Yes, now the rains weep o'er his halls/And not a soul to hear
May 18, 2015 4:30 PM   Subscribe

 
Related: Every rape in Game of Thrones.
posted by Cash4Lead at 4:51 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm with Marcotte.

I think the Cersei/Jamie scene was a shit-show, from start to finish. Badly planned, badly executed, totally ignored in show.

But this scene reads very differently to me, and I'm willing to give D & D just enough slack (an episode or two) to see where it goes.

However, I also think Mary Sue has one hell of a point when they note that "Using rape as the impetus for character motivations is one of the most problematic tropes in fiction" and so I will also say I really, really wish D & D had made a better choice.
posted by Frayed Knot at 4:52 PM on May 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


I am surprised they went along for the ride for this long.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 4:52 PM on May 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


SPOILERS:

So this is the second time that the showrunners have put the character of TV Sansa into a scene in which she is sexually assaulted. Sansa is not present in either scene in the books, nor is books Sansa sexually assaulted in any way (through book 5). This repetition is far more offputting than either individual portrayal of what happens to Sansa, and in neither case is it presented as anything more than a generic "bad thing" that Sansa must overcome- narratively and thematically, the sexual assault scenes could be replaced with swordfights or arguments or some other form of conflict. But the showrunners haven't chosen to go that route, and it shows a gross lack of sympathy for the very non-fictional emotions of their audience, as well as the fictional character that so many people in their audience care about. To quote from Saladin Ahmed, quoted in TFA: "Note: FURY ROAD is an R-rated movie w/ a sexual slaver villain yet Miller & co. didn't feel the need to include a rape scene".
posted by DGStieber at 4:53 PM on May 18, 2015 [52 favorites]


I haven't read the books, but it sounds like it's in there too? Just for a different non-Stark character?
posted by Greg Nog at 4:54 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's bad costume drama replete with gratuitous violence and rape, none of which seem necessary to advance the telenovela plot. Never understood why it's so popular with my otherwise thoughtful and progressive friends.
posted by monospace at 4:55 PM on May 18, 2015 [36 favorites]


Yeah, it may not be "gratuitous" and it may clearly be rape as opposed to any sort of grey area, but that doesn't really address the Mary Sue's point, which is that it isn't actually necessary and doesn't add anything new to the plot or characters.
posted by skycrashesdown at 4:56 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


SOPHIE TURNER [the actress who plays Sansa]: Last season [Thrones director] Alex Graves decided to give me hints. He was saying, “You get a love interest next season.” And I was all, “I actually get a love interest!

THIS is what they call a love interest?!
posted by librosegretti at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2015 [18 favorites]


It seems like the showrunners were laying off Sansa because the actress was a child - the early first season attempt aside - but as soon as she turned 18, she became fair game. "Cool, you're an adult now. Here's your rape scene."
posted by imnotasquirrel at 4:58 PM on May 18, 2015 [33 favorites]


Never understood why it's so popular with my otherwise thoughtful and progressive friends.

I too am at a loss for why my epic series "A Song of Well-Intentioned People Making Good Choices" has thus far failed to find an audience.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:58 PM on May 18, 2015 [157 favorites]


I haven't read the books, but it sounds like it's in there too? Just for a different non-Stark character?

Yeah, it happens to someone else in the book. But, the show runners are already taking liberties with the source material in order to tighten up the narrative and make a better TV show. And the TFA makes it clear that the rape is unnecessary in doing anything for the story. So, it's as if the show runners said: "We're going to clean all this story mess up, including removing giant plot points that people were looking forward to since the show was announced (SPOILER SPOILERS Lady Stoneyouknow SPOLIERS SPOLIERS). Except for the rape. The rape, as unnecessary as it is, gets filmed as written."
posted by sideshow at 5:04 PM on May 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


I too am at a loss for why my epic series "A Song of Well-Intentioned People Making Good Choices" has thus far failed to find an audience.


There is IMO a vast expanse of middle ground between your epic series and "we made this SO BRUTAL and GRIMDARK because reasons and if you decide you don't like it well you just don't appreciate art, man"
posted by Gymnopedist at 5:05 PM on May 18, 2015 [78 favorites]


Wasn't the point of the scene that Sansa isn't the master manipulator she was beginning to think of herself as? And another sign that Littlefinger might not care for her as much as some in the audience thinks he does?

I'm not sure I agree with the view that rape is some special category that requires special consideration before it can be depicted. Rape is really common in real life! It was really common in the middle ages! Virtually all fantasy glosses over the fact that consent is impossible in a society that treats women as property.
posted by hermanubis at 5:06 PM on May 18, 2015 [23 favorites]


I stopped watching the show because they had to add in so much sex violence THAT ISN'T EVEN PART OF THE STORY.

And they get minor details wrong that make a huge fucking difference.

In the books Khal Drogo does not bend Daenaerys over and rape her on their wedding night. He's way more respectful and iirc they don't have have sex for a bit.

The Jamie /cersei sex thing by the their dead father is also characterised differently in the book than the way it is in the show. In Mad Men, Joan is raped by her fiance on Don's office floor and that is what the show made it seem like was happening in that scene and it was not like that.

And sweet jeebus was the red wedding not bad enough already?

I still like the books. A lot. There is sex and violence and rape for sure, but goddamn it sure doesn't seem just for nothing. I feel like in the books it's at least showing power or something, in the show it often seems to be gross and violent for no other reason than gore and tits.

/rant
posted by sio42 at 5:06 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I mean there's enough rape and violence without having to fucking invent more!

Ugh
posted by sio42 at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


my biggest problem wit GoT is that it doesn't really subvert its trope so much as read them in the worst possible way. Rather than the hero having an author who carefully stage manages the story to keep him safe, Martin and the showrunners seem dedicated in always wallowing in the worst possible outcomes from any choice. In the end, it's as much of a dead direction. That Martin also seemed to condone this in the Wild Cards series suggests to me that this is less a bold choice than an author mistaking their own base imagination for a higher form of truth.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2015 [19 favorites]


Before we dive into why we felt this was a choice which would cause us to stop promoting the show, allow us to say something very important: rape is not a necessary plot device.

I like this point a lot.

The other day, I was talking to some friends about books we like. We're all fans of science fiction and fantasy, and I brought up how angry I get when people try to justify misogynist writing by invoking realism or authenticity, excusing the author from the decision because the demands of setting somehow made them include rape scenes, and include them in that particular way.

I mean, there is value in addressing sexual violence in fiction, and I don't think that this is an issue that should be off-bounds. Far from it. However, we're talking about a series in which rapes can be portrayed in a spectacularly tone deaf and titillating way, and which are portrayed far more often than necessary to establish how shitty the world is.

And I'm talking about the books here. I haven't watched much of the show, and everything I've read makes me think that although I wouldn't be surprised if the series is overall more interesting, that it will just make me angry and ranty again.

Thinking about it, I'm really grateful for my friends, because none of them--including those who liked the show--felt like they had to excuse it to justify their liking of the show. And I respect that they like the show, and we can talk about this stuff, which is not my experience with people more generally. I mean, I can probably recreate the tiresome "it's not sexist and you're overreacting/don't understand ART" arguments right here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:09 PM on May 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure I agree with the view that rape is some special category that requires special consideration before it can be depicted.

Considering the rape culture we live in, I'd argue that yes, rape is in a special category and that writers should think long and hard before deciding to write it in.

A common defense for all the rape is that GoT also features a lot of murder, torture, etc. "Why are you upset about the rape and not the fact that children are getting tossed out of windows?" Well, convince me that we're living in a defenestration culture and I'll become upset about the latter, too.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2015 [118 favorites]


This comment from Fanfare kind of says it all for me.

I really enjoyed the show at first but have been finding it increasingly sleazy as time has gone on. I think I've given them enough of a chance.

Also as a long time fan of fantasy fiction I am so goddamn tired of literally every argument around this book and series. No, George RR Martin did not do anything particularly innovative with the books. No, "gritty" fantasy is not new unless you've read literally nothing from Tolkien to 1996. No, we do not have to ape European medieval times when we write fantasy, not that any of these books do an even serviceable job of it. No, your sexual power fantasies cannot be explained away by any satisfying argument. They are yours to own.
posted by selfnoise at 5:15 PM on May 18, 2015 [38 favorites]


I think what really bothered me about the scene was that it seemed to play as character development for fucking Theon, whose reaction is lingered over like he's about to throw Ramsay down the Death Star ventilator shaft. But we didn't even get that payoff, it was just "look, he feels bad and conflicted." I will generally defend GoT's right to be sleazy but this was gross.
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:16 PM on May 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


Considering all the evil depicted so far in GoT (as GRRM sang, "So much death in the Seven Kingdoms / I might be insane!) THIS is what turns the worm?

We have had nudity, we have had sex scenes with vigorous humping, including sex scenes with vigorous humping that were clearly by any definition rape. We've had Dany's brother tell her he'd let every Dothraki warrior rape her to get his crown back. And it is this scene, played discreetly with a bit of ripped clothing and the briefest shot of Sansa's upper back and all the unpleasant action then reflected in Reek's eyes, that is over the top?

I understand the problem some people have with it, but I really don't understand only getting it at this episode in this season of this show.
posted by localroger at 5:19 PM on May 18, 2015 [19 favorites]


I'm not sure I agree with the view that rape is some special category that requires special consideration before it can be depicted. Rape is really common in real life! It was really common in the middle ages! Virtually all fantasy glosses over the fact that consent is impossible in a society that treats women as property.

Ok. So. If a bad/negative/traumatic thing is presented on screen for the purpose of a reaction, it is placed there purposefully. If the conflict is just done for the spectacle of it, it is vapid and pure eye candy (Avengers, or Speed Racer). If the conflict is there to cause the characters to grow and develop, then the conflict should relate to what grows or develops about the character.* Rape is, unfortunately, more common in real life than any of us would like, and is incomprehensible to most decent ppl. But fiction is not real life. Real life is frequently senseless, while fiction and narrative are all about creating a sense of story and connection, etc.

So rape, when presented without thematic connection to a character's growth and development, is either nonsensical, or it's a spectacle to make the audience gawk and gasp. Neither of those are sufficient reasons for showing a rape onscreen. Those are actually terrible reasons for showing a sexual violence onscreen, when there is a known percentage of your audience for whom thsi scene isn't "fiction" in the same way, because it's something they have experienced.Also, there is a real problem where female characters are subjected to sexualized violence or conflict in fiction because writers or directors are lazy and can't think of a fitting struggle for a female character.



*not mandatory, per se, but rather important for a "good" or "coherent" movie
posted by DGStieber at 5:20 PM on May 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


It was a very unpleasant scene, but I'm not sure what else the writers could have done with that story thread at this point, save to drop it entirely and hope we never wonder what happened to Sansa. Littlefinger needs to use the Boltons as a buffer, the Boltons need to solidify their hold on the North before Stannis arrives, Ramsey is a sadistic fuck, and Sansa has a name that makes her a political pawn in a society which treats women as property. How else was this ever going to play out?

I didn't read the camera focusing on Theon as a moment of character development for him - he's just playing the same role he's had for several episodes - but as a way to let us avert our eyes from something horrible while still registering that it happened.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:21 PM on May 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


Localroger: I think the idea is that if you have this pattern of going to the rape well every time you need a 'shocking' moment that people start to see that pattern instead of the actual storyline. Also they maybe start to think you are a little off.
posted by selfnoise at 5:21 PM on May 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


selfnoise: “I really enjoyed the show at first but have been finding it increasingly sleazy as time has gone on. I think I've given them enough of a chance.”
Too much of a chance I'd say. I stopped watching Game of Thrones years ago because I couldn't take the wanton cruelty. I stopped watching Vikings for similar reasons.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:22 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Too much of a chance I'd say. I stopped watching Game of Thrones years ago because I couldn't take the wanton cruelty. I stopped watching Vikings for similar reasons.

Haha, I was just going to check out Vikings, thanks for the assist.
posted by selfnoise at 5:23 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Rape is really common in real life!

Yeah, which is why it fucking sucks as a constant plot point, especially when the purpose of it is to make a male character have a learning experience.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:25 PM on May 18, 2015 [74 favorites]


It's funny how when media products want to go for "gritty realism" they never show a lot of shitting. People shit all the time! Like usually at least once a day! Why do we not have more poop-driven plots?

What's that? Audiences don't want to see characters squeezing out a juicy deuce? It makes people uncomfortable? But wat about the realismz??
posted by threeants at 5:26 PM on May 18, 2015 [174 favorites]


I haven't read the books, but it sounds like it's in there too? Just for a different non-Stark character?

It's in there and it is much, much, much, much worse than anything HBO could ever get away with. It's kind of debatable how gratuitous it is, only in as much as (spoiler warning) GRRM seems to be implying that the Bolton family are partly descended from the Others and not entirely human and also Very Fucking Evil, like in a supernatural way that will play some kind of role in the overall mythic-level plot. Like, Ramsay is not just a product of Roose's terrible parenting but actually they are both part omnicidal ice demon with some kind of ancient blood feud against the Starks held in check by some weird intermarriage thing and a very strict adherence to the taboo against slaying kin/blood.

But also GRRM'd gross and apparently likes writing about girls and young women getting raped or victims while pretending that he's just, like, being realistic, maaaaaan.

Yeah, it may not be "gratuitous" and it may clearly be rape as opposed to any sort of grey area, but that doesn't really address the Mary Sue's point, which is that it isn't actually necessary and doesn't add anything new to the plot or characters.

As uncomfortable as it is, they're wrong. It's a lot more evident in the books with all the political action around the North that goes on in Book 5, but I think they're sort of eliding the role of feudal legitimacy in the marriage and how the Boltons are very tenuously clinging on to their rule; it's not just Stannis and Bad Life Decisions Jon Snow who's out for them, but basically the entire North except for Lord Fatty (whose son and heir is a hostage), the Karstarks who broke with the Starks, and some various other Stark-hating minor houses. The point is the marriage, not the rape per se. The rape doesn't add anything new to Ramsay, over the top horrible villain, but the marriage does add something to House Bolton, claimants to the feudal rights to Winterfell and the North.

In the books Khal Drogo does not bend Daenaerys over and rape her on their wedding night. He's way more respectful and iirc they don't have have sex for a bit.

No, GRRM shows off his sick pedo crap by having it be loving and consensual the first time, with a thirteen year old putting a grown man's finger in her vagina while saying yes.

Then later he starts bending her over and raping her until she's bruised and crying! That's totally different! Emilia Clarke and Jason Momoa were the ones advocating for the show to change that part, not the showrunners, and I think it was the right choice. It says volumes about GRRM that I think in that scene, explicit rape is actually less disturbing than his idea of consensual sex.

The series has more titilation and sexposition, but the level of sexual violence is pretty much the same. They added in the scene with Joffrey and the whores, but it's as much implied in the books anyway and I think they skipped the scene where he has Sansa stripped and beaten with a sword. I guess the character Cersei has dubiously consensual sex with doesn't exist, so we get to skip that. Yippee. Oh, and the sex Sam is peer pressured into having with Gilly after he had consensual but relucantant sex with her and was angsty about it, probably not going to have to suffer through that either. We also got to skip Tyrion raping a slave girl, but unfortunately I think we will not get to see him be sexually harrassed by a hermaphrodite sex slave and a really fat slave owner, which was gratifying only in that fuck Tyrion.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:26 PM on May 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


yeah, seriously, you know what else was really common in the middle ages, and in many parts of the world today? dying from dysentery. explosive splattery dysentery. there was shit everywhere, all over everything.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:28 PM on May 18, 2015 [21 favorites]


Also, there is a real problem where female characters are subjected to sexualized violence or conflict in fiction because writers or directors are lazy and can't think of a fitting struggle for a female character.

Especially considering that the last season and a half has been spent on demonstrating how strong Sansa has become, how she has managed to achieve some semblance of agency and power.

And the idea that Bolton needs more character development (via rape) to show the viewer how much more we should hate him is stupid. The same goes for Reek/Theon.
posted by Fizz at 5:29 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


yeah, seriously, you know what else was really common in the middle ages, and in many parts of the world today? dying from dysentery. explosive splattery dysentery. there was shit everywhere, all over everything.

I take it you haven't read Book Five, then?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:29 PM on May 18, 2015 [19 favorites]


i guess i missed that scene on the show when penny and tyrion and jorah's enormous owner pooped himself to death, then.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:31 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rape is really common in real life! It was really common in the middle ages!

But this isn't real life or historical fiction. Why isn't the show expected to be as strident about realism when it comes to the dragons, or the giants, or the snow zombies, or the shadow assassins?
posted by Slurms MacKenzie at 5:31 PM on May 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Dysentery is definitely present.

I stopped watching the show because they had to add in so much sex violence THAT ISN'T EVEN PART OF THE STORY.

I truly don't understand this and think it is counterfactual. If anything, the show has sanitized the sexual violence in the books. Which are positively brimming with it, often involving children.

I completely get people objecting to sexual violence in their entertainment. But I reject the notion that the show is departing from the source material in this respect; it is, at worst, reflecting it and I would argue actually toning it way down.
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on May 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


So, did The Mary Sue write a similar article regarding Theon's character having his dick cut off? Because that's some pretty serious sexual assault as well, and arguably not necessary as you could have the character so scarred that he reacted the same and otherwise damaged so as to not have children...but we are, as of this last episode, up to at least two men with genital mutilations front and center and a third that's been similarly threatened.

Game of Thrones is full of violence and bad behavior by characters that you can second guess. I don't quite understand why it is a pass to have multiple children murdered in horrific ways, yet this one scene is where you decide to draw the line.
posted by Muddler at 5:32 PM on May 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


Especially considering that the last season and a half has been spent on demonstrating how strong Sansa has become, how she has managed to achieve some semblance of agency and power.

We might have to wait an episode or three but I got the really strong impression that Sansa's going to be widowed again Real Soon Now, and that agency of hers will have something to do with it.
posted by localroger at 5:32 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


i guess i missed that scene on the show when penny and tyrion and jorah's enormous owner pooped himself to death, then.

Is it bad that I want that to happen so I can just stop watching? Also Daenerys shitting majestically in a field?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:33 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


But this isn't real life or historical fiction. Why isn't the show expected to be as strident about realism when it comes to the dragons, or the giants, or the snow zombies, or the shadow assassins?

Because that's not how fiction generally works. You take realistic characters and put them in a fantasy world.
posted by Justinian at 5:33 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why can men so easily imagine a world that has dragons but are unable to imagine a world without constant rape.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:34 PM on May 18, 2015 [174 favorites]


As a man, whenever I write a story, I first consider "how can I work a rape in here?" Then I add some dragons.
posted by tempestuoso at 5:37 PM on May 18, 2015 [43 favorites]


As much as it's jesus christ another rape scene, at least the scene didn't feature any actual on-screen nudity to titillate, and at least they cut to Theon's crying face pretty early and held on it instead of showing anything. It could have been much, much, much worse, and indeed has been on many occasions.

What really, really bugged me was last week (or maybe the week before?) with that same dude and his other girlfriend, where she's just standing around naked for ages and ages, shown from every conceivable angle, for no apparent reason, and then, hey, here comes a naked guy to get all up on you. I can't help thinking about how long that must have taken to shoot, and, just, yuck.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:37 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why can men so easily imagine a world that has dragons but are unable to imagine a world without constant rape.

I keep typing and deleting my response (not because its angry or anything just because I don't know how to say what I'm trying to say).

Look, Martin was considering the state of fantasy in the 80s and early 90s when he wrote the first couple of books. And he thought a lot of it was ridiculous wish fulfillment. So he said "I'm going to show you what it would actually look like if you set up the world the way you guys are setting it up."

No, hereditary monarchies would not lead to awesome kind kings and queens. Chivalry was always bullshit and didn't lead to beautiful knights helping the poor. Placing your honor above all else would not lead to you succeeding in political maneuvering. And so on.

You can't take the books or show out of the context in which they were written. It's like trying to look at Eastwood's late westerns without considering his early ones. Or THE FOREVER WAR in the absence of STARSHIP TROOPERS. Or, hell, trying to judge CABIN IN THE WOODS with no knowledge or context of the horror genre.

These things all happen in a context. Martin's context is important.
posted by Justinian at 5:38 PM on May 18, 2015 [50 favorites]


To put it another way, the entire fantasy genre was basically imagining a world that has dragons and no rape when Martin started out and that's what he was reacting against. That bullshit hereditary monarchies and rule-by-the-powerful with no legitimacy wouldn't lead to atrocity and oppression.
posted by Justinian at 5:40 PM on May 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


a world that has dragons and no rape

wow what a hellscape
posted by threeants at 5:41 PM on May 18, 2015 [37 favorites]


Oh.......CONTEXT.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:41 PM on May 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


martin's context seems to be, "what would happen if we populated a fantasy world with nasty, crude americans, the worst i can think of?"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:42 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yes, like with anything else. Context is important.
posted by Justinian at 5:42 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the reason you're having a hard time articulating why that context specifically demands that rape scenes be a consistent feature of the narrative is because no such constraint exists.
posted by invitapriore at 5:42 PM on May 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


Every time I read one of these GoT threads, I am so glad we ditched the show after enduring the first season. It sounds like the gratuitous brutality only gets worse with each season.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:43 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Like, that's a lazy and reprehensible device to lean on to depict atrocity and oppression. To me it reads like your argument is that context forced GRRM to suck at writing.
posted by invitapriore at 5:44 PM on May 18, 2015


I'm pretty sure the reason..

I'm pretty sure you're not even trying to understand what I'm saying and, probably, have no interest in the state of the fantasy genre. Which is fine; most people don't. But don't pretend like it has no bearing on what Martin was writing. Like pretending that Tarantino's films don't have a context in the history of cinema.
posted by Justinian at 5:44 PM on May 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've avoided this show from the start because I heard it was gratuitously rapey. I don't really understand why so many people only seem to be figuring that out now.
posted by rikschell at 5:44 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, did The Mary Sue write a similar article regarding Theon's character having his dick cut off? Because that's some pretty serious sexual assault as well, and arguably not necessary as you could have the character so scarred that he reacted the same and otherwise damaged so as to not have children...but we are, as of this last episode, up to at least two men with genital mutilations front and center and a third that's been similarly threatened.

Game of Thrones is full of violence and bad behavior by characters that you can second guess. I don't quite understand why it is a pass to have multiple children murdered in horrific ways, yet this one scene is where you decide to draw the line.


Guys reacting to Theon's dick getting cut off: "Man, that would suck."

A whole fuckton of the female audience reacting to Sansa's rape: "Yeah, that did suck. Thanks for the trigger. Again."

See the difference?
posted by buoys in the hood at 5:45 PM on May 18, 2015 [82 favorites]


So, did The Mary Sue write a similar article regarding Theon's character having his dick cut off?

Because we don't live in a dick-cutting-off culture, as outlined above?

I mean, I get it: I'm grimly amused that this is the straw that broke the camel's back - the show has been super rapey and gratuitous from day one - just like the books.

But I mean shit, I'm a man in a developed country I'm literally dripping in privilege and obliviousness, and I'm sick of all the institutionalised, "background" sexual violence I see embedded if not inherent in our media. And I think using it as provocation is some bullshit, undergraduate wank right there.

I can only imagine how the people who are victims of this sexual violence, this rape culture, feel. It's bullshit, and there is no excuse that can fly, in my opinion. None.
posted by smoke at 5:45 PM on May 18, 2015 [49 favorites]


Rape is really common in real life!

Yes, it happens to men, children, elderly, and disabled people, too. Is GoT exploring this topic as a sort of social awareness campaign, or is it just happening to a single demographic here?
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:46 PM on May 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


I really like TV in which the main characters' lives are dramatically more difficult than mine. Like, "oh no, your brain has been taken over by godlike aliens!" and "oh no, you are an accidental necromancer and can never touch the human you love!" That kind of thing. I like it when GoT makes me go "oh no the magical queen's dragon ate a baby and no one believes the floppy-haired one about the zombies!" I really wish GoT didn't keep making me go "oh hey, that is like that time my ex smashed my head against a mirror repeatedly and then raped me while I bled all over the bathroom floor."

Most people don't get eaten by dragons or get their dicks cut off or have their heads popped open by gigantic warriors. 1/5 of women get raped. That's the heart of what's been bugging me about this series.
posted by a hat out of hell at 5:46 PM on May 18, 2015 [121 favorites]


Is GoT exploring this topic as a sort of social awareness campaign, or is it just happening to a single demographic here?

Well, neither. It's not part of a social awareness campaign and it isn't happening to a single demographic.
posted by Justinian at 5:47 PM on May 18, 2015


[Folks, we've had one round, but maybe we can now just take it as a given that depictions of rape bother people for perfectly valid reasons, and let the conversation proceed from there?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:47 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


These things all happen in a context. Martin's context is important.

I've always felt like Martin's books were a little like the Watchmen of fantasy fiction. To some degree, at least in the first three books, the series seems to function as meta-commentary on the genre, complete with archetypes that are clearly repurposed figures from classic novels (the Targaryens are the Melniboneans, Khal Drogo is pretty Conan-like [as other filmmakers must have realized], and so on).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:48 PM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you are looking for a fantasy story which is not based on the assumption that power corrupts and powerful people with no checks will do horrible things in order to serve their own interests, Game of Thrones is not for you. Why are we quibbling over the exact manner of horrible behavior exhibited by these powerful sadists?

In the end the Others will eat them all and Danaerys will use dragon fire to cut Dorne off from the rest of the continent and the civilized people will live happily ever after. But we haven't gotten to that part yet.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:48 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


That is exactly correct. Martin's books function like Watchmen. And, like Watchmen they are problematic but that problematic nature needs to be taken in context. Trying to examine Watchmen with absolutely no knowledge of what preceeded it is foolhardy.
posted by Justinian at 5:49 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


does this so-called context include fritz lieber and james branch cabell?

if he really had wanted to, there are models to follow if he wanted to take the fantasy genre of the 80s and 90s and turn it on its head
posted by pyramid termite at 5:50 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why are we quibbling over the exact manner of horrible behavior exhibited by these powerful sadists?

Because society exists and the books and their universe is a reaction to our universe and other books and they are rife with sexual violence that is disturbing and although not explicitly condoned is often rendered in loving detail?

Because this kind of white-noise sexual violence is something that permeates most of our media and feeds into and is a response to the white noise of sexual violence that runs rife through our culture?

Because fantasy as a genre has a long and storied history of hugely problematic gender portrayals and an unexamined, embedded sexism?

Because that sexism has been examined and deconstructed in far more interesting and subtle - and disturbing! - ways before, during and after the era of GRRM?

Lots of reasons, dude.
posted by smoke at 5:52 PM on May 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


What are some of the far more interesting deconstructions of the epic fantasy genre before GRRM?
posted by Justinian at 5:53 PM on May 18, 2015


Michael Moorcock, Dave Sim, M. John Harrison, Roger Zelazny
posted by griphus at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


What are some of the far more interesting deconstructions of the epic fantasy genres before GRRM?

LeGuin. Wolfe. Moorcock is in some ways (it is About post-colonial Britain).
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


you cant just keep making what is basically rape fanfiction of major characters and not expect people to be pissed off. D&D do so many other things well, but the "hey lets just add sexual violence for some spice" is deplorable, and they should be taken to task for it.

they clearly dont appreciate the significance of these scenes, and it makes me seriously question whether they have any real understand the source material at all beyond the dungeons and dragons element. I mean, they are basically undermining the very reason why these books are held in high regard in the first place.
posted by young_son at 5:58 PM on May 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


This list is incomplete, but might give you a starting point.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:58 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


(that list starts with Donaldson, OHenryPacey, which is extraordinarily ironic in context as anyone familiar with the genre should understand.)
posted by Justinian at 5:59 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've been focused on a long listserv email conversation about this all day which has included Marcotte as well as Alyssa Rosenberg (both of whom I agree with here.) I have a lot to say, won't be able to really try to compose most of my thoughts, but here's a copypaste of what I wrote there recently:
Been trying to put these words together in my head all day, and I think I finally have it:

Sansa is a strong character who was raped last night. That is not a self-contradictory sentence. We have watched Sansa grow stronger in personality, force of will, understanding of herself and her desires, etc, for four and a half seasons now, but particularly in this one.

Here's the thing: every single survivor of sexual assault that I've known has been strong, and that has not even once meant that they prevented their assault. It has meant that they survived. Not just the attack, but the subsequent minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. The trauma and stigma and worries and potential long-lasting physical consequences and psychological maelstroms.

So when I see arguments that this stripped Sansa of her agency, or that it didn't show anything about her character, my only thought is:

The show cut to black. How the hell do we know yet? We haven't gotten to that part.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:01 PM on May 18, 2015 [22 favorites]


The Cream of the Jest
Viriconium
Neveryona
Book of the new sun

Etc etc etc

Jack Vance's Lyonesse series contains many of the same sexual issues but is actually quite similar in some ways to GRRMs books ( but much better written.)
posted by selfnoise at 6:01 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Elric of Melnibone, the Earthsea books, the Hero and The Crown by Robin Mckinley, Joan Vinge, lots of Sherri S Tepper, the parable of the sower (sf, I know but close enough), Ellen Kushner's swordpoint. Come on man, just cause they weren't bestsellers there's plenty out there.
posted by smoke at 6:02 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why are we quibbling over the exact manner of horrible behavior exhibited by these powerful sadists?

In my life I've met one person who was defenestrated and more rape survivors than I can count.

In the one season of Game of Thrones that I watched, the sexual assaults weren't shown from the perspective of the victim but were done more voyeuristically, and that's perhaps even more disturbing for me.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:03 PM on May 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


None of which have anything to do with a deconstruction of the epic fantasy genre of the 80s and 90s. Hell, many of them were written before that period began. But I'm not going to argue about the minutiae of the genre since a lof of people in this thread probably don't care about it one way or the other.
posted by Justinian at 6:03 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like you're begging the question here, and defining the criteria of fantasy to suit your argument. Lots of people disagree with your definition, clearly.
posted by smoke at 6:04 PM on May 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Honestly the deconstruction of the epic fantasy of the 90s isn't an important or worthwhile thing to do. You don't learn anything from dissecting Styrofoam.
posted by selfnoise at 6:05 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


But he's not really relevant.

The first five books of Amber are entirely about a take on royal families and courtly intrigue that was violent and brutal, with literally every character having morally ambiguous motives and means. I'm not sure why he's not relevant to conversations about the deconstruction of chivalric epics when the books portray, quite literally, a royal family forging hateful alliances and tearing one another down in whatever way they can.
posted by griphus at 6:05 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]




Look, Martin was considering the state of fantasy in the 80s and early 90s when he wrote the first couple of books. And he thought a lot of it was ridiculous wish fulfillment. So he said "I'm going to show you what it would actually look like if you set up the world the way you guys are setting it up."

This is exactly the argument that I described expecting earlier: It's not sexist because the author is beholden to realism. You just have to say that it's unrealistic for the setting not to have a lot of violence against women, and to you that explains it all; it's necessary, a natural conclusion of the context, and has nothing to do with a culture of misogyny, the male gaze, or fictional tropes about women.

I mean, I think I'm more in agreement with you about the validity of "realism" as a concept in fantasy than many others here. I think that settings have an internal logic, and the addition of dragons doesn't mean that author has the power to do anything and everything and have it be "believable." I would even have trouble buying a setting like this without violence against women.

