I hate this show (and Outlander) most for is the constant litany of rape apologia masquerading as historical accuracy… as if we’re talking about historical events and not, you know, a fantasy world where winter only comes every few years or so, leprosy turns you into stone, and freaking dragons roam the skies. But no. It has to be realistic in portraying women as submissive and punishing them when they are not. It has to keep them in their place through rape.

    I’m reminded of that quote (though I can’t remember who it was by) that says something to the effect of: If you want to hurt a female character, have her be raped. If you want to hurt a male character… also have her be raped. I can’t think of a better example than this episode and this particular scene, with the camera literally focused on Theon’s face. Badly done.

    1. Thank you! I am so tired of people saying this is how it was in the middle ages when this show is set in a fantasy world! It may take some elements from the medieval times but it is its own universe. Also it’s not like rape was a given of medieval life. I have read books where they talk about how serious a crime rape was in the middle ages. In this show they have decided to make rape a given and act as though we as the audience should just accept it. This is the worst kind form of rape culture because it tries to act like it’s treating it as a serious crime but it’s really just using it as a shocking moment or another way to tear down a female character. It’s bullshit, plain and simple.

  4. The show doesn’t seems to realize what material they got to work with, again!

    But I am hoping that you will write something about Margaery Tyrell, and how she for no apparent reason was tricked by the high septon into giving a false testimony, once again the sparrows lack almost all their good qualities from the books and get new bad ones. All for the purpose of imprisoning Margaery for something she was never truly apart of, her only crime was trying to protect her brother.

    In the novels she has committed adultery, if Pycelles statement that he gave her moon tea can be believed. In the novels she hopes that Garlan the Gallant will defend her, a reasonable choice, but in the show she irrationally invokes her social station that the High Septon doesn’t care about and cry out for Tommen who has proven himself incapable. Instead of an understandable mistake which would have meant serious plot and character development, concluding in her arrest, she was simply the helpless woman.

    It also makes no sense for the Sand Snakes to try and capture Myrcella in the water gardens with prince Doran and his guards about them. Or for Obara to cry out whom she is, since the guards surely knew.

    1. The charges in the books were trumped-up though. Everyone who claimed to have evidence or witness Margaery’s supposed infidelity was in Cersei’s pocket. Heck, Cersei had a devil of a time pulling it off because Margaery kept herself surrounded by her handmaidens specifically to avoid such accusations, it wasn’t until Cersei was able to draw up a “witness” who was willing to claim ALL of the girls were sleeping around that she was able to get Margaery locked up.

      1. As I said, if Pycelle can be believed, he did visit Margaery frequently for some reason, but it seems unlikely that she wouldn’t turn to her family’s own maester for moon tea. Like so often in ASOIF there are many possibilities, one is a teenage girl longing for both emotional and physical love that Tommen can’t give her, being to young. I meant that it is a trail the show could have used and created an interesting plot development.

  5. OK, I have to give this show credit. It just keeps on finding new ways to degrade into an even MORE repulsive media product and be an even MORE bastardization of the source material.

  6. This was a terrible episode. This really was my make it or break episode, and the shit is broke for me. The whole season has been pretty bad but especially this ridiculous Sansa as Jeyne storyline. The writers could have done so much with Sansa at the Vale or made her into an actual formidable foe to the Boltons ala Manderly or Stoneheart. Instead the writers showed how unimaginative and sexist they really are and that we should not expect much from this series. It was disgusting and although I’m glad it wasn’t more graphic it felt like it was done for pure shock value and as you mentioned to further Theon’s arc. It would have been hard to see Sansa’s face, but I would have respected them a lot more if they had her face as the last one shown before the credits. She is the actual rape victim and her reaction should supersede Theon’s.

    Also it is pretty obvious that the message of this storyline is ‘this is what happens when a woman thinks she can play the game.’ It’s cynical and sexist and demonstrates how little they care about Sansa as a character. The traumas she has already faced should have been enough for her to be vengeful and motivated, this rape was completely unnecessary. We also already knew how bad Ramsay was as an individual, this didn’t add anything to his character either. I think they really overstepped with this plotline and will feel the ramifications when viewership goes down. A lot of people thought that was unnecessary even people who only watch the show thought that was done solely to shock the audience.

  7. I find this to be the equivalent of rape jokes – written by lazy idiots who lack talent or have run out of ideas. I have never been happy about the representation of women and girls in GOT (if you are not a queen or some other noblewoman prostitute is what is left), hanging on for characters like Brienne, Arya and Dame Diana’s character, but this latest move is seriously problematic.

  8. Somewhat different topic, but….looking at some of the other women in the episode, am I the only one who’s cranky that the GoT promotional media spend so much time building up the Sand Snakes, only for them to fight for about a minute before getting arrested and called “little girls” on their way out?

    At least Lady Olenna was on form this episode….

  9. I’m sorry, but if something doesn’t make sense I guess it’s this article. Most if not all of the reasoning here is very lazy and seems to be more driven by anger and shock than by a fair analysis.

    1) You claim “female characters are not all interchangeable”, but that’s exactly what the show and every other adaptatiion of any source material with such a huge cast of characters does… it conflates characters, They are interchangeable, they substitute each other. And the showrunners do that not only with female characters. It has happened many times before with male characters: Gendry, Daario, Jorah and many others, all performing actions that were carried out by different characters in the novels (and very gender-specific actions, I may add).

    2) Yes, Sansa’s previous plot points are being rehashed, but that is hardly new in the show. Many other characters have faced familiar situations over and over. What’s the point of Tywin rejecting or berating Tyrion over and over? Why must Littlefinger and Varys have more than one verbal sparring? Why must Arya witness the murder of a family member more than once?
    As with every other case, patterns repeat themselves until they are shattered. I suspect this particular iteration of the “Sansa is mentally and physically abused” plot will have a very different resolution, just like the “Tywin abuses Tyrion” plot ended at some point. As opposed to her engagement to Joffrey, Sansa did accept her engagement with Ramsay with the same mindset, and I don’t think this rape won’t have any ramifications.

    3) Sansa is indeed learning, slowly, how to manipulate people. But the challenges she faces are enormous and it just wouldn’t be realistic for her to triumph without paying a huge cost. Her rape scene is quite tame compared to the rape of Jeyne Poole in the books. In the show, Sansa faces terrible foes, so it’s only predictable that she would must face enormous conflicts and costs. Yes, even rape. Rape is not unfamiliar to the world of Westeros. We’ve seen even worst instances of it (Craster’s wives/daughters) and most arranged marriages are made without the consent of the woman, so we knew this was coming. It is not “punishment for daring to play the game”… it’s the inevitable and sad cost of doing so. Like Cersei said: “Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls”.

    4) “Wouldn’t Sansa, after her experience with Joffrey, take heed?”
    And do what? For all we know, she took heed. She just sees no better option.

    5) “To be a compelling villain, Ramsay’s actions have to have some kind of internal logic.”
    But they do. Your own questions provide the answers: it was a combination of not wanting to pretend anymore, to prove his control over her, to make her suffer (he is a sadist). And he didn’t harm her (more) because a) She is a noblewoman and the key to having presting among and leverage over the Northern lords. He knows her value, so he won’t do to her (yet) what he has done to all those dead peasant girls… and b) he probably didn’t take it as rape. It was a consummation of a (forced) marriage. Sure, he made it more degrading by making Theon watch, but that was it. Other than that, as far as forced marriages go, it was business as usual in Westeros.

    6) I don’t know what comments board you are reading, but most viewers I’ve talked to are feeling sympathy for Sansa and depising Ramsay to their very cores. Sure, some people talk about the politics of the scene, many analyze it in the context of the show, but none of that is incompatible with feeling empathy/contempt for the characters. People were feeling Sansa’s pain, and that’s why so many say the scene was disturbing and fucked up. All that is fuel for the catharsis when Ramsay’s likely demise happens, just like it was with the deaths of Joffrey and Tywin.

    7) “we didn’t get much of a glimpse of Sansa struggling with herself, deciding whether to go through with the wedding, agonizing over what to say”
    … What? Really? We clearly watched different episodes. That struggle and agony was written on Sophie Turner’s face throughout the whole episode.

    8) “if you are going to torture your young female character, at least give her emotions screen-time and weight”
    … You can’t do that without making the scene overly graphic. For Sansa’s emotional reaction you will have to wait until next week’s episode, “The Gift”.

    9) “Why have Littlefinger come up with such a nonsensical scheme?”
    … Nonsensical? It’s brilliant. He clearly doesn’t care very much over Sansa beyond her family name and some lust he may feel over her. So he uses her as a pawn to undermine the Bolton-Lannister alliance, while leaving her in a great place to regain influence over the North. He plans to end up as an ally of the powerful Warden of the North, if not Warden of the North himself. He’s playing all sides, planning for scenarios A, B and C. Whatever happens, he will have much to gain and will have risked very little. And that’s consistent with his M.O., always stirring conflict between powerful houses, pretending to be an ally of everyone and using the inevitable chaos as a ladder.

    10) “Well, we know the answer, don’t we? They really, really wanted a reason to rape Sansa Stark.”… This is, by far, the more regretfully absurd of your points. There are many more probable reasons for Sansa’s plot this season.

    a) It resolved the issue of the lack of material for Sansa from the books,
    b) It brought many familiar characters together, making it easier to move all their plots forwards, and
    c) It gives her the opportunity (which is still there) for her to take some form of revenge for what was done to her family. If your complaint is that her “empowerment” is developing too slowly, it’s a very faint complaint.

    Those are the more likely reasons for this development. I don’t see her rape scene as the goal here, but as an inevitable way of achieving those necessary goals without being too unbelievable. A Sansa that is pratically bought and sold yet avoids all sexual abuse? In Westeros? A Sansa that was naive and on more survival mode for three seasons, yet becomes a master and effective manipulator in just a few episodes? That would have been cartoonish and undeserved.