That doesn't actually explain:

(a) the frequency of the rapes

(b) how graphically the rapes are described

(c) the male gaze-y approach to describing the rapes

You can write a fantasy novel in a setting as miserable as that of Game of Thrones, a setting in which there is routine violence against women, without resorting to graphic descriptions of rape as a way to shock and titillate readers. (And yes, I totally believe that is part of what GRRM uses rape for, even if he doesn't consciously realize it.) Even if you buy that the setting would not be realistic without rape, that still doesn't mean the setting forced GRRM to include rape the way that he did.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:07 PM on May 18, 2015 [62 favorites]


None of which have anything to do with a deconstruction of the epic fantasy genre of the 80s and 90s. Hell, many of them were written before that period began.

that should tell you something about that genre, then, shouldn't it?

rock and roll's been deconstructed to pieces and yet, people are still doing it the same old way, aren't they?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:07 PM on May 18, 2015


"I'm pretty sure the reason you're having a hard time articulating why that context specifically demands that rape scenes be a consistent feature of the narrative is because no such constraint exists."

It does, though, and I agree with Justinian on this point. I disagree with him otherwise, though.

That this and other books are "brutal" and "grim" in contrast to Tolkien isn't the important part, the important part is that Tolkien was a cultural conservative, anti-modern propagandist who shaped a modern genre of fantasy that is profoundly regressive and conceals within it a vast amount of sexist and racist and classist implications of what would actually be a horribly oppressive world. GRRM, and some others, explicitly aimed to subvert the genre by representing the true implications of the genre. It's not that there was rape in our actual middle-ages, it's that the idealized version of medieval Britain in Tolkien et al is one of institutional sexual violence that is largely hidden from us but which is implicitly and necessarily there in the things he does show us. Saying that this is fantasy and it could be anything is a profound misanalysis, and Justinian is quite right in comparing it to one of the anti-westerns. It's a subversion, a critique.

All that said, GRRM is neither aware enough nor serious enough as a writer to fully realize this critique in a way that is true to that aim. He very much demonstrates the truth of Truffaut's comment about anti-war films and he frequently ends up voyeuristically indulging in the very sort of thing he thinks he is exposing as abhorrent.

But I also disagree with Justinian about the books as compared to the show. I think that GRRM frequently goes astray, but has some sense that he's trying to somehow be anti-sexist while, in contrast, I think that B&B are full-on oblivious sexist shitheads who have no fucking clue at all that on-screen sexual violence isn't titillation. Because the show is one-third titillation and almost gleefully so.

If there's a strong narrative reason and a strong social reason to depict sexual violence against women -- and that's far less often than people suppose -- there's still much better and much worse ways of doing so. I haven't yet seen this episode, so I'm not sure how it's depicted, but I agree that it wasn't necessary. And, if it somehow was necessary to be established as a narrative fact, that still doesn't mean that it needed to be depicted on-screen. But I agree with The Mary Sue that it just wasn't necessary at all. And B&B are clueless about this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:07 PM on May 18, 2015 [62 favorites]


I mean the Song of Ice and Fire books were introduced to me by a friend of mine who I introduced Amber to and he said "it's a lot like Amber, just with more courtly intrigue and less obsessively detailed fencing."
posted by griphus at 6:08 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


For those who haven't watched the series, there's also another point to consider (which Marcotte gets at but maybe not quite this directly):

This show has depicted rapes a lot. Every time has been highly problematic, for different reasons. This particular one is probably the first time they've done it "right." But there's a boy-who-cried-wolf aspect and I don't blame anybody for not trusting the show on this anymore. But this time wasn't gratuitous, exploitative, or anything else like that. I don't think, anyway.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:08 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Memory, sorrow and thorn is much better pop fantasy than ASOIAF and contains 96% less rapes. (I think there is one?)
posted by selfnoise at 6:08 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


But can we all agree on Daniel Abraham? Surely we can agree Abraham is the bee's knees?
posted by Justinian at 6:10 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


selfnoise: Localroger: I think the idea is that if you have this pattern of going to the rape well every time you need a 'shocking' moment that people start to see that pattern instead of the actual storyline. Also they maybe start to think you are a little off.

But really, have you even been watching the show? It's gone to the castration well, the hanging well, the crucifixion well, the pouring molten metal on a guy's head well, the joust gone really badly well, it's gone to so fucking many cruelty wells they must all connect to the AntiPacific Ocean. The entire world of GoT is one of violent death and casual desecration of the resulting corpses.

It seems just strange to me that against that background a violent event that is survived, leaving the victim capable of all kinds of retaliatory mischief against the aggressor, is somehow too awful to tolerate.
posted by localroger at 6:11 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Don't forget the killing the poor doggie well which provoked quite a bit of outrage.
posted by Justinian at 6:12 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Early Pratchett and Guy Gavriel-Kay both predate GRRM by a fair bit, and I don't think you can just arbitrarily say "but he's reacting to Dragonlance/David Eddings/Robert Jordan and they weren't!". The seeds all come from the same pool, which GRRM himself acknowledges: Tolkien. I don't know if the first Eddings book came out before or after Tigana, but I do know that they were both reacting to and drawing on the same damn well, and just because the Eddings and Lackeys of the genre took the fundamental flaws in Tolkien and the genre as a whole to new found levels of excess, it doesn't mean that they invented them or that the critics pre-dating GRRM were reacting to something entirely different.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:12 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


The showrunners must be reading a different edition of Robert McKee's Story to the one I read. Mine goes: Inciting Incident, Progressive Complications, Crisis, Climax, Resolution. Not "Endless-Rape-String".
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:13 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


graphic descriptions of rape as a way to shock and titillate readers.

I'm convinced the guy did that to titillate himself. He has deep and dark issues with women, I thought it was obvious.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:13 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't know if the first Eddings book came out before or after Tigana

It was almost a decade earlier, they're completely different fantasy epochs, basically.
posted by Justinian at 6:14 PM on May 18, 2015


And it is this scene, played discreetly with a bit of ripped clothing and the briefest shot of Sansa's upper back and all the unpleasant action then reflected in Reek's eyes, that is over the top?

So since it's a tastefully done rape scene it can't be upsetting? Or the last straw? Is there some minimum amount of nudity or thrusting or something that would make it ok for people to be upset about this scene? The scene that put me over the top with this show was even more "discreet"--there wasn't even a rape! It was when Meera Reed was threatened with rape. I think it was the third episode in a row with rape (Cersei's rape, and the gang rapes of Craster's daughters), and that was it. I was done.
posted by Mavri at 6:14 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


GRRM isn't quite a hack but the books are still pretty meh and increasingly look like they won't ever be finished. I think there are actually a decent number of fantasy writers active today that are operating in the gritty fantasy genre that actually tell a better story. Abercrombie is a key example of someone who has taken the torch from GRRM and is actually telling better stories.

As for the shows, I've been pretty much utterly bored with this season and the total lack of anything other than endless filler because it's clear nobody has a really good idea of how to advance the plot.

In the absence of decent plot or character development it just seems like we are going from a collection of shocking scenes at the end of each episode with tons of boring and pointless shit.

Even if I wasn't frustrated by the shitty direction that the showrunners are handling the plot especially with the constant inclusion of not necessary scenes like Sansa rape the utter lack of engagement I feel with the story is likely going to get me to quit watching because honestly I have better things to do with an hour each week.
posted by vuron at 6:14 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's not sexist because the author is beholden to realism.

really? - i've never read a book (or more accurately, 2 1/2 books), with more unlikeable characters than these books - i gave up

seems to me that a book that is so dedicated to pissing all over any and all epic fantasy tropes can't be realistic - it's like a perfect mirror world - but a perfect mirror that inverts fantasy is just another fantasy, not realism
posted by pyramid termite at 6:17 PM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


The scene that put me over the top with this show was even more "discreet"--there wasn't even a rape! It was when Meera Reed was threatened with rape.

That's fair enough. But it remains a mystery to me how anyone who is at all sensitive to this could have watched the Dany/Dothraki arc without having bailed back then.
posted by localroger at 6:18 PM on May 18, 2015


Depicting a medieval monarchy realistically with the mountains of patriarchal bullshit that comes along with it is an interesting idea. But it doesn't work when you use women as props and sexual violence as window dressing, or sexual violence against women as a shortcut to male motivation. It's OK to write about rape, and utterly not OK to write about rape for male-gazey titillation and shock value. Sadly the show is much worse than Martin in this department, and it's only gotten worse season by season. Martin at least sees himself as subverting Tolkien by pointing out how fucked up most fantasy societies would actually be; D&D see themselves as writing Tolkien with extra bonus grimdark torture bullshit.

Depiction isn't equivalent to condoning, but depicting something difficult comes with responsibilities (if you want your writing to be any good, anyway). And let's not pretend like Martin is some kind of slave to realism, even dragons aside-- there's plenty about the asoiaf world that is hardly a realistic depiction of medieval society. This is, after all, fiction, and every word is a choice.

Also, according to D&D, they took Sansa in this direction because they "LOVED JEYNE POOLE'S STORY SO MUCH." What kind of monsters???
posted by sonmi at 6:18 PM on May 18, 2015 [35 favorites]


The episode also, prior to that final scene (which I imagine all viewers, readers or not, knew was coming for weeks now in one form or another) was an episode dealing in small kindnesses, mercy, the stupidity of short-sighted spite, and a battle that (while objectively ridiculous) ended with no fatalities.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:20 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was almost a decade earlier, they're completely different fantasy epochs, basically.

So, in what way doesn't Tigana critiique and break down all the tropes Eddings uses? The whole source of the magic and ultimate taboo is actually the same, and then later on you have Rothfuss further riffing on it.

Or, in what way is the Belgariad/Malloreon different from all the further bad-clones-of-a-bad-clone that followed it? What is the innovation that happened in the 90s that wasn't present in Eddings (Feist, etc), that GRRM is critiquing and GGK is oblivious to? Because it's sure as shit not wish fullfillment, not sanitization, and not magical royalty.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:20 PM on May 18, 2015


Sadly the show is much worse than Martin in this department, and it's only gotten worse season by season.

This is where I'd disagree. Putting this up against, say, Season 2's "Garden of Bones," which is just about unwatchable to me in its constant cruelty for eye-candy, I feel like they've actually gotten better.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:22 PM on May 18, 2015


Seems to be a lot of people talking about a show that they've given up on.

This is what's driving people away? After the incest, the child burning, dog killing, people hunting, repeated castration, head exploding, poisoning, decapitation, pregnant woman killing, head melting, and sword in the mouth action this is what's turning people away? An evil character not even doing the worst thing he's done?

I see all the points - but if you're going to complain about a show going too far when its first episode has the attempted murder of a child by two post coital siblings then clearly the show is not for you. You were warned from the start.
posted by HarveyDenture at 6:23 PM on May 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


threeants: "It's funny how when media products want to go for "gritty realism" they never show a lot of shitting. People shit all the time! Like usually at least once a day! Why do we not have more poop-driven plots?

What's that? Audiences don't want to see characters squeezing out a juicy deuce? It makes people uncomfortable? But wat about the realismz??
"

Wait till Daenerys' scenes from A Dance With Dragons!
posted by boo_radley at 6:23 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's fair enough. But it remains a mystery to me how anyone who is at all sensitive to this could have watched the Dany/Dothraki arc without having bailed back then.

Becaue it was early in the series? Because these things can be cumulative? Because the grim reality of sexual violence against women in a culture like this is something that can be depicted well and can be necessary to the plot? Because people were giving the writers the benefit of the doubt for awhile? Because a lot of women get used to tolerating a certain amount of misogyny and sexual violence in their entertainment and might let it go until it builds to a higher level than normal or tolerable? This is mysterious to you?
posted by Mavri at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2015 [45 favorites]


Wait till Daenerys' scenes from A Dance With Dragons!

i hope the sound effects are the same bubbly splattery wheezy noises the ketchup bottle makes when you are trying to get the last dregs out for your fries
posted by poffin boffin at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


Can we all agree it's time to move on from GoT and finally get around to making a decent television adaptation of Elric already?
posted by phooky at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


So, in what way doesn't Tigana critiique and break down all the tropes Eddings uses?

In that Tigana wasn't a critique at all, it was a straight-up fantasy story. Not a deconstruction in any way.
posted by Justinian at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bringing up MZB is interesting, as Mists Of Avalon did have a rape scene (Gwynhwifar). But it was recounted entirely from her perspective, was stomach churning to read, fit into a greater context, and was the only one in a book as thick as a phone book. GoT is a series that bothers me because just when I'm getting interested in the scheming and intrigue and family drama BOOM here comes another scene trying to top the last for their demonstration of human horribleness, serving no other point or purpose but "Boy these people sure are fucking awful, aren't they?", way too often in the form of a protracted rape scene. That just makes me think, what are the producers going for here? I don't give a shit if it's loyal to the books or not, I mean, since when was that the ultimate gauge for a successful show?

And "yeah but HISTORY and realism" is a laughable defense, as it has been every single time a rape-happy fantasy/sci-fi series or movie is defended on these grounds, not just because we're talking about alternate universes here, but also because that's hardly a defense that holds up to scrutiny in series or movies that take place in this universe. Like, take Irreversible for instance, which I think was trying to set a record for the longest sexual assault ever put in a movie. Where were the voices clamoring "but a lot of rapes take a lot longer than 9 minutes, cmon, where's your respect for realism. People are terrible!"?

Sure, context is important. So is having a deft hand. So is presenting your characters as people rather than props to pummel the point home that you are watching horrible people being horrible. So is understanding your viewers deserve better than a cheap and easy gimmick for underlining just how horrible this world is. We can do better than this.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


If we're going to spend so much time talking about CONTEXT, I think it's important to note that the context has changed. It is no longer the 90's, and there are plenty of other gritty realism fantasy novels hanging about. The first three books of Game of Thrones might have been kind of like Watchmen, but the TV show is more like the Watchmen copycats (and Watchman movie) that came afterwards - things that latched onto the violence and darkness, but didn't bother with any critique.

And whatever the excuse is for having a goddamn rape plot, a) if you can't explain it to the actress without a euphemism, maybe don't do it and b) don't have it serve a goddamn male character instead of the person who was raped.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:26 PM on May 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


Seems to be a lot of people talking about a show that they've given up on.

i didn't give up on the show - i gave up on the culture that produced it and many other nasty things, a long time ago
posted by pyramid termite at 6:26 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I... I'm not sure you want to talk about context of rape scenes and such in the same sentence as the name MZB. :(
posted by Justinian at 6:26 PM on May 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think people are getting driven away by a plotline that is replacing any real plot or character development with endless rape and other sorts of brutalism. Rape shouldn't be used as a replacement for decent storytelling.
posted by vuron at 6:27 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


So when I see arguments that this stripped Sansa of her agency, or that it didn't show anything about her character, my only thought is:

The show cut to black. How the hell do we know yet? We haven't gotten to that part.


I've been thinking that too, Navelgazer, but here's my nagging problem: The show (and, much as I enjoy the books, them too) has a horrible history of not handling the aftermath of these well at all. Last year, there was a rape between two of the main characters. The audience reacted with horror - both book and non-book fans - to how it was depicted; the show runners themselves seemed rather taken aback that anyone had read it as a rape. So, let's just say that for many people, the benefit of the doubt is no longer there.

As for me, I keep thinking that the final shot of the episode being on Theon is the problem; it gives the impression that this incident is going to be used to further his character's arc and development more than anything. Again, we could be wrong on that, but lingering shots of Theon's horror don't make me feel optimistic that this rape is going to be about Sansa's arc more than Theon's. Well handled, this advances both characters in terms of where I think their arcs are going. But what I feel that I am hearing is a lack of faith that this will be well handled by the show, which has rather consistently shown a bit of tone deafness around this topic. I guess today I'm wondering if the final shot had been Sansa's face as we hear the fabric being ripped, and then we cut to black, how the reaction would have been. The audience knows what is about to happen; we don't need to stay in that room a moment longer and the final focus is maybe better placed. Maybe. Again, there's a question of what do we really need to see, what can we infer from what we know of everyone (I mean, they could've kept the camera out in the hallway and shown Theon closing the door after Ramsay tells him to stay; we know what Ramsay is, who Sansa is, and what Theon is about to witness in that room) and at what point do things cross the line from attempting to depict a truly horrible situation honestly to wallowing in the crapulence?

In terms of the larger issues of fantasy literature and tropes and deconstruction of the same, well, for better or worse, this is the saga that has caught the popular attention in terms of grimdark fantasy. Speaking as someone who both loves the genre and enjoys ASOIAF (and I do so while acknowledging that there are problems; I think we have to love things with their warts included) as well, I'm glad we're having this conversation. I know at times I've wondered how far you can truly deconstruct the tropes of a genre when working inside it - you can strip the house to the studs and bare wires, but at some point you are still standing inside the house - but this larger examination and discussion of the saga is laying bare problems down in the foundation. It's popularity has sparked a greater conversation which is shedding light into corners where I think many authors and fans may not have looked. I hope it is making people examine some of those very deep assumptions, because I know it has for me.

It makes me wonder what the saga that responds to this deconstruction might look like.
posted by nubs at 6:27 PM on May 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


poffin boffin: " i hope the sound effects are the same bubbly splattery wheezy noises the ketchup bottle makes when you are trying to get the last dregs out for your fries"

Yeah, and I don't mean this in a way to exculpate GRRM from his relentless garbage writing. It's just that maybe at some point in time somebody said that exact thing to him, like "if you were interested in realism and such, you'd have people shitting themselves from the pale horse as much as pedo rape, George." and he was all YES I RAISE YOU ALL IN and we got a chapter of the mother of dragons having heaving shuddershits in a river.

~= and then he was all out of ideas and no more books were forthcoming =~
posted by boo_radley at 6:28 PM on May 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


And to be clear, again, while I will defend this scene and what I feel like was the best way they could have portrayed it tastefully and effectively, I'm not going to defend earlier scenes like threatening Meera, the set-dressing background assaults at Craster's Keep, the Jaime/Cersei trainwreck of Alex Graves' incompetence, or what have you, nor do I resent anybody for walking away now. As Marvi said, it is cumulative.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:29 PM on May 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


I... I'm not sure you want to talk about context of rape scenes and such in the same sentence as the name MZB. :(

Her horrible real-life circumstances aside, MoA was still far and away better at the subject than GoT.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:29 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


nor do I resent anybody from walking away now. As Marvi said, it is cumulative.

I agree with this; there is certainly a cumulative effect at this point.
posted by Justinian at 6:31 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Among the three rapes depicted in the TV show, this one is the first that seems to fit with the character, plot, and sociopolitical milieu depicted. I still consider the fact that it happened to Sansa is unnecessary and probably gratuitous.

I also don't blame anyone for objecting to "yet another rape" in this show, because the showrunners frankly have a shitty track record.

But I am perplexed that this, more than the other two rapes, has provoked this kind of reaction. The book and the show have been doing things like this for many thousands of pages and dozens of hours of TV. At this point anyone with triggers for rape, gore, or violence should know by now to stay far, far away.

I suspect that a considerable part of the response is rooted in the anger of everyone who saw Sansa's numerous near-misses on the non-consensual sex front only to have that trend broken. I personally don't see a compelling reason for Sansa (per se) to be in Winterfell in the TV show and why the showrunners chose to change the (arguably much more horrible) fate of an un-important book character.
posted by chimaera at 6:31 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I personally don't see a compelling reason for Sansa (per se) to be in Winterfell in the TV show

Isn't it impossible to say whether or not that is the case yet? We're way beyond her storyline in the books now.
posted by Justinian at 6:33 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can we all agree it's time to move on from GoT and finally get around to making a decent television adaptation of Elric already?

I genuinely wonder what an Elric series would look like outside of the social milieu/culture/concepts of male attractiveness of the 1970s and in a post-Breaking Bad media landscape w/r/t physically ill but strong-willed anti-heroes.
posted by griphus at 6:33 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's gone to the castration well, the hanging well, the crucifixion well, the pouring molten metal on a guy's head well, the joust gone really badly well, it's gone to so fucking many cruelty wells they must all connect to the AntiPacific Ocean.

How many people in GoT's audience do you think have had molten metal poured on their head? How about crucified? Okay, how many people do you think have been raped?

I'm really bothered by the number of comments in this thread saying that we have to accept all on-screen cruelties without misgivings or we're just not .. supposed to watch TV anymore, I guess.
posted by jess at 6:33 PM on May 18, 2015 [45 favorites]


Also, according to D&D, they took Sansa in this direction because they "LOVED JEYNE POOLE'S STORY SO MUCH." What kind of monsters???

I guess I can see that if they mean someone who was horribly abused and tormented drawing on her own inner strength and working with outside help to escape it and further triumph and live as a survivor?

Except, you know, Gilly. Even feminist critics forget the (relative) awesomeness and strength that is Gilly.

Yeah, and I don't mean this in a way to exculpate GRRM from his relentless garbage writing. It's just that maybe at some point in time somebody said that exact thing to him, like "if you were interested in realism and such, you'd have people shitting themselves from the pale horse as much as pedo rape, George." and he was all YES I RAISE YOU ALL IN and we got a chapter of the mother of dragons having heaving shuddershits in a river.

Yeah, you can also tell that someone said something about dead babies and the overall lack of miscarriage and tendency towards healthy delivery unless you're named Lysa Arryn, and then he wrote the horrible short stories set in the original Dance of Dragons and the history of the Targaryens. You want dead babies and children? Motherfucker, you can't handle the level of infant mortality I am about to drop on you!
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:33 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I posted this comment in Fanfare earlier, but I think it's directly relevant to what people are talking about here so I'm reproducing it (with an addition).

I was saddened by the brutal treatment of Sansa.

But I'm much more disturbed by this unspoken bias toward brutality as the ne plus ultra of reality, this subtle perception that TV or film which shows us more horrible things is showing us the truth of the world in a way that stories showing us characters feeling joy or harmony cannot or do not. It's a deeply unsettling way to think about the relationship between the world we live in and the meaning of representation. Pain and cruelty are undeniably real, but they are not more real than things which don't cause us the kind of visceral distress to see that things like sexual assault do. Saying that we cannot dispense with depictions of sexual assault if we want to maintain a fidelity to reality is a subtle way in which a culture of normalized violence against women is reproduced: an ontological privilege is granted to brutality, especially brutality against women, which then get bandied about as evidentiary of realism.
posted by clockzero at 6:34 PM on May 18, 2015 [63 favorites]


Okay, but imagine a version of the GoT TV show that decided to go with the realistish critique on epic fantasy tv and movies instead of the rape'n'murder plots. There's been plenty of epic fantasy film since Lord of the Rings, and the tropes aren't the same as those found in epic fantasy novels. Wouldn't that be a hell of a lot more awesome?
posted by dinty_moore at 6:34 PM on May 18, 2015


You were warned from the start.

Sorry, but no - that's not how it works. This isn't like buying a chocolate bar that is advertise to have coconut in it, and then getting angry that it has coconut in it.

This is about a popular series treating an issue that affects many real women and remains a real and constant threat to our safety and autonomy, in a deeply problematic way. As a cheap way to get (sometimes sexually charged) thrills. This goes way beyond whether or not the series is to my personal taste.

And it would be great if you could engage with what women are saying in this thread about why it bothers us, why it's not necessary, and why the portrayal of sexual violence deserves special consideration -- instead of just charging in here, ignoring that we've addressed your fucking point already, and implying that we silly women should have seen it coming, and are blowing it out of proportion.

That's really disrespectful to us and our concerns.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:35 PM on May 18, 2015 [62 favorites]


I feel like you're begging the question here, and defining the criteria of fantasy to suit your argument. Lots of people disagree with your definition, clearly.

I would like to step to the side of the argument for a moment to say: CHEERS to smoke for using "begging the question" in the true and correct way! Huzzah!
posted by Greg Nog at 6:36 PM on May 18, 2015 [32 favorites]


Women and Horses: Abigail Nussbaum on sexual violence in GoT, in a 2012 post to her blog Asking the Wrong Questions.
posted by stebulus at 6:37 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Honestly I don't see how Elric can be handled in movie or tv format without him being turned into a Sephiroth look alike because honestly Elric's general aesthetic has become so dominant as a short hand in some areas of fantasy that I think more people are familiar with characters tangentially related and influenced by Elric and Stormbringer than they are with Elric.

Besides I think Hawkmoon would be a better option.

Other writers worth adapting might be Glen Cook
posted by vuron at 6:38 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like I quit this show just in time (last week). It had just started to meander, and I was long tired of rape porn (and that includes the mutilation of Theon). But I read the recaps, and I'm on the same page as all the others who are fed up with GoT.

I don't understand how suddenly all the members of the boyzone have become experts on rape in the middle ages. I'd like to see some citations.

I've lately become fascinated by the middle ages (thanks to Philip Daileader's Great Courses series, and Sharon Eastaugh's History of the Crusades), and this series has almost no relation to that period. It doesn't even try.

Nor do I understand the argument that "the books are even more rapey" as some sort of justification for the show. This just tells me that I also quit the books in time (halfway through book 3) & have no need to pick them up again. I mean, GGRM isn't even a good writer.
posted by kanewai at 6:45 PM on May 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm personally more interested in this thread to see Justinian and various folks joust about deconstructionist fantasy literature, but to the general side thread about "this? this is the straw that broke the back on your trigger camel?" ... I don't know, there's a part of that which reminds me about microaggressions and the way many of us have to deal with having to justify our identity, our gender, or our heritage. And I'm reminded of something someone wrote about what happens when you're constantly asked, "where are you from? I mean originally."

"If you spill coffee on me once, it's no big deal. But when I get coffee spilled on me every damn day, can you blame me for being pissed off when you spill coffee on me too?"

I mean, yeah, I see your point that the scene as it is was not as bad as a lot of the other shit that the show has put out. But the thing is that, to use the thread's favorite word: in the CONTEXT of the entire history of the show, it's part of a pattern that is generally decreasing the amount of fun that the show is putting out. Killing, maiming, raping and brutalizing characters that we sympathize with has been a price that the audience has been paying because we've also seen payoffs for other characters in overcoming how shitty life is in this crapsack world, but for many of us the price gets too high -- esp. when we know that nothing in this world is guaranteed. We may root for Dany and we may root for Tyrion and we may root for Jon in all of our own little ways. But it's possible that Dany will end the series being eaten by Drogon in some totally random and unfulfilling way because That's Life Bitches! You Should've Seen That Coming After We Cut Off Ned's Head and Did Barristan's Utterly Unfulfilling Last Stand, Suckers!

And, after a certain point, this arbitrariness and cruelty can just inspire a bunch of us to detach from characters the we used to care about because we don't want to pay that price anymore.

I don't have to justify for you why one particular offence makes me want to rail against a systematic pattern of prejudice in our society when I may have swallowed a dozen other worse insults. Sometimes it's not the weight of the one that's added, but the many others that you've already been forced to bear.
posted by bl1nk at 6:46 PM on May 18, 2015 [22 favorites]


[Two comments deleted. Let's set aside the "I can't believe anybody really felt like this was the last straw" thing, since that's explained in the article and in this thread. And if you aren't interested in the show or the article, it's fine to skip the thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:46 PM on May 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


But I am perplexed that this, more than the other two rapes, has provoked this kind of reaction

There is such a thing as cumulative impact.
posted by kanewai at 6:48 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


"...nor do I resent anybody from walking away now. As Marvi said, it is cumulative."

I was angry and horrified and decided to stop watching the show last year after the notorious scene, but some things afterward caused me to change my mind. I thought they'd learned something from it. And I decided, like many others, to pretend it hadn't happened. I totally didn't think they'd go this direction with Sansa, the show was reworking the plot and they weren't beholden to Jeyne Poole's particular story.

So this deeply pisses me off. And I'm also just fucking sick of gratuitous female nudity. I don't exactly know when the line was crossed because this sort of thing is normal for more "adult" oriented media and I knew that HBO sort of did this, anyway, but it was always icky for me at least a little because it was so obviously titillation and not like, say, the nudity I'll see in an after-watershed BBC show. But there wasn't so much of it right at the beginning of the season and, again, I sort of hoped that B&B had been internalizing some of the criticism of the show. But I totally don't think they have.

I'm angry about it because there's a lot of things I've liked about ASoIaF, there're numerous things I really like about this approach to critiquing faux medieval British epic fantasy, lots of times I'm really charmed by GRRM, I know that he's at least partly well-meaning, so I'm just barely able to be somewhat okay with the books and him and, more importantly to me, there's the problem that, for example, Arya is my favorite character, ever. I'll walk on glass to find out what happens to her and, dammit, Maisie Williams is amazing as Arya and I feel just as strongly about show-Arya. So I really don't want to stop watching the show. But the show keeps pissing me off with this crap. And it makes me feel icky and it makes me angry. And it makes me feel guilty about watching it. At this point, I want D&D to die in a fire.

Some of that may be true for other people.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:50 PM on May 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


The first three books of Game of Thrones might have been kind of like Watchmen, but the TV show is more like the Watchmen copycats (and Watchman movie) that came afterwards - things that latched onto the violence and darkness, but didn't bother with any critique.

The books, as imperfect as they are, only revert into pervy porniness (with pedo moments) intermittently, with far more pages devoted to descriptions of food or endless lists of knights and their emblems. The show inverts that, putting the porniness front and center. So where the books use sexual violence to shock, the show uses it much more often to titillate.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:52 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I mean "Benioff & Weiss" of course, and perhaps that's some sort of freudian slip.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:02 PM on May 18, 2015


I see all the points - but if you're going to complain about a show going too far when its first episode has the attempted murder of a child by two post coital siblings then clearly the show is not for you. You were warned from the start.

True but looking at it another way, the show set a high bar for itself right from that first episode. Now, several seasons in, they have to keep upping the ante with more and more stunning moments at the risk of giving some viewers TV-watching equivalent of shell shock.

I was okay with Sansa's wedding night scene but in general I am getting tired of her storyline being a Westeros version of the Perils of Pauline. Enough already.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:04 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


An evil character not even doing the worst thing he's done?

The thing is, this guy is so comically evil that he is literally a caricature. I don't know if that's how he is in the books but having read the first two and a bit I know what Martin does and I suspect it to be the case. Anybody who had been following the show even idly would know, as soon as he and Sansa were on the screen together, that he would end up doing something horrible to her (which, short of killing her, would naturally be rape since she's a woman). It was implied from the very outset, before they were even married. It was so utterly predictable that it just need not have been shown. The camera could have moved out of the room, Reek could have shut the door, and then cut to black. The whole scene was so telegraphed and trite that it might as well have been a shot of a train going into a tunnel.

We don't need to follow their story any more, and see the catalogue of cruelties that will be inflicted on Sansa and Reek. Winterfell need not be revisited for another three or four episodes, and when it is, the first shot should be Sansa plunging a dagger into old mate's eye while Reek looks on and claps his hands and laughs.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:06 PM on May 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


So am I - I desperately want to have some sort of agency. Hers is the storyline that is the most gruelling for me. Enough is enough. Give the girl some agency already.

But Tyrion was put through a similar ringer for a few seasons before getting a fuck yeah moment last season so I'm *hoping* a similar thing will happen here. If not I'm going to be super disappointo.
posted by HarveyDenture at 7:07 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I recently read Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantell, and for those in the thread who have been looking for something to replace GoT, apparently they've made a TV series out of it. It's also frankly a perfect example of how to portray the straight-up horror and damage of living in a premodern monarchical society full of disease, pain, and moral ambiguity without a single rape scene (that I can recall).

Quite aside from the trigger issues raised, rape has gotten to the point in the genre (and Martin is only one of the offenders here) where it is simply the most boring and easy thing to reach for to darken the palate of your setting. Among other things, I think it has become a way to avoid imaginatively engaging with the issues (human suffering in medieval/fantasy medieval conditions, the problem of women's 'place' and their treatment in our own society, etc.) which the authors are purportedly interested in raising.

The rape scene has become the new "villain killed my parents". Cheap character "development".
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:09 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


But then, I also wish that Martin had set his entire story in Essos and just dropped Westeros entirely, because the worldbuilding there is vastly more interesting than fantasy medieval Europe version CXXXXVII.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:11 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Honestly I don't see how Elric can be handled in movie or tv format without him being turned into a Sephiroth look alike because honestly Elric's general aesthetic has become so dominant as a short hand in some areas of fantasy that I think more people are familiar with characters tangentially related and influenced by Elric and Stormbringer than they are with Elric.