    So no, I don’t find any of your points to have any merits, and I regret that in an otherwise very clear-headed blog.

    ps. What kind of compassion would you have for Theon in her place? As far as she knows, he grew up with her and betrayed her family, even killing her little brothers. Her contempt for him is only natural. Any other reaction would be, like you say, nonsensical.

    1. 1. You’re not wrong about the show needing to condense characters and plotlines, which yes, means they sometimes need to substitute more important characters for minor ones, and that they’ve done that for men as well as women. That doesn’t always mean they do a good job of it though, and I would certainly agree that this version was problematic.

      2. The first two examples you use here aren’t good equivalents because they are character TRAITS, not plot points. Tywin’s abuse of Tyrion and Varys and Littlefinger face-offs happen because of each of their respective character traits, and it’s how they habitually behave around each other. Sansa getting abused or threatened with abuse at every corner is not her character trait, it’s plot that the writers are deliberately choosing to give her over and over again, and we have past the point in the books where they have source material to back that choice up. The Arya situation is more like the Sansa example, but at least that has a concrete cause-and-effect on her motivations. Arya travels through Westeros, and sees more and more horrible people, and loses family members, until she feels she has nowhere else to go and ends up at the House of Black and White. Sansa, on the other hand, reached a good, solid conclusion to her experiences at the end of Season 4…how to play her situation to her advantage. Except then the show tried to forget that as soon as possible, like they went “oh crap, we need to have her be an abuse victim again, um…”, and it’s infuriating because they promoted it like “Oh, Sansa’s going to be a PLAYER this time around!…except she already is, and we need her to be an abuse victim one more time…rape will make her into a player right?”
      3. She doesn’t need to “triumph” at this point, she just needs to continue coming into her own. No one’s expecting her to be victorious at this stage of the Game, but we are expecting her to have moved into a different phase by now.
      And no, the fact that women can expect rape in Westeros is NOT an excuse. Yes, a woman is expected to submit to her husband’s “marital rights” (which Sansa does on both wedding nights), but even Westerose people have their limits, because a husband is supposed to care for his wife, not harm her. . If I remember right from the books, Ramsey is inspiring outrage in the North because is abusing Jeyne so badly that people can regularly hear her screams outside the castle.
      No, it is NOT the “inevitable cost of playing the game”. Lady Olenna has fared quite well playing the game. Margaery is also good at it, and until this episode she’s played it successfully (and even then, she has yet to be threatened with sexual violence). Heck, CERSEI hasn’t had to go through that sort of shit for playing the game (yet). BUT I do agree that in this instance, it felt like they did a really big turnaround.

      Overall, this scene was frustration for me, because yeah, I can technically see why they did it. But I’ve also felt like that these weren’t the real reasons they went there. I feel like there was an undercurrent of “Hey, she’s 18 now, he can do sex scenes!” without stopping to consider if they SHOULD put something like that on screen.
      It’s disturbing. It’s disturbing as fuck. And don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times where the story needs something that disturbing, but I’m not convinced we needed it here. As the author already pointed out, we’ve already had plenty of scenes to show us how awfully women are treated, and how sadistic Ramsey is. I think they could have done something really cool with Sansa by taking her in another direction, that didn’t involve rape, and could still have eventually brought her storyline back to Winterfell. They didn’t need to consolidate those plotlines right here and now, in a show that is built on multiple storylines, without cramming sexual violence down our throats AGAIN.

      1. How is this not a plot point *AND* a characterization moment?

        The examples you provide are excellent of both things. Tywin’s abuse of Tyrion paved the way for Tywin’s death, which is a huge power shift in Westeros and an evident plot point. Varys and Littlefinger face-offs indeed come from their character traits, but they move the plot along in many instances, like when Varys partners with Olenna to arrange Sansa’s engagement to Loras (his motivation was making her unavailable for Littlefinger).

        This rape scene is a necessary part of Sansa’s journey on both a narrative and a characterization level. She wants to have some sort of revenge for the Bolton’s betrayal and that means being near to them, in Winterfell, possibly waiting for Stannis or for some better opportunity of revenge. It was her choice, and that choice came with a cost she was fully aware of before marrying Ramsay. It’s not something anyone should endure and it speaks volumes of the condition of women on Westeros, something that has to be reminded over and over to understand its seriousness. It is NOT an indication of how the showrunners view women. It is a condemnation, rather than a vindication, of patriarchy. And Sansa is not beyond its dangers.

        That is my take on the motives of the showrunners, and I find yours to be cartoonish, far-fetched and purposefully indifferent to everything else we’ve seen from them.

        1. No. It was her “choice” (in a manner of speaking, given she made it under pressure/manipulation and with no concrete alternatives), but she was NOT choosing to be brutalized. She knew Roose murdered her family, but she didn’t know Ramsey was such a sadist until it was too late. And like I said before, yes, the expectation in Westeros is that a man has sexual rights to his wife and that she should give herself to him without complaint (which, again, Sansa does on both her wedding nights), but they don’t condone the man being brutal to her.

          And no, this rape scene was NOT necessary. There was no desperate need to put Sansa actually IN Winterfell at this point in time, at least nothing that the writers couldn’t have worked around.

          “something that has to be reminded over and over to understand its seriousness” The show has ALREADY DONE THAT. Like, a dozen times over. The show is NOTORIOUS for that. We’ve “understood” this since the early seasons. WE. GET. IT.

          “It is NOT an indication of how the showrunners view women. It is a condemnation, rather than a vindication, of patriarchy.” I’m not saying that the showrunners are vindicating rape or patriarchy, I’m saying that they need to stop mentally defaulting to rape or the threat of rape when they need to rack up the drama. I’m also saying that yes, rape makes sense for this world, but after a certain amount of it on the show it just gets creepy and disturbing (as in, too disturbing to make the show benefit from it). As

          Also, please stop belittling me and/or the author, it’s very rude,

          1. I’m sorry if you feel belittled. It is not my intention. I’m only offering my genuinely-felt criticism of your comments. Having said that, your characterization of the showrunner’s motives is far more rude than whatever I could think of as an insult. It’s purely speculative demonization. If you want to know the rationale of their creative decisions, the non-rude way of finding out would be to read what they have written on the matter. It’s that simple.

            As for the rest of your points,

            a) No, marital violence is not condoned in Westeros… but neither really persecuted. Women have not been shown to have any legal resource for that crime. Most of them rely on the power of their original families, something Sansa lacks right now. And Ramsay must be neither the first nor the only violent spouse in Westeros. All of this may not be part of the laws of the Seven Kingdoms, but it is woven in their cultural tapestry… as was in Western Europe in the Middle Age.

            b) The writers had to deal with both the lack of source material for Sansa and a similar storyline for the Boltons and Theon. Would it be preferrable to have that (actually, something much worse) happen to a lesser character like Jeyne Poole? Or skipping that part of the books?

            c) The narrative and thematic necessity of Sansa’s rape, as well as the manner of its depiction, has been argued well before our little debate started, by The Unaffiliated Critic. I posted that in a different comment. I invite you to read it.

          2. I’m not going off of pure speculation.
            Granted, this is addressing nudity on the show in general rather than the rape directly, but: http://www.vulture.com/2012/06/game-of-thrones-nudity-nude-scenes.html, which means there’s at least one exec pushing for gratuitous sex just for titillation.

            As for your demonizing comment, like I said before, I don’t think the show is trying to “promote rape”, but I do think that too much use of it ultimately cheapens it, such as described here: http://www.robertjacksonbennett.com/blog/why-are-you-writing-a-rape-scene
            a. True, but that’s not an excuse for including it yet again. It’s one thing to say it was common In Universe/in history, it’s another for them to include it so often that we, the we in the here and now, start becoming numb to it.
            b. Actually, yes, I would be perfectly happy with them skipping that part in the books. They’ve had to adjust (or completely rewrite) other scenes before, and they’ve already established exactly how shitty Westeros is.
            c. I’m assuming you’ve found my response to that by now.

        2. Instead of writing long replies, I’m just going to link to these two essays that have said it all about this scene, the entire idiotic and offensive “Sansa marries Ramsay” plot, and the terrible way the show has handled Sansa in general.

          https://pawntoplayer.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/unbroken-unbent-unbroken-unbowed-unbowed-unbent/

          http://gotgifsandmusings.tumblr.com/post/119391541235/why-sansa-really-kneeled-how-sexism-shaped-sansa

          And this is a great essay on the show’s depiction of women and gender in general:

          http://gotgifsandmusings.tumblr.com/post/117645193922/got-meta-depiction-vs-endorsement-and-sexism

      2. Allow me to quote an excellent review from The Unaffiliated Critic here. I find to be way more nuanced and well-reasoned (even though I disagree with his conclusions) than all the comments I’ve seen here.

        http://unaffiliatedcritic.com/2015/05/game-of-thrones-5×06-unbowed-unbent-unbroken/

        “The culture of Westeros is such that such things are not only common, but expected. “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls,” Cersei said last season, and nothing we have seen has ever caused us to doubt it. Marriages here are more often arranged than chosen; they are often arranged against the participants’ wills, and the brides in particular have little or no say in the matter. (This—it should also be noted—is something Westeros shares in common with our world, for most of human history.) Most wedding nights in Westeros are probably indistinguishable from rape, from our modern perspective. Cersei’s almost certainly was. Catelyn Stark’s might well have been. Daenerys Targaryen’s, which we did witness, was.

        And, outside of marriage, rape is not just common but accepted. Game of Thrones is largely about the uses and abuses of power, and rape is considered a right of the powerful on both sides of the Narrow Sea. Most everyone with power—Dothraki riders, Westerosi soldiers, Iron Born, wildlings, sellswords—all consider women to be the rightful spoils of war.

        And so the threat of rape has circled nearly all of the female characters on this show at one time or another, right from the beginning. “I would let his whole tribe fuck you, all 40,000 men and their horses too,” Viserys said to Dany, in the very first episode. “This lot, half of them would turn you over to the king quick as spit for a pardon,” Yoren warned Arya, of the recruits for the Night’s Watch. “And the other half would do the same, only they’d rape you first.” Hiding out with the ladies of King’s Landing during the Battle of Blackwater, Cersei cheerily informed Sansa that, should the city fall, “these fine women should be in for a bit of a rape.” Jaime just as matter-of-factly informed Brienne, when they were captured by Lord Bolton’s men: “When we make camp tonight, you’ll be raped, more than once.”

        This is not even the first time Sansa has faced the threat of rape. She was assaulted in an alley by a group of rioting peasants in Season Two, and only saved from a worse fate by the Hound. Joffrey threatened to force himself upon her on several occasions, including on her wedding night to Tyrion. (She also certainly expected that Tyrion would take her virginity that night as well, an act that might not have been violent, but which—he fortunately realized—would have been tantamount to rape.)

        There are other, more prominent examples that I’ll discuss below. But the point of this (sadly incomplete) catalog is not just that rape is common in Westeros, but also that the threat of rape has been well-established on Game of Thrones. So there is an unpleasant but logical argument to be made that there was a certain narrative inevitability to this. Threats are real on Game of Thrones, and the show has never shied away from horror: we have seen people stabbed, beheaded, burned alive, maimed, disemboweled, castrated, tortured physically and psychologically, and—yes—raped throughout the series.

        And, as we’ve discussed many times before—Game of Thrones has deliberately thwarted all genre constraints and expectations of fairness time and time again. Part of the reason we love the show is that—unlike in fairy tales and most fantasy stories—people do not always get what they deserve. This story is realistic, according to its own logic and within its own brutal milieu. This adherence to realism over genre expectations is why our apparent hero, Ned Stark, could lose his head before the first season was over. It is why Robb and Catelyn could be killed. It is why Oberyn Martell could lose his fight.

        And it explains, sadly, why we were fooling ourselves to think that Sansa Stark could somehow make it through two unwanted weddings, and past all her horrible predators and suitors, with her maidenhead magically intact.

        So, from a narrative perspective, I understand the show’s choice here. From a narrative perspective, I even approve of it. Sansa was always the character who most believed in the fairy tales: from the beginning she was the storybook princess who thought she would end up with a storybook prince. As such, she represented an optimistic faith in fairness and chivalry and narrative justice that Game of Thrones actively works against. Sansa’s story, all along, has been a slow education on the wrongness of believing in fairy tales, and from that perspective this turn of events was probably inevitable. Sansa has had a horrible sequence of events happen to her, but she has also been lucky: lucky to have protectors like the Hound, lucky to have a kind and self-controlled first husband like Tyrion, lucky to have a creepy and capable patron like Baelish. But it was our fault if we mistook that luck for some sort of magical sphere of protection around her innocence. There are no such guarantees of safety in Game of Thrones—that is one of the key strengths of the show—and so it was as inevitable that Sansa’s luck would run out as it was that Ned Stark would lose his head.

        But questions of narrative logic are not the only relevant questions. There are also questions of execution, and this is where I think Game of Thrones gets slightly more problematic. In addition to the near misses I mentioned above, and the rape of background characters—Craster’s Wives, the Lamb Tribe, etc.— we have seen a number of instances of sexual assaults to major characters on this show before, and they are a decidedly mixed bag in terms of whether I think they were successfully handled.

        One of the first was also the one I thought was handled the best: the rape of Mirri Maz Durr in Season One. We did not see her assault happen on-screen—in fact, Dany naively thought she saved Mirri from this fate—and it happened before she became a major character. But her experience was not glossed over: in fact, it became the defining moment of her character, and the source of her motivation in her terrible revenge against Khal Drogo. “Three of those riders had already raped me before you ‘saved’ me, girl,” she told Dany. “So tell me again, what exactly it was that you saved?” It was an instance of the show acknowledging the psychological and emotional weight of rape, and how this woman’s life would never be the same.

        I will defend, too, the controversial decision to present Dany’s first coupling with Khal Drogo as something brutal and involuntary. This was controversial in part because it was a change from the book—where Dany had some sexual agency, and the scene was played more erotically—but in this case I think the book got it wrong. Leaving out the fact that Dany was 13 in the book, the wedding night as portrayed on the show is just much more realistic, and more reflective of where Dany really was at the beginning of her extraordinary arc.

        Other scenes have been less successful, and less warranted, and more problematic. In Season Three, Theon Greyjoy was nearly raped by a man—in the same episode where Brienne was almost raped—and then later was raped by two women, an event that ended with his castration. This scene is, for my money, one of the least justifiable scenes Game of Thrones has aired—not because it’s brutal, but because it (and the entire episode) has a snickering air of titillation that is almost unforgivable. I don’t object to the overall Theon storyline—which has dealt, and is still dealing, with the psychological fallout of the ways in which Ramsay tortured and violated and emasculated Theon—but the way that scene conflates rape with eroticism was criminally misjudged.

        And I’m on the record as saying that Jaime’s rape of Cersei in “Breaker of Chains” was a rare and disastrous misstep for the show, an event so wrong-footed that it is literally impossible to reconcile it with the narrative that contains it. We are not even able to discuss how the show dealt with Cersei’s rape, because the show refused to acknowledge that any rape occurred: the disconnect between what the creators thought they were presenting and what appeared on-screen was so complete that we almost have no choice but to ignore the evidence of our eyes. That makes the scene not just a mistake, but a case of gross irresponsibility: an instance of the show’s benefiting from shock-value sensationalism without having to contend with any of the consequences. Scenes like this do not incline us to give Game of Thrones the benefit of the doubt on its ability to handle the issue of rape responsibly.

        For what it’s worth, I do not think what happens in “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” is the same kind of creative misstep. For one thing, I think to dismiss it as such is to deny what is—and should be—its most important element: the character of Sansa Stark. For we can recognize that what happens to Sansa is horrible and traumatic without, I think, turning her entirely into a victim. Sansa has repeatedly had choices taken away from her, ever since she left Winterfell in Season One: she has been passed from man to man, from suitor to suitor, offered to Joffrey and Loras and Tyrion and Robin and now Ramsay. She has been used, manipulated, beaten, abused, tormented, and threatened every day of her life for years, and she has never had any real say, any real power, any real agency.

        And yet to frame Sansa Stark entirely as a victim is to do her an injustice. Sansa is a survivor, and she is heroic in her survival. Within the terrible confines of her various situations, she has exercised agency and demonstrated her extraordinary capabilities. She is smart, and she is brave, and she is resilient, and she is far more sly than she appears. It is also important to note that she is not naive: not anymore. If Sansa had been raped earlier in the series—back when she thought Joffrey was her one true love, for example—it would be a very different story. But at this point Sansa has grown up: she has her eyes wide open.

        “I won’t force you to do anything,” Littlefinger said, when he arranged this marriage. We can argue about whether he meant it—Baelish is not accustomed to letting other people thwart his schemes—but the fact of the matter is that Sansa made a choice to go along with his plan, and she makes that choice again here. There is a wonderful moment during the wedding when Roose, officiating, asks her: “Lady Sansa, do you take this man?” It plays out as a long, thoughtful pause of hesitation that Sophie Turner performs brilliantly. “I take this man,” she finally says, and it is not—as her wedding to Tyrion was—because she has no choice. She has a choice, and she makes it, knowing full well what it means. She has few illusions left, even about Ramsay: she witnessed his twisted games last week, and she is warned this week about his brutality and sadism by Myranda.

        Again, we can argue about what would have happened had she refused, but the fact is she doesn’t refuse: she makes a choice, and it is a brave, conscious choice to do the impossibly hard thing for the greater good. That’s what Starks do, and the washing of the dye out of her hair—revealing the natural red she inherited from her mother—just underlines the point. “I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell,” she tells Myranda. “This is my home, and you can’t frighten me.” Sansa is not a stupid little girl with stupid dreams anymore: she is a woman, and she is strong and brave, and she is nobody’s victim.

        So, given all of this, how should that final scene have played out? I honestly can’t decide. Should we have left Sansa at the bedroom door on her wedding night and faded to black? (This would have been more tasteful, but arguably more cowardly and disempowering.) Should the scene have shown Sansa as a more willing participant, consciously using the feminine wiles she has begun to harness? (But that would have been too empowered, and a denial of the tragedy of what is happening.) It is troubling, of course, that the actual rape plays out on Theon’s face, not Sansa’s: if this all turns out to be more about his character development than Sansa’s, that will be a catastrophic betrayal on the part of the showrunners, one that shows they’ve learned nothing from controversies about earlier scenes like the one between Cersei and Jaime. But would we really want the camera to have stayed on Sansa’s face? That, surely, would have been worse: more traumatic, more sensationalistic, and far more brutal on the young actress who has to play this part. Perhaps, if the show is going to traffic in rape scenes, it has an obligation to really show them, but the line between honest and exploitative is a very fine one.”

        1. Dude, seriously, if you want to respectfully disagree that’s fine, that’s called discussion, but trying to convince us that the arguments presented by the author or me or anyone else here are stupid is not going to get you anywhere. Especially if you’re going to drag in another piece who’s conclusions support those arguments, but the writing is just more to your liking.

          1. I didn’t say stupid. But yes, I do believe they are wrong, as well as lacking in nuance, excessive in speculation of the writers’ motives, and avoiding any fair reading of the context.

            That’s what a disagreement is. Rhiannon has faced disagreement before. And I don’t see aything wrong with replicating someone’s arguments if they are better than me at explaining them. Why do you?