Pretty off-topic here, but I'd like to see an Elric show that was just really psychedelic and strange. I'm relatively sure the show I envision couldn't get the budget of a GoT, and the only person I can think of who could make it is Ben Wheatley. It's hard for me to imagine a somewhat androgynous goth glam-rock vampire sorcerer really speaking to the brahs who comprise much of the GoT viewership in any case.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:18 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


David Lynch's Elric of Melnibone.
posted by Justinian at 7:31 PM on May 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


"I suspect that a considerable part of the response is rooted in the anger of everyone who saw Sansa's numerous near-misses on the non-consensual sex front only to have that trend broken."

Yeah, I agree. Also in that nobody wants to watch Sansa get raped and tortured indefinitely, which is probably going to happen now.
On the one hand, yeah, it is utterly logical that Ramsay would rape and abuse his wife no matter who she is. And that 95% of everything is to the pain in GRRM-world and it's very rare that anyone gets a win.
On the other hand, doesn't mean we weren't hoping for better, especially since I gather the show was making people get the impression that maybe Sansa would be more than another abused pawn. But I have no hope of that, really.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:34 PM on May 18, 2015


OK This is the thread that got me to sign up for a MeFi account (long time reader).
Here is my (hopefully relevant) George R.R. Martin story:

Sometime back in the early 80's I took a science fiction Lit course in college and was introduced to "A Song For Lya", a novella by GRRM that I though just beautiful. And so I fell in love with his words. Skip forward 9ish or so years and I am at ascience fiction convention (in Sacramento I think it was) and GRRM was on a panel there talking about his involvement with the new Outer Limits shows. "Fantastic!", I think, "I love this guy - now I'll finally get to meet him!"

So I go to the panel and there is GRRM, not the roly-poly, reclusive GRRM in the Village people (or whatever) outfit that we all know now but a somewhat animated writer talking about his most recent project and so I sit and listen to this guy who so enthralled me with his lovely writing a decade earlier and prepare to be enthralled. But what I hear is a guy talking about his (somewhat mediocre) television show and how it for the first time is offering him an audience that is orders of magnitude above what he has ever been able to previously reach. I then hear my idol tell me that his work on the Outer Limits far surpasses anything he's ever done before - because of the numbers of his audience. And I am not enthralled but rather aghast.

When panel question time comes I raise my hand and and tell him how much I loved his earlier works and how I just don't think the Outer Limits compares to that really. George is adamant that the numbers prove the tale as he now reaches millions a week compared to maybe the twenty thousand who ever read that story of his (I remember Mr. Martin telling me this specifically) and so it's on between us - and I eventually counter by saying something like, "How can you say this?? ! Less people read Shakespeare than see the Outer Limits each week. Is your work there better than Shakespeare?? " (and perhaps my voice was raised just a teensy bit). George is silent and mumbles something that I don't recall and we move on to the next question but he looks to me to be a bit uneasy at the road we just went down (or perhaps I just imagined that).

And that's my GRRM story, oh, save for one thing more: a couple of years ago I saw him wandering around the entrance of the Dealer Room/Art Show in a San Antonio Worldcon. I remember that, at the time, he was all alone , very quiet and looking a bit lost for some reason. Who is going to critique the author of Game of Thrones these days in person? Certainly not me - even my ovaries aren't that big. And so he stood alone in the entrance to a huge chamber and I snapped a photo of him there and gave him a friendly wave but I did not stop to speak.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 7:41 PM on May 18, 2015 [24 favorites]


Again (and I feel weird trumpeting this scene when rape is such an emotional trigger for me) I think the key is that this doesn't mean that Sansa is done as a character, or weaker, or anything else. This will be resolved by episode 9 (at least in the "Ramsay gets his or somehow doesn't" sense. This event will always be a part of her life experience, obviously.)
posted by Navelgazer at 7:44 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out if you think it is you or GRRM who comes off poorly in your story, AGoM...
posted by Justinian at 7:46 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Justinian, no one came off poorly in my opinion - it was a moment about motivations. George's was (at that time) explicitly stated as being able to reach the largest audience possible. Mine was about applying my own motivations to that of someone else.

I think George now has everything he ever wanted back then - the widest audience possible. Gratuitous, murder, sex and rape tend to unfortunately do that.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 7:52 PM on May 18, 2015


Sigh.

I'm not watching this season. We were looking at our cable budget for something to cut and I suggested HBO. My wife said, "but this means you won't get to see YOUR SHOW". It's always been my show. Oh, she got into it to a certain extent, particularly on hating Joffrey, finding Jon Snow rather..you know, and rooting for Arya. The Red Wedding had its intended effect on her. But still, it was MY SHOW. I read the books, I had the Dire Wolf bookends, it was mine. But a few deviations in season four really irked me.

I am a grownup. I can take deviations from the source material. As a die-hard Tolkien fan, I was fine with the LOTR movies because most of the changes (not all, but most) made sense to me in transferring the story from one medium to another. Same with a lot of other things. But when Jamie raped Cersei, when it became apparent that a certain Lady with a heart of stone would not appear, and finally when they utterly ruined the whole scene with Jamie and Tyrion in the dungeons, not to mention Tyrion facing down his father...fuck it. I was done. So I was fine with cutting HBO. I'll find some way to catch Veep when we're flush again.

But now I read of Sansa getting married and I'm like, What.The.Fuck? Seriously. Then I read what happened to her and it's such a needless, pointless, derivation from the books that I just want to find these idiots responsible and beat them over the head with each book. And that would hurt like a motherfucker.

So fuck this. Fuck the showrunners. Using rape as a plot device is old, lazy, and downright insensitive. There's a lot of ways to make a character suffer but relying on rape is no longer acceptable. D&D can go pound sand for a lot of transgressions but this one, this is the last straw.
posted by Ber at 7:59 PM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh, and a few more random thoughts:

I've seen a lot of objections raised to the closing moments being held on Theon's face, and how they read that as making the scene about him. Meanwhile, I haven't read anybody talking about the scene from Theon's perspective (i.e. actually reading it that way.) In reality, though, I think that just means that I frequent web-spaces where people are unlikely to do that, rather than those comments not existing out there.

But having thought about how it played to me, first and foremost I think it was to prevent the scene from giving any but the most devoted monsters anything alluring about the scene, but I think it also was designed to link the two of them together sympathetically. As I said above, it was an episode with odd small kindnesses. Arya mercy-killing the sick girl in a way that made her feel hopeful and active. Tyrion changing the captor/captive dynamic and saving Jorah, Areo Hotah stopping the violence and saving, well, everyone there. The Tyrells standing up for one another.

So holding on Theon at the end, I don't think meant that the moment was about him, but I did think meant that he and Sansa sharing this horror was going to mean something, and that there was the faintest glimmer of hope there that humanity could win out over brutality.

But I might well be a fool.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:00 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


It can't be a deviation from books which have not yet been written! It's logically impossible!
posted by Justinian at 8:04 PM on May 18, 2015


Game of Thrones: Sophie Turner says she 'loved' that horrifying scene (Entertainment Weekly, May 17 2015)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your reaction when you got the scripts and realized what was going to happen this season?

SOPHIE TURNER: Last season [Thrones director] Alex Graves decided to give me hints. He was saying, “You get a love interest next season.” And I was all, “I actually get a love interest!” So I get the scripts and I was so excited and I was flicking through and then I was like, “Aw, are you kidding me!?” I thought the love interest was going to be like Jaime Lannister or somebody who would take care of me. But then I found out it was Ramsay and I’m back at Winterfell. I love the fact she’s back home reclaiming what’s hers. But at the same time she’s being held prisoner in her own home. When I got the scripts, it was bit like, dude, I felt so bad for her. But I also felt excited because it was so sick, and being reunited with Theon too, and seeing how their relationship plays out. Theon’s a member of the Stark clan but she thinks he totally betrayed and killed her brothers. It’s a messed-up relationship between them.

....

And then there is the scene described in the production breakdown as “romance dies.” Sansa’s wedding night in episode 6.
When I read that scene, I kinda loved it. I love the way Ramsay had Theon watching. It was all so messed up. It’s also so daunting for me to do it. I’ve been making [producer Bryan Cogman] feel so bad for writing that scene: “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!” But I secretly loved it.

I think fans’ reactions will be pretty simiilar: “How can they do this to Sansa?”
I completely agree with them! After Joffrey, she’s escaped him and you think she’s going to lose her virginity to a guy who’s really sweet and takes care of her and she’s thrown in with a guy who’s a whole lot worse. But I kind of like the fact she doesn’t really know what a psycho he is until that night. She has a sense, but she’s more scared of his father. And then that night everything gets so f–ked up.
posted by Auden at 8:12 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


My now-cancelled plan had been to read the books, then watch the series. I'm only barely aware of the show week to week but nonetheless have heard of how it changes certain scenes. The change to Dany and Drogo's first night together. The change to Jamie and Cersei's reunion. And now Sansa as well? Christ, what assholes.

I shudder to contemplate the mind of someone who reads A Song of Ice and Fire and thinks "our television adaptation needs to have lots more rapes than this."
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:34 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


The showrunners of Game of Thrones are hack writers and mediocre directors - I guess they have a real talent for distilling novels and organizing large productions efficiently ; the scenes that they come up with themselves (rather than drawing on the books) are generally mediocre at best .

Having said that, I think the Mary Sue blog etc. is jumping the gun here and should see what the show actually does with Sansa's rape plot-wise. If it's handled like Cersei's rape, then that's awful and lazy and yeah I can understand quitting the show. But it's really down to hack writing than anything else
posted by Bwithh at 8:41 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


The scene of was disturbing, mostly because it was continuing to torture Sansa. That got old with Theon.

Narratively, there needs to be some of payoff for both characters, along with growth. And i'd prefer it happen this season.

As the Mary Sue, ok then. But if you're going to promote the books or GRR, that's just hypocritical.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:44 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know that he's at least partly well-meaning, so I'm just barely able to be somewhat okay with the books and him and, more importantly to me, there's the problem that, for example, Arya is my favorite character, ever. I'll walk on glass to find out what happens to her and, dammit, Maisie Williams is amazing as Arya and I feel just as strongly about show-Arya. So I really don't want to stop watching the show. But the show keeps pissing me off with this crap. And it makes me feel icky and it makes me angry. And it makes me feel guilty about watching it. At this point, I want D&D to die in a fire.

This. All of this a thousand times. And the same episode as this latest shit with Sansa had one of Arya's biggest and best reveals. I already couldn't forgive the showrunners for how badly they butchered the Tyrion & Jamie parting, but this has gone well past frustrating.
posted by Ryvar at 8:50 PM on May 18, 2015


I still like the books. A lot. There is sex and violence and rape for sure, but goddamn it sure doesn't seem just for nothing.

I'm skimming this thread because I'm only halfway through Book 4, and haven't watched much of the series, but did you read the same books that I did? GRRM talks about rape as through it was part of the minutiae of daily life.

It's happening "off-screen" constantly, and there isn't a single character who takes a stronger moral stance against rape than "It's not for me," or "I haven't done it yet this year." Halfway through Book 4; nearly constant rape and death, and I can't remember a single fucking character saying anything even remotely close to "Rape is bad."

The more I think about the books, the more I wonder why I'm continuing to read them. GRRM's portrayals of women and children are beyond fucked up. Westeros is a terrible place, its people are all horrible, nobody seems to question the insane political system around which it's all built, and Daenerys wants to rule it for no damn reason.
posted by schmod at 8:54 PM on May 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


but did you read the same books that I did?

It certainly feels like some of us have read different books than others.

There's one group of people who think Martin (multiple Hugo winner and so on) is a terrible, hack writer and another group who think his series is wonderful and being butchered by the terrible, hack TV writers and I don't recognize the books/show either of those groups is describing.
posted by Justinian at 8:57 PM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh, I forgot the much, much larger group of people who watch and enjoy the show every week and don't really engage with the other two groups.

(I'm not claiming this group is correct. I am, after all, engaging the other two groups myself. We should just keep perspective. Most people are not reading blogs and articles and threads about GoT, they're just tuning in week after week.)
posted by Justinian at 9:03 PM on May 18, 2015


Contrary to the Mary Sue analysis, it seems like the only way in the plot & character logic to avoid Sansa getting raped by Ramsey after getting married to him is for Sansa to avoid the marriage altogether & staying away from Ramsey or somehow the marriage is never consummated (Ramsey dies somehow or Sansa runs away). This would involve changes to the Baeliss (or however you spell it ) plot to of course. all this is certainly doable but different from the Mary Sue position which seems to imply that an abuse-free Sansa-Ramsey marriage would make sense? I'm curious to hear arguments for a contented Sansa-Ramsey marriage story arc though. Maybe one or both of them have radical personality changes ?
posted by Bwithh at 9:08 PM on May 18, 2015


GRRM's portrayals of women and children are beyond fucked up.

I predict that the TV show's future plot for Arya will be waaaaaaaaaay less dark and more "progressive" than how she turns out in the books

Expectant parents : don't name your kid Arya until you've read the books
posted by Bwithh at 9:11 PM on May 18, 2015


More from Amanda Marcotte: The article's about Littlefinger as pick-up artist, but it starts out with this:

"I've said my piece on the rape scene on Game of Thrones and continue to be annoyed at fans who are routinely surprised and outraged when the show does what it’s supposed to do, which is subvert fantasy tropes that we’ve been conditioned to accept unthinkingly: That the sharp underdog will beat the bully (subverted by Oberyn/Clegane), that the protagonist will make a daring last minute escape (Ned Stark’s execution), that our naive but valiant hero will save the day and achieve victory (Red Wedding), that the scrappy tomboy will become an morally unambiguous badass (Arya becoming instead someone who likes killing). Now they’ve subverted the trope where nothing too bad can happen to the princess locked in the tower before her gallant knight rescues her. The only surprise is that people are surprised, showing how much the cliches of fantasy fiction have shaped our expectations."


I hate the whole rape plot and wish they hadn't done it, but...yeah, can't argue that so much. Sansa had two near-misses and DAMMIT....we expected another one, implausible though it was in some ways.

And also, this: "Sells Sansa to Ramsey Bolton, of all fucking people. Sure, Littlefinger isn’t aware that Ramsey is crazypants, but he can guess, with 99% certainty, that the wedding night was going to be a rape, because there is no way that Sansa is going to want sex with the son of the man who killed her family."

I don't know why I watch/read the things that I do sometimes, especially with all the rape and dismemberments. What's wrong with me? (Everything!)
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:24 PM on May 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


[A few comments deleted; bit of a derail to go to 'why isn't this article about a different thing?']
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:30 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not quite ready to write GRRM off as a hack. Clearly, something's kept my interest through several thousand pages.

However, I find myself in the odd position that, as I read through A Song of Ice And Fire, it's becoming more difficult to explain why the books are special, because GRRM keeps subverting the things that originally made the story unique.
posted by schmod at 9:53 PM on May 18, 2015


I really enjoyed reading the books.

I think the show is extremely watchable and I look forward to seeing it on Sunday nights.

Last night's episode made me ill. What cheap fucking bullshit.
posted by chaz at 9:59 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why do we not have more poop-driven plots?

I, too, am an advocate for more poop-driven plots. Their addition would have significantly improved the Mad Men finale, IMHO.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 9:59 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


From jenfulmoon's comment above, quoting Amanda Marcotte:

"I've said my piece on the rape scene on Game of Thrones and continue to be annoyed at fans who are routinely surprised and outraged when the show does what it’s supposed to do, which is subvert fantasy tropes that we’ve been conditioned to accept unthinkingly: That the sharp underdog will beat the bully (subverted by Oberyn/Clegane), that the protagonist will make a daring last minute escape (Ned Stark’s execution), that our naive but valiant hero will save the day and achieve victory (Red Wedding), that the scrappy tomboy will become an morally unambiguous badass (Arya becoming instead someone who likes killing). Now they’ve subverted the trope where nothing too bad can happen to the princess locked in the tower before her gallant knight rescues her. The only surprise is that people are surprised, showing how much the cliches of fantasy fiction have shaped our expectations."

She makes it sound as though the concept of moral deservingness is characteristic of fantasy, but I think it's a far more basic kind of intuition. So, I assume she means that GoT's job is really to constantly subvert our sense of moral desert. That seems so vacuously contrarian.

However, I think she is right that the show does this. It just doesn't seem like a tendency worth defending to me. What does it mean to do that? I really think that it's because this reads as realistic to a large portion of the audience. In reality, it's perverse, and the inability of a viewer to detect intentionality in things which are perverse is strange.
posted by clockzero at 10:07 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


We've had deaths from dysentery, and more fear of dysentery, but not explosive splattery dysentery, not yet.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:21 PM on May 18, 2015


The more I think about the books, the more I wonder why I'm continuing to read them. GRRM's portrayals of women and children are beyond fucked up.

It's also masochistic as all hell. You have to enjoy being tortured to enjoy it.

And don't even get me started on Quentin Martell. Now THAT was bullshit.

Rape aside (and yes, there's too much of it, and enough of a reason to give it up), I'm kind of generally offended that the plot is changing significantly from books to TV. I mean, what's the point of reading all those books?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:22 PM on May 18, 2015


enjoymoreradio: "I, too, am an advocate for more poop-driven plots. Their addition would have significantly improved the Mad Men finale, IMHO."

I don't watch Mad Men, but I'm sure pretty much any show could be improved by a scene analogous to the food poisoning one in Bridesmaids.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:31 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Because that's not how fiction generally works. You take realistic characters and put them in a fantasy world.

Well that's part of the problem. I don't see these characters as being any more realistic than say, the ones in Harry Potter.

The idea that rape and abject cruelty defines "realistic" just saddens, me, actually.


To put it another way, the entire fantasy genre was basically imagining a world that has dragons and no rape when Martin started out and that's what he was reacting against.

And that's nonsense. That sort of reaction has been around since the 70s. I remember 35 years ago reading a novel that was a response to high fantasy- it had the hero from Earth arriving after the princess had been gang raped, and the author sent a number of pages on her trauma.

Oh wait- there is a difference there- at least that author, though exploitative, actually treated the female character as more than a vehicle to prove how awful the world is, to be discarded immediately after.

So yeah, that deconstruction has been done for decades. At a certain point, "deconstruction" isn't actually deconstruction, it's a cliche of it's own.


That is exactly correct. Martin's books function like Watchmen.

Actually, Watchman was creative, innovative, original, and in spite of myself, I have to admit it was a masterpiece. On the other hand, the novel and especially the TV series are yet another iteration of a countercurrent in fantasy that's been around for fifty years. A Game of Thrones isn't "Watchman", it's one of those 90s comics with holographic sticker covers, featuring tons of pouches, huge guns, and women in poses that show off both their tits and asses. And a writer who was maybe fifteen when he read Watchman, going "I know, I'll have tons of violence and sex! Like Watchmen! Except more! Because that'll TOTALLY deconstruct comics!"

Like the guys who imitate Watchmen's violence and sex, the writers of the latest crop of grimdark fantasy, including the people involved with A Game of thrones, don't actually get deconstruction.
posted by happyroach at 11:13 PM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Jack Vance's Lyonesse series contains many of the same sexual issues but is actually quite similar in some ways to GRRMs books ( but much better written.)
posted by selfnoise at 6:01 PM on May 18


Couldn't agree more. GRRM even acknowledged Vance's huge influence on him in Songs Of The Dying Earth, (which GRRM co-edited) and other interviews. And I know I'm not the only one who thinks Vance's Dying Earth collection (or hell, anything from his better known works) is long overdue for a quality tv or movie series -- and would be infinitely more enjoyable than the lazily written rapefest and gore-a-thon that Game of Thrones is turning into.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:22 PM on May 18, 2015


AGOIAF isn't "Watchman", it's one of those 90s comics with holographic sticker covers, featuring tons of pouches, huge guns, and women in poses that show off both their tits and asses.

For all of its voluminous faults, and increasingly encyclopedic treatments of stuff I have no interest in reading about, ASoIaF is far more substantial and better-written than those mid-90s Rob Liefeld-style comics, and indeed many, many popular works of fiction. Lord knows it's problematic as hell, but there's a vast gulf between garden-variety, manifestly terrible fantasy and ASoIaF.

It gets kind of tiring.

I'm exhausted too -- by both the books and the series -- but your dismissal is too hasty by half.
posted by lumensimus at 11:24 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


GoT's job is really to constantly subvert our sense of moral desert.

This is, more than anything, what I find compelling about it, yeah. Judge me if you want to. I like escaping into worlds where plucky heroes in plot armor win against insurmountable odds, and I like escaping into worlds where charming, weird people just hang out and laugh together. But deep down I don't believe that the good guys win, and ASOIAF/GOT is refreshing. It's not refreshing to see them suffer (by the time the most recent episode actually cut to black I was covering my eyes and whimpering "release me") but to see it affirmed that suffering is senseless and the world unjust. Those episodes of Law & Order where the perpetrator gets away with it really resonate, too. "Yes, this is how the world is," says my heart. "Someday, I will suffer like this, and everybody I love will suffer like this, and the people who hurt us will live long, happy lives, and there's nothing I can do about it but brace for it."
posted by OnSecondThought at 11:29 PM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was (and maybe still will) post to the green to ask what the hell is wrong with George R.R. Martin that he is such a disturbed piece of shit to write a series of books whose sole point seems to be extreme Sadism... It's upsetting to find out the show runners here are equally to blame.

It started off as intricate as Frank Herbert's DUNE, and then fell off the map of acceptable fiction soon after by making exceptionally heinous behavior "sexy." It happened by degrees, the exceptionally heinous parts keeping pace with the elements that were intelligent and required attention to decipher.

Game of Thrones is not even enjoyable at this point as recaps on Funny or Die's Gay of Thrones.

When GoT's dies in a grease fire of absent ratings, I will be happy. Fuck everybody writing and directing this propaganda shit show.

It's lower than Grand Theft Auto, culturally speaking - and that says a lot.

We've all been scammed.
posted by jbenben at 11:37 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


OnSecondThought, not to undermine the feeling you've expressed, I understand it, but the basic injustice of the world can be confirmed by watching five minutes of the news and living past the age of 25 (if very lucky, that's a low bar; too many know it out sooner than that). Not sure what really can be done about it. But it does seem (research is showing this more and more) that representations matter, so much, in shaping how we think of each other, and indirectly (how much is in question, ok), how we treat each other, even when nothing horrible happens.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:47 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Yes, this is how the world is," says my heart. "Someday, I will suffer like this, and everybody I love will suffer like this, and the people who hurt us will live long, happy lives, and there's nothing I can do about it but brace for it."

You know, "bracing for it" is basically what most women do to this day and it's sure tiring to have to brace for it in our entertainment as well.
posted by erratic meatsack at 11:48 PM on May 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


I think the arguments like Amanda Marcotte's about subverting the fantasy tropes in this way, and the argument about titillation and the narrative use of sexual violence, are related but distinct.

I will adamantly defend the "bad shit happens" approach to epic fantasy -- independently of the larger project of deconstruction and subversion of Tolkein-esque faux-medieval Britain epic fantasy -- because I strongly disagree with those who argue that this sort of descent into darkness narrative is somehow inherently wrong, debased, or aesthetically unworthy. It's worthy and interesting in its own right and, furthermore, it is integral to deconstructing and criticising the escapist elements of mainstream fantasy.

For example, there is a moment near the end of Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy between the apparently kindly Gandalf/Merlin kingmaker wizard "Bayaz" and the apparent "on the hero's journey" "Jezal" that was one of the best things I've ever read in fantasy and was a profound pay-off for everything that preceded it.

But it's how you do this that matters and this is very especially so with regard to sexual violence. I don't think you can defend or criticize ASoIaF's or Game of Thrones's treatment of sexual violence against women on the basis of it being grimdark or that it's subverting these epic fantasy tropes. That it's horrible isn't what's wrong, and that it's subverting the subgenre/trope by being horrible doesn't make it right. It's wrong because it handles this stuff badly. The books do a pretty bad job of it and the show does a worse job of it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:52 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yes, this is how the world is," says my heart. "Someday, I will suffer like this, and everybody I love will suffer like this, and the people who hurt us will live long, happy lives, and there's nothing I can do about it but brace for it

Oh my , how bleak! I think that most stories and story-tellers traditionally try for something different. Most of them try to envision a better life than many of us live and the protagonists and morals contained therein speak to the very best parts of us rather than the bleakest. I think those are the stories that usually survive the ages.

Then there are the producers of this show who, let's all face it, aren't trying to make a point here - merely a dollar - because that's what television lends itself to. Whether GRRM's books are actually deconstructing a modality or merely trying to make a buck by gratuitously introducing the literary equivalent of a car wreck into each book is obviously open to ongoing debate.

I watch now solely for the acting by talented Peter Dinklage (and, ok, admittedly the promise of some dragon action in the future) but even I am growing weary of this constant barrage of awfulness. I am beginning to see the ultimate finale of this show; no one is getting a happy ending here and it's cut to black right after everyone you ever cared about dies. I'm thinking maybe I can do without that after all.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 11:54 PM on May 18, 2015


For those who are complaining that the scene was made to be about Theon's reaction to the torture and completely ignoring Sansa's part in it - unfortunately that's exactly right.

It was originally written with Ramsay marrying Jeyne Poole, who they captured and tortured and made into a fake Arya. The primary point of it was to torture Theon, not Jeyne - he forces Theon to perform oral on Jeyne, in order to taunt him again on his castration. Jeyne is pretty much a non character at that point, and this moment is actually a pivotal moment in Theon's arc, where he sees Jeyne losing her identity through the torture and turning into fake Arya, in a similar fashion to how he lost his identity as Theon and turned into Reek, and this triggers perhaps the beginning of his redemption story where he rescues Jeyne.

So yes, it was ENTIRELY about Theon.

It's what GRRM talked about with the Butterfly Effect - you can't change a story and still have it make sense later. I think it's a very poor choice to run the scene as it is now with Sansa in it and have the focus be on Theon and have Sansa's rape be just an afterthought.
posted by xdvesper at 12:09 AM on May 19, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's lower than Grand Theft Auto, culturally speaking - and that says a lot.

If a work's subject matter somehow determines its moral and cultural value, have you never even heard of horror movies?
posted by lumensimus at 12:16 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was (and maybe still will) post to the green to ask what the hell is wrong with George R.R. Martin that he is such a disturbed piece of shit to write a series of books whose sole point seems to be extreme Sadism

I'm pretty sure that would be an epic AskMe with no possibility of deletion.
posted by Justinian at 12:17 AM on May 19, 2015 [9 favorites]


I feel weirdly like all the intimate partner violence that isn't sexual (or is only sexual because sadism is kinky, rite?) has been forgotten in the focus on rape. Sansa's has just performed the hat trick of marriage to three dudes who murdered at least one sex partner. Moreover, all three guys did those murders mainly for the rapid advance of their character development - two to illustrate the depth of their sadism, and one to illustrate that Even Good Guys Are Driven to Violence Sometimes. Partner violence against women in GoT is so normative that it takes grody rape to make it noticeable, maybe.
posted by gingerest at 12:18 AM on May 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's not just the use of it as a plot element, but the depiction of it that's the problem (and arguably more triggering). The scene could have ended earlier, since all of the context clues implying sexual assault were already extremely present in this storyline. The character development that supposedly occurs during this scene could have been implied as well. Beyond all that, it's a mistake to forget the audience is also a participant (hence, the fourth wall), and some of them would rather not be witnesses.

What particularly gets me is the showrunners decided they should end the episode on that note. Not with a cliffhanger, but something "edgy" to keep people talking—assuming that was the conscious decision. Worse than a plot device, someone's thoughtless marketing strategy. I'll eat my words if some net good comes of this in terms of meaningful discourse about rape culture or male/female character development. Because right now it all seems so cheap, and not the kind of thing that can be undone with any obvious upcoming storyline redemption.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 12:41 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


"It's not just the use of it as a plot element, but the depiction of it that's the problem (and arguably more triggering)."

Yeah, I just watched the episode and read the FanFare thread.

I've been thinking about the rape scene in The Honourable Woman as an example of a scene that I hated to watch, but which if there's ever a good reason to depict rape, it was justified in that show. The entire story revolved around it, it's horrifying and honest in a way that we otherwise usually don't see, and it wasn't one in a series as a trope used to create a cheap emotional result and as a narrative contrivance.

I'm unhappy with what the book does with Jeyne Poole and Ramsey, but while the specifics of the book scene are much worse than this one, I think that in the larger context of making this show, with its history and the past criticism, and given that they've deviated from the books, I feel like when D&D or anyone else says "we had no choice, we had no other direction to go", my response is a paraphrase of Jaqen: "you had every other direction to go".

They didn't need to use this as a plot element to achieve the same ends and, if arguably they did and I'm wrong about that, they still didn't have to put it on screen. That they made the choices they made is the latest in a series of similar decisions.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:01 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I find myself a little bemused by the idea that GRRM was the first to add gritty realism to fantasy fiction descending from Tolkien. I was recently reflecting in a conversation exactly how much rape there was in 70s and 80s fantasy fiction. (I think I read Jane Gaskell's Atlan books at age 11-- and I really didn't need that kind of education, thank you very much. That was much more eye opening than health class.)

Perhaps oddly, rape involving major characters bothers me significantly less than all the gratuitous nudity and background rape of Random Extra Women. The subject of the show (and books) is the game of thrones-- and marital rape and acquisition of women as property is well in line with that subject. However, the way the show constantly appeals to the male gaze with nekkid breasts and all makes all treatment it might make of rape extremely problematic.

(Can I call it the 13-year-old-boy gaze instead of the male gaze? I really want to believe the level of t&a on GOT doesn't appeal to any men old enough to call themselves men. But perhaps I'm naïve. Sigh.)
posted by frumiousb at 2:22 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


The audience for GoT on TV is nearly half women, fwiw. Although I suppose you could be saying a lot of people watch it in spite of the t&a rather than because of it.

Remember "sexposition" from the first couple of seasons? They seem to have moved past that. I can't remember the last time there was anything like the brothel scene with Baelish or Viserys in the tub.
posted by Justinian at 2:26 AM on May 19, 2015


I certainly watch it despite the t&a. Some episodes are one long eye roll for me.
posted by frumiousb at 2:27 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you sure only men like t&a?

I'm hovering around being done with this series too, because it seems so much more gratuitous than the books, in which despite the serious need of some editorial rationalisation, the grand sweep of the story is at least somewhat compelling.

I think the writing team for the TV series have made some awful decisions, this sub-plot with Sansa being another one of them.
posted by walrus at 3:28 AM on May 19, 2015


Sorry-- I should clarify by "men" here I mean the intended male gaze as written into the script. Not intended to be a discussion about whether women appreciate visual stimulation in that sense or not (and I think that would be a derail of the main point of the conversation, so I'll withdraw my comment rather than take it there. )

In any case, I would argue they don't write those kinds of scene for the female audience.
posted by frumiousb at 3:36 AM on May 19, 2015


I don't want to start a derail either, it just seemed a little bit of a heteronormative assumption.
posted by walrus at 3:57 AM on May 19, 2015


I can see how you'd read it that way, but it isn't how it was intended. More a reflection on the heteronormative assumptions of the show creators-- probably badly expressed on my part.
posted by frumiousb at 4:00 AM on May 19, 2015


Like the guys who imitate Watchmen's violence and sex, the writers of the latest crop of grimdark fantasy, including the people involved with A Game of thrones, don't actually get deconstruction.

That's the thing: this sort of what we call "deconstruction" -- which is of course not really at all like deconstruction as originally conceived -- *doesn't actually work* in most cases. It just turns the realistic consequences into one more item in the toolbox for fantasy violence.

The net effect of Watchmen, which was formally innovative and medium-aware rather than merely being genre-aware as is GoT, was mostly that sexual violence, mass death, and graphic injuries became unreflective plot elements in standard superhero plots. (Most infamously, there's the huge divide between how Rorschach was intended to come across and how the character was actually received.)

Beyond that, GoT is surely at the point now that it no longer has its original context as the sole element informing it; the earlier books are themselves part of its context, as are the ways 21st century media and audiences handle sexual violence. That's the thing about context: not only is it a moving target, it's also subject to very strong observer effects.
posted by kewb at 4:14 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


In season 6 of Buffy, there is a scene where Spike attempts to rape Buffy (and though injured, she fights him off). The showrunners at the time said they did it to show that the Buffy/Spike relationship was not sexy and fun but dangerous because Spike is a soulless monster, and were surprised at the hugely negative fan reaction to the scene.

I think there were two major parts to this: first, that trying to demonstrate that someone doesn't have a soul by having him do something that millions of (presumably) ensouled human men have done throughout history is bad storytelling. That's my moral objection. He was made into a rapist because it would provoke an emotional reaction stronger than if he just, oh, killed or tortured more main characters as he'd done before - death by supernatural fistfight is cheap in a fantasy setting, rape is heavy because it's all-too-real, because outside of prisoners of war it is the closest thing to torture most people will face in real life.

The second is that Buffy is a great heroine - one of the few physically and emotionally strong heroines we had at the time. Dying didn't even stop her for long. And if someone who can bend the barrels of shotguns and stop ancient gods from destroying the earth can be a victim of sexual assault... you can think (and I did when younger) that the showrunners were going for cheap shocks and weakening our heroine. The view I have now, that I think they were going for, is that no matter how strong you are you are not safe, as a woman in the patriarchy, from sexual assault, because that is the nature of patriarchy. And along with that, I believe that there is something deeply uncomfortable about the idea that Buffy should be safe from sexual assault because she's strong and tough, that the girls and women she saves from vampires (often presented as sexually predatory) are somehow different from her. That weak women are raped, not strong women. Neither of these views make the scene easier to watch. They both break the fantasy for many female viewers, I think, the idea that, if we were stronger, we would be invulnerable to all the crap women regularly have to deal with. I don't think it's bad to feel that way - I'm sure as hell not watching fun shows about vampire hunters to have deep thoughts about rape as much as I am to enjoy the adventures of a woman being awesome - but I think really that season raised a lot of complicated issues more than "the showrunners are misogynistic dirtbags."

Similarly to Spike, we know Ramsay and his father are not only killers and rapers but gleeful advocates of one of the worst forms of torture in the realm. They're not even charming evil, they're gross evil, and so to see Ramsay abusing Sansa just feels pedestrian and exploitative. This is not even rape by the laws of Westeros, this in fact probably not much worse than what many of the nice old bearded men in the cast did to their younger frightened wives, Ramsay almost certainly doesn't think he's breaking his vow to Littlefinger to not hurt Sansa. For viewers, of course, it is rape and we're disgusted, but plotwise nothing has changed.

And as to the second part... I think a lot of the fan disappointment in this, aside from the "critical mass of rapeyness reached" issues (also totally legit), is from the frustration that Sansa was hinted for the last season and a half as finally learning and rising out of victimhood, and now we see her become a victim again. But...

I also think that that's kind of terrible when you get down to it - that Sansa should have been untouchable because of that, that a young woman with no combat training and nowhere to go should have drawn a knife and attacked her strong husband that, again, strong women aren't raped. It's no fun to watch a character who's a perpetual victim. But maybe Sansa will never be as strong and smart as we want her to be - maybe she's just going to be average forever, and maybe it's just not in her nature to really hurt others like we all think we would in her place. And as narratively unsatsifying as that is (I'm all for her going on a killing spree), it's worth considering. Is Sansa's value less if she never becomes a manipulator or killer? If, like Book-Ellaria*, she becomes one of the few characters to choose not to seek bloody vengeance?

To quote Meera Reed when asked why she still protects her fragile younger brother: "Some people will always need help. That doesn't mean they're not worth helping."

*Don't get me started on the new Ellaria & the Sand Snakes, Worst Band in Town - I think the changes to the Dorne plot are much more misogynistic than Sansa's plot, and flat-out dumb as hell.
posted by susoka at 4:27 AM on May 19, 2015 [18 favorites]


Too much of a chance I'd say. I stopped watching Game of Thrones years ago because I couldn't take the wanton cruelty.

I tried to watch it once and lasted less than an episode. I can't stand that kind of medieval violence, and I don't care how many wolf puppies the creators try to use as bait. I'll watch it if it's realistic (as in the Elizabeth movies with Cate Blanchett) because it's educational, but if it's just fantasy....? Why on earth would I watch fantasy that I don't find enjoyable? It reminds me of how, back when I had a corporate job, a couple of my (much disliked) managers and directors would talk about "how exciting" some of the reorganization and workflow changes were and how "it was a chance for people to make their dreams come true". Their idea of what was exciting and the content of their dreams clearly departed radically from mine, and I wasn't interested in going along for that ride.
posted by orange swan at 4:31 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am increasingly glad I gave up this book series after A Feast for Crows and never watched the show.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:37 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The realism defense is pretty much hogwash because, for world-building, Martin does little better than Tolkien. It's like Martin decided to do smash up of the Wars of the Roses and the 30 Years War and magic/dragons, but couldn't be bothered to understand hi the English and German societies functioned. Some gaps:

Religion -- there seems to be no organized religion in Westeros (except when they need a bishop for a fancy ceremony). Religion and belief were front and center in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, sometimes for evil and sometimes for good. You could remove it, with a lot of work, but you'd need to replace it with something, instead of a vague void.

Economy -- Westeros seems to be mostly opulent cities surrounded by wastelands with the occasional farm (plunder) and inn (alcohol/whores). The Medieval world was almost entirely agricultural, and rural carnage was limited because everyone knew that's where the economy came from. The Scottish/English boarders and certain campaigns in the 100 and 30 Years Wars are glaring exceptions.

Law -- despite popular opinion, Medieval Europe was a very legal and litigious place. We are rightly appalled by some of the foundations of that law (eg different laws for different classes), but there were clear legal structures (and most armed conflicts arose from legal issues, often from discrepancies in local legal process. The Westerosian principle that all law comes from the sword would be anathema in principle.

Anyway, arguing that rape belongs in GoT because it's "realistic" ignores the situation where the dragons are not the least realistic thing in GoT.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:46 AM on May 19, 2015 [20 favorites]


It's no fun to watch a character who's a perpetual victim. But maybe Sansa will never be as strong and smart as we want her to be - maybe she's just going to be average forever?

Susoka. I don't know what your gender is so I am going to respond to this assuming you are male. Please forgive me if I am incorrect.

What you said about being 'average forever' is unsettling to me because it seems to imply that being an average woman means to be a lifelong victim for life - by default.

I only watched the first season of GoT, and never read the books so perhaps you were framing your comments solely in the context of the GoT worldview, but average should not equate with victim.

Apologies if I have totally misread or misunderstood what you meant there.

From the little of GoT I have watched/read, women simply have lesser value as . . Things. Not even people. They seem like they are just above horses. One of the reasons I don't enjoy spending time in that particular fantasy world.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:52 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Martin is doing something a little different than most fantasy deconstructionists - he's taking the utter brutality of the feudal system, and systematically dismantling all of the glamour associated with it by fairy tale and epic fantasy. He's doing it by taking well documented historical conflicts like the War of the Roses, and putting the unvarnished awfulness of it, which perpetually upends the notions of heroes, villains and narrative, in a book with dragons and ice-elves and sorceresses... who are either tools of the horrible feudal powers, or something just as bad.

(And not just western cultures, and not just medieval cultures and their history are ruthlessly examined - we have mashups of everyone from the Mongols to the Vikings to the Saminids to the Venetians to the Romans to the Picts to a lot of others.)

Rape is definitely a part of the novels, as it was very much a part of the histories he was folding into fantasy - the problem is that he started the novels back when there was not as much awareness of rape being a cheap and sexist throwaway plot point. In more recent books, there is less of it, as Martin is a cynical asshole, but he's on the left end of the spectrum, and willing to move in the direction of the times.

That said, there's not much excuse for it in the show.

Martin is probably in the same position as William Gibson - what happens when people love the brutal dystopia you have created for reasons you'd rather they didn't? (In GRRM's case, you drag your feet wrapping up the series and paint yourself into endless corners plotwise because you are clearly NOT INTERESTED in continuing, but your publishers and the nice people from the TV network chuck bundles of money at you to keep at it anyway, so by the last book, it's turned into a Lemony Snicket for grownups.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:07 AM on May 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


Religion -- there seems to be no organized religion in Westeros

The Faith of the Seven goes very much into the foreground in ADWD.

Economy -- Westeros seems to be mostly opulent cities surrounded by wastelands with the occasional farm (plunder) and inn (alcohol/whores).

I'm personally puzzled by what the hell Westeros is able to export to Essos in exchange for luxury goods like samite or "milk of the poppy" since Westeros seems to have trouble even with simple subsistence farming. I'm not sure they're not pulling a Jorah Mormont and selling peasants as slaves under the table, because what do they have to sell otherwise?

But what really tickles me is that they are still living in ISO standard castles after a ruling class was able to rain rock-melting fire and destruction from the air (see: Harrenhal). The very existence of dragon warfare should make underground bunkers a necessity, not castles. My personal headcanon is that the pyramids of Essos are hollow under meters and meters of stamped earth and so dragon-proof artificial bunkers, but hey. I'm trying to make something rational out of this.
posted by sukeban at 5:07 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust: You're wrong on basically every point there. Religion is, indeed, front and center in Westeros. I mean... have you even seen the last couple episodes? And Westeros not only isn't all opulent cities surrounded by wastelands, it only has like five cities in the whole continent. And the entire North, a place a thousand miles long, has one major city in it. And law... oh bother.

Some criticisms make sense but others... all opulent cities? The only cities worth a spit in all of Westeros are King's Landing, Lannisport, Oldtown, White Harbor, and Gulltown.
posted by Justinian at 5:09 AM on May 19, 2015


I'm personally puzzled by what the hell Westeros is able to export to Essos in exchange for luxury goods like samite or "milk of the poppy" since Westeros seems to have trouble even with simple subsistence farming.

I believe wine is a big export, with the Reach and the area around Highgarden particularly reliant on it. Wool from the North is also a big one.
posted by Justinian at 5:13 AM on May 19, 2015


What you said about being 'average forever' is unsettling to me because it seems to imply that being an average woman means to be a lifelong victim for life - by default.

I only watched the first season of GoT, and never read the books so perhaps you were framing your comments solely in the context of the GoT worldview, but average should not equate with victim.

Apologies if I have totally misread or misunderstood what you meant there.


I am not remotely male, and I've been a feminist since childhood. No offense taken on that front, but I would think that the rest of my comment - about how I and other female fans relate to Buffy as a heroine - would easily clarify that.

I don't think that being "average" means someone deserves sexual assault. I'm not sure where you'd get that, since as far as I can tell I was saying the opposite - that weak, average, and strong women are raped in real life? My comment was in the context of the fact that Sansa has consistently been presented as someone who is of average intelligence and is entirely passive within the plot. Many fans (you can see this in this very thread) have been rooting for her to "learn the play the game" or "stab Ramsay and get bloody revenge" and are disappointed that she's not doing that. I'm saying, what if she doesn't?

From the little of GoT I have watched/read, women simply have lesser value as . . Things. Not even people. They seem like they are just above horses. One of the reasons I don't enjoy spending time in that particular fantasy world.

I've read all the books multiple times, watched the show, and for a while worked on a game set in the universe, and while it is set in a patriarchal society I think it has some of the best female characters I've come across in fantasy fiction. So we'll definitely disagree on that point.
posted by susoka at 5:19 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to remember... in the show version have we seen any cities on Westeros besides King's Landing? I don't recall any. We've seen a bunch of castles like Winterfell, the Eyrie, Riverrun, and Harrenhal but as far as I can recall no cities save the capital.
posted by Justinian at 5:22 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Justinian, I understand how fannish enthusiasm about worldbuilding minutiae and other SFF material, etc. can tend to spill over in all sorts of ways, but it would be good to try to stick a bit more to the point of the article, and maybe ease back on the commenting just a little because it's getting a bit dominating here.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:31 AM on May 19, 2015


And Westeros not only isn't all opulent cities surrounded by wastelands, it only has like five cities in the whole continent. And the entire North, a place a thousand miles long, has one major city in it.

Medeval Europe had more towns and smaller cities than is being depictied is what I believe the point is - there is a huge spectrum of human existence between "serf" and "nobleman" that's being glossed over by Martin (and almost all high fantasy) - mostly because no-one was writing detailed histories of moderately successful tradesmen and the middling walled towns they lived in and the local idiot aristocrat they paid off to go hunt in the woods or something.

(This may change now that Dan Carlin has brought the public's attention to the Munster Rebellion - GRRM is probably kicking himself for not hearing about it sooner so he could import it wholesale.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:32 AM on May 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sansa has consistently been presented as someone who is of average intelligence and is entirely passive within the plot.

I'm not sure about the former, but I'm pretty sure that Sansa is not passive in the plot (after book/season 1), though her actions aren't like Arya's or even the Tyrells'.
posted by jeather at 5:50 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure about the former, but I'm pretty sure that Sansa is not passive in the plot (after book/season 1), though her actions aren't like Arya's or even the Tyrells'.

jeather, can you name some examples? I can think of one scene from season 4 (lying to protect Littlefinger), but still almost all of her actions are reactive rather than active. I like Sansa a lot, but she doesn't do very much.
posted by susoka at 5:57 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


The ones that stick in my mind offhand are saving whoever it was from Joffrey by making him into a fool -- the one Littlefinger later killed -- and electing to lie about Littlefinger because she decided (incorrectly) to trust him instead of her aunt's council. (NB: I have read the books but don't remember them that well; I've watched the tv show but not this season yet.)

But I think it's a mistake to say that because she acts in response to things that happen that this is being passive. She's still, after all, younger than most of the other active characters, and seeing a lot of options for what kind of person she wants to be.
posted by jeather at 6:07 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


All this crap about "well why do you care NOW and not before?" and "well why do you care about THIS and not that other thing?" - it doesn't sound like anyone actually wants to understand why when they ask those questions.

It sounds like they expect an answer of "you caught me, there is no good reason, I don't really feel strongly about this, I am making a big deal over nothing because of the Feminist Agenda and I am a hypocrite."

Instead of trying to catch people in a lie, why not actually engage with the fake question you're asking and explore, yes, why might this actually be a big deal and different from much of the other violence on this show? Why might these tons of people care so much about this?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:07 AM on May 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


I wondered what Mary Sue's reaction would be. I'm glad they made this decision. I am very tempted to stop watching the show myself. I told my boyfriend in a huff after sunday night's episode that if "I weren't so invested by this point I'd stop watching!"

I don't care if she was manipulating Ramsey or not. I was absolutely disgusted. I remember being uncomfortable over Jamie+Cersei rape last season.. this time I shot past uncomfortable straight into angry and appalled.

BOOK SPOILERS: And let's not forget that Cersei's naked walk through King's Landing comeuppance is on the horizon too. I'm not looking forward to more degradation of women in this show, even if it's straight from the books and she's reaping what she sowed. Ugh.

Maybe I will stop watching after all.
posted by royalsong at 6:18 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm personally puzzled by what the hell Westeros is able to export to Essos in exchange for luxury goods like samite or "milk of the poppy" since Westeros seems to have trouble even with simple subsistence farming.

Yeah, my biggest question during both book and show is what in the world these people ATE. Like, not the endless lists of food that they have at the feasts, but, like, how does that happen? How does food get from the earth to . . . being food?

I just think it puts the lie to the assertion that these books are all about "realism" when the very real consequences of the entire nation being at war for years and the harvest never coming in are simply not addressed. No one ever even mentions "Oh hey, the caravan from Such-And-Somewhere was disrupted due to bandits, no candied yams today!" I think Jamie Lannister ONCE mentions that with winter coming, the smallfolk will have to bear the brunt of the hardship, "as they always do", but dude . . . where does YOUR food come from?

You can't just call up some smallfolk when you need a woman to rape or a child to kill. I mean, there's NO reference to them . . . ever. Not even an aside, like that scene in the Hunger Games where the Capitol residents discuss the foods they are unable to get because of the war (which, for all its YA, off-screen violence, is both dark and realistic in a way that Game of Thrones isn't).
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:27 AM on May 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


The ones that stick in my mind offhand are saving whoever it was from Joffrey by making him into a fool -- the one Littlefinger later killed -- and electing to lie about Littlefinger because she decided (incorrectly) to trust him instead of her aunt's council. (NB: I have read the books but don't remember them that well; I've watched the tv show but not this season yet.)

Yeah, she's had a couple of moments, and certainly she had a big plot-moving moment in season 1 accidentally betraying her father. But now I see that I wrote "entirely passive" instead of "almost entirely passive" as was in my brain, so apologies!

But I think it's a mistake to say that because she acts in response to things that happen that this is being passive. She's still, after all, younger than most of the other active characters, and seeing a lot of options for what kind of person she wants to be.

See, I'm not saying that her passivity is a bad thing - I think it's realistic for someone who has had the upbringing she's had and been placed in the no-win situation she was in for the first few situations. I just think there hasn't been a lot to imply on the show that she's going to become this massively badass queen destroying worlds, and I think a lot of people have hoped for that, and that it's totally okay and maybe preferable if Sansa never becomes a liar or killer. I agree that she's taking very tentative steps to learn how to actively survive in the ugly world, but it's hard for her because lying and violence aren't in her nature. (Charm is, however, and the sample WoW Sansa chapter shows her facing a similar situation but being charming and intelligent, thinking on her feet, which is much more satisfying than the show's version.)

Disagree that age has as much to do with it a her personality, as two of her three younger siblings do a lot more than she does and seek out their Destinies using wits (and, in Bran's case, a handy band of Magical Helpers which is a lot better than Sansa's "helpers").
posted by susoka at 6:29 AM on May 19, 2015


Medeval Europe had more towns and smaller cities than is being depictied is what I believe the point is - there is a huge spectrum of human existence between "serf" and "nobleman" that's being glossed over by Martin (and almost all high fantasy) - mostly because no-one was writing detailed histories of moderately successful tradesmen and the middling walled towns they lived in and the local idiot aristocrat they paid off to go hunt in the woods or something.

We actually have tons of documents from city people, and apart from commercial stuff, taxes, last wills and so on, what we have is TONS of legal procedures and court records.

To go back to the theme at hand, some of them are about women having been raped, because surprise, women did seek legal redress for rape, and sometimes they got it. It's not terribly good from a modern POV (if an unmarried girl over 12 was raped, the court might order the rapist to marry her, for example) but it's not the grim dark grimdarkness of rape to-day and rape to-morrow that the show seems to have.
posted by sukeban at 6:29 AM on May 19, 2015 [14 favorites]


I understand the problem some people have with it, but I really don't understand only getting it at this episode in this season of this show.

I think a major part of the answer is, "because it's Sansa." She's the one character that has, despite everything that has happened to her in her world, been insulated and protected. And now, she's alone and unprepared for this universe and has no protection whatsoever despite that her damn step-brother is standing right over there. The audience has a much stronger connection to Sansa and can relate to her sense of helplessness in a way that we don't with random background characters whose sole purpose of being on screen is to be shitted on.
posted by dances with hamsters at 6:29 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


The rape is also the least interesting choice for both Ramsey and Sansa's characters. Ramsey is a vicious bastard because he's a bastard. Marrying Sansa strengthens his claim to be a real nobleman. It could have been more interesting if Ramsey actually treated Sansa decently -- while we're wondering if he will keep it up -- because she is the only woman whose opinion matters to him.

Likewise, it could have been more interesting if Sansa had seduced Ramsey, owning her power and position, rather than just waiting for him to rape her. After all, she knew she was marrying the guy, so the sex can't have been a total surprise.

The rape is abhorrent. It also adds nothing to the story, while other choices might have.
posted by musofire at 6:32 AM on May 19, 2015 [17 favorites]


Medeval Europe had more towns and smaller cities than is being depictied is what I believe the point is

My immediate point is that 14th C England had one town over 10K people, and maybe 2 more over 5K. Kings Landing, as depicted in the TV show, is unimaginably huge (and made of stone) for a city in a country with significantly less evident infrastructure than Medieval England. See also the social infrastructure points under law and religion in my comment.

I have seen nothing in the current season, for what it's worth, and I haven't read more than the first 50 pages of the books (I did that twice before giving up), but I am fairly confident that Westeros is not a particularly "realistic" place in either the shows or the books, so claims that constant rape makes Westeros more realistic is as nonsensical is claiming that the lack of rape in Star Wars is what makes Star Wars unrealistic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:34 AM on May 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


Instead of trying to catch people in a lie, why not actually engage with the fake question you're asking and explore, yes, why might this actually be a big deal and different from much of the other violence on this show? Why might these tons of people care so much about this?

You know my answer to this, and the exclamations of 'well it happened in the book!', is that it has never happened to a POV character in the book. It might make me sound like a horrible person, but there's a SHIT TON of characters in ASoF&I. I don't care about Jeyne Poole any more then I think people feel attached to Myranda in the show. She falls into the category of "Yet another victim of the incredibly shitty society that exists in westeros"

POV chars on the other hand are intended to make you invested in their character. You get attached to them. I care much more about what happens to Davos then I do Stannis. There hasn't been an abundance of POV characters having sex in the books. Daenerys+Drogo was handled with a lot of care with the idea that you're reading about a 14 year old who's scared as hell. It goes a long way to making you like and respect Drogo from the way he treats her.

I stand by Jamie+Cersei book-sex as consensual, but I'll agree that since it was from Jamie's POV he might have interpreted Cersei's reactions wrong.

In the show we have a POV char we've followed since the very first episode.. who has endured a fuckton of really shitty things happening to her.. spending a lot of time incredibly scared but also doing her best to ride the waves and learning how to manipulate the people around her. It's not as exciting or heroic as Arya's desire for revenge.. but I think you would be hardpressed not to respect Sansa at least a little bit. I am emotionally invested in what happens to Sansa. That's why my reaction to this happening to her is so much stronger then the character she's taking the place of from the books.

I might go insane if I got emotionally invested about what happens to strangers in the real world. There's no way I'm going to pour much emotion into fictional characters that I haven't been reading about for more then four books.
posted by royalsong at 6:38 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


The rape is abhorrent. It also adds nothing to the story, while other choices might have.

Agreed.

I don't think anyone paying attention to the show would've believed that the sadist Ramsey was going to be anything other than sadistic to Sansa. An about face where he was kind would've been a crazy shift in character and would've needed dramatic fill to bring about, but we didn't need a substantive reinforcement of status quo Ramsey being a horrific human being and tormenting Theon.

It was a lazy shortcut shock moment in a show that is increasingly relying on these moments for drama.
posted by buoys in the hood at 6:47 AM on May 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


I personally am not giving up on the show, but I am lowering my expectations significantly.

BTW, here's an example of a show which goes completely over-the-top with psychological horror and gore and tortures its characters in all sorts of crazy ways, yet chooses never to depict rape.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:51 AM on May 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


Here are some of the major problems I have with this scene, and the Sansa/Jeyne Pool substitution overall.

The showrunners made a deliberate choice - and said so via interviews - to put Sansa instead of Jeyne not just because they hadn't showed Jeyne before - it would be trivially easy to handwave that backstory as Ramsay is like "Remember your childhood friend Jeyne?". They made the choice because the audience is more emotionally invested in Sansa than a stranger. So they made the deliberate choice to put one of the best loved characters - and while BookSansa is not, ShowSansa definitely is - into one of the most awful positions in the entire books. And yes, they didn't go into the full awfulness of Jeyne, but this is still a worse situation than most of the rapes they've done this far - having the guy you think murdered your brothers watching while your virginity is brutally taken is pretty fucking bad. And they did that specifically so that we, the viewers, would be hurt for the character we are deeply emotionally vested in.

And that is not okay.

I could see, for story purposes, that it's important to see that Sansa is not a virgin and that her marriage has been consumnated. But it's not like there aren't perfectly good ways to show that. You could have even FTB'd on Theon closing the door to the room and WE WOULD KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. You didn't have to zoom in on her face and hear her cries for us to know what happened. We're smart. We can figure that shit out.

It was purely cheap emotional pulls, and it was hugely fucked up.
posted by corb at 6:52 AM on May 19, 2015 [12 favorites]


I just think it puts the lie to the assertion that these books are all about "realism" when the very real consequences of the entire nation being at war for years and the harvest never coming in are simply not addressed. No one ever even mentions "Oh hey, the caravan from Such-And-Somewhere was disrupted due to bandits, no candied yams today!"

This is actually discussed in great detail in the books - it's one of the reasons the Faith Militant is starting to rise as a response to smallfolk starving and dying. However, in each of the major areas, there are places that aren't wartorn. But it'd be easy to miss, because that exposition is usually brought about by small side characters rather than 'main ones'.
posted by corb at 6:56 AM on May 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


GoT is mediocre at best medievalism because while it's clear that GRRM wants to tell a big epic storyline ala the War of the Roses he's obviously not done a massive degree of research regarding medieval society (which isn't inherently bad because to a large number of readers that is boring as hell) but I think that clearly undermines any claims of realism.

GRRM is writing a fantasy reaction to the Tolkein High Fantasy model and in many ways fantasy fiction needed a new voice shaking it out of the doldrums of High Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery wish fulfillment. However I think GRRM and more particularly this show are falling into a trap that they are just as trope laden as the source material they are reacting to.

At this point in time in the novels and more specifically the books it feels like it's also becoming a bit of wish fulfillment on the part of the viewers in that sure there are bad things happening to good people but at the end there is going to be some epic payoff where Jon Snow or Daenrys are going to make things better. In the meantime we are going to be subjected to endless torture porn because the heroes (or more specifically survivors) of a horror movie need to be subjected to all sorts of degradation and still get through to the other side. I feel like the loving fetishization of violence (sexual or otherwise) that the showrunners have decided to focus most of their effort on really doesn't serve much of a purpose other than to shock and degrade the audience who by nature of their voyeuristic curiosity and lack of agency other than to just get up and turn off the show are basically being exploited in the same way that horror movie audiences are subjected.

Hell it seems like the showrunners are just this far from incorporating jump scares as a cover for their lack of effective storytelling. This gets ever more apparent as the showrunners descend into uncharted territory where they are likely operating on the flimsiest of plot outlines from GRRM for books he hasn't written and to be perfectly frank may never write.
posted by vuron at 6:57 AM on May 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


I can't remember the last time there was anything like the brothel scene with Baelish or Viserys in the tub.

It was last week, I think? Or the week before, not totally sure. Ramsay and a ladyfriend in the window, a non-Myranda ladyfriend whose name escapes me. She was standing there nakey as the camera lingered on her while they talked.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:01 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think I've ever had a moment in television stop me in my tracks like that. You couldn't pay me to watch another episode of Game of Thrones.

The hitting. of the same. fucking. notes. every. goddamn. episode. sure isn't helping either. I feel like I'm watching rice cook.
posted by phaedon at 7:30 AM on May 19, 2015


First off: it is entirely possible to have rape in your story without actually showing the act. This is a choice open to every story-teller if they feel that they "have" to include sexual violence. Showing it is a choice that says the actual particulars of the act are important. It's hard to see how the details are important for anything other than indulging in sexual assault fantasies.

Second off: if one takes the "rape happened all the time!" approach, well, there was a fair amount of male-on-male rape (man-on-boy) especially in the military. So why isn't that shown? Could it be that there's someone more acceptable about male-on-female rape? hmm...

Anyway, I'll stick to the books with the added distance that reading allows for. And I won't feel as bad about my reluctance to invest a bunch of time in the show.
posted by ghostiger at 7:32 AM on May 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've always read Martin's series as a grim commentary on power, especially in a feudal milieu. On the surface, those with the least power suffer most. But through a shifting balance brought about by betrayal and realliance, even the powerful frequently find themselves impotent and exposed. Literally no one is immune to disgrace, degradation, or death. In a world dominated by men, however, women and children suffer most. If Martin has failed at times to treat some characters and scenes with the deftness they deserve, that's certainly a valid critique subject to the experiences and sensitivities of the reader. But I see no evidence that he writes brutality to titillate, or that he fails to place these horrors in the broader context of the world he's created.

As with any work, there's much to criticize. But the hate-on some have for the man and his books seems to spring from accusations of bad faith on Martin's part. These critiques are almost invariably in the form of speculation, projection, and armchair psychoanalysis of the author. All of which I find, absent other evidence, distasteful.

Like any reasonably empathetic person, depictions of rape bother me. I watched this episode last night and was deeply shaken. Sansa has endured so much, and just as she was coming into her strength and learning to play the game of thrones, her resolve and endurance are tested in the form of heinous physical violation. But I have faith in the character, in the woman, not to let the experience define her, to turn it to her advantage, and to survive and thrive with her strength and dignity intact. And that's why I'll keep watching the show. We'll have to wait to see where Martin takes the character in The Winds of Winter.
posted by echocollate at 7:38 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Look, folks, the show's just trying to be realistic to the time in which the books are set. That's why in every scene you see kings and paupers alike shitting fetid diarrhea in buckets from eating spoiled food.
posted by Awful Peice of Crap at 7:40 AM on May 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


That's why there's so many scenes where people are shitting in the streets or pissing in bowls in the corners of rooms, both practices that survived into the modern era in our own world.
posted by winna at 7:50 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


"It's not about rape for ratings it's about realism in fantasy"

Honestly some of the defenses of the show seem about as shallow as the arguments made by gamergate trolls.

I can understand liking or even enjoying the show but at this point in time it's gratituitous to the extreme and the claims of "oh it's okay because women in medieval times were chattel and raped all the time" when it's abundantly clear that this is not some dissertation on medieval gender relations but a series designed to get as many HBO subscribers as possible and they are doing that through really really cheap narrative tricks. I think it's important that we strip away any sort of rationalization for the choices GRRM and D&D have made with the narrative and pretty much just force people to own up to the fact that they don't really mind wanton brutality in their sunday night viewing experience.
posted by vuron at 7:53 AM on May 19, 2015 [19 favorites]


I can't even gather my thoughts on this in a coherent form so here's a bullet list (spoilers for all the books):

- Your thoughtful, progressive friends like this show/books because every once in a while there are glimmers of what it could be. At this point in the books - and what the show might be stumbling towards - we are in the middle of "The War of a Varying Number of Queens". Along with obvious choices like Cersei, Dany, and Margaery, you also have Sansa, Myracella, Arianne, Shireen, and Yara/Asha all being set up as contenders for the iron throne. Along with this you have characters like Brienne, Arya, the Sand Snakes, Olenna, Meera, Ygritte, and Lady Stoneheart getting ready kick butt and take names. Both the show and the series are unusual in that you don't really have 1 or 2 female characters to root for, there are dozens. Literally dozens. My own personal favorite list for this series is 7 women to 3 dudes and 6 of the women (2 of the dudes) are point-of-view characters who get their own chapters in the books.

- The argument that rape happens in the real world is stupid for two reasons - one, the real world doesn't have dragons and ice zombies. If you can ignore reality for that, why include it when it comes to rape culture?

- The other reason it's dumb is if you do want to go all super Grimdark Edgy, then boys and men should be dealing with rape as well. Bran and Rickon should be threatened just as often as Arya is. Jon should be struggling with what to do about all the rapists all the Wall who decide to harm their brothers in black. And not just Theon but any man caught as a prisoner of war - Jaime, Davos, Edmure - should have the threat of rape hanging over their heads. If you want to be realistic.

- The show has added in rape where there wasn't. Sansa isn't nearly raped in the books in the King's Landing riots. Khal Drogo does not rape Dany on their wedding night in the books but asks for her consent. Meera is not almost raped in her travels with Bran and Jojen in the books. And while you could argue that Jaime and Cersei's moment in the Sept is rape in the books, it's vague enough that it could go either way.