          2. I don’t, I’m just puzzled as to why you would use an argument that then comes to, if not the same conclusions as Rhiannon, at least agrees that the scene was handled very very badly (yes, I know you said you didn’t agree with the conclusions, but….the body of that article is what led to the conclusions).
            To use another quote from the exact same article: “I said that there is an unwritten contract between authors and audience, and that this contract can be broken. Drama requires conflict, and heroes must suffer setbacks, and—for the story to have any real stakes—we must know that bad things can happen to characters we care about. But we are not under any obligation to tolerate creative cruelty for its own sake; we do not have to suffer sensationalism and sadism; we do not have to stick around past the point where we think the creators care more about shock-value and emotional manipulation than they do about their own characters.”
            Yeah, we CAN choose to just stop watching the show, but it’s frustrating and disappointing when the show does have good merits to it, but the writers are willing to drive off whole portions of their audience for shock value that they could have done without.

            1. At no point he said the writers were going for shock value. In fact, he says there are lots of merits to the idea of a narrative necessity driving the decision, and that he can’t think of a better way of depicting the scene without being either false or exploitative.

              He just thinks rape should not be depicted onscreen, no matter the reason. Not even if the context of the story and its universe beg for it.

              I don’t. I don’t think it’s respectful to either rape survivors nor the subject itself to be banned from being a subject of fiction, no matter how triggering it may be.

              And I don’t see any substance to the argument of the writers making the decision for mere shock value. I’ve already explained why. Disagree all you want, but being annoyed at disagreement? Jeez.

          3. For the last time, it’s not about banning it entirely, it’s about handling it carefully. It’s about not shoving it down our throats, which is what the show is doing. At no point are we trying to pretend it doesn’t exist.
            “But we will never enjoy watching a character we love be raped. It will never be thrilling, it will never be beautiful, it will never not threaten to break our sympathetic contract with the show. It will always just be awful, in a way that—apart from everything else—takes us out of the show, and forces us to emotionally disengage.”

            I’m not annoyed at your disagreement per se, I’m annoyed that you seem to be popping in here bound and determined to tell us that how we feel about the show is wrong, and that we shouldn’t be angry and upset by it, and how we’re not thinking about it “rationally” enough for you.
            Because this scene WAS meant to raise heckles and make people upset….or, if it wasn’t as you claim, and it was just done for “plot purposes”, that makes me angry too because then they’ve turned rape into a cheap plot device that is going to nauseate a lot of viewers…for what purpose? To NOT make us feel for Sansa and Theon, and hate Ramsey more?

            If it doesn’t bother you, fine, but don’t go around telling us that we’re wrong to be bothered by it.

          4. I can’t figure out how to nest this properly, but this is in reply to Michel.

            You wrote:

            And I don’t see any substance to the argument of the writers making the decision for mere shock value. I’ve already explained why. Disagree all you want, but being annoyed at disagreement? Jeez.

            I think you’re giving the writers too much credit. They’ve already used rape for shock value. See the scenes at Craster’s Keep last season. What were they meant to prove? That the traitors of the Night’s Watch were bad people? We already knew that. What about Jamie raping Cersei over their son’s dead body? What did we get from that scene (other than no doesn’t really mean no if you’re already screwing your brother)? What about turning Dany’s wedding night into a rape, complete with a full-on shot of her weeping while it’s happening?

            You may wish to give the writers the benefit of the doubt. That’s your prerogative. I don’t share your faith in them. That’s mine.

            I don’t think it’s respectful to either rape survivors nor the subject itself to be banned from being a subject of fiction, no matter how triggering it may be.

            You’re creating a false dichotomy. There are ways to include rape as a subject of fiction without being exploitative or banning it. That GOT seems to default to the former is a problem.

            But to your main point – how is respectful to force rape survivors to revisit their trauma when they tune in to a show about dragons and sword fighting and politics? Because that’s what triggering means.

  10. On another note, I actually don’t blame Sansa for her lack of pity toward Theon. The fact that he’s been tortured and made a slave doesn’t change what he did to her family.

    1. You’re right she doesn’t owe him anything. However, the state she saw him in should have been enough for her to light that candle before this episode.

      1. Light the candle? Would you trust the outcome of that in her place, after all her experiences? What if she’s caught? What if, instead of help, it’s just a Bolton trap?

        1. Yeah, there is risk involved but if she’s not going to light the candle then why isn’t she doing something? I mean why not start manipulating him instead of rolling her eyes at dinner and being openly scornful. This is what I don’t get about her characterization this year. One minute she’s using her courtesy as armor when she meets Roose, but then she is showing her scorn at dinner. How is she going to play these people when she breaks her poker face? Where are the scenes of her plotting or manipulating the workers of the castle to serve her, by getting them to love her as Lady of Winterfell, rather than Ramsay?

          1. The writing really is inconsistent as far as Sansa’s character goes this season. One minute she’s got a bitch face that would put Cersei’s to shame and the next she’s back to the frightened little girl who discovered Joffrey was a monster. One moment she’s conspiring with Littlefinger and the next she’s being borderline treasonous at the dinner table.

            She swings from cagey to blundering according to what the writers need rather than what would make sense for the characters and the result is a mess. I don’t blame viewers who dislike Sansa. Much like the Sand Snakes, she’s really not living up to her potential.

  11. I am not the most articulate of your commentators, but right now I am just incoherent with rage.
    That scene was unwatchable: I am a cold, heartless woman, but I found that scene unwatchable. I’ve known it was coming since I watched episode 4, but it was unbearable all the same.
    And they didn’t even have the balls to focus on the actual victim. Instead it was all about Theon.
    It felt like Charles Perrault punishing Sansa (you say they are punishing Sansa for thinking that she could play the game of thrones, my conspiratorial little heart thinks they are punishing Sansa for rejecting St Tyrion, but then both things: a woman seeking power and a woman choosing to only fuck men whom she sexually desires threaten the patriarchy).
    This makes me wonder if when men and women talk about character development for female characters they are talking about things: to women character development means overcoming and not giving up despite ones traumas whilst gaining in knowledge (see how many women admire Sansa for helping Lancel despite the brutalization that she suffers under the Lannisters).
    Where as for men it seems that a woman’s character development is from romantic/ambitious girl to ‘learns her place’.
    Of course you’re right: for them character development seems to be becoming a vengeful harpy (like Ellaria to Fallaria) and within a few episodes Sansa will bounce back without any of the deep psychological issues that frequently result from rape. No doubt when the inevitable endgame of Sansa and Tyrion occurs, Sansa will just be so grateful that he isn’t Ramsay that she will have amazing sex with him without even a hint of trauma, frigidity, or distrust for men as a general category. And I will puke.
    Seriously sick men not seeing women as people.

    1. “when the inevitable endgame of Sansa and Tyrion occurs”

      You don’t have much of an idea of where this story is headed, do you?

      Stop fooling yourself with these predictions. You’re not analyzing a mainstream story. The tropes you’re expecting will probably never happen

      1. But the show uses old tropes all of the time. Whitewashed Tyrion is the ‘nice guy’ who never catches a break from society. Ellaria of the show is a woman scorned who wants vengeance at all costs even though in the books she is actively against getting revenge for Oberyn. Whitewashed Cersei is a misunderstood woman who will do anything for her children, but in the books it’s pretty clear that she does everything for herself as her children are just another extension of her.

      2. A season ago, I would have agreed with you, but we’re halfway through this one and I’m not so sure.

        Rape as shorthand for bad-dude-is-bad? Check. The abuse of a female character to motivate a man? Check. The only (non-prostitute) gay character on the show persecuted for being gay? Check. Female characters defaulting to seduction tactics for seemingly no reason (see: Melissandre)? Check.

        These are all predictable cliches that inevitably make GOT not only mainstream but tedious. The show has had some really amazing plot twists and great writing, which made it easier to overlook some of its flaws (such as the background rapes, the constant sexposition, etc). Alas, neither one is present in this season and that’s led some viewers, including yours truly, to feel far more frustrated by what is.

      3. From a man’s perspective, a woman coming to accept a man she finds sexually repulsive is a sign of maturity. Whilst checking out sexy guys is a sign that a girl is a silly teenaged girl (like in Sansa’s released TWOW chapter-people were saying that she was as silly as book 1 Sansa)
        Notice that men don’t write off male characters who check out girls as a silly or immature. Because Double Standards.
        So given that books on script writing all contrast screen plays with moral growth as better than those without it.
        So I imagine to a male script writer, a woman who previously liked to check out girls accepting an ugly guy for his personality is a sign of moral growth.
        I think it’s a sign of being broken: of giving up on sexual desire and therefore love. Of a woman needing compliments and jokes more than she cares about the health of her unborn children.

    2. I think what troubles me the most is that we probably won’t get much of an aftermath of how this has affected Sansa internally. In reality, even if she eventually wins back Winterfell would it ever really be home to her again? Would the things she experienced there or witnessed, tainted her childhood home enough that she would never feel safe there again? I think these would be interesting avenues to explore because often when people experience trauma they often try to avoid those places where the trauma took place. Would they show her grappling with trusting men both physically and emotionally in the future? Also would they even touch on the shame aspect of rape and the sense of having lost a piece of one’s self? I really doubt this arc will go beyond the old trope of her becoming ’empowered’ and getting revenge.

      Although Law and Order: SVU can also be sensationalist about rape, I found the arc when Liv was nearly raped while undercover in a women’s prison handled very well. When she was almost forced to do oral sex on the guard the directors made a point of showing her facial reaction and keeping on her face, instead of focusing on the rapist’s which made for a powerful scene that really emphasized her powerlessness. Then the next few episodes explored how this sexual assault has affected her. I really liked that when she went to the psychiatrist at the end of the episode and said, “I wasn’t raped but it was the closest I’ve ever come” and the psychiatrist said, “Even though you weren’t raped you were still sexually assaulted,”it showed that the writers understood that this was still a violation and one that would have a serious impact on Liv for a while. They even showed her in another episode, through this arc, having a hyper-arousal reaction during a scene when she was going after a perpetrator. They made sure to show that she is still very much experiencing some trauma from before.

  12. So, according to the show, to become a grown man, Jon Snow must “kill the boy” and take charge, but becoming a grown woman Sansa must endure rape and possibly torture… It makes me sick.
    And while I hate that the scene was focused on Theon’s suffering I couldn’t have stomached to see Sansa’s pain. I heard it and it was awful.

    1. Exactly. A boy can become a man by doing any number of things, but a girl can’t become a woman until a man (at best) sleeps with her? Where they were going at the end of Season 4 looked awesome, but no, THIS has to be her way to come into her “true power”?? By being tortured until she can’t stand it anymore? And what, Theon has to watch before he snaps? Everything he’s gone through isn’t enough to push him over the edge? Heck they even could have had him snap and attack Ramsey BEFORE he hurt Sansa but nooooo…

      1. But, but, they need Theon to be motivated for revenge/opposint Ramsay, and haven’t you learned the first rule of Manpain – a man is never allowed to be motivated for revenge/fight if it’s about his own pain and abuse? No, it must always be about someone else’s, usually a woman’s abuse or murder! Therefore, everything that Theon has gone through is just not enough, he must watch Sansa’s rape!

        And conversely, a woman is not allowed to want revenge just for such things as the deaths of her family! Well, maybe if she is a tomboy who fights with a sword, like Arya. But a more conventionally feminine woman like Sansa clearly cannot be motivated enough by murders of the people she loved. She needs to be raped! It’s only then she can be properly motivated!

    2. Arya tapped into her own power without having sex. Brienne too. So did Dany, BTW. Sansa still hasn’t and this was a setback, not a stepping stone towards empowerment. But don’t pretend to know where her story is headed o what the aftermath of her rape will be. And stop pretending your biased interpretation of that particular scene defines the gender ethos of the showrunners, ignoring all the other evidence of this being a pretty feminist show.

      1. I think that just because a show has some women characters that fight or rule doesn’t necessarily make it a feminist show. Each of these women are often kept as very one-dimensional in the show. Brienne’s vulnerability and innocence within the novels isn’t really shown in the show. In the novels, she is both physically strong and determined, but she has insecurities and grapples with her idealism in light of Westeros’ hard world. She is also very kind to others which they haven’t shown as much. Similarly, in the novels Sansa is shown to be very good at reading people and is highly empathetic. In the most recent Winds of Winter chapter, she shows both her empathy, intuitiveness, and wit in a way that has never really been developed in the show. In the novels, she has much more agency and is much more actively involved in her escape from Kings Landing than seen in the show. Also in the novels, she adamantly refuses to kneel for Tyrion to accept his cloak on their wedding. She shows strength and courage in the novels as well as agency and that has been stripped away in the show to make her more passive to her fate.
        My point is that they chose to completely take out of her Vale plot line where she is in a stronger emotional place and is becoming better at the game to instead place her in a minor character’s plot from the book, that is focused on her being repeatedly raped and tortured until Theon saves her. Why did this have to be Sansa’s story in the show? If the Vale storyline lacked action why couldn’t they, as writers, make it more interesting? Why choose the predictable rape path again?

      2. I gain the feeling that you have never read the books. That is your choice, but willfully ignoring arguments made my others because you do not know does not endear you to your readers. Neither does saying ‘can explain better’ with the implication of – dear person, you tried. But you are foolish and your ideas are willfully blind, and you tried but failed. Sit down and let your better, who can explain better and knows better, put everything into correct slots. That is belittling, as has been said.

        On the other hand, there are many fine nuances to most characters in SOIAF that the show washed away, made black^white, simplified. At some point they simply lose respectc for doing so, for imposing their worldview on others wothout logic, reason or need, other than shock value and to make waves (plenty examples given by others on this page). That is not a sing of skilled storytelling, but of lack of creativity, understanding and rescpect for others. If you dont see it, I am happy for you. But I do, as do others. And we worry what this fantasy show teaches people who watch it, what they take from it and how they will view and treat others, particularly women and girls, after.

      3. I’ll give you Arya and Brienne, but Dany tapped into her power precisely through sex. Specifically, she became khaleesi by being raped on her wedding night, then learning to seduce Drogo so she wouldn’t keep being raped… and eventually she developed Stockholm Syndrome and fell in love with her captor.

        The dragons gave her ambitions a considerable boost, sure, but she already had power as khaleesi and that power was acquired through marriage and sex (albeit against her will).

      4. “Arya tapped into her own power without having sex. Brienne too. So did Dany”

        Exactly. And you know why it’s problematic? this is an isuue that has been adressed on that blog before.
        IN the show, in order to be a “strong female character”, you have to be either a tomboy/warrior/dragon-riding baddass (so having traditionnally masculine qualities) OR you have to use sex as a manipulation tool.

        We have both end of the spectrum but nothing in between. Because according to the show, women are such simple creatures.

        1. In the show, in order to be a “strong female character”, you have to be either a tomboy/warrior/dragon-riding baddass (so having traditionnally masculine qualities) OR you have to use sex as a manipulation tool.

          That’s a gross misrepresentation.

          First of all, you can read the show as being a huge condemnation of totalitarian, patriarchal societies. There weren’t many options in medieval Europe for women, and the show is showing the horror of that and how its characters adapt to that horror.

          Moreover, “dragon-riding badass” and “warrior/tomboy” are very different things. Even in the universe of the show a woman can be a warrior without being a tomboy. You have several instances… Ygritte, Yara, Meera.

          And many powerful women use neither sex nor violence to assert their value: Catelyn, Olenna, Talisa, Selyse… even minor characters like Missandei, Mirri Maz Dur, the Waif or Qaithe.

          You can say all of them are privileged in some way or another, but that is the status quote within the universe of the show. Those are the struggles women share in that world. And the show strongly condemns that status quo.

          GoT has a very simple purpose: to be a realistic depiction of a cruel world in which there is no fairy-tale justice unless individuals make it through harsh and ethically gray means. Staring at horrors, suffering from horrors, facing horrors and maybe overcoming some horrors… that’s the typical path of protagonists in tragedies. Why should fictional depiction of rape be avoided when our medieval history is full of it? It would make no sense.

          Like Cersei said: “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls”.

          1. Catelyn is a terrible example to use. She is one of the main characters in the books, but the sho w marginalized her. Why? Probably because it had no use for a woman who neither fights with weapons, uses magic, nor uses her sexuality to get ahead. She also isn’t a source of thousand sassy quips (when the show writers don’t know what to do, they just throw in random scenes of people snarking at each other). So, she just wasn’t interesting to the show writers. She barely had lines and screentime in season 3 before the Red Wedding. And when she did, they made it all about Jon Snow. Because Catelyn was a mother, and when a character is a mother, on GoT she becomes completely defined by that. They just couldn’t understand how she can be both a mother and a political figure at the same time. And a woman as a political player, using other skills rather than violence or her body? Very confusing to the show writers. So, Catelyn was sidelined and silenced.

            Olenna has it much better, of course, because she’s always snarky and sassy, so they add more scenes of her snarking at people. But even she was made to have used sex in the past, and that’s the advice she gives Margaery. Who, on the show, also can’t get anywhere without using sex to manipulate men, when she’s not being sassy, snarky and catty to Cersei.

            Talisa was, in addition to being a laughably unrealistic character, a Mary Sue specifically designed to be Robb’s love interest.

    3. I wonder if when men talk about female character development, they mean being broken. Maybe men like women who are broken.

      1. The thing is, I would love to see a female character whose rape affects her in a realistic way*. Not just ‘oh she walks it off’ because in the meantime she was saved/the baddie was killed/some time has passed. That female characters AREN’T broken by the trauma they endure seems to suggest they (and therefore we as an audience) are meant to accept this is business as usual and rape is, in the end, not that big of a deal. That, or Women’s lib isn’t coming to Westeros any time soon.

        *I’m not trying to dictate how rape victims should feel. I’m saying it’d be nice to get some fallout beyond the violence of the act itself (which is often used for shock value/as shorthand to point us to a Bad Man).

      2. That depends on the man, if he like women who are broken, he is likely broken himself, and want a woman who is like him. I would like a woman who likes history, literature, physical exercise and cats, since I like all of those things.

      3. “Maybe men like women who are broken.”

        Let’s not devolve this into sexism, can we?

        Many characters have been broken as part of their conflicts on the show. Theon is the prime example, but you can say that others, like Arya, Tyrion, Jaime, Bran and Greyworm have been broken too. They’ve experienced trauma that forced them to redefine themselves and how they see the world. It’s part of the conflict all GoT characters face, and this goes beyond female characters or even main characters.

      4. Sean T. Collins of Rolling Stone doesn’t jump on the bandwagon and states the obvious:

        “Sansa’s rape by Ramsay is of the show’s own devising, and it feels every bit the violation it is. But by involving a multidimensional main character instead of one introduced primarily to suffer, the series has a chance to grant this story the gravity and seriousness it deserves. The novels present this material through Theon’s eyes, relegating Bolton’s bride to a supporting role in a man’s story. Sansa has a story of her own, of which this is now an admittedly excruciating chapter — but she, not Theon, is the real victim here, and it remains her story nonetheless. The next chapters will be hers alone to write.”

    4. So, according to the show, to become a grown man, Jon Snow must “kill the boy” and take charge, but becoming a grown woman Sansa must endure rape and possibly torture…

      Are you serious? You do realize “Kill The Boy” was as much about Jon as about Daenerys? That Theon’s character growth involves the conflict of rape and torture, and he’s a man? That many female characters on the show have had character growth without neither of those?

      a girl can’t become a woman until a man (at best) sleeps with her?

      So you say the showrunners align themselves with the words of Ramsay? Really?

  13. Perhaps i could agree with the points Michel mentioned, as you probably could see reason behind all this things that were shown…perhaps i could if there wasnt this specific feeling ive been having at times during season 4 and basically throughout this new season; the constant feeling that something isnt right, that something is odd and just doesnt fit.