- The show has fucked up some of its female characters before. It's removed entire plots or characters that are important whereas I can't think of many male characters that have been similarly excised beyond the Greyjoy uncles who may still show up. That and the above is why many fans have lost patience with the show.

- That said, the reason people continue to put up with the show is that it has improved on several characters. Maybe Tyrion and Cersei are whitewashed but they're a lot more palatble in the show than in the books. And Dany's entire arc is better, so far, in the show than in the books.

Also there remains the hope, however dim, that Sansa will get the upperhand on the Boltons, secure her position of Wardeness of the North, and get rid of Littlefinger once and for all.
posted by bgal81 at 8:14 AM on May 19, 2015 [23 favorites]


I get some people don't care for grimdark fantasy, but this series has been consistently that from the beginning, so complaining about it seems silly to me. That said, I absolutely agree with bgal81 that for the sake of internal consistency, the threat of physical violation in all forms should hang equally over the heads of both genders.
posted by echocollate at 8:24 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, after the fifth or so reference to medieval methods of poop disposal done in what to me appears the most shocking way possible I'm wondering WTF is up with this? Is it an attempt to derail the discussion about how rape is being (mis)used? Is there a meme that I've missed somewhere? Is this a MeFI thing or something to do with GoT that has been discussed before? Feel free to enlighten me.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 8:30 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is an attempt to point out that "rape is necessary for the realism of the time period" arguments are fucking stupid.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:35 AM on May 19, 2015 [23 favorites]


What about if after a beautiful consensual love scene, Jaime and Cersei take turns picking the lice and nits off each other? That would be realistic.
posted by bgal81 at 8:37 AM on May 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also the people in the show bathe a ridiculous amount for 'realism'.
posted by winna at 8:38 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


jinx, bgal!

Where are the love poems about fleas?!
posted by winna at 8:38 AM on May 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


also why do all the peasants look like they've bathed within the past week instead of once at birth, once on their wedding night, and once after death.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:39 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Khal Drogo does not rape Dany on their wedding night in the books but asks for her consent.

This is some goddamn bullshit right there. She's what, 13 or 14 in the books and Drogo in 30s? By any modern definition that's rape. He rapes her repeatedly, even when she's sore from riding all day.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:40 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


In their society, she is a woman grown. Again, if we're using the ~vague medieval rules only~. Either way, he definitely doesn't bend her over while she cries.
posted by bgal81 at 8:44 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


The answer to these obviously ridiculous questions is that it seems to be a point of aesthetics. It seems clear to even the most disinterested eye that people generally don't want absolute realism in their fantasy. So the streets of Kings Landing aren't caked ankle-deep with shit and trash, no one is dumping chamber pots out their 3rd floor windows, people are not smeared with filth constantly, none of the beggars have oozing sores or are crusty with leprosy. Even the slum areas of various cities we've seen are impossibly clean and tidy. So when people talk about things that are necessary for the believable or honest portrayal of a medieval fantasy setting, and then argue that rape is one of those things, because it's "historically accurate," it is really fucking unpleasant. Because by this argument it's somehow less disgusting than open sewers.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:45 AM on May 19, 2015 [28 favorites]


If we want to go with a less purient example - people in the Middle Ages were extremely religious. In the books, the Faith of the Seven is everywhere and permeates every facet of life. GRRM does a decent job coming up with several believable religions and the Faith is the biggest of them when it comes to Westeros.

On the show? The Faith is in the background and treated with as much religiousity as you'd expect from a middle-of-the-road American. Thus leading to the issue of people wondering where the hell the Sparrows come from and why the Faith has such power. They always had that power, it should have been more than just an occasional mention and the odd Septon here and there. That would have been realistic and set up future plots as well as giving depth to the current characters. (Book!Renly, for example, modeled his colors and Kingsguard after the Seven. He was, in appearances, very pious.)
posted by bgal81 at 8:51 AM on May 19, 2015


Oh my, how bleak! I think that most stories and story-tellers traditionally try for something different. Most of them try to envision a better life than many of us live and the protagonists and morals contained therein speak to the very best parts of us rather than the bleakest.

And that's valuable. Hell, I'll presumably see good triumph over evil tonight during Flash's season finale. I don't want to confront that bleakness all the time. I'm glad so many of our stories aren't that way. I'm also glad that some of them are.

You know, "bracing for it" is basically what most women do to this day and it's sure tiring to have to brace for it in our entertainment as well.

While I think Game of Thrones has been pretty upfront about its bleakness (first episode features both a rape and a kid being pushed out a window, neither of which ever gets punished, and in the case of the latter, escalating attempts to Make Things Right literally lead to war), I get that it's not for everyone. If you read my comment as suggesting people are wrong to dislike Game of Thrones on these grounds, I'm sorry. That's not what I meant. I respect The Mary Sue for parting ways with the show, even though I won't.
posted by OnSecondThought at 8:53 AM on May 19, 2015


Unfortunately "realism" gives an excuse for why Drogo raping a 13 year old would be "consensual" because medieval marriages often involved young brides. The difficulty in depicting all of these shitty things happening to younger actresses is a big part of why the stark children and Dany were substantially aged up in the adaptation.

I don't see why there needs to be some pretense in the novel that Viserys selling his sister into the equivalent of sexual slavery was somehow clean or morally acceptable. Yes eventually Dany comes to love Dany but it's also clear that Drogo is by no means her choice.

From that perspective the decision of D&D to take away any pretense of it being a consensual consumation of a political marriage was one of the few changes that actually resonates as being the correct one although at the end the line of it being rape was probably blurred too much.
posted by vuron at 8:54 AM on May 19, 2015


So when people talk about things that are necessary for the believable or honest portrayal of a medieval fantasy setting, and then argue that rape is one of those things, because it's "historically accurate," it is really fucking unpleasant.

Agreed. The novels aren't historical, though they draw from history. They're fantasy. The more salient question for me is this: Is what's depicted internally consistent with the established rules of the world as it's been created and in which these characters and narrative live? In the case of the novels, I'd say yes, with the exception noted by bgal81 in an earlier comment.
posted by echocollate at 8:54 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


And on top of that, in the fifth book GRRM basically goes hog wild with the poop and pee and it's actually really uncomfortable and terrible and a marked downturn in the quality of his writing. Literally the series as it stands now ends with Daenerys shitting majestically in a field.

Okay, okay it ends with her shitting majestically in a field, becoming surrounded by undoubtedly hostile Dothraki who she once swore to kill for killing and raping a girl she saved, then cleaning herself off and going to stand by her enormous fuckoff huge man-killer dragon. But Dany shitting all over everything is the literal last plot point of the entire series right now, and it was hardly the only scatalogical reference in ADWD, and the reaction of basically everyone who has read it so far has been "ugh why the fuck did he do that?!". GRRM has issues.

In their society, she is a woman grown. Again, if we're using the ~vague medieval rules only~. Either way, he definitely doesn't bend her over while she cries.

Yes, he literally does, or more to the point he comes in, does her doggystyle while holding her down when she tries to change position, and while she's bruised and sore from riding all day and trying to stifle her tears. He just doesn't do it on their wedding night. So progressive and romantic!

In that case, like I said earlier in the thread, the show doesn't add rape, it just makes the timeline and progression of their relationship seem less weird to show watchers.

The answer to these obviously ridiculous questions is that it seems to be a point of aesthetics. It seems clear to even the most disinterested eye that people generally don't want absolute realism in their fantasy. So the streets of Kings Landing aren't caked ankle-deep with shit and trash, no one is dumping chamber pots out their 3rd floor windows, people are not smeared with filth constantly, none of the beggars have oozing sores or are crusty with leprosy. Even the slum areas of various cities we've seen are impossibly clean and tidy. So when people talk about things that are necessary for the believable or honest portrayal of a medieval fantasy setting, and then argue that rape is one of those things, because it's "historically accurate," it is really fucking unpleasant. Because by this argument it's somehow less disgusting than open sewers.

They also sanitized an enormous amount of the gore and torture and actual violence in the series. Arya's journey from KL until she gets on the ship to Braavos is an unending horror of brutality and trauma. In the show it's basically a goddamn Shirley Temple movie in the form of a road trip. Such verite!

But you know, can't forget the rape, that wouldn't be realistic!
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:57 AM on May 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, she's had a couple of moments, and certainly she had a big plot-moving moment in season 1 accidentally betraying her father. But now I see that I wrote "entirely passive" instead of "almost entirely passive" as was in my brain, so apologies!

But I think reacting is not passivity, even though it's not the kind of agency we often look for. Choosing to stay as safe as you can and learn to play the game is an active choice, though it doesn't look like much.

I just think there hasn't been a lot to imply on the show that she's going to become this massively badass queen destroying worlds, and I think a lot of people have hoped for that, and that it's totally okay and maybe preferable if Sansa never becomes a liar or killer.

Sure, I don't want that for her. But becoming Arya 2 isn't the only way for her to be an active character.

(Charm is, however, and the sample WoW Sansa chapter shows her facing a similar situation but being charming and intelligent, thinking on her feet, which is much more satisfying than the show's version.)

I haven't read it, but that too sounds like her being active.

Disagree that age has as much to do with it a her personality, as two of her three younger siblings do a lot more than she does and seek out their Destinies using wits (and, in Bran's case, a handy band of Magical Helpers which is a lot better than Sansa's "helpers").

Yeah, Arya is active. I can't really remember what Bran does because I find him so boring. But Bran in particular is in a safer position than Sansa, with more people helping him.
posted by jeather at 9:04 AM on May 19, 2015


Or the show could not have used that one time between Dany and Drogo at all? Or if they did they could not make that time between Cersei and Jaime rape or not have Sansa raped or not threaten Meera with rape?

The point is that they had a choice how much rape and sexual violence to show. And this is what they chose.
posted by bgal81 at 9:05 AM on May 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


So the streets of Kings Landing aren't caked ankle-deep with shit and trash, no one is dumping chamber pots out their 3rd floor windows, people are not smeared with filth constantly, none of the beggars have oozing sores or are crusty with leprosy.

Like, I hate to even engage in this shit derail, but my nerdy love of GoT is pinging. They actually do go, at length, into the fact that King's Landing smells like and basically is an open sewer - there's Margaery stepping through a shit puddle to get to the orphanage, there's Davos talking to Gendry about how he lived next to 'Shitriver Street' or something similar, where a veritable river of shit ran from the pipes from the Red Keep that basically just dumped in the street, there's Lady Olenna talking about how she can smell the shit from there...there's basically a lot of KL filth.

But this is all IRRELEVANT because even if rape is necessary for realism, that in no way excuses the way it is presented as a cheap thrill, which the feces rivers are not.
posted by corb at 9:09 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately "realism" gives an excuse for why Drogo raping a 13 year old would be "consensual" because medieval marriages often involved young brides.

It *happened* that young girls were married off. It didn't actually happen as often as it does in GoT. Here's an article about that, which I feel like I may have seen on the Blue before.
posted by chaiminda at 9:09 AM on May 19, 2015 [12 favorites]


After sleeping on it I found that people's glimmer of hope that maybe THIS rape will be character building for the right person incredibly fucking bleak.
posted by erratic meatsack at 9:10 AM on May 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


And it is worth noting that when GRRM put in rape, most of it happened offscreen. In the KL riots, Lollys is raped by the mob, but she is a non-viewpoint character, and no viewpoint characters watch it. It happens offstage and is referenced through conversation. THIS COULD ALSO BE DONE IN THE SHOW. We don't have to linger over Sansa backing up with looming men approaching to rape her in order to feel that rape is bad. We don't have to watch her face to know that rape is bad. You could have those serving women talking about how Sansa's wedding night was hard. You could have her musing over ultimately the Imp was a better husband because he didn't force her. You could have a shitton of things that is not Sansa Stark bent over a bed.
posted by corb at 9:14 AM on May 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


The point is that they had a choice how much rape and sexual violence to show. And this is what they chose.

the thing that really drove that home for me was the wholly unnecessary craster's house post-mutiny gang rape scene (last season? 2 years ago? who even knows) in which casual rape was happening to half a dozen women in the background, like you'd see people sweeping their stoop or shooing away street kids in king's landing. it was just set dressing, and it wasn't even something that grrm himself had felt necessary to write in the books. like the actual fact that this house with one creepy man and 2 dozen women, all of whom were both his daughters AND his wives, was already a quite obviously place where terrible fucking things were happening constantly, that just wasn't enough. so i guess either the showrunners think the viewers are too stupid to truly understand how bad it is to have 2 dozen women raped by their father like it's a normal way of life, and that we need the harsh reality spoon-fed to us like moronic diaper babies, or they just like showing "extra" rape.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:17 AM on May 19, 2015 [23 favorites]


and yeah, i feel kind of shittily tricked by how well they chose to treat the lollys plotline now.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:19 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


oh god I think I blocked that shit out even though I rewatched the series recently, but yeah, that shit was just fucking egregious as hell. As well as the rape-threats for Meera which..shocker...also didn't happen in the book.

Basically, when you are complaining that GRRM doesn't write edgy enough and there needs to be moar rape, you have a fucking problem.
posted by corb at 9:19 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was going to say the Sansa plotline is exclusively a tv show thing and not in the books, but then I remembered I am still horribly disturbed by the part in one of the books where 40 men rape the barkeeper's daughter and GRRM thought it would be useful to specify which orifices they used.

That alone convinced me the rape is in the books at least partially for entertainment and not for total condemnation.
posted by Tarumba at 9:25 AM on May 19, 2015


And again, if they were being realistic, why weren't any of the Night's Watchmen who chose to stand by Mormont being subjected to the same sexual violence?
posted by bgal81 at 9:26 AM on May 19, 2015


BTW, here's an example of a show which goes completely over-the-top with psychological horror and gore and tortures its characters in all sorts of crazy ways, yet chooses never to depict rape.

I've been trying to articulate why I love Hannibal but can't stand to watch GOT (noped out on the rat in a bucket scene in Season 2), maybe this has something to do with it. For me it also has something to do with the fact that Hannibal is more focused on creepiness, instead of the degradation and humiliation of GOT.
posted by Hutch at 9:34 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I said in the other thread that I was hoping she'd have a knife hidden in that awesome dress.

I recognized that Jeyne was raped; that is known and written and done, unfortunately, already. I had a sense of dread as the wedding went on, but was really, really hoping for another choice from the showrunners. Jenye was raped, but Sansa didn't need to be raped just because they've substituted Jeyne with Sansa.

Roose in the books knows that Ramsey is a problem, and what with Walda pregnant, he could see Ramsey's death as ... convenient.

Roose vs. Stannis is more interesting (old guard vs. old guard) than Ramsey vs. Stannis.

Theon could have snapped out of it a few moments earlier, if they want to make it All About Theon' Redemption.

Sansa could have poisoned or drugged Ramsey.

As someone said above, Sansa could have tried to seduce Ramsey (I don't think it would have gone that well, but at least it would make it consensual for her). After all -- Sansa thinks she is the last Stark. Her plan could be to produce a Stark heir, to maintain the bloodline.

So, so many other choices than rape.
posted by Dashy at 9:37 AM on May 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the one season of Game of Thrones that I watched, the sexual assaults weren't shown from the perspective of the victim but were done more voyeuristically, and that's perhaps even more disturbing for me.

The rapes in the books aren't shown from the perspective of the perpetrators either (unless they were also victims in the act.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:38 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


it was just set dressing, and it wasn't even something that grrm himself had felt necessary to write in the books.

I don't disagree at all with the overall point that you're making, but actually isn't it at least implied? It definitely wasn't graphic and I forget whether it happened onscreen or was just referenced, but I do think it happens in the books.

and yeah, i feel kind of shittily tricked by how well they chose to treat the lollys plotline now.

In a way, think it's hard to compare just because there's probably stuff going on with all the Stokeworth/Rosby/Crownlands houses drama than GRRM is letting on right now, but it's firmly C plot and not going to have an effect on what they're keeping in the show, so they're free to leave all the terrible stuff about Lollys out, because there's just no way that a show-only audience would be able to keep track of a sub-rosa Littlefinger plot that most book readers haven't even picked up on.

I will take my non-traumatized, non-pregnant Lollys of normal mental faculties and be glad of it, and also that Falyse doesn't exist to get Qyburn'ed, but I don't think it's them choosing to treat her well, so much as Bronn's a fan favorite and they couldn't possibly saddle him with a mentally-challenged woman who is pregnant because of being gang raped. The bros wouldn't see that as a just fate for someone as ~awesome~ as Bronn.

The rapes in the books aren't shown from the perspective of the perpetrators either (unless they were also victims in the act.)

I guess we don't actually get a loving description of Tyrion raping the slave girl, just a lot of psychological insight into his motivation as he actively decides to rape the slave girl, then later on the delightful soliloquy about "why don't the slaves just rise up, they must want to be slaves".

Tyrion's entire arc in ADWD and arguably the whole series are basically a master class in "from the perspective of the perpetrators".
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:45 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


the thing that really drove that home for me was the wholly unnecessary craster's house post-mutiny gang rape scene (last season? 2 years ago? who even knows) in which casual rape was happening to half a dozen women in the background, like you'd see people sweeping their stoop or shooing away street kids in king's landing.

It was casual yet also graphic, with nudity--it felt like yet another chance for HBO to get more titillating sex and boobs onscreen. It was repulsive, and I think it was during the rape-in-every-episode run in the middle of last season, when Cersei was raped and Meera was threatened with rape. Lots of rape that was either not in the book or only implied in the book. As many people have said, the show has chosen to gratuitously add rape and to handle it very badly.
posted by Mavri at 9:51 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is what's driving people away? After the incest, the child burning, dog killing, people hunting, repeated castration, head exploding, poisoning, decapitation, pregnant woman killing, head melting, and sword in the mouth action this is what's turning people away? An evil character not even doing the worst thing he's done?

I see all the points - but if you're going to complain about a show going too far when its first episode has the attempted murder of a child by two post coital siblings then clearly the show is not for you. You were warned from the start.


I'm going to try really hard to not make assumptions about gender here, but the major issue with people taking a stance like the one above is that you're able to lump rape into a category of acts such as the above that are abstract and distant from every day life.

For a significant portion of us, rape and the fear of rape and other kinds of sexual assault is concrete and present in our daily lives. Forgive me if some of us would like to be able to opt out of having to re experience it repeatedly in popular media.
posted by Polyhymnia at 10:07 AM on May 19, 2015 [22 favorites]


I too am at a loss for why my epic series "A Song of Well-Intentioned People Making Good Choices" has thus far failed to find an audience.

False dichotomy FTW!
posted by holborne at 10:25 AM on May 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


And it is worth noting that when GRRM put in rape, most of it happened offscreen.

But that's a function of how much he put in. Which is a LOT. It's not really a defense to say that he includes a bajillion rapes by 90% of them happen offscreen when what remains onscreen is still a whole bunch, comparable to what appears on the adaptation. There's Dany, the slave girl Dany attempts to save, Theon, Jeyne Poole, (arguably) Jaime+Cersei, and so on.

I think some people just like the books a lot so they have to feel like its handled well in the books when it isn't necessarily so.

The major difference, I think, is that seeing it on a TV screen is harder to skim over than some words on a page where you can choose to immediately jump forward a paragraph and ignore it if you want.
posted by Justinian at 11:43 AM on May 19, 2015




The popularity of A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones is all a matter of pent-up popular demand because Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter had too damn few rapes for the Rape Culture we're in.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:36 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I tend to agree with Rosenberg but, that said, a sitting Senator is ragequitting the show publicly? That's awesome.
posted by Justinian at 12:43 PM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


But that's a function of how much he put in. Which is a LOT. It's not really a defense to say that he includes a bajillion rapes by 90% of them happen offscreen when what remains onscreen is still a whole bunch, comparable to what appears on the adaptation. There's Dany, the slave girl Dany attempts to save, Theon, Jeyne Poole, (arguably) Jaime+Cersei, and so on.

A quick and dirty rape and sexual violence checklist:
- Dany
- The anonymous dancing girl at Dany's wedding who two Dothraki get to a fight to the death over
- Mirri Maz Duur
- Eroeh
- Xaro X-something D-something's references to "a small girl" whose sexual services he offers to Dany
- A large number of Lazarene women, girls, and boys who are referenced/mentioned that Dany rides past before she comes to Eroeh and Mirri and saves them
- Lollys in King's Landing
- Tywin and Tysha as kids on Tywin's orders
- Some of Tyrion's scenes with Shae are pretty dubious about her consent in that exact moment; he wakes her up with sex at least once. Obviously they have a contract and all and it's part of her job, but it's stuff that would be at best highly questionable in a modern context.
- Joffrey having one of the interchangeable evil Kingsguard strip Sansa so Joff can look at her tits while she's being beaten bloody on her thighs with the flat of a sword.
- A ton of anonymous peasants who are victim's of The Mountain's crew, and later the remnants led by Rorge/Biter, including the scene with the innkeeper's daughter where anal sex is discussed in detail, which as Tarumba already observed, is pretty clearly designed to be titilating
- People make a lot of rape threats towards Arya on her Road Trip From Hell, including a serving woman at Harrenhal who is freaking out about the double cross and what's going to happen to her when she's forced to change allegiance a third time around; specifically, she talks about having Arya put in stocks and buggering her with a broom handle
- Pia the serving girl at Harrenhal, who tries to have consensual sex with Jaime, is later raped and further brutalized by having her teeth smashed in
- Lady Hornwood, Ramsay Bolton's first wife
- Ramsay Bolton's mother was raped by Roose and he makes what might be a joke about it
- Elia Martell by the Mountain, who later kind of brags about it when he's being killed by Oberyn
- Craster's wives, both by Craster and by mutinous Night's Watch members
- Roslin Tully-nee-Frey; As far as I can tell all the people in the fandom who think she's in love with Edmure and it's some kind of happy relationship are pulling that out of thin air, and her wedding night was a particularly hellish thing even if it's somehow true.
- Bastard Walder may not be a rapist, but he's a good example of "oh everyone knows you shouldn't be alone with that guy" back-channel discussions and warnings amongst women of sexual harrassers and predators. We don't know what precisely he's done, we just know he's sexually violent towards his female family members.
- The Brotherhood without Banners make some more accusations of rape against peasants in their weird trial under the tree
- Meereenese Freedwomen who are raped and murdered by Sons of the Harpy
- Jon Snow with Ygritte at first isn't exactly rape, but it's definitely fucked up with regards to consent
- The Hound telling Arya he should have raped her sister to death
- Kyra from Winterfell, who had a consensual relationship with Theon and then is raped by Ramsay and his men, and later killed
- Brienne is threatened with rape by a bunch of the Bloody Mummers, and Randyll Tarly essentially advocating for corrective rape in her case to Hyle Hunt
- Jeyne Poole
- Theon
- All of Ramsay's girls
- I think there's at least one or two rapes at the Wall of wildling women by NW men, that Jon has to enforce discipline against that's part of the general unrest that leads to toward him being stabbed, but I might be misremembering. I think Wun-Wun going crazy happens in part because some NW guys are trying to rape Val, too.
- Tyrion and the slave girl in Illyrio's mansion, with added GRRM-tries-to-be-post-modern context like Illyrio telling Tyrion "they will not refuse you" and Tyrion musing about how much he wants to fuck her because of the disgust she shows for him and how much her unwillingness is part of what he wants

I'm almost certainly forgetting some, this is just the stuff I remember being repulsed by. There's a fair bit in the prequel novellas, like Egg's brother threatening to castrate him and make him a girl so they can get married, and the two short stories have some of the worst stuff in the entire series.

I like the series a lot, obviously, but I think trying to play "which is rapier: show or books? which is better at handling all the rapeyness: D&D or GRRM?" is a dishonest, losing game
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:13 PM on May 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


also the handmaiden of daenerys who thinks it's her duty to get the khaleesi off at night, and the one who is specifically bought by her brother to teach her how to fuck.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:30 PM on May 19, 2015


Maester Kerwin too. We could go on all day I think. We probably shouldn't.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:33 PM on May 19, 2015


Wouldn't it actually be more subversive to write about a society that has no truck with a pervasive patriarchy that tolerates a destructive, exploitative male gaze that ALSO gives its characters dramas, eccentricities, and foibles that don't revolve around the tacit agreement that it's OK treat women as completely disposable? Doesn't that subvert the actually authority we live and operate within?
posted by Tevin at 1:36 PM on May 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think a fairly good way to sum it up is: I can count the fully consensual, skeeviness-free sexual encounters in the books on one hand, and there are literally more rapes and instances of sexual violence or coercion than most of us can remember.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:54 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


"It is an attempt to point out that 'rape is necessary for the realism of the time period' arguments are fucking stupid."

It is a stupid argument, but I'm not really seeing it in this thread. I guess people are reacting to defenses from fandom and wider culture? Because I can totally believe that a very large number of people think this makes sense.

The "realism" argument has annoyed the shit out of me since day-one because I feel like I see these two sides which are equally wrong. The "it has dragons" counter-argument really bugs me because it assumes that -- to use Justinian's word -- the novels don't have a particular context that limits what they're doing. And the "realism" argument bugs me because, of course, there's a lot about this that's far from realistic.

At the risk of repeating what I wrote earlier in the thread, the proper starting point is to look at the tropes of faux medieval heroic fantasy as they were expressed in popular literature in the twentieth century. Tolkien wore his antimodernism on his sleeve, and there's a huge amount of sociopolitical implication in his making the epitome of virtue the hobbits, which represented a certain British social class and way of life. And then the tradition that followed him in popular culture, with the emphasis on the aristocracy, the glory of war. These are perennial in European folklore and storytelling, but they are retooled and recontextualized in the post-war Anglo-American world. They encapsulate a whole bundle of values. This is why we talk about Disney princesses so much. And the thing is, those values are incredibly regressive and oppressive.

Even given the many examples that people have mentioned in the thread -- and I've read most of them -- it's still pretty startling just how many elements Anglo-American fantasy shares and how many things it doesn't include. It really is, even including the outliers, a pretty specific genre.

Including slavery or brutal violence or shitting is not that interesting or noteworthy in themselves. It's mildly interesting. GRRM is more realistic about food, Daniel Abraham is fascinatingly realistic about finance and its importance, but those sorts of things, these examples of nods toward contemporary notions of realism, are just stylistic choices. Valid ones, but they're not "necessary" or "important". For that matter, although I vastly prefer more psychological complexity and psychological realism, I think it's valid to argue that this, too, is a stylistic choice and not a requirement.

So, in that context, the decision to include sexual violence, and especially explicitly depicting sexual violence, is absolutely not necessary because this sort of realism (assuming that it's realistic, which it often isn't) clearly isn't an end unto itself, otherwise we wouldn't be talking about dragons or, more broadly, secondary worlds.

But if, for example, you want to take this genre and engage with it as what it really is -- a regressive critique of modernist values -- then you will systematically strip away its whitewashing and you will reveal the presence of these anti-modern values and what they really imply. That will include things that we'll likely refer to as being "realistic" because one of the ways in which this genre has disguised the implications of its anti-modern critique has been to either elide them entirely or to cloak them in the fantastical and heroic. So including them will feel "realistic". Because, so far as it goes, it is.

But that's not the same thing as being realistic for realism's sake.

Now, I guess I should wonder why it is that so many people engage with these books and the show on a level that misunderstands this "realism" and which completely misses both the antimodernism of the genre and misses GRRM's critique of that antimodernism. But ... I feel pretty certain that the majority of the audience of The Wild Bunch just thought, "wow, that was more realistic than other westerns". And if someone criticized the way it depicted the violence and some other stuff, I'm sure people would have defended it on the basis of it being "realistic". And a valid response to that defense would have been "where's all the shitting?"

Unfortunately, ASoIaF is no The Wild Bunch and, Game of Thrones doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence. Even so, that's the context for what the books are actually doing. It's not about realism, per se. And so defending it or criticizing the defense on that basis is a misunderstanding.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:57 PM on May 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


Mefi's Own scalzi on A Useful Note From A Mentor.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:23 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here's a compilation of critical reactions.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I consider myself a fan of the show (and books) and will likely continue to watch for the forseeable for future but man do I love that fatpinkcast link. Such delicious schadenfreude.
posted by bgal81 at 2:39 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Robert Jackson Bennet on "why are you writing a rape scene?"

(er.... just noticed that it's linked to in the scalzi blog post above, but in case people want to read this on its own...)
posted by tabubilgirl at 2:42 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like the cut of your jib Ivan Fyodorovich even if I would quibble with a few minor points.
posted by Justinian at 2:56 PM on May 19, 2015


So here’s a thought exercise I’d like you to try.

You’re writing a rape scene. A woman gets brutally raped by a monstrous male character in one scene in your book. It’s scandalizing. It’s disturbing. It’s graphic. People are going to talk about this.

Okay. Now substitute another sex crime in its place – say, homosexual pedophilia.

Now instead of raping a buxom, weeping young woman, your Extremely Bad Dude is now raping a terrified six year old boy.

Does it still feel like it deserves to be there?


One may as well ask if the (horrifying) rape scene in Irreversible deserves to be there. If Bennet's hypothetical moves the narrative forward and/or develops the character or relationships between characters, then it is the writer's prerogative to tell their story as it needs to be told, and readers can take it, leave it, or chew it over and figure it out. The GoT television show may no longer be written or acted as well as it was in the past, but quality of creative work (or lack thereof) is a different criticism from titillation, and violence (emotional, physical, sexual, mental) directed at everyone, whether deserved or not, is what has always driven the story forwards, from the opening minutes of the first episode. If the GoT writers and showrunners are exploiting viewers, then viewers have been exploited from minute one.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:02 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


ACTUALLY there's a thing. In the books, there's talk of how Tommen may have been abused by Joffrey. Do we see even a hint of that? No, because they're able to establish he's monstrous through other means.
posted by corb at 3:03 PM on May 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


We're also spared seeing Robert's marital rape of Cersei, thankfully.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:04 PM on May 19, 2015


Oh, I want to amend or clarify my initial comment in this thread. I quoted someone asking why "rape scenes" were necessary, and my comment seems to argue that they are -- which is not at all what I intended. I don't think that rape scenes are necessary to do what GRRM intended to do but, rather, I think that the genre he is critiquing implies a powerful institutionalized misogyny that included sexual violence and, in that regard, the existence of such sexual violence is valid and necessary for the project. But that's a long way away from a) explicitly including rape scenes, and especially b) using rape as a story device or for character development.

I suppose that leaves me open to a retort that, if exploring the implication of institutionalized sexual violence is valid for such a project, that isn't illustrating it in a particularly visceral way a defensible choice?

First and foremost, it's pretty obtuse to write a work that acts as cultural criticism while somehow pretending that the work itself won't exist in a cultural context where different authorial decisions mean something outside the work. If you're saying that the author's choices matter (of the work you're critiquing) because they reflect and comment upon the culture within which the work is written, then that's certainly true about your own authorial choices and so one should ask: what does including an explicit rape scene say within the cultural context my novel exists? LoTR has a lot of implicit real-world racism and so, in that context, it would make sense to write a critical work that makes this racism explicit. But, in doing so, that explicit racism in your own work will exist in the racist context of contemporary culture. That matters. So just because it's internally valid and justified as part of the cultural criticism doesn't mean that this is a get out of jail free card. See: Bret Easton Ellis. Writers stumble over this all the time.

Secondly, lots of writers navigate this territory successfully by putting in the hard work to do so. You can do this one of two ways. You can just avoid portraying it explicitly and thus avoid the peril of seeming to endorse it -- it makes it more difficult to engage with the issue in a powerful way, but it's not impossible. Instead, you can explore all the territory around it, making it very real by outlining its shape. In some ways, that can make it more real. Or, arguably, that stuff is just as real or more real than the act itself. (Thinking about my own experience being in a family where severe depression is common and where my grandfather shot and killed himself when I was young, exploring all the things surrounding and which result from his suicide would probably be more effective and meaningful than in describing the act itself in detail.)