    I think it is very possible, that the writers intended to imply what Michel is describing, but in this case they really failed doing so and the more the show is drifting away from the book material while at the same time trying to keep up with the predefined plot the more feelings of awkwardness i am experiencing while watching it.

    If we take for example the rape scene, which is the main topic here anyway, then all the problems im having with it basically come down to the basic fact already mentioned here that Sansas rape isnt about Sansa at all.

    Im getting it. The writers want to fusion Sansas character with Jeynes, want to set up the plotlines for Theon and Brienne rescuing her and want to do so by getting her raped, but not too gruesome for the audience.
    Okay, but all that being piled up and then being resolved like they did just doesnt really work for me for a couple of reasons:

    First, the scene doesnt really fit to Ramsey. Yes, he is a sadistic psychopath, but psychopaths are by definition the opposite of dumb and his pattern so far has been that he likes to turn his female companions into sadistic psychopaths themselves (yes, you see them being afraid of him, but you also see them enjoy doing and watching horrible things).
    Sansa is no female companion he can just dump away somewhere like the others when she gets boring. She aint no nobody, he needs to have childs with her and even afterwards she is his only trump card of being able to rule a stable North so she probably has to be and will be around for a pretty long time.

    One logical approach for him would have been to twist her “peacefully”, for Theon being exactly the right tool to do that. Maybe Sansa enjoys seeing him being humilitated in private, or even enjoys doing so herself, who knows? As far as he knows shes a young girl who constantly has been pushed around and abused by others: Exactly the kind of character which is susceptible to becoming abusive herself when finally given the power to do so.

    The other approach would have been to break her like he did with Theon and probably in part with his other companions. This would have made the rapescene very gruesome, but at least it would have been fitting AND Sansa would have been a part of it, as morbid as this sounds, oh and besides there are more and better ways of portraying a gruesome rape than with the standard combination of bare “in your face”-nakedness and splatter.

    Well, but instead we see Sansa being a mere side object and being handled like such. Ramsey acts as this was just one of many occasions for him being able to humiliate Theon and concerning his “relationship” with Theon it might be fitting, but concerning Sansa its just completely strange.

    The big problem with Sansas character starts with her character development being completely rewinded so far. Yes you can argue logically that her inexperience could backfire etc but this would still leave the problem of HOW they did it.
    Sansas has been the miserable and abused damsel in distress for the whole show until finally in season 4 they started changing that and finished the season with a huge crescendo. Even off-screen the writers and the actor herself talked about how it was now finally time for Sansa to step up, but guess what: WRONG! Here we go again with her being abused and looking sad.
    Even more problematic is the fact that this isnt just a plot issue, but also a character issue, because her whole behavior appears strange for what we already know.
    We see Sansa, although reluctantly, agree to Baelishs plan of getting her to Winterfell. She already knows that the Boltons are terrible people. She quickly gets to know that Ramsey is that kind of sadistic psychopath with which she´s already got first hand experience (basically Ramsey is a way more intelligent Joeffrey). She learns from Ramseys “lover” that the worst thing she can do is being boring.
    And what the hell does she do? She acts like she acted back in the capital: Struggling and looking sad, like she hasnt gained any experience at all.

    Well yes, you can do that, but it just looks extremly clumsy and odd, besides being extremly boring…
    Since they already went away from the book material, they could have done WAY better.
    They could have shown her playing along with Ramsey like Margaery did with Joffrey and struggling with the new role she has to play. They could have resolved the relationship between her and Theon (and by that initiating the plotline for the coming escape) by letting HER be overcome by compassion for Theon instead of otherwise around as we will probably see next week.

    They could have done ANYTHING and it probably would have been better what theyve actually done.
    I for myself didnt expect this kind of plotline until i saw this episode and the more disappointed i am of seeing Sansa going back to “Miserable Damsel in Distress”-Mode and especially of this completely uninspired and odd rape scene of which we really already enough in this show.

    This scene falls in line for me with regrettably quite a lot of other scenes, in which they went away from the book material, which of course they have to do, but just didnt work it out right and created scenes and developments which just seem odd, clumsy and uninspired.

    1. You can always tell what’s the source material and what’s D and D coming up with stuff. A lot of stuff they add seems rushed and often lacks nuance. In the case of the Sansa storyline, it lacks logical sense. I know they don’t really read the books thoroughly, but I mean why ignore the source material if it can enrich your story? In an Inside episode feature, D an D said that Arya was so upset about getting rid of Needle because it represented revenge. Needle does not represent revenge. Needle represents Jon Snow, Winterfell, and even Sansa. This is stated in the book very clearly. I’m just glad Maisie played that scene with this kind of emotional conflict. At a public forum, I think in Oxford, they were surprised to know that Samwell is a POV character. They should know this.

      Anyway, I just think they are missing huge points that make a big difference to how this story is shaped.

      1. They said Needle represents revenge?? Man, they need to read the books more…I loved that scene with her and Needle, because Needle is the last thing she has from her childhood and the family who loved her. It’s the one “member” of her family that hasn’t been killed or taken away from her yet, and her keeping it is that one, last strand that keeps her from completely abandoning who she is as she tries to become “no one”….

  14. Th whole storyline would’ve been better if Sansa was given the Manderly role. As “Alayne Stone” she could’ve delivered the “Arya Stark” to the Boltons as a goodwill gesture, and work behind the scenes to plot against the Boltons.

    This whole storyline makes no sense for Littlefinger either, since this basically cements the Boltons claim to Winterfell.

    1. Arya is not a lord. She has no armies backing her up. And she wouldn’t have sacrificed a girl get her revenge. Littlefinger can do that, but not she.

      Littlefinger’ plan is brilliant. He offers Sansa as a way of securing an undercover alliance with the Boltons. He rats them out to Cersei to wn her favor and a decree naming him Warden of the North. He will only have to battle against Stannis. And he places Sansa (his protegé) in a very strategic placement to vouch for him in case he needs influence over Stannis.

      No matter the scenario, he wins either way. Stirring chaos and climbing the ladder… classic Baelish M.O.

        1. But she’s willing to sacrifice herself… for what, exactly? How the heck does giving yourself on the platter to your enemies help you get “revenge”?

          Sansa COULD have armies. She is Sansa STARK. That name gives her huge political capital. She is also, as far as everyone knows, the legitimate heir to Winterfell, for everyone who does not recognize the authority of Joffrey and Tommen as kings, and therefore the Bolton authority in the North. That would include Stark supporters in the North, Stannis, and probably the Vale lords in the books – almost definitely Vale lords in the show. they are already not happy with the Lannisters since they think they murdered Jon Arryn, and Sansa’s father was a ward and close friend of Jon Arryn. The show has put her in an even better position than in the books in season 4: the most powerful of the Vale lords know who she is and are supporting her, She has the Vale guards around her when she travels (strangely, not even trying hard to conceal her identity). She doesn’t even have to depend on LF as much as book!Sansa does. Even if the Vale is not ready for full-on war against the Boltons, she could work to persuade the Vale lords. And if she is to go Nroth, she can go North with Vale soldiers protecting her and meet with some northern lords, use her Stark name to rally them against the Boltons. She can make them join with Stannis – now, that would win points with him, not marrying Ramsay Bolton.

          But any of that would require Sansa being an actual political player, Sansa using her intelligence, words, courtesy (what’s that? The showrunners have no idea, even though it’s mentioned over and over in the books as Sansa’s “armor”), people skills, political skills, power of persuasion, rather than conforming to the show writers’ misogynistic view that women’s only value, if they are not fighting with weapons, is their body, and that they must use sex to get anywhere.

          1. Thank you! Regardless of what poster Michel states, this storyline just doesn’t make sense. I think that is why the rape scene has hit such a strong nerve. If the plot line made sense instead of insulting our intelligence, then maybe we as viewers would have more faith in the creative changes. But like I said, instead of keeping with Sansa’s trajectory from season 4 or utilizing her Vale storyline, with some possible tweeks, they decided to make her Jeyne Poole and force her into a storyline that has her lose more agency. I don’t get how this decision is taking a risk when basically it demonstrates that they didn’t have the imagination or creativity to make Sansa’s Vale storyline more adaptable to screen. I would rather them bench her for the season as they did Bran then give us this nonsensical, sexist, and poorly characterized plot line.

            1. Yes, it’s now becoming clear that Bran is really lucky to have been benched for this season. Since they no doubt find his storyline boring, if he were in this season he’d probably be travelling to King’s Landing to marry Cersei. Why not, makes about as much sense as Sansa marrying Ramsay. Then, since he’s grown up enough, they could throw in a sex scene as well as they did with Tommen.

              But they still have two more seasons to mess his storyline as well.

            2. Sansa could have armies at her disposal? Really? You guys seem to be confusing a birthright and a name with actual power. Poor Daenerys, what a fool. She has the perfect family name and she still tookthe long, suffering way to power.

              1. Yes, because Targaryens have just as much popularity and influence in the Free Cities and among the Dothraki as the Starks have in the North, or even the Vale or the Riverlands. That’s why there’s a whole plot in ADWD called “The Dothraki Sea remembers”.

                1. Targaryen loyalists and Stark loyalists have one important thing in common: neither of them is powerful enough to oust an usurper. They can plot, not confront directly. And, sadly, Sansa and Dany had to hide in the Vale and Essos, respectively, and their way to power has marriage as a stepping stone. It’s awful, but surviving such horrors is part of their journey.

                  1. The Stark loyalists are doing pretty fine in ADWD.
                    And there’s no indication that Sansa’s marriage to Harry the Heir, if it ever happens (it certainly can’t until she can reveal herself as Sansa and get an annulment, or Tyrion is dead), will be a horror. And it’s also not so certain she will even need a marriage – once she is revealed to be Sansa Stark, will she even need Harry?