The other way you can do this is to explicitly depict it but work very, very hard at learning what you need to know and getting input and otherwise writing the scene in a way that realizes the horror of it without being voyeuristic or gratuitous. I think that's very hard to do, but it's possible. I don't think it's possible to do when it's one in a series of rape scenes. And I think it's highly unlikely that you'll do this if the reality of sexual violence wasn't the central theme of your work in the first place but, instead, is just one piece of a the larger machinery. In that case, you probably didn't need that particular piece and if you're deciding to include it, then why?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:23 PM on May 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's funny how when media products want to go for "gritty realism" they never show a lot of shitting. People shit all the time! Like usually at least once a day! Why do we not have more poop-driven plots?

What's that? Audiences don't want to see characters squeezing out a juicy deuce? It makes people uncomfortable? But wat about the realismz??


Ha! A Game Of Porcelain Thrones amirite?

"This is Valyrian porcelain, the strongest in the seven kingdoms. The Mountain himself could not break this bowl with his enormous turds."
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:26 PM on May 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is some goddamn bullshit right there. She's what, 13 or 14 in the books and Drogo in 30s? By any modern definition that's rape. He rapes her repeatedly, even when she's sore from riding all day.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:40 AM on May 19 [+] [!]


In their society, she is a woman grown. Again, if we're using the ~vague medieval rules only~. Either way, he definitely doesn't bend her over while she cries.
posted by bgal81 at 8:44 AM on May 19 [3 favorites +] [!]


If we're going by "vague medieval rules" (?? begs the question which rules and why real-world historical rules should apply to Westeros) then it could be argued that it is not, as matter of law and custom, possible for Sansa to withhold sexual consent from her husband Ramsey
posted by Bwithh at 3:29 PM on May 19, 2015


As someone who has watched the tv series from the start, and who (until 3 weeks ago) has been quite the rabidfan of GoT, I just want to say... wow, there's a whole lot of 'mansplaining' around this topic (even within this thread). It's disappointing, but not surprising, that the majority of the defenders/apologists for the rape in GoT happen to be men (or so many say, either directly or through profiles) that are quick to justify the use of rape as a plot point -- particularly when those rape scenes are clearly filmed for the cishetmale gaze and feature young (ie: barely legal), conventionally attractive (ie: beautiful) women.

The reason for my slow fade from this series absolutely has to do with how it's largely become torturesnuffporn filled with increased incidences of events such as rape (which have largely done nothing to advance plot/development of the involved female characters), and the realization that GoT, despite it's creators (and some fans') protests, is guilty of the same exact tropes against women as is found in video games. It certainly doesn't make me want to pick up the books or indulge the tv series further.

GoT can't seem to make a well developed female character who -hasn't- been raped or threatened with it. It's as though GRRM believes sexual violence is the only way in which women are useful, can be made interesting, find strength, 'grow' and/or take charge of their own lives. Being a victim of sexual violence either seems to be the only way for them to become who they are -- or it becomes all they are.

Posting Rosenberg doesn't really help prove otherwise. Nearly every instance of sexual violence she lists involves the rape of a women used to advance the plot of the male characters (ie: prove they're the bad guys) or the use of women as sexual objects to be exchanged/borrowed for the purposes of revenge/humiliation against a male character (ie: give the guy motivation to fight/develop). She also makes some very weak comparisons -- Sansa being raped is an act of war akin to the Red Wedding? How on earth is killing a woman, pregnant with a rival heir, the same as a badguy forcing himself on his unwilling new bride while his other victim (whose ability to be aroused has been removed) watches? The scene seems to be more about Theon and Ramsay -- Sansa, being the woman, is simply the object/vessel that allows Ramsay to further torment Theon about his lack of manhood/maleness and his ability to be aroused/have sex. This seems to especially be the case when you find out the scene was supposed to involve another female character entirely.

Rosenberg goes on to say that the rapes 'suggest' this, or 'imply' that (interestingly, seemingly only about the male characters' motivations/development) yet fails to acknowledge that those things could've been suggested or implied without the explicit sexual violence specifically centered on women in the series. She even goes as far as to mention sexual control that the male characters experience -- but then every instance she lists is of a male character 'forced' to rape or otherwise be sexually violent towards female characters -- never other males and never experiencing any sort of sexual violence towards themselves. Even the few examples of male-based violence (ie: castration) she mentions were never depicted -- simply discussed -- and yet they contributed tremendously to those characters' development (giving insight into motivations, ambitions, fears, etc.) without it being who they are. Female characters don't seem to get the same treatment -- for them, the sexual violence they experience is who they are and a consequence of them being women.

People in this very thread have defended these tropes against women in GoT by saying it's 'common' and 'realistic' -- yet don't seem to have much to say when others (including in this thread) point out that hardly a single male character in the series has been raped or threatened with it despite the 'common' and 'realistic' nature of that as well (particularly in the medieval setting GRRM is writing in). But, I get it... graphic and/or violent depictions of burly, dirty, mediocre-looking men raping one another isn't nearly as titillating for HBO's demographic as burly, dirty, mediocre-looking men raping young, svelte, beautiful women.

This article, written last year, offers a rather interesting response to those defending the tropes against women in GoT and offers a further look at how the show caters to the male-gaze while completely ignoring the gaze of its female audience. I suspect that the realization of who GoT is really catering to (thanks to the latest unnecessary rape scene) is why so many viewers (42% of which are women, according Nielsen) are starting to tap out now.
posted by stubbehtail at 3:40 PM on May 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


point out that hardly a single male character in the series has been raped or threatened with it

If you're referring to the books it is quite common for male characters to either be threatened with or experience sexual violence. If you mean the show then you're right and, apart from Theon, a lot of it is left in the background while the male gazey stuff is more front and center. Of course "apart from Theon" is a pretty big aside since he's the character who experiences the most drawn out and vile stuff in the whole series, show or book.
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on May 19, 2015


Yeah, I mean the show.
posted by corb at 3:53 PM on May 19, 2015


I think a lot of people are missing the most important reason all the violence and rape are there in the story.

The single biggest trope GRRM is busting is the idea that the alternate fantasy world is a wonderful place you'd rather be than here on mundane old 21st century Earth. How many fantasy stories feature protagonists who are outsiders with some kind of magical artifact or power due to their inheritance, race, or origin? Sure those protagonists are threatened but there is rarely any doubt that they will prevail, because duh whose story is it anyway.

But Westeros is a place where horrible things can happen to anybody. The guy we're sure is the hero protagonist is beheaded at the end of the first book / season. Nobody is safe, and there is no character visiting from Earth who has a magic ring or super strength to give him an advantage in the ongoing melee.

Now I don't think either GRRM or the showrunners intend the rapes in GoT to be any different from the other horrible things which happen and which are depicted with great technical verisimilitude. You could say this is short-sighted of them since rape is actually more common in today's culture than being decapitated, having molten gold poured over your head etc., but I think it's a bit silly to be startled that rape is depicted onscreen when every other horrible thing that can happen to a person is depicted onscreen.

In this context it is absolutely unsurprising that they would depict just about anything that can get an R rating, and of course it's partly for shock value and titillation but it all goes to the idea that Westeros is not a place you would want to go if you could.

Compared to previous scenes of outright rape and dubious consent sex, I thought Sansa's violation was handled with more taste than most of the others, turning away from the male gazey action to, well, an actual horrified male gaze before fading to black. I honestly did not mean it rhetorically to wonder how you could watch 45 hours of this show and be surprised that this scene occurred. That very horrible things can happen to anybody and nobody is safe is the single greatest unifying theme of the story.
posted by localroger at 3:57 PM on May 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


Funny how the horrible thing most commonly depicted with lengthy voyeuristic description is only deployed against women.
posted by winna at 4:04 PM on May 19, 2015 [14 favorites]


the horrible thing most commonly depicted with lengthy voyeuristic description

Well, I haven't read the books but considering the number of scenes in which people are tortured and creatively murdered, it certainly isn't true of the show and I sincerely doubt it's really true of the books either.

I have really found the extent of the reaction to this episode fascinating. I suspect the real unspoken problem is that, for a lot of viewers, Sansa was emerging as a person it might actually be safe to identify with and to think she had some destiny protecting her from the chaos that seems to catch up to everyone else. The opening scenes of Dany's marriage were depicted much more explicitly but at that point she wasn't such a well known and sympathetic character.

I tend to subscribe to the fan theory that the intended endgame is for Dany and Jon Snow to end up sharing the Iron Throne, but there's also that pastiche GRRM did of Taylor Swift's Blank Space video where he ends up chasing Dany's actress around the set with a sword while singing "Decapitation is a must!" If the entire series had a slogan, it wouldn't be Winter is coming, it would be Nobody is safe.
posted by localroger at 4:16 PM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


It is so goddamn true of the show. I just rewatched - Sansa's rape scene is from slightly behind Sansa - so you, the viewer, can almost feel like you're about to get raped. That is so far beyond fucking cool I don't even have words. This time it focuses on rapist perspective. Also not cool! Fucking hate it all, burn it down.
posted by corb at 4:21 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


The violence (against men, women, kids) that gets described in the books gets much much much worse then the TV show. Women characters get almost all the sexualization and sexual violence though. Which is of course due to our patriarchal culture but also GRRM isn't fully comfortable writing sexualized male characters and about gay male sex
posted by Bwithh at 4:24 PM on May 19, 2015


I suspect the real unspoken problem is that, for a lot of viewers, Sansa was emerging as a person it might actually be safe to identify with and to think she had some destiny protecting her from the chaos that seems to catch up to everyone else.

Not Destiny, but tutelage under Littlefinger. She was promised to be an example of a person who could move from piece to player and then we had that pulled out from under us. What was the point of that?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:26 PM on May 19, 2015


She was promised to be an example of a person who could move from piece to player and then we had that pulled out from under us. What was the point of that?

GAH!!

GAHHH!

Sorry, but how has this changed?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:28 PM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


What was the point of that?

That nobody is safe. Eddard Stark was promised a chance to take the Black and possibly become an important player at the Wall when totally out of nowhere Joffrey had him killed. This is not a world where promises are worth a hell of a lot.
posted by localroger at 4:30 PM on May 19, 2015


That nobody is safe.

Sansa knew that full well already, which I think is why this hit so hard. Her father and brother were both under the illusion that they were safe, while Sansa hasn't been since season one.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:47 PM on May 19, 2015


As for everyone who may have convinced themselves that GRRM and/or the HBO showrunners have committed an error here, I like to keep in mind this quote from J.G. Ballard's obituary:
When J. G. Ballard, who passed away Sunday, at the age of seventy-eight, was trying to place “Crash,” his dystopian masterpiece of “auto” eroticism, with a publisher, he received a note with a rejected manuscript: “This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish.” He regarded it as a sign of "complete artistic success."
Upthread there is a comment by a GRRM fan who was disappointed that in real life his only concern seemed to be the number of eyeballs he was able to attract through the medium of TV, as opposed to the relatively limited exposure his sometimes gorgeous writing had gotten. Considering the old saw about the existence of bad publicity, I find it doubtful that anyone affiliated with the project is anything but delighted with the furore that has emerged.
posted by localroger at 4:48 PM on May 19, 2015


Sansa knew that full well already

Yes this is part of the problem. Sansa wasn't stupid enough to completely trust Littlefinger even as she went along with him due to a lack of alternative options. The show kind of made a feint that this was Eddard and Robb's mistake, they had trusted the wrong person. In any other story not making the same mistake would have afforded Sansa a measure of protection, but not in in this story.
posted by localroger at 4:53 PM on May 19, 2015


Are the only two choices really brilliant complete artistic success or sadistic unwatchable grossness? It's clear the show is going to run the full series and that this will not change that but I don't think B&W intend these scenes to be more controversial than, say, the Red Wedding. They seem unaware of how some of what they put on the screen will be received; witness the Jaime/Cersei scene in the Great Sept which I believe they still insist was shown to be consensual on-screen.

The show has consistently reflected the virtues and vices of the source material and like the source material I think it is starting to lose coherence. Though, thankfully, at a significantly slower pace such that I hope they will mostly hold it together until the end. They only have to manage it for 2 more seasons.
posted by Justinian at 5:05 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Red Wedding is actually another form of grossness. They chose to make Talisa pregnant, where Robb's wife in the books was not pregnant, just so they could show us the horror of stabbing her in the belly several times? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. Robb's wife in the books wasn't even AT the Red Wedding.
posted by corb at 5:19 PM on May 19, 2015


[I don't know about y'all but I do not need a play-by-play description of violent rape as an attempt to explain to me why it's artistic. Please don't do that. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:41 PM on May 19, 2015 [23 favorites]


No, because they're able to establish he's monstrous through other means.

and again, one of the ways they chose to do that was with brutal sexualized violence against a female character, one who wasn't even in the books. further, the actress playing the character was killed off from the show when she objected to constantly doing nude scenes.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:46 PM on May 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


They seem unaware of how some of what they put on the screen will be received;

I vehemently disagree here. The producers of this show know exactly what they are doing and are completely aware of how it will be received. They are appealing to the absolute lowest common denominator of the 18-25 year old male fantasy crowd who their stats undoubtedly show get excited/interested/come back for more by scenes of gratuitous sex and rape.

This is a conscious choice here. Believing anything else is ... fantasy.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 5:54 PM on May 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think they were legitimately somehow confused about what they did with Jamie/Cersie, the rest though is intentional yeah.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:58 PM on May 19, 2015


Game of Thrones: Sophie Turner says she 'loved' that horrifying scene (Entertainment Weekly, May 17 2015)

Well, regardless of whether or not anyone else thinks this is a good scene, would you expect Turner to say otherwise? It would likely be bad for her career as a young actress to publicly disagree with the showrunners in an interview -- which is, of course, all kinds of messed up.
posted by dhens at 6:00 PM on May 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


and again, one of the ways they chose to do that was with brutal sexualized violence against a female character, one who wasn't even in the books. further, the actress playing the character was killed off from the show when she objected to constantly doing nude scenes.

Presuming you're talking about Esme Bianco playing Ros, that was someone's speculation a few years ago but doesn't appear to be true. (Though Ros' death was personslly probably the most upsetting scene for me on the show.)
posted by Navelgazer at 6:18 PM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]




and again, one of the ways they chose to do that was with brutal sexualized violence against a female character, one who wasn't even in the books. further, the actress playing the character was killed off from the show when she objected to constantly doing nude scenes.

For what it's worth, and I'm not saying I actually wanted to see it or anything and I'm glad we didn't, but they didn't just add in violence against women through Talisa getting stabbed in the baby, they also changed Catelyn slitting the throat of Jinglebell Frey, who is male and mentally challenged, to a woman. In as much as there was an extra layer of horror to that in the books because of Jinglebell's mental faculties, it says a lot that they didn't just make him competent, they had to keep in the violence but also redirect it towards a woman.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:58 PM on May 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's as though GRRM believes sexual violence is the only way in which women are useful, can be made interesting, find strength, 'grow' and/or take charge of their own lives. Being a victim of sexual violence either seems to be the only way for them to become who they are -- or it becomes all they are.

I definitely think GRRM's has a gross and gratuitous preoccupation with rape, but... who (in the show) does this apply to other than Sansa? Daenerys maybe. Her journey doesn't really get started without her marriage to Drogo and everything that entailed, and she's kind of an underdeveloped character in general. But otherwise? Cat Stark? Brienne? Arya - defined by her exposure to regular old violence maybe. I'm not arguing with the assertion that almost every female character is subjected to sexual violence or threats of sexual violence. I'm sure there are more instances than I even remember. But that's kind of my point - many of them are truly gratuitous or matter-of-course "this is the bad thing that happens to women in this world." Cersei is raped onscreen (added in the show I understand) and nobody can even figure out what it's supposed to mean, plot-wise.

Except for Sansa, who does seem primarily defined by her ongoing victimization in most every possible way. The endless kicking-while-she's down of Sansa is one of the worst parts of the show and my heart sank when I saw they were going to have her marry Ramsay in the first place. And except for the character most defined by the experience of sexual violence and most defined by victimhood in general other than Sansa, which is Theon. His torture back in season whatever was one of the other worst parts of the show. I guess by bringing these two together they are probably setting up some elaborate revenge/redemption plot, but until then I grimace whenever I see either of them.

Anyway I'm not saying this is a better treatment of rape than my reading of your comment - it's gross in a different way. But with a couple of exceptions GoT actually has a pretty interesting cast of female characters and a few that even teen-twentysomething guys like to root for.
posted by atoxyl at 7:32 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't even asked my wife if she wants to start watching this season, and it sucks because we love Peter Dinklage. I feel like it would be disrespectful to her to suggest it, even if she's ambivalent.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:28 PM on May 19, 2015


Also there remains the hope, however dim, that Sansa will get the upperhand on the Boltons, secure her position of Wardeness of the North, and get rid of Littlefinger once and for all.

I think you can toss that idea out the window. It's probable that Sansa's fate will be to be killed- she's not the "Final Girl" after all. Hunted in the forest, slaughtered out of hand, raped to death, whatever- it will all be in the name of "defying expectations" and "showing that nobody's safe". And some guys here will absolutely love the "deconstruction".
posted by happyroach at 11:12 PM on May 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm in the "What books have all y'all been reading?" camp. There's way more rape in the books--way more rape. Some described in lavish detail, others casually mentioned along with the weather and what was had for breakfast. Compared to the books I think the show has been quite tame. Sometimes I wonder if people who have been reading the books haven't genuinely imagined what some of the shit GRRM writes actually looks like.

And I prefer the portrayal of the rape of Cersei and Daenerys. Daenerys was fucking thirteen in the book while Khal Drogo was thirty. People crying "but she consented!", are you serious?! You really want to argue the tweenager was having a consensual sexual relationship with the thirty-year-old man she was sold to? Meanwhile, the Cersei scene in the books was classic "She said no but she meant yes" bullcrap. "Gray area" my ass. We see the scene from Jaime's point of view. Of course we're going to see her as wanting it.

No: I much prefer a show that makes it very clear that rape is rape. Drogo and Daenerys aren't playing out their little Lolita fantasy. Cersei isn't some harebrained trollop who doesn't know what her vagina wants. I think the show has been a hell of a lot better at filling out the female characters and giving realistic portrayals of their desires than the books without engaging in the kind of casual, pedophilic sexual violence that GRRM adores.
posted by schroedinger at 2:18 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, I think what I'm actually wanting out of the show, is for everyone to realise that aristocratic power structures are inherently tools of oppression, and usually misogynistic, and that that is bad for EVERYONE, mmmkay?

So the finale is no kings, no queens, but the survivors banding together to form a new socialist society!


I still have... gratefulness? That GRRM actually writes women, as people, and you understand exactly how damaging their environment is, and how it makes them the people they are, and how they fight for power anyway, and are not just background puppets. It passes the bechdel test over, and over, and over again.
It seems, like blaxsploitation movies of the 70s, representation in media is a good thing in and of itself, but is often independent from, or before, non-negative, or non-exploitative portrayals. Do more 'bad things' happen to women in this society? Are they portrayed as less human than men? Mostly no.
Is it more feminist to have one 'strong woman' in a piece of media (cite most action movies ever, Avengers, Pacific Rim), or many many females of different abilities and varying power, who may have bad things happen to them?
Or compare to media where females don't suffer sexual violence, but just... aren't the main characters or main consideration, like Hannibal? Or Sherlock Holmes? Or so many other things?

It's too easy for media to sidestep the issue of portraying women 'correctly', by just not having women be present.
And many women latch onto that, and we identify with the male characters, and we write freaking fanfic about them, where we get to pretend that the structural injustices between women and men don't exist by just not having women. I mean, it's a nice break.
But... That is not better. That is not feminist. That is invisibility, and it is bullshit.

In GoT, Women are not just present, but equally present, and have active roles, and they are not purely defined by the things done to them.
I'm going to hang on and see how it goes.
posted by Elysum at 3:15 AM on May 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


The idea that we have to have either women who constantly have horrible things done to them or Smurfettes is a depressing as all hell. It's not like there aren't alternatives, especially if you're talking novels and not TV shows, that have non-man characters who are written as people. You can especially find these characters if you read stuff that isn't written by men.
posted by NoraReed at 3:25 AM on May 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


And please, please, please do not cite MZB, Marion Zimmer Bradley, as a better example of portraying rape.

Her horrible real-life circumstances aside, MoA was still far and away better at the subject than GoT.
It was not "circumstances", it was actively aiding and abetting her husband, a convicted child rapist. It was sexually molesting her own daughter.

it was recounted entirely from her perspective, was stomach churning to read, fit into a greater context, and was the only one in a book as thick as a phone book.

Mists of Avalon is one book. Try reading her oeuvre, or rather, don't. She portrays rape over, and over again, to, I believe, gratuitous intent.
Try Darkover Landfall, where the woman survivors of a crash landing on an alien planet are told they are not allowed access to contraceptives because they need to populate the planet, and this is portrayed as the sensible thing, and then it devolves into mass orgies after sex pollen blows over the whole community.

Piers Anthony also wrote many accounts of women being raped from the first person perspective, rather than from an outside perspective, and if you've unfortunately read enough of his works, he's absolutely a monster, doing it for his own sexual gratification.
I'd put Marion Zimmer Bradley in the same category, so while she was a woman, she's a horrendously terrible example.



You can especially find these characters if you read stuff that isn't written by men. - Nora Reed
On the whole, yes! I was working on the above before I got to your follow up. But the above is an example that something written by a woman isn't enough. Fanfic as a whole, is an example that it isn't enough. Most of the fiction I have read in the last 5 years has been written by women, and it was STILL mostly about men. Most of the TV shows that fandom obsesses about? Men.
I mean, I watch 'Lost Girl', which is a terrible, terrible tv show (much cheesier with worse acting than Buffy), but at least it has women as active agents.
For all it's faults, GoT has better representation of women than most.

I absolutely want good authors, writing about women, and TV shows, which include women as active characters. At the moment, I'm taking what I can get.
posted by Elysum at 3:42 AM on May 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Most of the fiction I have read in the last 5 years has been written by women, and it was STILL mostly about men.

Pick better fiction?
posted by NoraReed at 4:00 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay that was kind of snarky and dismissive, what I mean is: this is a two-fold problem. One half of it is that there is not enough stuff by or about women being published/produced/etc. The other half is that the stuff that is out there doesn't get the attention and recognition it deserves because of sexism, both by readers and by a lack of backing/publicity from the people publishing/producing/etc it. I read a ton of stuff that has better women than GoT and often does the stuff that GoT is supposed to do well without all the reveling in rape and rape-adjacent shit.
posted by NoraReed at 4:05 AM on May 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


"I think a lot of people are missing the most important reason all the violence and rape are there in the story."

Well, first off, I think if you'd read the comments you would have seen that addressed like 80 times already.

Second, what that kind of argument reminds me of is how much machismo I hear from a lot of guys defending their aesthetic preference for sexual violence. This theory that, like, the world is really like that, man, and it takes a special kind of HARDCORE to face that evil. It just reads as, like, talking about how hardcore you are because you saw the person next to you get punched, and if the person who got punched complains, telling them, "Well, life's like that!"

I also think that the disregard for how rape is handled outside of GRIMDARK EXTREME reinforces that sense that the thrill-seeking eclipses legitimate aesthetic arguments pretty quickly. I mean, while I'm sure that there's gotta be someone who objects to how Margret Atwood handles the several rapes in the Oryx and Crake series, they're pretty clearly not in there to thrill or titillate.

It's also frustrating because you'd think that if sexual violence against women was a trope that was only connected to "important reasons" and realism, you wouldn't see it so many goddamned places where it feels like just a feminine othered version of murder. Like, I dunno, even fucking Sliders: Prof. Arturo gets murdered to save the world; Wade gets shipped off to rape planet. It just happens again and again, and is handled less realistically than even sci-fi sidearms.
posted by klangklangston at 4:44 AM on May 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


The single biggest trope GRRM is busting is the idea that the alternate fantasy world is a wonderful place you'd rather be than here on mundane old 21st century Earth.
totally agree, and I think that they've done it well enough that I've lost my enthusiasm for this world, and would rather spend more of my time in, say, downtown Baltimore and catch up on The Wire. I'll check in with this series again when the entire thing (book or TV) is done, and see if the ending deserves attention. If the entire narrative seems somewhat satisfying then that's great -- but I know that isn't guaranteed because Nobody Is Safe. A fantasy world doesn't have to be all elves, halflings, and unicorns to be interesting, but it should have compelling characters, and at this point between emoTyrion, quagmireDany, lawfulstupidJon, and alwayspwnedSansa, the show's just hit a critical mass of tableflip that makes me wonder why I'd bother with the additional episodes. Arya and Brienne are the only folks who seem worth giving a damn about but I feel like Brienne's going to get to be the Jeyne Rescue Party stand in from ADWD, and I remember how shitty that whole deal went for said party; and hanging any desire to watch more of the show simply for episodes of "wax on, wax off" training montage seems like a really shitty use of my time.
posted by bl1nk at 6:23 AM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


The single biggest trope GRRM is busting is the idea that the alternate fantasy world is a wonderful place you'd rather be than here on mundane old 21st century Earth.

I think this can be blamed on GRRM's slooooooooooooooooooooooooow writing. When he started this series in the mid-90's, that might have been revolutionary. 20 years later? Not so much.
posted by bgal81 at 7:00 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Alyssa Rosenberg:
[T]he Bastard of the Dreadfort takes up the unpleasant habit of hunting down women in whom he’s interested: "When Ramsay catches them he rapes them, flays them, feeds their corpses to his dogs, and brings their skins back to the Dreadfort as trophies. If they have given him good sport, he slits their throats before he skins them. Elsewise, t’other way around"
Should be a fun episode.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


If the entire narrative seems somewhat satisfying then that's great -- but I know that isn't guaranteed because Nobody Is Safe.

Again, aside from the horrible treatment of gender and sex, that's the other problem with the books AND the TV show. We all know how it will end. Fire and Ice, get it?!?!?!?!?! It's gonna be Jon Snow (or his real name) and DT + 3 (2?) dragons at the wall, fighting the lame-ass Others. Does the wall come down? Don't care.

I watched about 20% of the last episode while cleaning (my wife watched it--did not enjoy the final scene either). I may start paying attention again when the dragons get out and get some action (NOT with Quentyn Martell). I will probably read the books from the library when they come out, if they do.

Most of the TV shows that fandom obsesses about? Men.

American Horror Story: Coven was a delight in that regard. All women (excepting Josh Hamilton and the creepy doc from MOS in small roles ... and oh yeah, the frankenstein kid.) The whole series has been pretty good with females, actually (well, the seasons I've seen: 1 and 3.)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:13 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think this can be blamed on GRRM's slooooooooooooooooooooooooow writing. When he started this series in the mid-90's, that might have been revolutionary. 20 years later? Not so much.

And actually, not so much even then. The lounge yeast he was doing groundbreaking deconstruction is pretty much just hype.

And hey, you want a film that does deconstruction of the nostalgic view of fantasy liturature? Here you go.

And note, it did it's deconstruction with nasty, pointed wit and humour. And it managed to do the task without having to rape someone every thirty seconds.
posted by happyroach at 10:25 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


lounge yeast?
posted by cortex at 10:35 AM on May 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


My best guess is some kind of autocorrect from legend?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:36 AM on May 20, 2015


Regarding Book Sansa vs TV Sansa, I much prefer the former. In the books it appears she is learning how to play the game. I can easily see her in a position where she is sitting on a throne in the Eyrie, finally giving the command to her knights to make Littlefinger "go flying".

It's funny how when media products want to go for "gritty realism" they never show a lot of shitting. People shit all the time! Like usually at least once a day! Why do we not have more poop-driven plots?

What's that? Audiences don't want to see characters squeezing out a juicy deuce? It makes people uncomfortable? But wat about the realismz??

Ha! A Game Of Porcelain Thrones amirite?

"This is Valyrian porcelain, the strongest in the seven kingdoms. The Mountain himself could not break this bowl with his enormous turds."


Please note, Tyrion's epic piss off The Wall in Book One
posted by Ber at 10:45 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


And hey, you want a film that does deconstruction of the nostalgic view of fantasy liturature?

Deconstruction? Lancelot appears pretty much exactly as he does in Mallory. It is arguably the most faithful treatment of Lancelot in film.

Um... to bring this back to GoT, note that Lancelot, while he occasionally gets rapey, is more likely to randomly kill people at feasts and then rather sulkily apologize. In GoT, he would not even crack the "10 People You Would Least Like to Show Up at Dinner."
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:53 AM on May 20, 2015


Should be a fun episode.

It was. Last year. But Ramsay hunting girls at the start of the episode kind of got overshadowed by the royal wedding/poisonous regicide.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:04 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's that? Audiences don't want to see characters squeezing out a juicy deuce? It makes people uncomfortable? But wat about the realismz??

Ha! A Game Of Porcelain Thrones amirite?


I was really, really hoping they were going to give ust he "shits gold" joke for Tywin's sendoff last season.
posted by nubs at 11:13 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The single biggest trope GRRM is busting is the idea that the alternate fantasy world is a wonderful place you'd rather be than here on mundane old 21st century Earth.

And yet, we have Lannister t-shirts and "which House would you be?" quizzes and Targaryen hoodies and #teamstark and Westeros-themed-weddings, and none of this is even the least little bit ironic. To a certain type of reader, "which House would you be?" is the entire point.

GRRM seems, if anything, ridiculously gratified by the people with totally uncritical reads on the whole thing, far more than he ever was with the much smaller audience that started back in the 90s, who seem a lot more likely to at least be aware that he's on some level attempting commentary on popular fantasy.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:46 AM on May 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Should be a fun episode.

It was. Last year. But Ramsay hunting girls at the start of the episode kind of got overshadowed by the royal wedding/poisonous regicide.


Oh, good, that was the season I skipped. So I got that going for me.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 12:08 PM on May 20, 2015


> Martin and the showrunners seem dedicated in always wallowing in the worst possible outcomes
> from any choice. In the end, it's as much of a dead direction.

Is there an end? Or is there ever going to be? I have never watched GoT (which is odd because in the general run of things I love ersatz-medieval fantasy) but in this case a) I Do Not Have A TV, which makes watching TV problematic; and B) I had it pegged as a probable soap opera, having a beginning, then lots and lots and lots of middle for as long as it remained popular enough to have another season, and then no ending at all, just not renewed due to audience shrinkage wherever it left off, or else with a tacked-on ending of the "suddenly everyone was run over by a truck" variety.

At least it's theoretically possible to play all the way through The Last of Us, though I certainly haven't managed it.
posted by jfuller at 1:12 PM on May 20, 2015


>The single biggest trope GRRM is busting is the idea that the alternate fantasy world is a wonderful place you'd rather be than here on mundane old 21st century Earth.

And yet, we have Lannister t-shirts and "which House would you be?" quizzes and Targaryen hoodies and #teamstark and Westeros-themed-weddings, and none of this is even the least little bit ironic. To a certain type of reader, "which House would you be?" is the entire point."

That ... yeah. Man. Good friggin point.
posted by Tevin at 1:14 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


ASOIAF has a very strong beginning and early middle and then bits of good and bits of bad going forward. The show is a hit and is definitely going to have an ending of some kind, the quality of that ending is anybody's guess at this point.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:26 PM on May 20, 2015


Jfuller:
No, it is pretty clear it is all tying together and building to an ending. GRRM always had the end in mind, before he finished the first book, but the a to b had been spinning out into what will now be 7 books.
GRRM had already gone over the ending with the show runners when they started, so if he dropped dead, it would still wrap up. The show is about to overtake the books, and finish first.
Show finishing first article

Which means, if you don't like where it is going, wait a couple of seasons to see how it goes, and try to avoid spoilers for it.
posted by Elysum at 1:38 PM on May 20, 2015


I don't claim to understand what "lounge yeast" is, but I can presume it is harvested from hardcore taters.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:01 PM on May 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Navelgazer: By the Yeast Lords, I guess.
posted by Eyebeams at 2:10 PM on May 20, 2015


*Don't get me started on the new Ellaria & the Sand Snakes, Worst Band in Town - I think the changes to the Dorne plot are much more misogynistic than Sansa's plot, and flat-out dumb as hell.