      1. How does marrying Sansa to the Boltons win LF any points with Stannis?!

        Why does LF need to “rat out” the Boltons to Cersei? It’s not a secret marriage! Cersei should learn about it quickly herself! How come everyone knows everything about what’s going on with Dany on the other continent and who Loras and Renly were sleeping with, but a marriage of Roose Bolton’s son to Ned Stark’s daughter/fugitive wanted for King Joffrey’s murder can remain a secret?! In spite of the fact that it needs to be public by default, since the whole point is to secure and legitimize the Bolton hold on Winterfell?

        How does LF explain the fact that he even knows what’s going on with Sansa and the Boltons, and Cersei doesn’t get suspicious? Even book!Cersei is not that stupid.

        How does being named Warden of the North win LF any points with Stannis?

        1. That part is the most illogical. Stannis already knows who Littlefinger is. He was aware of the court under Robert, he doesn’t much care for turncoats. And he’s the last guy who’ll spare a man because some girl tells him to — and I’m not sure why LF would make such a capital mistake as to assume Stannis can be led by the nose by a girl who has yet to prove her chops.

        2. I also don’t get how Littlefinger thinks Stannis would trust him. If anything Stannis is going to wonder how involved Littlefinger was in the whole fiasco because he never trusted him anyway.

          1. Show!Littlefinger’s schemes and behavior are best summed up in this hilarious post about season 5 (it was written before episode 6, so they may not even be tough enough on the show):

            http://theculturalvacuum.tumblr.com/post/116816249708/the-book-snob-glossary

            “BatFinger: BatFinger is a mysterious man. He has a voice like the Malboro Man and an accent that… morphs on a sliding scale between Lucky the Leprechaun and Captain Barbosa. He has the powers of teleportation and telepathy, as he knows about events three seconds after they happen and can magically appear wherever he’s needed. Unfortunately, what BatFinger gains in magic powers, he lacks in common sense. BatFinger will outright tell Carol that he knows about her children being the product of incest. He’ll also send a raven to one of the Lannister’s closest allies and the House that betrayed the Starks to tell them he has Sansa Stark with him. Apparently he thrives solely on chaos, which is good, because there’s absolutely no logic in any of his decisions.”

            1. It’s obvious that satire was posted before episode 6. It’s only in that episode when the logic and brilliance of LF’s plan is revealed. He used Sansa as a Trojan horse, using Cersei’s rage and lack of leverage to destroy the Lannister-Bolton alliance, weaken the North and secure himself a decree naming him Warden of the North in the case of a probable victory. It’s disgusting, brilliant, and consistent with his M.O. He pits major houses against each other, playing their ambitions and their desperation, and helping them in exchange for power. It’s a gamble, but his gambles pay off in realistic ways. He may travel too fast, but his plans are sound.

  15. I thought I would recommend a great documentary about the representations of women and girls in media. It’s called “Miss Representation,” and I know it’s still on Netflix. It really does a great way of showing how television shows and other media outlets have increased the dehumanizing and sexually violent images of women and how that has had an effect on how people react to these issues in real life. When this scene aired I immediately thought of this documentary. People who make the claim that it’s just a show, turn it, or it doesn’t have any real affect, obviously don’t realize the power of images in society. If there was no effect on how we view things or accept certain ideas, then the advertising business would be making no money.

  16. To Michel, Dany actually doesn’t have the perfect family name because of her father The Mad King, Aerys Targaryen. People of Westeros still look back at the Targaryens as being mad and remember how Aerys burned people alive, including Brandon and Rickard Stark. Sansa on the other hand was the daughter of one of the most famously honorable and respected Lord Paramount’s: Ned Stark. She was also the daughter of the respected Catelyn Tully. In addition, Ned was fostered by Jon Arryn who ran the Vale. Sansa is respected for all three of these ties, Riverrun, Winterfell, the Vale. The Northerners still love the Starks as evidenced by Lyanna Mormont’s letter to Stannis. In addition, when Sansa revelaed herself last season to the Lords of the Vale they were sympathetic and wanting to protect her. Sansa even reminded Lord Royce of his past friendship with her father. So, her situation is definitely better than Dany’s. In addition, Dany has never set foot in Westeros to have any allies, those that were allied to the Targaryens sided with the Baratheons after the Rebellion.

    1. Westeros is not a democracy and wars are not popularity contests. Houses Tyrell and Martell had no love for the Lannisters or the Batatheons, but they still kneeled before King Robert. The same is true of many northern houses and even the Vale. Sympathy does not translate to unconditional loyalty, and too few lords are willing to go to war with the Dreadfort, Highgarden, the Riverlands, Casterly Rock and King’s Landing. Northern houses are greatly weakened after the war and the massacre at The Twins. You think they wouldn’t ride against the Boltons in the books? You think they need some highborn girl to inspire them? You think her life wouldn’t be in grave danger by recklessly announcing she’s alive and willing to rebel against the crown?

      None of that makes sense. I think some people are seriously grasping at straws just because a beloved character faced a traumatic event YET again and they feel the need to blame and demonize the writers, who are just doing the best they can with the story Martin left them. Sansa’s source material ran out and a wedding night rape was already happening in the Bolton-controlled Winterfell. The showrunners only had that happen to a major character instead of a minor one (for a bigger emotional impact) and they toned down what happens in the books DRAMATICALLY. All the alternatives are less engaging, with lesser stakes, and way less realistic. And those who think this negates Sansa’s character growth are really not paying attention. This is not Season 1 Sansa. She is just on her own now, with no Tyrion, no Hound and no Baelish to protect her.

      1. ” . Northern houses are greatly weakened after the war and the massacre at The Twins. You think they need some highborn girl to inspire them?”

        Funny, because that’s exactly what’s happening in A Dance with Dragons. Northern clans, who believe Jeyne Poole is really Arya Stark, marching with Stannis on Winterfell in order to rescue “Ned’s little girl”. Lord Manderly sending Davos to find some highborn boy, little Rickon Stark (who is not even around, but on the island of Skagos), so he could be the inspiration for the northerners to rise. And the only reason they hadn’t done that before isn’t being weakened, it’s that their family members were taken hostage at the Red Wedding. and Roose and the Freys hold that over them. But as soon as Manderly’s son was returned, the gloves were off.

        But who needs northern lords in the show? All this tension and intense political situation and murder mystery at Winterfell in the books was just so boring compared to the story of Sansa making the least understandable decision ever, to marry Ramsay, and then getting raped…

        ” You think her life wouldn’t be in grave danger by recklessly announcing she’s alive and willing to rebel against the crown?”

        So, why is she recklessly announcing she’s alive in the show? And even more recklessly marrying into the family of brutal murderers of her family, who are also Lannister allies, and putting herself at their mercy? Book!Sansa is safe and hiding in the Vale, waiting for the time when she can reveal herself, hoping to gain more influence in the Vale – and it sure isn’t so she could marry Ramsay Bolton or, I don’t know, Walder Frey!

        ” I think some people are seriously grasping at straws just because a beloved character faced a traumatic event YET again and they feel the need to blame and demonize the writers, who are just doing the best they can with the story Martin left them.”

        LOL “The best THEY CAN”. I’m sure that’s true. GRRM has said something like this, too, they are “doing the best they can”. Such a loaded phrase…

        1. Honestly, if this is the best the writers can do with the material, maybe it’s time to get some new writers? They’ve been rehashing old plots all season.

      2. Sympathy doesn’t equal unconditional loyalty but Sansa Stark is a name that resonates with these three regions especially with Winter on its way. The Boltons are hated for what they did at the Red Wedding and no one really wants them controlling one of the largest kingdoms. It’s important to remember that The Vale would have been in the war if not for Lysa refusing to enter it (at Littlefingers behest).

        Also I think that you need to understand that just because you are fine with this storyline and see no problem with it doesn’t mean that others feel the same way. I do not feel this storyline was logical in terms of where Sansa was at the end of last season. I don’t think it was logical to the characterizations of Littlefinger or even Roose. If it was logically done then it wouldn’t feel like another contrived shock device merely to shock.

        You can disagree and I respect that, but again you need to show the same respect to others here. You may not be trying to troll this site, but it kind of feels like that’s your intention with some of your comments.

        1. I’m showing others way more respect and granting their opinion way more benefit of the doubt that what the OP and the comments afforded to give yo the showrunners.

          1. So we silence ourselves because it may hurt the D and D’s feelings? They are creating a product that can be subject to criticism. They are not infallible. Again, you may have no qualms with how things are going but a lot of people do. Why can’t our opinions be heard? People are frustrated and many of the arguments presented here have focused on the source material and show adaption of those story lines. No one has been over the top rude or without some thorough analysis to why they dislike this direction.

            1. No one has to silence anyone. Feel free to question anyone’s motives and values, even outright insult them. The only one capable of silencing anyone here is Rhiannon herself, and I don’t think she’s interested.

              But telling me to respect others’ opinions after the litany of demonization that was poured here against the writers and their perceived misogyny is, at least, hypocritical

  17. Michel,
    I’m just not going to continue this with you. You don’t see some of these creative choices as misogynistic but others here do. It’s not hypocritical just because you say that it is. You can back up the creators and these decisions and that is your choice, as it is mine to say that I think it shows lack of creativity, imagination, and also a lack of true understanding of the source material. I see a lot of problems with the show this season and this storyline, in my opinion, has been handled poorly. It’s great that you like it but I don’t.

    1. You see those creative choices as misogynistic and I see most criticism here as unreasonable and grossly unfair. There’s nothing hypocritical in having an opinion, no matter how mistaken I may find it. The hypocrisy lies in finding my views and assumptions disrespectful while yours are perfectly legitimate.

      1. It’s not that I find your views disrespectful it’s that you tend to belittle everyone else’s. I don’t agree with your views but I haven’t said your ‘fooling yourself’ as you told another poster. I think you have taken it upon yourself to tell everyone here that their views are illegitimate because you believe so vehemently in the show runners and their vision. Again, you can have that view but trying to talk down to others won’t change anyone’s mind.