[BOOK SPOILERS from a non-reader] The showrunners seem to have a problem with the depiction of women in Dorne. Last season some folks on Fanfare pointed out that they posthumously turned into Oberyn's mother, the reigning Princess of Dorne, into a male character, and they've dropped characters and storylines from the books which represented more complex gender issues in the story.

I haven't read the books, but I was aware in general of the plotline concerning Myrcella and Arianne (though I don't know how it ends) and how it revolved around big cultural differences between the gender politics of different parts of Westeros, and I was really looking forward to it on the show. Instead they've thrown out that story in favor of a dumbed-down composite character in Ellaria and the keystone cops antics of the Sand Snakes, who have be the silliest charcaters on the show so far. And it's not like they didn't have time to develop that story arc, considering how much time they've wasted plodding along this season.

I was already disappointed in all this, and then came the scene with Sansa. WTF D&D.
posted by homunculus at 2:28 PM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


GRRM always had the end in mind, before he finished the first book, but the a to b had been spinning out into what will now be 7 books.

Lol this is GRRM. Wild Cards, anyone?
posted by winna at 2:38 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The single biggest trope GRRM is busting is the idea that the alternate fantasy world is a wonderful place you'd rather be than here on mundane old 21st century Earth.

The mind-bending irony here is that lots of men do want, on some level, to live in a world where they can rape and kill without many direct consequences. Why do you think men wage wars?
posted by clockzero at 3:16 PM on May 20, 2015


I think you can toss that idea out the window. It's probable that Sansa's fate will be to be killed- she's not the "Final Girl" after all.

The most ominous scene for me was the juxtaposition of the hair washing - at the start Arya is washing the hair of a corpse, and at the end Myranda is washing Sansa's hair.

It would be pretty awful if the ending of Sansa's arc is being tortured to death. That would be worse than Ned's execution and the Red Wedding combined.
posted by xdvesper at 3:59 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Westeros-themed-weddings

If anyone came to me and asked me to organize a "Westeros-themed wedding," my first question would be "how many murders are you budgeting for?" and take it from there. I'm not a wedding planner, but I know a low-cost abattoir, so how hard could it be?

Supposedly, Sting was once approached by a young couple who told him "Every Breath You Take" was "their song" (in the romantic sense). He supposedly looked at them for a while and said "seek professional help."
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:07 PM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Supposedly, Sting was once approached by a young couple who told him "Every Breath You Take" was "their song" (in the romantic sense). He supposedly looked at them for a while and said "seek professional help."

Hah! I was maid of honour in a wedding for which "Every Breath You Take" was the wedding song. The bride was an incredibly controlling person who expected the groom to spend every possible minute with her and dictated his every move, so.... yeah.
posted by orange swan at 4:44 PM on May 20, 2015 [6 favorites]




Fantasizing Consent
posted by homunculus at 5:23 PM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


What lounge yeast
its hour come round at last
couches towards Westeros
to be bored?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:47 PM on May 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't think Sting ever told anyone to "seek professional help" but it's been an issue with him for years that so many people take EBYT as a romantic ballad, and he's mentioned it pretty often in interviews. The words are pretty clear but a lot of people hear what they want to rather than what is actually there.

I would guess anyone tone deaf enough to stage a Westeros-themed wedding has a similar problem.
posted by localroger at 7:11 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]




it was recounted entirely from her perspective, was stomach churning to read, fit into a greater context, and was the only one in a book as thick as a phone book.

There is actually another rape, underage rape in fact, in Mists of Avalon which is treated as background and normal; I don't have my copy any more so I can't give an exact quote, but it happens just before Morgaine's first sexual encounter. While she's watching the fertility frolic-cum-orgy she sees a little girl struggling when a gnarled old warrior grabs her and pushes her down, until "her legs opened to the irresistable forces of nature" or something very similar. It's a blink-and-you-miss-it sentence but I'm still amazed that it doesn't get called out more often because it is gross gross gross and the idea that it's obviously OK because the little girl opens her legs is even grosser.
posted by andraste at 9:35 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Katie Surrence: On Not Saving the Princess.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:21 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


My best guess is some kind of autocorrect from legend?

I should start putting a note in all my posts that Swype is my nematodes. I mean nemesis.

No, it is pretty clear it is all tying together and building to an ending.

I think it's pretty clear that any ending is going to be in the nature of "a brief respite" at best. Sure, we'll end with someone clinging to power on the throne, but that's going to be temporary at best. As soon as the next generation, or at most a generation later is adult, the Game of Thrones and the wars will begin again.

I think the final deconstruction that's going to come is this: things don't get better. Some of the faces may change, but if Ramsey is killed, someone equally vile will arise. There is no alternative to putting a "Hard Man Making Hard Choices" on the throne, and women and smallfolk wil always be abused.

Or in other words, the final fantasy trope that will be deconstructed is the notion of a happy ending.


It would be pretty awful if the ending of Sansa's arc is being tortured to death. That would be worse than Ned's execution and the Red Wedding combined.

Which is one reason that I think they will kill her off. All the "pro" arguments we've seen here- deconstruction of fantasy, "realism", showing the awful nature of the world, "anyone can die", etc. etc.- all those also justify killing off Arya.

All with the directors bumping fists and shouting "Yeah! Bet ya didn't expect THAT to happen! Take that narrative tropes! Brah! Brah! Brah!"
posted by happyroach at 8:14 AM on May 21, 2015


Katie Surrence: On Not Saving the Princess.

I strongly disagree - and consider it perfectly fine to consider rape the worst kind of violence.
posted by corb at 9:24 AM on May 21, 2015


> (spoiler warning) GRRM seems to be implying that the Bolton family are partly descended from the Others and not entirely human and also Very Fucking Evil, like in a supernatural way that will play some kind of role in the overall mythic-level plot. Like, Ramsay is not just a product of Roose's terrible parenting but actually they are both part omnicidal ice demon with some kind of ancient blood feud against the Starks held in check by some weird intermarriage thing and a very strict adherence to the taboo against slaying kin/blood.

Whoa, that really adds a new perspective on the Boltons. Thanks for clarifying that, TM&MM.
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the Surrence link:

If you are going to write a television show all about how man is wolf to man, it does not make sense to shy away from rape as a plot element, and that shyness would only promote the attitude that rape, compared to every other form of victimization, is too shameful and degrading to confront.

I think there are a few things that really, really need to be thought about in regards to this:

-the audience of this given work that might be working with a theme of how "man is wolf to man" (and I'm wondering about using "man" in that phrase in a discussion about rape; "human is wolf to human" goes on a lot in the saga we are discussing, but the sexual violence is predominant in one direction) will likely not have experienced impalement, being burnt to death at the stake, being fed to a dragon, or having their head caved in during a trial by combat. Even so, we can and do expect that witnessing the depiction of the same will be upsetting and disturbing for many in the audience. In fact, the creators may be deliberately trying to evoke that response as part of the theme of the work - for example, having a character the audience has long empathized with taking a brutal revenge on someone can be a means of furthering a theme of "see how brutal we can be to each other to get what we want or think we deserve;"
-We further know that a portion of any audience will have experienced sexual assault and trauma; witnessing it on screen is potentially and often a further victimization and re-traumatization of members of the audience. As such, I think it needs to be an area where you tread with caution as the creator/writer/whatever involved with the depiction of sexual assault as part of your work. Not to say you necessarily avoid it, but that you view it as a story device to be used with a great deal of caution because, in contrast with some other forms of violence you-as-creator may use as a tool to further your theme, it is one that is also lived experience for some part of your audience. You cross into very personal experiences and contexts at that point and risk hurting and disengaging your audience with what you are doing. It is not just one form of violence amongst many in depicting a violent world, and it is not that it is too "shaming or degrading to confront" as Surrence puts it: It is a a form of violence that also represents lived experience and confronting the full implications of it is very difficult to do well in a creative work. I think, in fact, that it is the failure of deal with the implications and aftermath of it in any fashion that causes many problems.
-Getting to the specifics of where we are at: this is a show and a book series that has not shied away from using sexual assault and violence throughout; it has been a constant background, sometimes quite literally. Both as a background and foreground element, the show especially has shown an unwillingness/inability to deal with the consequences and repercussions of such things; it is treated as a throwaway thing that happens (for example, the Jaime-Cersei rape last season). Thus, there is (I think) a very well founded, deep seated concern that this is more of the same; that Sansa's character has finally, after being in the clutches of various forms of sadistic monster for several seasons, been victimized in this way and that the next step is that it will be an event that is used to move Theon's character to action; that Sansa will continue being a passive victim that others act around or because of, not that Sansa will use the skills we know she has to rescue herself or set the process of her revenge into motion.
-People's reactions to the scene are going to vary based on their own triggers, tolerances, and whatever else. I don't think her closing comment of "...if it’s okay to see so many other lives and bodies treated so cheaply, if it feels on some level satisfying to see the the naked, arrow-pierced bodies of two dead prostitutes draped over a bedframe, but the fade-to-black groans of one young woman you care for are too horrifying to face, then Game of Thrones is holding up a mirror to the world by holding it to its audience, and is perhaps not failing you in quite the way you think." is all that fair because some of us have not been at all happy with the other scenes either - I didn't need to see Joffrey have two prostitutes beat each other, to have a pregnant woman stabbed repeatedly in the stomach, to have the horrid sequences of the return to Craster's. It's part of the ongoing issue in the show that has the audience not trusting how this will be handled. I have no problem with a story or work of art causing discomfort in the audience, but I think there are at least two varying forms of discomfort to be evoked that are pertinent here: the discomfort-thrill that comes from depicting something taboo/gory/horribly violent for your audience and the discomfort-introspection that comes via making the audience question themselves and their assumptions (the holding up a mirror bit). I don't necessarily object to either (both have their place, and I've certainly enjoyed my share of slasher flicks and I was absolutely thrilled by the gory conclusion of the Mountain and the Viper), but the show has spent (I feel) a lot of time using going with the first that I'm not sure it's able to handle the second kind all that well, because right now everything feels like it's being served up for titillation and thrills.

Now, those of us who read the books knew this was a likely outcome of Sansa's storyline this season, once it became clear she was taking Jeyne's place. And show-watchers could also predict it, knowing what was known about Ramsay. Knowing it was coming did not make it any easier. Nor does it mean that we needed to have the camera in the room, focused on Theon's face. The scene could have been staged in many different ways with the same result; the audience is not dumb. In fact, better staging might have bolstered the contention made by some defenders of the scene that Sansa knew what she was doing, knew that this was a step on her journey.

The show and the books delight in creating pornographic scenes of violence, sexual or not. I am a fan, in general, of the series, but that doesn't change the fact that I really, really wish that some of the people involved would realize that sometimes less is more and that the audience's imagination of what is going might just be more effective.
posted by nubs at 11:38 AM on May 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


"I think it's pretty clear that any ending is going to be in the nature of "a brief respite" at best. Sure, we'll end with someone clinging to power on the throne, but that's going to be temporary at best. As soon as the next generation, or at most a generation later is adult, the Game of Thrones and the wars will begin again."

Eventually the tax burden becomes too high and the minor nobles rebel and institute a parliamentary democracy. I mean, women still can't vote for like 400 years but by setting aside the internecine violence, it allows Westeros to increase trade and colonize the Dothraki.
posted by klangklangston at 12:37 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eventually the tax burden becomes too high and the minor nobles rebel and institute a parliamentary democracy

Nah, the Iron Bank forecloses on the continent.
posted by nubs at 12:47 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


To follow up on Nubs, one really has to consider the intended message of the "man is the wolf to man" theme. Based on my reading, going back to stores like "A Dog and His Boy", the not-so-subtle message is "Be grateful for our patriarchal society, because without it we'd all be raping and murdering and eating grannies for breakfast."

For the women in the audience that implied message can expand to "Be grateful for the limited autonomy and privileges civilization grants you- (ominous tone) because it can be SO much worse." It doesn't take long in these conversations before you get someone coming in to talk with false authority about the medieval era treatment of women. With the subtext of "You women complaining about sexism don't even know how good you have it."

I suppose you can consider it progress that we have Martin's small-c conservative take in fantasy (Be grateful for our current society) as opposed to the standard reactionary fantasy theme ( it would be better if we went back to kings and feudalism?). I still kind of miss the rare examples of progressive fantasy.
posted by happyroach at 1:02 PM on May 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


> I've been trying to articulate why I love Hannibal but can't stand to watch GOT (noped out on the rat in a bucket scene in Season 2)

And so he noped, and so he noped...
posted by homunculus at 1:16 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


happyroach, that is a great point. And I don't think the message of "be grateful for our current society" is necessarily a conscious one in what is being created, but one that is present regardless and needs to be unpacked in all of this.
posted by nubs at 2:15 PM on May 21, 2015


Nubs: oh definitely. I've been in some conversations where that idea has been articulated out loud (and sometimes in very creepy ways), but most of the time, and for most authors, it's an underlying, unstated, unchallenged assumption.
posted by happyroach at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2015


The context of that subtext totally matters, though. If it's a response to progressive demands for change, it's an apologetic for present injustice and even an implied threat. But if it's a response to conservative demands that we should return to a better yesterday, then it's a critique of the claim that yesterday was actually better.

I think that ASoIaF is an example of the latter because Tolkien, especially, and others are examples of fantasy intentionally functioning as an argument against modernity and that we should return to traditional values and ways of life. And GRRM has explicitly said he was answering those arguments.

On the other hand, as we've already discussed, the larger portion of the audience for ASoIaF is unaware of this context, and this is even more true about GoT and I have no evidence for or confidence that the GoT showrunners are aware of this context and see GoT as that sort of argument. And so it's entirely possible, and probable, that for a bunch of people the narrative of both ASoIaF and GoT functions as that "you should be grateful" argument.

For conservatives, how they engage with these views about the past probably reveals some gradations in their distrust of classic liberalism. Some pretty much wholly reject it and so idealize and propagandize an aristocratic feudal world where everyone knew their place and were born into it. Others do approve of classic liberalism because they believe that the present or the recent past is a meritocracy, but think that contemporary liberalism and progressivism are excessive and thus they will leverage the greater injustice in the past as that "be grateful for what you have" argument. I view the former group with a certain kind of fascinated horror -- they're like aliens. But I view the latter group as insidious in their smug, self-serving delusion that their own comfort and discomfort is the measure of the world.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:23 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, I do believe GRRM is doing a deconstruction of lots of fantasy tropes.

But here's the thing...think of the Starship Troopers movie. It's obviously a movie that is satirizing the original novel and fascism in general. That is definitely there. But more so...it's a military sci-fi popcorn action movie about space marines shooting giant monster bugs. That's why people watch it.

ASOIAF is the same. Yes, there are greater themes there, but people read it for the violence, the sex, the intrigue, the twists, the dragons, the zombies, the magic, and all that stuff. I don't think the author would be shy about admitting that.

Does it try and illustrate how awful it is to live in a regressive society that treats women even moor poorly than current society? Yeah, but this isn't The Handmaid's Tale. That theme isn't why people read the books. So, it's not just that the audience misses the context, it's that by design it's not a story that seriously challenges you to even try to understand that context just like Starship Troopers gave the audience all the dead bugs they wanted. In that case, scenes with rape become a lot less defensible. Constant scenes including rape just get grating. Making a TV show and adding a bunch of extra sexual violence gets super extra grating.

A Feast For Crows had many chapters about how the ongoing wars damaged the smallfolk in all kinds of ways, and we barely see a hint of that in the TV show. Why not? The theme is there in the source material, but the choice was made to show something else. It's really not necessary.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:49 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


"In that case, scenes with rape become a lot less defensible."

They're rarely defensible. And they're never defensible when they're frequent. I don't really think that there's any excusing ASoIaF or GoT about this. I do think that GRRM intends to (and believes that he has) criticized the sexual violence implicit in a society structured the way that these patriarchal fantasy societies are structured. But I also think that, at best, he utterly doesn't understand how problematic it is to depict rape or to use it as a plot device, and, at worst, he's indulging in it for its own sake.

There's some talk about how culturally this is recent and it's "edgy" and I suppose that's true as far as it goes. But "women in peril of sexual violence" as both voyeuristic and as cheap plot device is ancient. It is, to be blunt, part of rape culture. That in recent years writers are being more explicit about it, showing things they'd not have shown explicitly before, is a matter of degree, not kind. The problem has always been there. GRRM, despite his possible good intentions, and D&D (whatever their intentions might be, though I think they're most likely shallow and opportunistic), are well within this tradition and apparently have no critical awareness of it (unlike most women writers and unlike a notable number of other male writers like jscalzi or Robert Jackson Bennett).

"A Feast For Crows had many chapters about how the ongoing wars damaged the smallfolk in all kinds of ways, and we barely see a hint of that in the TV show. Why not? The theme is there in the source material, but the choice was made to show something else."

Yeah, as you say, it's actually pretty explicit and constant in the books. Aside from just a little bit when Arya is with the Brotherhood and some blunt things that Sandor Clegane said to her, the theme is mostly absent from the show.

Everything I've seen from D&D is that they approach the work from a superficial storytelling appreciation of it. They aren't talentless in this sense, they understand some things about effective storytelling and the ways in which they think that GRRM is an effective storyteller is, I think, what they like most about the books and are attempting to recreate in the show. But I don't sense absolutely any critical engagement with the text beyond that. It's an exercise in form, for the form's sake, outside the context of any overriding values or as an engagement with anything external to the text. It's very Hollywood in this way. (I do think that it's an engagement outside the text with regard to the expression of these storytelling forms -- that is to say, insofar as the show is a dialogue, it's a dialogue about style and technique. And I do think that to some degree this is true about ASoIaF, but that's not all it is. But this is how D&D see it -- "gritty realism" -- and it's how the majority of fans see it. D&D really are, at core, fanboys, and that's not praise.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:17 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


That theme isn't why people read the books. So, it's not just that the audience misses the context, it's that by design it's not a story that seriously challenges you to even try to understand that context just like Starship Troopers gave the audience all the dead bugs they wanted

Yes, and this is the problem (from my perspective) of trying to deconstruct something while at the same time working within it's confines - it can work really, really well at some things (for example, Ned's arc takes down the honourable hero; Quentyn's arc takes down the hero's journey) but for other things - like showing the horrid social conditions - it is less useful because the world created for the story has to contain those things and they fade into the background and just are, without some serious work to move them to the forefront, which is made even harder by the fact that this is also trying to be entertaining. So some things don't really get the examination they deserve or are just assumed. I think Martin has made an effort on some of them and on others he's at least had the insight to acknowledge that he's a white guy who grew up in the 60s and he likely has a lot of unexamined baggage on social issues (I would love for him to take the next step and do some examining).

But the next issue is the one that I think Ivan has done a great job explaining - Martin has his intentions, some of which come through easier than others and some that require some close reading and some which may be parts of the audience reading in what they desire to see. So the audience is also bringing their baggage and assumptions to all of this. Why was everyone so outraged when Ned died? Because it messed with the typically storytelling expectations that we have. This debate over Sansa is much different because it's taking us beyond the storytelling conventions and into an external, more meta discussion about the material and what it is saying and implying about us, our society, and our comfort levels with violence and especially sexual violence both in our entertainment and more generally. That this conversation is happening is a good thing (I think); where a big part of the difficulty lies is that there is a part of the audience that is/has only engaged with this so far (again, as Ivan says better than I do) on the level of the storytelling style and technique, as opposed to the deeper narrative questions.

And I'm not trying to claim that Martin intended and crafted that deeper narrative - I think there's a lot of unexamined assumptions and beliefs that are in there, unintentionally, but that they are being brought to the surface because of how D&D have handled their interpretation of the work onto the screen. They've missed or not seen the larger questions that lurk, and in so doing, created moments where large chunks of the audience have seen them and called them out. And not that there weren't people doing that before the TV show with ASOIAF, but this thing has now reached a cultural mass where the conversation can't be ignored.
posted by nubs at 6:15 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


The context of that subtext totally matters, though. If it's a response to progressive demands for change, it's an apologetic for present injustice and even an implied threat. But if it's a response to conservative demands that we should return to a better yesterday, then it's a critique of the claim that yesterday was actually better.

Honestly, it can be both. A small-c conservative work can attack reactionary nostalgia for an idealized past, AND at the same time it can state to critics of the current society "be grateful for how well the weaker sex is treated today."

What \ interests me, is that the conservative critique of fantasy really boils down to something based on the Victorian beliefs toward the medieval era- as well as toward women and their roles. Which makes it an interesting parallel to the reactionary pastoral beliefs that influenced Tolkien. So really, when you're looking at A Song of Ice and Fire vs. Epic Fantasy, you're looking at two competing Victorian strands of thought, not anything really modern.

And well, the TV Game of Thrones would take that and view it through a frathouse filter.
posted by happyroach at 12:19 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]




Look, I agree with Marcotte in general but I can absolutely see why the relentless and repeated nature of what happens on GoT can be a big problem for some people and I think that's perfectly valid. I also think it's perfectly valid to like the show just fine anyway, of course, but someone doesn't have to lay out a perfectly rational and logical explanation of why the repeated rape scenes in GoT make them not enjoy it.

People can just not enjoy things and not want to watch them.

Now if they go beyond that and say it plain ol' makes it a bad show then there is something to discuss but that's a completely different thing than just saying that constantly seeing rape or attempted rape on the screen makes watching the show impossible or problematic for some people.
posted by Justinian at 1:59 AM on May 25, 2015


As usual arriving at the party when everybody's just putting on their coats, I'll put this here.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:25 PM on May 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks for that -- it was very scathing and right on target:
So the Jeyne Poole and Ramsay storyline, which, if you ask me, is one of the most horrifying things in the ASOIAF series, was something that they loved and have been planning to include in the show for a long time. They went out of their way to make sure that they could include it in the show. They’ve been planning this out since season 2, probably counting down the days until Sophie turned of age. They were waiting for this. [...] The truth is, rape is the most interesting storyline that they think they can give a woman. They just couldn’t have spent that screen time on Arianne Martell claiming her birth right, or trying to crown Myrcella. Or on Asha Greyjoy claiming queenship over the Iron Islands, or of Arya Stark having wolf dreams, or of Sansa Stark garnering support in the Vale, or of Lady Stoneheart in the riverlands. Even if they wanted to transplant Sansa into another northerner’s storyline, they could have had her replace Alys Karstark, or even Alysane Mormont. But sexual violence was what they would give them ratings, so sexual violence is what we got.
It's also a good (implicit) response to Marcotte's piece, which made me angry. Maybe we'll get another "I was Spectacularly Wrong..." piece from her, like the one she wrote recently about her stupid defense of Renner's Black Widow comments. One can hope. She may have a fannish blindspot.

I've yet to watch last Sunday's episode. I just ... haven't wanted to. I never made a decision to not watch it, or to stop watching the show. I suspect I'll get around to watching it, especially if the next episode sounds like something I really want to see so I have to catch up. Or, alternatively, there's a small possibility that I've just decided without realizing it that the show has finally broken faith with me. I was close to this last year with the J/C sept scene. Like for many other people, this is a cumulative thing where in the past, despite my doubts, I've repeatedly decided to believe that a) the showrunners were hearing the complaints, and b) the things I like (and sometimes love) about the show made it worth it. But I clearly don't really feel that way anymore.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:59 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wow, that link is great - thanks computech_apolloniajames.

I remain incredibly impressed with Maisie Williams.

"The whole point of ASOIAF is the ways that the unlikely grab power from the privileged, but there isn’t even a hint of that spirit here, it’s just scene after scene of those traditionally in power - white man after white man - telling jokes and raping girls. "
posted by nubs at 7:31 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I remain incredibly impressed with Maisie Williams.

That tumblr is named for her, but not written by her. It is written by a person named Ryann who is 23 years old.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:44 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ah. Well, Ryann is an very impressive, insightful person.
posted by nubs at 9:48 AM on May 29, 2015


More of Ryann's criticism.
posted by homunculus at 1:22 PM on June 1, 2015


I've been trying to articulate why I love Hannibal but can't stand to watch GOT (noped out on the rat in a bucket scene in Season 2), maybe this has something to do with it. For me it also has something to do with the fact that Hannibal is more focused on creepiness, instead of the degradation and humiliation of GOT.

Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller Discusses the “Ubiquitous” Use of Sexual Assault on Television
posted by homunculus at 2:32 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish The Mary Sue was still writing about GoT, because I'd like to hear their take on the death of Karsi in the last episode.
posted by homunculus at 12:14 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been assuming that Sansa's rape is going to be used as a plot device to develop Theon's character arc, to have him redeem himself by rescuing her. But after his revelation to her in the last episode, now I think it's possible that they're going to flip it and have Sansa decide to rescue Theon. At least that's how I hope they handle it.
posted by homunculus at 12:23 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish The Mary Sue was still writing about GoT, because I'd like to hear their take on the death of Karsi in the last episode.

Whatever makes them happy, but to unilaterally decide to never talk about the most popular show in the world is looking increasingly foolhardy and rash in retrospect. I'll betting they'll change their minds within a year.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:47 AM on June 4, 2015


"Whatever makes them happy, but to unilaterally decide to never talk about the most popular show in the world is looking increasingly foolhardy and rash in retrospect."

No, the most popular drama series in the world is NCIS. Does The Mary Sue regularly write about NCIS? Let's check.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:11 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's possible that they're going to flip it and have Sansa decide to rescue Theon. At least that's how I hope they handle it.

Yeah, I've been ragging on the series a fair bit this year, and while I'm still not happy with some decisions, I'm hoping/thinking that the Winterfell/Sansa storyline for the show is going to go like this:

-Stannis arrives or is close by in terms of the siege starting
-Sansa plays all coy and seductive (channeling Myranda) for Ramsay one night, only to drive the corkscrew into his gut when he isn't expecting it, thus proving she's learned one lesson from one teacher along the way - tears aren't a woman's only weapon.
-She then gets to the broken tower and lights the candle.
-I'm assuming that Brienne will have some way to get into the castle; that there is some network here that didn't just end completely with the serving woman dying and that someone can open a door or gate somewhere for her.
-Brienne shows up with Pod, ready to lay waste and is all "Lady Stark, let us get you somewhere safe"
-Sansa is all "Nope, come with me to the kennels" where they free Theon and release the hounds to more general mayhem and confusion.
-Sansa, Brienne, Theon and Pod then open the gates/postern/back way in for Stannis, Winterfell is retaken. As Melisandre has foreseen, Stannis walks the battlements, but it isn't his castle - by restoring it to Lady Stark, he wins an alliance with the North but not dominion.
-Winterfell becomes a seething cauldron of resentments and hard feelings as Brienne wants to kill Stannis but is denied by Sansa (because Brienne has to learn the lesson that Jaime has tried to teach her about conflicting oaths and how to keep them and all that jazz). Stannis wants to move south but winter is here and Melisandre wants him to burn Shireen and yeah, everyone is just up in each other's business. Because just like the wildlings and the Watch, everyone has to figure out how to work together against the Others.
posted by nubs at 12:06 PM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Good timing on the Mary Sue ceasing their coverage right before one of the best episodes of the entire series.

Here's an article from EW in which Martin directly addresses violence against women in GoT.

I particularly like the part where he talks about the argument, made by people in this thread, that because he is writing fantasy he could include whatever he wanted when it came to gender roles and such. Because that's such a specious argument. Anyway:
Now there are people who will say to that, ‘Well, he’s not writing history, he’s writing fantasy—he put in dragons, he should have made an egalitarian society.’ Just because you put in dragons doesn’t mean you can put in anything you want. If pigs could fly, then that’s your book. But that doesn’t mean you also want people walking on their hands instead of their feet. If you’re going to do [a fantasy element], it’s best to only do one of them, or a few. I wanted my books to be strongly grounded in history
There's more to quote but you might as well read the article since it's so timely. I'm sure some people will tl;dr but not much to be done about that.
posted by Justinian at 4:05 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I respect the Mary Sue for taking this stand to bring it up as a topic of conversation: because I doubt that it would've been discussed otherwise, or to have been discussed in such an acute method as an something like an actual FPP (or other conversations in other spheres that its news had inspired). If the subsequent seasons for the series reflect any input from this backlash then it's been worthwhile for some outlets to have made the point.

I read the entirety of Martin's response and I think it's a bit condescending to say that "if you want to write drama, you need to write about conflict. If you need to write about conflict, then you need to show rape. Otherwise, you're writing about a boring utopia or being dishonest."

I think it's also a bit of false equivalence to say that people who are complaining about constant, excessive, and explicit sexual violence are asking for Disneyland.

Martin hasn't depicted the Night's Watch as a penal legion where young recruits are being raped or violated as part of power politics. Is that somehow being, to use his words, "fundamentally dishonest" about the nature of a monastic order that is sworn to celibacy and staffed with criminals?

That EW article is a dodge. People aren't complaining about one character's rape, but a repeated and relentless pattern that is draining the appeal of the series. Martin does have choices about how he's going to fill his books and describe his stories, and he's being deliberately selective about what he focuses on. Fans have been dropping the books because endless descriptions of armor pauldrons and lamprey pie have gotten tedious. Surely, they can also choose to abandon the series because of an excess of sexual violence without being treated like Pollyanas.
posted by bl1nk at 8:04 PM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Of course they can. Although its a little misleading to say that fans are dropping the books. They sell better than ever. Which I don't understand since I think the quality has dropped significantly since the first 3 but that doesn't change the facts on the ground.

That said, I don't think the EW article is at all a dodge. I think you disagree with Martin, which is cool, but that doesn't mean he's dodging the question. He clearly isn't.
posted by Justinian at 9:16 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The thing is, it's not that difficult to find fantasy books that aren't so heavy on RAEP RAEP RAEP. Joe Abercrombie is just as grimdark or more, but he's grimdark for everyone and without relying so much on rape of nubile women for shock value. Scott Lynch manages to write about gangsters, thieves and con men (and -women) in a fantasy society with gender equality. Django Wexler can write gunpowder fantasy with a lesbian protagonist pollyolivering her way in a Napoleonic-ish military without so much rape.

Hell, Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories are grim dark historical fantasy set in 800s Great Britain and they don't have so much rape and the women have more variety and are treated better by the narrative than the women in ASOIAF.

It's not that we want conflict-free WAFFY reading, it's just that this stuff is beginning to look very troubling, especially the parts where rape is either seen from a male POV or when told from a female POV, the rape survivors who want revenge are treated exclusively as villains.
posted by sukeban at 11:05 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


And for what is worth, saying dragons and flying pigs are more plausible than gender equality in fantasy is a big fuck you to female fans, at least IMO.
posted by sukeban at 11:11 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wanted my books to be strongly grounded in history

*teeth grind* Except. They are NOT. Grounded. In. History.

Seriously, they're not. They're grounded in ASSUMPTIONS about history that seem to date back to the F&SF culture of the 70s (Say, "Thud and Blunder"), many of which are as accurate as the "European swords were heavy, blunt masses of metal". But Martin hasn't shown anything more than a passing familiarity with history. To say "we need rape in the series because History" is disingenuous and self-serving at best.
posted by happyroach at 11:31 PM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's the other side. GRRM writes a religion that is the functional equivalent of medieval Catholicism but leaves out Hildegard von Bingen, Heloïse, Hrotsvitha or beguines. He establishes an order of maesters but leaves out Trotula and the women doctors from Salerno on purpose and by design. He writes a world in which Christine de Pizan would be unthinkable. He writes a Mongol-by-way-of-Klingons analogue but makes queens like Khutulun or Mandukhai absolutely unheard of until the blonde white savior woman comes along to teach the barbarians how to fuck missionary. GRRM is more misogynist than actual Earth Middle Ages.
posted by sukeban at 11:48 PM on June 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


GRRM wrote a world in which prominent women are among the greatest leaders, priests, thinkers, and fighters even when all of society was designed to prevent them from reaching those heights. I think what he said in the interview was pretty on point, you have to be exceptional to overcome that kind of institutional barrier. I don't think he left out the idea of women who could transcend historical expectations at all.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:36 AM on June 5, 2015


To say "we need rape in the series because History" is disingenuous

It's only disingenuous if Martin knows what he is saying isn't correct. Isn't the more likely explanation that Martin is simply overestimating his own knowledge of history? That seems the likeliest explanation to me. Being wrong and being disingenuous aren't the same.
posted by Justinian at 1:44 AM on June 5, 2015


Joe Abercrombie is just as grimdark or more, but he's grimdark for everyone and without relying so much on rape of nubile women for shock value

I think you're likely primed to see it in Martin because of these sorts of discussions while perhaps forgiving Abercrombie for the same sorts of things because there's definitely rapiness there. Look at Terez, etc. The Company of the Gracious Hand rapes and pillages its way through the west in Red Country. Less than Martin, perhaps, but absolutely present.

I'm hard pressed to think of one of the current crop of "gritty" fantasy writers who doesn't include it, some to a much greater degree than Martin, some to a lesser degree. Mark Lawrence, Richard Morgan, Abercrombie, Martin. Maybe Erikson doesn't? I can't remember, I haven't read most of Erikson since they were first published. But I think Erikson is the likeliest candidate.

Anyway, here is Joe Abercrombie defending this kind of fantasy in his own words.
posted by Justinian at 2:02 AM on June 5, 2015


Oh. I just remember some stuff in Erikson. He's on the list with the others.
posted by Justinian at 2:06 AM on June 5, 2015


From what I remember of Malazan there are two or three major examples that come to mind...a lot less than GRRM. But Malazan is such a huge long winded mess of stuff I may be forgetting a lot.

I hate what I read of Abercrombie because it was the depressing sort of grimdark. I like stories that use a dark background to show characters who rise above it all to find some light but everybody is basically a hateful miserable asshole in The First Law.

I wouldn't like GRRM if I didn't love and want to root for Arya and Jon and Sansa and Jorah and Tyrion and Jaime and Cersei and many others even though they are all catastrophically flawed in their own ways.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:22 AM on June 5, 2015


GRRM wrote a world in which prominent women are among the greatest leaders, priests, thinkers, and fighters even when all of society was designed to prevent them from reaching those heights.

Look, I'm a fan of Brienne, but srsly she's not Matilda of Tuscany. And Matilda of Tuscany never had to put up with half the shit Brienne goes though.

I'm not aware of Olenna's very learned treatises on the virtues of plants, either. What's her bibliography?
posted by sukeban at 2:26 AM on June 5, 2015


You can go with Dany or Asha Greyjoy if you want someone with more military success as a leader rather than personal combat badassery. As for Olenna, yeah I stretched there. GRRM has not written a woman to challenge the male Maester dominated scholarship of Westeros that I am aware of. I tried to handwave that away by pointing out he clearly wrote women who had the brains to do it if they felt like it, but that isn't enough.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:34 AM on June 5, 2015


Joe Abercrombie is just as grimdark or more, but he's grimdark for everyone and without relying so much on rape of nubile women for shock value
Justinian: I think you're likely primed to see it in Martin because of these sorts of discussions while perhaps forgiving Abercrombie for the same sorts of things because there's definitely rapiness there.

We're not talking about the same stuff here.
posted by sukeban at 2:35 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can go with Dany or Asha Greyjoy if you want someone with more military success as a leader rather than personal combat badassery.

No, I don't, because of the white savior thing that is the main reason why I don't like Daenerys when the Mongols had more interesting queens than the Dothraki ever had. Also, the pointlessness of her arc.

Sometimes I'd like to see a storyline about a warrior woman that isn't reduced to "the world is so misogynistic, EAT SHIT". Not even Mulan's original ballad had this plot.

FWIW, a series that for once doesn't follow this storyline is A Trial of Blood and Steel by Joel Shepherd, which needs fan love urgently.
posted by sukeban at 2:46 AM on June 5, 2015


(One more thing: I am Spanish. We know what happens when royals inbreed like crazy. It is imbecile kings with deformed jaws, not pretty silver-haired princesses)
posted by sukeban at 2:56 AM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Being wrong and being disingenuous aren't the same.

Well, it's really being disingenuous about different things. Either Martin is cherry-picking what is "realistic" from his vast store of historical knowledge and claiming otherwise (which would be disingenuous) or he is vastly over-claiming his competence to know what is realistic or not about a medieval setting (also disingenuous). In any case, Westeros is not particularly realistic as a depiction of a Medieval society (which were much more complex and interesting than are presented in most fiction, as societies tend to be), so the argument that including constant graphic rape is "realistic" to a medieval culture is disingenuous, since neither the show (nor I gather the novels) has made much effort to include very much else that is authentically Medieval.

Based on Martin's work editing the Wild Cards series and his expressed bafflement at the anger his largely female audience felt at the conclusion to Beauty and the Beast, I think Martin does not have a good grasp on how a larger female audience will react to his deployment of sexualized and women-oriented violence as a way of subverting viewer expectations.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:26 AM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have read almost every book by all of the fantasy authors mentioned and I think that Martin is an outlier in this. Some of those authors pretty much don't include sexual violence at all or almost at all. But for those that do, it's either rare (which is still problematic) or it's in the background and ubiquitous and not voyeuristic, and in some cases it's (more "realistically") targeted at men, too.

I like Martin and I think he means well. I think he doesn't know as much about history as he thinks he does, but he knows quite a bit. But what he knows is popular glosses of history and not, importantly, scholarly history that includes the kinds of detail that he's using as his defense.

You can see in that interview and, more generally, in the things that he's previously written about his intent that he actually has more awareness of some things than many other writers. Daniel Abraham is a friend of his, and Abraham has written very lucidly about the problems of including sexual violence in his books. I know that some of other people in that SFF writer's group clustered around Santa Fe are pretty aware of the problems of writing about rape. I feel certain that Martin has had some awareness-raising conversations about it. I see some evidence of this.

But, even so, he's an old white guy who's been steeped in a bunch of sensibilities, both in our general culture but also particularly in mid-20th century mainstream American SFF, that are about as wrong and offensive on sexual violence in fiction as they can possibly be. I think that despite his good intentions and some effort, he fundamentally doesn't quite Get It. Perhaps more to the point, he has a profound investment in rationalizing his decisions about this body of work.

And although I recognize that Justinian weirdly has a thing about defending the show vis a vis the novels, I think that Benioff & Weiss are much, much worse than Martin in this regard -- I don't think that they have any clue whatsoever. I see nothing but a gleeful, titillating male gaze in the show about this where, at least, in the books I see some of that mixed with some implicit criticism of it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:05 AM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Dany is kind of a bad white savior though. Everything she conquers basically turns to shit, sometimes literally. That is kind of the point.

Also, the inbreeding has left the Targs with mental problems but I think the deteriorating state of their dragons before Dany brings in the foreign eggs was representative of physical issues with inbreeding.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:25 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish that people would stop going with 'lolz he doesn't know history very well.' GRRM is very well educated in medieval history, to the point of making casual history jokes in conversation or explaining details of his books in reference to obscure historical notes. (Ie, 'Well, it used to be called the War of the Three Henrys, but now the Great Man theory has gone out..and that's your answer to questions about Targaryen history) It's a lazy shot and it's wrong.

However, someone can be very knowledgeable in medieval history and not think various details are important, or think they get in the way of the plot or be responding to fantasy-medieval fiction and not real medieval history. GRRM did not write his sweeping fiction epics in response to the War of the Roses. He wrote in response to high fantasy, and happened to push in some War of the Roses.

And GRRM put lots, absolutely fucktons, of Important Women In History. You have to be a real nerd to know about some of them, sure (World of Ice and Fire), but they are absolutely there. But his response to high fantasy - that these patriarchal, highly structured societies, are actually mindblowingly awful in ways other than 'oh noes you might not get to marry the noble stableboy you love'. So yes, there's a lot of misogyny because that is the motherfucking point.

Now, do I think he's got some internalized shittiness and just one of the boys? Absolutely. I'm pretty sure he sees himself in Robert Baratheon and he wants to at least dream about sleeping all the girls and he does drink all the beer and eat all the red meat and bellow loudly. And I think some of that means that even in trying to stick it to high fantasy, there's some male gaze stuff there. Not a lot, but some.

But we can call out that male gaze shit without being like 'lol he doesn't know history'
posted by corb at 9:34 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, there's military and political history and there's cultural history -- this is part of a larger debate in historiography. Martin is very well-read about what we popularly think of as "history" and what was the focus of academic history until the 60s. But the stuff that we're criticizing Martin about is all the stuff that accounts for the bulk of academic history since the 60s. When you're "realistically" depicting the daily life of medieval Britain, a familiarity with a hundred books of traditional political history is not expertise.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:22 AM on June 5, 2015


Drinky Die: GRRM has not written a woman to challenge the male Maester dominated scholarship of Westeros that I am aware of.

Dude, sometimes I wonder how much you've actually read. Arellas=Sarella. She's pretty much the most explicit straight fantasy trope there is in the books, "challenging the male Maester dominated scholarship of Westeros" is literally exactly what she's doing. Plus, from a certain light, there's Melissandre and Quaithe, and there was Mirri Maz Duur, who makes reference to even more sources of wisdom and knowledge than the Maesters, although some of her learning came from the same renegade Maester who's training Sarella. Plus outside the books you have the Moonsingers of the Jogos Nhai elaborated on a lot further, both in their own society and the ones who helped found Braavos. You could also maybe include the Waif from Arya's chapters; scholarship isn't quite the point of the Faceless Men but they certainly wind up doing a lot of it, including infiltrating the Maesters.

corb: I'm pretty sure he sees himself in Robert Baratheon and he wants to at least dream about sleeping all the girls and he does drink all the beer and eat all the red meat and bellow loudly.

That's unfair, if only because he's been pretty upfront about the fact that he'd basically be an even more useless Sam if he wound up in Westeros. He's also upfront that he basically aspires to be Tyrion.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:24 AM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't remember that character at all without googling but the theory that he is a she seems pretty sound. That could possibly be a good answer for Sukeban I think. Thanks for pointing it out. As for the other examples I spoke directly to the idea of formal scholarship because I was responding to, "I'm not aware of Olenna's very learned treatises on the virtues of plants, either. What's her bibliography?"

Mellisandre's "A Learned Treatises on the Birth and Mid-Wifery of Shadow Assassins" is not explicitly mentioned that I am aware of, but I am indeed not always a close reader. :P
posted by Drinky Die at 10:36 AM on June 5, 2015


Well, there's military and political history and there's cultural history -- this is part of a larger debate in historiography. Martin is very well-read about what we popularly think of as "history" and what was the focus of academic history until the 60s. But the stuff that we're criticizing Martin about is all the stuff that accounts for the bulk of academic history since the 60s.

But that's just not true. We know a lot about the rich cultural details of medieval history, and we did pre-1960s. There were a lot of written sources. Where the pre- and post- differ is that largely history prior to that was concerned with the nobility or significant families or segments of the population - workmen, merchants, etc - and not with The Poor. And honestly, that is not an issue that raises itself with GRRM, because he doesn't write about the smallfolk. There is not a single viewpoint from any poverty-stricken character, and aside from prologues, we have no views from anyone below the rank of knight.
posted by corb at 10:37 AM on June 5, 2015


Dude, sometimes I wonder how much you've actually read. Arellas=Sarella. She's pretty much the most explicit straight fantasy trope there is in the books, "challenging the male Maester dominated scholarship of Westeros" is literally exactly what she's doing.

I was comparing explicitly the all-male order of maesters with the women doctors of Salerno.
Sicily and mainland Italy, especially the south, are something of a special case. Geographically, the region is within relatively easy reach of much of the Mediterranean, and by at least the tenth century, Greek, Roman, Arabic, and Jewish science (including medicine) had reached it. A school of medicine was established in the city of Salerno, and by the eleventh and twelfth centuries it had little competition for its primacy in the field of medical education. The school was secular and has been “credited with having arrested the decline of the science of medicine when learning as a whole was falling into decay.”[x] It was, by some accounts, the “first university of Europe in modern times . . . in this part of the world.”[xi] And what made it even more extraordinary was the presence of women as physicians and professors of medicine.

These female physicians were so well known that the mere mention of a salernitana would be enough to alert a medieval listener that the woman being discussed might have been trained in medicine. One of the characters in Marie de France’s lai “Deus Amanz” (“Two Lovers”) says: “In Salerno I have a relative, a wealthy woman with property. She’s been there for more than thirty years and has studied medical arts for so long that she knows a lot about herbs and roots.”[xii] Nobody in the lai reacts with surprise at the thought of a Salernitan women who has studied medicine formally.

Salerno was not the only medieval center with medical women. The University of Bologna boasted a professor named Alessandra Giliani, who performed pioneering studies of the functioning of the human circulatory system.[xiii] A twelfth-century translation into Latin introduced a Greek woman named Metrodora and her treatise on diseases of the womb (composed between the third and fifth century, making it perhaps the earliest medical writing by a woman in Europe), to Italy.[xiv] Medieval medical treatises by women include Mercuriade’s On Crises in Pestilent Fever and On the Cure of Wounds; Rebecca Guarna’s On Fevers, On the Urine, and On the Embryo; Abella’s On Black Bile and On the Nature of Seminal Fluid.[xv]
posted by sukeban at 10:38 AM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't remember that character at all without googling but the theory that he is a she seems pretty sound. That could possibly be a good answer for Sukeban I think. Thanks for pointing it out. As for the other examples I spoke directly to the idea of formal scholarship because I was responding to, "I'm not aware of Olenna's very learned treatises on the virtues of plants, either. What's her bibliography?"

Mellisandre's "A Learned Treatises on the Birth and Mid-Wifery of Shadow Assassins" is not explicitly mentioned that I am aware of, but I am indeed not always a close reader. :P


Well, my point was essentially that just comparing Westeros scholarship to a European medieval context doesn't work, not because "OMG DRAGONS~!! MAGIC!!", so much as that the Maesters are probably even more of a political order that's invested in social control than early Christian scholarship was. They're presented in a way that cows the naive reader who comes at the books from a perspective of escapist fantasy into thinking they're a nod to modern empiricism and the beginnings of science, except they're very much not.

It's a little bit like the degree to which Scully in the X-Files had "rational" and "skeptic" as characters trait without actually being either of those things as time wore on, because in that universe she'd directly experienced enough manifestly weird shit where always dismissing it with some kind of "no it was just swamp gas" explanation became an irrational defense of a very unskeptical view of that world: that's basically the Maesters. It's clear that for some of them, it's a combination of willful ignorance and stupidity, but for others, it's a conscious political choice to repress and deny the mystical nature of their world, in concert with the Faith of the Seven and probably the Hightowers.

So just saying "oh these women who are very knowledgeable about the true, empirical reality of Planetos don't write books, that's sexist because that happened in real life, obviously GRRM is worse than medieval Europe" is kind of missing the point. The Maesters are first and foremost a political conspiracy, and part of how they go about maintaining their power is by actively denying the magical nature of their world, drugging kids who might be having prophetic dreams. GRRM actually goes to pretty great lengths to establish that the reality of prophetic dreaming should be absolutely unquestioned on Westeros even more than the rest of Planetos, and the only reason it's not is that the Maesters have been actively suppressing it and spreading deliberate misinformation.

I was comparing explicitly the all-male order of maesters with the women doctors of Salerno.

If you think the Maesters are just a neutral reference to the medieval univerity system and some of the more scholarly guilds, that's a misreading. They're a very active political conspiracy that's almost completely unified in their aim, and they have been for hundreds of years.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:04 AM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


because in that universe she'd directly experienced enough manifestly weird shit where always dismissing it with some kind of "no it was just swamp gas" explanation became an irrational defense of a very unskeptical view of that world: that's basically the Maesters.

A closer analog might be the Men In Black who were supposed to be surpressing very real evidence of alien visitation, and knew it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:40 AM on June 5, 2015


If you think the Maesters are just a neutral reference to the medieval univerity system and some of the more scholarly guilds, that's a misreading. They're a very active political conspiracy that's almost completely unified in their aim, and they have been for hundreds of years.

And they're all male because of a explicit authorial decision, not because their real world analogues were like that (please note that back then the first women I quoted like Hildegard or Heloïse were all intellectual nuns), so defending Westerosi misogyny by referencing RL Middle Ages is bunk. Which is kind of my point.
posted by sukeban at 11:54 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it's a combination of both, actually. MIB is an apt comparison for most of the Archmaesters minus Marwyn, but it seems like at least some of the rank and file are sincere, both the students like Pate and his friends and the lower-level full Maesters who serve the smaller houses, and possibly also certain higher level guys who developed very specific political allegiances, like possibly Pycelle.

Another thing that GRRM makes fairly clear in the booksand the other things his written set in Westeros, is that internally, they do keep track of the family backgrounds of their members, and exclude people who might not be sympathetic because of other loyalties out of the inner circle. The core of the conspiracy seems to be the Hightower family + some of their allied noble families including some of the Tyrells + the bastard children of Hightower Maesters + Maesters who come from smallfolk and merchant backgrounds.

And they're all male because of a explicit authorial decision, not because their real world analogues were like that (please note that back then the first women I quoted like Hildegard or Heloïse were all intellectual nuns), so defending Westerosi misogyny by referencing RL Middle Ages is bunk.

The authorial decision is that they're literally the New World Order and far more concerned with temporal power, knowledge suppression and informational control than actual scholarship, and he then almost goes out of his way to have a fair chunk of the people who seem are interested in actual scholarship or confrontation with the nature of their world be either women (Sarella, Quaithe, Melissandre) or open to teaching women (Marywn).
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


By "literally the New World Order", I mean it seems they literally started plotting the downfall of the Targaryen dynasty pretty much the moment Aegon the Conqueror came to Oldtown, and three hundred years later actually pulled it off and replaced it with one of their own making. The two short stories combined with the world book make it really clear that the Dance of the Dragons was orchestrated by the Hightower/Maester/possibly Faith conspiracy, and there's plenty of evidence in the actual main books that they were largely behind many of the things that drove Aerys into madness and also all the fairly unlikely, cross-realm alliances that underpinned Robert's Rebellion and went into establishing the Baratheon dynasty.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:05 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well, with GRRM's track record of dropping plotlines like hot potatoes I don't really trust him to make the current plot mess into a coherent narrative in the two remaining bricks.
posted by sukeban at 12:10 PM on June 5, 2015


But we can call out that male gaze shit without being like 'lol he doesn't know history'

I can and will call him out on it, when he says "Because history!" to justify his shit. Seriously, claiming that's it's all a deconstruction of epic fantasy is irrelevant when GRRM is using the "realism"excuse.

I'll accept that GRRM is a decent historian- hence I consider his excuse disingenuous. He damn we'll should know better, but still uses the "but history!" excuse to justify his rapefest.

Frankly, I'd have more respect if he just admitted "Yeah, I think rape is a kewl dramatic element." Because the rape is obviously not there as a historical imperative, but as his fantasy.
posted by happyroach at 12:45 PM on June 5, 2015


And they're all male because of a explicit authorial decision, not because their real world analogues were like that (please note that back then the first women I quoted like Hildegard or Heloïse were all intellectual nuns)

Actually I think there's very good examples of real world analogue men trying to conspire to keep power, especially medical and land power, out of the hands of women. (see: criminalization of midwives and witchburnings, etc)
posted by corb at 12:48 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


(see: criminalization of midwives and witchburnings, etc)

*Actually Early Modern, not Medieval.
posted by sukeban at 12:52 PM on June 5, 2015


I wish that people would stop going with 'lolz he doesn't know history very well.' GRRM is very well educated in medieval history, to the point of making casual history jokes in conversation or explaining details of his books in reference to obscure historical notes.

This may be true, but he hasn't put it into the story (at least not based on the first four seasons of the show). Way back toward the top to this thread, I had three complaints about the "reality" of Westeros as relates to Medieval Europe.

First the religion -- in Medieval Europe, religion was front and center; we should be seeing religious conviction constantly, which is pretty much completely lacking from the series, and, unless there are 1000s of pages of religious devotion in the books, the books don't do significantly, either. That Stannis Baratheon is not completely immobilized by internal dissent over his adoption of a new religion is pretty good evidence that the importance of religion is grossly misunderstood by Martin and the TV writers. The lack of clergy involved in high politics and even regular religious devotion are also significant lacks. So, as far as religion goes, GoT is about as realistic as LotR.

The economy of Westeros is about as sketchy and ill-defined as the economy of Middle Earth as well. There don't seem to be any villages, infrastructure, or products on which trade could be based. The Iron Bank of Braavos is, likewise, a ridiculous fantasy bearing no resemblance to Medieval banking (or even Early Modern banking). They make decent villains/wildcards for the story, but they are not realistic.

Westeros also lacks any sense that there is a legal process beyond what the noble families want to do at any given moments. In reality, Medieval Europe was a tightly-knit network of legal obligations, which everyone, high and low, were acutely aware. One of the central purposes of the universities in Medieval Europe was to produce lawyers to help argue competing legal claims (there was a lot of local variation in laws, especially with the fluid borders of most nations in the time period. When push came to shove, weapons spoke louder than laws, but lawsuits were more common than war.

Now I am lead to believe that the maesters are a centuries-long conspiracy? Another idea that is somewhat more imaginary than a dragon. I guess the people in Westeros are just better at keeping secrets than humans in our world are.

My point here is not that Martin is ignorant of history or that Westeros is not an interesting fictional world. My point is that the people who defend the regular sexual violence of the books and the shows as "that's how it was in the Middle Ages and GoT is realistic" are blowing gas, because GoT is not remotely realistic, and no more needs graphic rape than LotR did. Martin and the showrunners are free to include these themes, of course; what they are not free to do is hide from citicism behind the idea that this is somehow a more honest and realistic kind of fantasy. It's just a rapier kind.

To finish on an up note, if you want to read some good historical fantasy (Ancient, Medieval, and some Early Modern), I would recommend Gillian Bradshaw. Most of it has no fantastical elements, but good characters, clever plots, and, often, historical notes (I especially enjoyed the afterward to Render unto Caesar, where she states that history, as usual, furnished all the villains ready-made while the heroes had to be created). For the more fantasy-inclined, Sarah Monette's Doctrine of the Labyrinth series has a richly-textured feel that seems very historical (while not making any particular claims toward realism).
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:43 PM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Seriously, claiming that's it's all a deconstruction of epic fantasy is irrelevant when GRRM is using the "realism"excuse.

He says both those things; that it is a reaction to the state of fantasy in the 80s and 90s and that he is trying to be more realistic. What he means by "realistic" is, of course, pretty controversial.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


And although I recognize that Justinian weirdly has a thing about defending the show vis a vis the novels

Well, I think of it less as defending the show vs the novels than criticizing the novels vs the show, since I think there's plenty of places the show is better than the novels when it comes to characters and motivations. Consider Cersei in the show vs in the books. Can you argue she isn't handled better and portrayed more sympathetically?

Certainly the male gazey thing is a fair cop. I think part of that is the medium, though.
posted by Justinian at 4:43 PM on June 5, 2015


> I think it's possible that they're going to flip it and have Sansa decide to rescue Theon. At least that's how I hope they handle it.

Yeah, I've been ragging on the series a fair bit this year, and while I'm still not happy with some decisions, I'm hoping/thinking that the Winterfell/Sansa storyline for the show is going to go like this:...


Well, so much for that idea. Sansa's ordeal was entirely for Theon's benefit.
posted by homunculus at 9:31 PM on June 14, 2015


Well, so much for that idea. Sansa's ordeal was entirely for Theon's benefit.

My heart sank when she dropped the little corkscrew thing, because I knew then we were not going to see her stab Ramsey with it. Ever since she got married off to Ramsey I was convinced this was going to be the arc where she started kicking ass. Surely she wasn't married off to fucking Ramsey Bolton and raped for nothing. No, I was sure that rape scene was going to be her "Started from the bottom" moment and by the end of the season she would have somehow out-maneuvered the Boltons (or at least Ramsey) and emerged on top. I wasn't expecting her to be Wardeness of the North, but I thought she'd be in control of something. I would have even gone for her doing things Margaery-style and pulling some Mata Hari "Let me pretend I'm totally into you" bullshit with him. Anything but another Woman-in-Refrigerators move meant to push along Theon's character development and shuttle Sansa along to yet another caretaker.

In conclusion, if I have learned anything this season it's that I've been giving the showrunners entirely too much credit.
posted by schroedinger at 1:14 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think all you really need to know about the showrunners was that the plot line that really excited them, that they babbled about to interviewers and just had to include despite the character not even being in their version, was about a woman raped by dogs.
posted by tavella at 7:19 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


When Game of Thrones Stopped Being Necessary
I’ve been fascinated by the notion that a rape scene should be (or could be) necessary. “Episode six ending was brutal – but was it necessary?” is a common way of framing it; Vanity Fair declared that “Game of Thrones Absolutely Did Not Need to Go There with Sansa Stark,” while over at Slate, the argument is made that “this particular scene was necessary,” given the grim bargain Sansa Stark had struck.
...
There is a larger question being subsumed here. Is violence “necessary”? Was it necessary to kill Ned Stark, Catelyn Stark, Rob Stark, and Talisa Stark and her plus one? Was Joffrey’s killing of Ros necessary? Did they have to kill off Lady, the wolf? The list goes on and on. At a certain point, we are really asking whether Game of Thrones is necessary. And the answer, quite obviously, is that it is not. It is a television show. It is many things, both good, bad, and in-between. But it is not “necessary.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:03 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


> We Are Not Things: Mad Max vs. Game Of Thrones
Rape in Westeros: What “Game of Thrones” could learn from “Mad Max: Fury Road”


The Unsung Badassery of Sansa Stark: The ‘Game of Thrones’ princess is just as tough as 'Mad Max’s’ Furiosa. So why don’t we see her prevail?
posted by homunculus at 10:24 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Surely she wasn't married off to fucking Ramsey Bolton and raped for nothing.

Well, the showrunners did get to see the actress naked. From what they've said, they probably don't consider that nothing.
posted by happyroach at 12:15 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


reposting a thing that we discussed on a friend's FB post:

If PBS came out with a documentary on the War of Five Kings, the Rise and Fall of House Stark, and the Return of the White Walkers, I'd lose most of my temptation to watch the HBO series again.

Basically, I enjoy the gritty politics, the moral dilemmas, and the hard decisions that people have to make; and I respect and admire GRRM for giving real depth into the worldbuilding. The pornographic fixation on blood, gore, fire, and rape is less compelling, and if there were a legit option for exploring that world without having the squick shoved in my face, then I'd take it happily.

At the moment, my equivalent is just reading the wiki at westeros.org and treating it like one big history text.
posted by bl1nk at 1:08 PM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


If PBS came out with a documentary on the War of Five Kings, the Rise and Fall of House Stark, and the Return of the White Walkers, I'd lose most of my temptation to watch the HBO series again.

I would SO watch "Ken Burns' 'Game of Thrones'".
posted by happyroach at 11:58 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The blu rays have animated videos showing Westeros's history and lore as extras - usually with a character telling their version of something that happened at one point that somewhat pertains to them. I enjoy watching them more than the actual show sometimes.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:42 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


> *Don't get me started on the new Ellaria & the Sand Snakes, Worst Band in Town - I think the changes to the Dorne plot are much more misogynistic than Sansa's plot, and flat-out dumb as hell.

> [BOOK SPOILERS from a non-reader] The showrunners seem to have a problem with the depiction of women in Dorne. Last season some folks on Fanfare pointed out that they posthumously turned into Oberyn's mother, the reigning Princess of Dorne, into a male character, and they've dropped characters and storylines from the books which represented more complex gender issues in the story.


[MORE DORNE SPOILERS] It looks like they did it again. Last season it was Doran's and Oberyn's mother, and at the start of this season it was Doran's daughter: in the books, the heir of Dorne is Trystane's older sister, but the show dropped her character entirely and made Trystane the heir. And apparently in the books it's Nymeria, one of the Sand Snakes who we've seen on the show, who is sent to King's Landing to be the Dornish representative on the Small Council, but the show has given that role to Trystane as well. Do I have that right?

I understand their wish to simpify the story for the show, but in doing so it seems like they've removed every example of a Dornish woman having any political power and made Dorne just another part of the patriarchy. Instead we got the Sand Snake Clown Show and a striptease. I haven't read the books, but it's hard to imagine that the show improved anything with these changes.

I guess the only place in all of Westeros on show where a woman can rule is Bear Island, whose 10-year-old Lady told Stannis to suck it. I'm glad we got that, at least.
posted by homunculus at 7:02 PM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I haven't read the books, but it's hard to imagine that the show improved anything with these changes.

It didn't; the Dornish storyline is...well, not great in the books, but there are several female characters engaged in it (Arianne, the Sand Snakes, etc), and the plot is not to get revenge by killing Myrcella, it is to crown her as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, since under Dornish Law she would inherit ahead of Tommen. There are a lot of points made about how Dorne is both more liberal/open in terms of sexuality & relationships - which the show was all over - and women in positions of power, which the show has excised outside of maybe a historical reference or two.

When Arianne's plot unravels and Doran reveals his own long game/plan for revenge, it's still not great, but it was better than the waste of talent and time Dorne was in the show.
posted by nubs at 10:04 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I understand their wish to simpify the story for the show, but in doing so it seems like they've removed every example of a Dornish woman having any political power and made Dorne just another part of the patriarchy.

One of the early signs that the Dorne plots and culture were reduced in significance is the titles used by the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. In the show, its "XXXXX, ## of his/her name, King/Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm" while in the books they use "XXXXX, ## of his/her name, King/Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm." The Rhoynar are the ethnic group/polity that make Dorne unique.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:24 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Game of Thrones, Season 5: "Mother's Mercy" - What Happened and What Should Have Happened
What Happened: Ellaria’s nose drips blood on her weirdly bad-ass boots; she and the Sand Snakes walk, in lovely yet weirdly bad-ass garb, off the pier.

What Should Have Happened: The shot of these four women walking off the pier was the most interesting thing that’s happened to any of them all season, which is a fucking travesty. What a complete waste. I understand that Myrcella’s death will have an effect on this story, but it’s really hard not to feel that the whole point of this plotline was the egregious display of Tyene Sand's fulsome bosom. “You need a bad pussy,” says the famed assassin. Puke.
Especially when you consider that the striptease scene was the actor's audition.
posted by homunculus at 12:32 PM on June 18, 2015


That piece also makes a good point about the Walk of Shame:
Here’s what I think: I think this scene, by itself, was kind of amazing. I think that Lena Headey is brilliant, navigating a perfect path of strength and vulnerability, and that the intelligence she brought to the performance made Cersei’s damage visible without reducing her character to that damage. Cersei remains Cersei.

But I also think that the force of this powerful portrait of how cruel the world is to women was reduced, enormously, by the decisions made the rest of the season. Sansa’s rape; Shireen’s death; Selyse’s suicide; the woman’s flaying; all the whores with all the bad things that happen to them. Everyone suffers in Westeros, but women suffer worst; it is the show, most often, that sacrifices them. Stop telling this story, Game of Thrones, if you have nothing new to add to it.
I'm conflicted about that scene, but that's partly because it caps the season which had already gone too far with Sansa's rape and other gratuitous scenes, so it's hard not to see it as part of larger, ugly pattern.
posted by homunculus at 12:32 PM on June 18, 2015




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