        1. Again, I just look down on a particular view that I find unreasonable. That view seems to be shared by every other poster here. And I still think it’s a legitimate opinion, no matter their truth value. Having said that, one poster here ‘wondered’ if ‘men like women to be broken’. Many others assumed the worst possible motives from the showrunners (when perfectly plausible alternatives have been offered, even from the writers themselves) and even outright insulted them. How come that seems not to be problematic to you at all, but you do find my criticism (which never stooped to that level) as belittling? I call it as I see it: a gross double standard.

    1. So, after all the horrible experience endured by so many characters, we are supposed to give a special status only to rape? Is triggering unacceptable for sexual violence only? What about war survivors? What about first-hand witnesses of the murder of their relatives? What about victims of mutilation? Are their traumas second-class?

    2. That was a very powerful posting. I am so glad she had the courage to get her feelings out. She does make a great point that Jeyne’s experience of feeling broken is one many rape victims go through. I work in counseling, and I can tell you many of my clients are still trying to cope with the rape or molestation they experienced decades ago. They have PTSD, relational issues, addictions, issues with self-harm. Of course, not everyone goes through this but this is a crime that powerfully changes how one views themselves and their agency as an individual. Empowerment as that poster said is rarely what comes from a rape.

      1. Who ever said empowerment can be a result of rape? No one. But knee-jerk reactions and online militant indignation is the pastime of our time. I see too many are eager to dismiss D&D’s willingness or ability to show the psychological fallout of rape. But I do think they can and they will.

        The show has dealt with the psychological fallout of rape before. It did with Craster’s daughters (their characterization is based completely on that fact) and it did with Mirri Maz Dur. “What is it that you think you saved?”

        But none of those are major characters, so we don’t witness their emotional struggles, in the same way we don’t witness the emotional turmoil of peasants off-screen peasants whose relatives died in war, or the way we don’t ever see Hizdar mourning his father.

        I agree it’s problematic that other instances of rape are not considered as such within the context of the show (no matter how they were depicted). Cersei’s rape was meant to be consensual on paper. Dany’s rape was not meant to be that, but terrible marriage sex, and she probably did not internalize it as such, just like all the women in forced, arranged marriages don’t consider their bedding as rape. I know the distinction between forced wedding nights and rape to be hugely problematic, but they were probably very much normalized in medieval culture, which means a reduced emotional fallout in most cases.

        Now, finally, after so many threats, the show has given us a purposefully horrific rape scene, and I trust D&D to make the fallout as authentic as possible. Why? Because that’s what they’ve always done for their secondary characters.

        I think it’s more respectful to depict rape as the horrific experience it is, no matter how triggering it may be, than to have “background rape” happen to minor characters and not explore the tragedy they go through. However, the online outrage over Sansa’s bedding eclipses all other reactions to all other instances of rape. Is it more disrespectful to depict it or to skip it? I would say the latter. We should be confronted with the realities of horrific personal events. That’s part of the value of Game of Thrones.

        If the author of that letter can accept that in the rape of Jeyne Poole, she should accept it in Sansa’s.

        1. “The show has dealt with the psychological fallout of rape before. It did with Craster’s daughters (their characterization is based completely on that fact) and it did with Mirri Maz Dur. “What is it that you think you saved?””

          Oh yes, the stories and dialogue that came directly from the books. Yes, those were in fact realistic depictions of the consequences of rape.

          1. I think you’re confusing realism with ‘fidelity to the books’. IMO, Martin handled Dany’s wedding night even worse than D&D. Lolly’s emotional fallout from her rape was never explored, and Jeyne’s is still insufficiently explored (she doesn’t have POV chapters) and also done to advance the plot, motivate a male character and for shock value (it is excessively graphic). Yet the ones being accused of misogyny are D&D while GRRM is repeatedly exonerated. Why? Why the double standard? One of the many things I find unreasonable about this whole scandal.

        2. Did you read her entire post? She brings up a lot of your points, but also explains why she thinks this could have been handled differently.

    3. She also makes a good point about how this rape does feed into some of those groups on line that are always wanting Sansa to be raped. That part of the fandom has always disturbed me.

    4. That was a powerful treatise, thank you. I have filed it under articles to direct people to when I’m trying to explain why this is a problem.

    1. A lot of the points that the article made were already debunked. And the last one (people saying they prefer Jeyne to marry Ramsay because she’s a “nobody”) it’s a gross misinterpretation of the actual argument. It’s not because Sansa is loved by the audience (which besides, isn’t entirely true, a lot of people find her annoying since S1) it’s because it’s a illogical decision on LF’s part, and feels honestly contrived. And honestly, D&D could have cast this plot aside, because they had others WAY more important, (the Dorne plot, which is turning out to be a giant fiasco, or Lady Stoneheart and the Brotherhood without banners, or the Rebellion of the North), but no, they decided to go with putting Sansa on the Jeyne Poole plot, a thing that they said to have been planning since S2 (which is creepy on its own, to have been planning to get a character brutalized and raped for so long, but hey, that’s my opinion), and basically fuck up all her character development from the books. Because If they make Sansa go strong now, it will be awfully unrealistic and downright disrespectful to actual victims, and If they make her into a helpless victim yet again, then they straight up lied about her being a player this season.

      It’s not just that the rape was mishandled and disgusting, it’s also that from a narrative perspective it.doesn’t.make.sense. We knew that Theon is deeply traumatized to say the least, that Ramsay is bad, blah, blah, it really doesn’t give us something new, even If some people try to justify that “well, we didn’t know how he would act with Sansa after the wedding!”. Let’s face it, nobody was truly surprised to see Ramsay do that. What they were suprised to see was, though, Sansa, the “new player”, the so-called “character that is gaining power this season!!!” be raped and brutalized and return to her state of being a powerless victim. They were surprised because the writers promised us something new this season. Well, they didn’t deliver. GoT is horrible and gritty? We knew. Most of the time the “heroes” can’t save the day? We knew. Women get raped/threatened with rape constantly in Westeros? Hell if we knew. The KL riot, Craster’s keep and the Bloody Mummers come to mind. They don’t stop sending messages of how Westeros is dangerous, especially for women, to the point that sometimes I wonder If they think that we as an audience have a short-term memory or something.

      What we didn’t knew was, though, that the writers thing that a character can be “empowered” and “a player” through rape. That was what suprised everyone. If D&D had shut up and said nothing about Sansa or her development, nobody would have actually been surprised to see her brutalized yet again. After all, Sansa is “weak”, isn’t she?

      I will cast aside all my thoughts about how more rape was grossly unnecessary, how little D&D have tried, how gross is that they have used it only for shock value, etcetera etcetera. Because since the you and the people that seem so hellbent on defending the rape are so set on brushing all that aside and only centering around world building and character development, I will talk about that. Even in terms of world building and setting, it doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t tell us anything new, as we’ve discussed over and over and over. What could tell us something new, though? More glimpses on other northern houses and the rebellion of the North. Actual development of Sansa into a player using, I don’t know, her wit and ability to manipulate people to her advantage? Time to develop a better plot in Dorne, for the love of god. Arianne Martell was a character that had a lot to give to the story, she had a POV, and very important one to understand Dorne culture and its laws and they cut her off, too. In the books, the Myrcella and Arianne plot goes way different, in the series, it’s all about vengeful!Ellaria (whose characterization seems straight out of fanfiction) and three sand snakes who miss their father. All those oportunities for development of the world and plot cast aside for… More on-screen Bolton brutality with a side of rape to shock the audience.

      Also, writers establish themselves and their work through writing. Each writer tends to have certain quirks, write about subjects in a certain way, etc. If they handled badly rape scenes in the past, we as an audience don’t have any incentive to think that they will write a better, less-harmful-and-full-of-tropes in the future, because they didn’t show that they can do better. In fact, GoT writers haven’t even shown to be interested in doing better, as they dismissed the Jaime and Cersei rape. Finally, the article says that not showing rape is unrealistic in the violent and patriarchal setting that is Westeros. But, as far as I can’t tell, they just showed us rape happening, or from the POV of a third person, and didn’t venture AT ALL in how the victim felt or how was the traumatic aftermath for her (because it’s always a her.) They just use it for shock value and forget about the victim completely because, I suspect, THAT might be a tad harder to write and difficult for the audience to see than crows being baaad and tits jiggling while they rape wildling women (Craster’s keep was awful, really).

      If you want realism, if you think that rape is something that should be written about in fiction (I think it is, just not in such a cheap that way) write about it. Truly write about it. Write about the victim, about PTSD, about the trauma that entails, about how difficult it’s the aftermath and how it shapes a person’s life. But don’t use it and then cast the victim aside while the heroes say “omg, the rapist is a bad guy!” (as if that reassures us, as an audience, that we do not condone rape and think that it’s despicable, even if the victim is totally cast aside by the story, even if the audience doesn’t want to see their story because it would make us think about real-world issues and god forbid). That is using rape as a cheap trope. If you want to write about it, at least have the decency to not forget the victims. Now that would be brave.

      English is not my first language, so sorry If there’s any mistakes.

  18. I hope Martin releases another Sansa chapter from Winds of Winter soon. It’s interesting to see how much more she is gaining the upper hand in the book story and honing her ability to read people. It’s clear that Baelish is still an obstacle to her having more autonomy, but there were hints in that chapter that she his gaining allies, especially in Lothor Brune. Her interactions with Harry were so interesting especially her calling him out on having Bastard children. The strong way she is handling herself in the book while still maintaining her innate kindness and empathy has so far been balanced really well. I would have loved to see some of this injected into her story arc from season four on to season five.

  19. I found this interesting analysis of how Show Sansa’s character has lost more agency since season one of the series in comparison to Book Sansa. I have noticed a lot of these changes, as have others, and I think that is the core of why the current arc for Sansa has been so troubling and frustrating considering where she was at the end of season four.
    Here’s the link:
    http://gotgifsandmusings.tumblr.com/post/119391541235/why-sansa-really-kneeled-how-sexism-shaped-sansa

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