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My 2 cents as far as the latest GoT wank goes... [May. 22nd, 2015|05:57 pm]
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WARNING: Discussion of RAPE. Also spoilers.

Game of Thrones fandom is losing its shit over[Spoiler]Sansa’s rape.And I just…feel like people are not actually thinking. I’m especially baffled at the book readers. I can understand the reactions of show-only fans. This may in fact seem quite grotesque to them. Why all this misery? Why all the violence? But the book readers, the ones constantly shouting about how much better the books are than the show, need to take a step back. After all, they were fine with all the violence and rape in the books. Or maybe they weren’t fine, but they kept reading.

Sansa is one of my favorite characters. And what she had to go through was terrible. But terrible things happening to good characters, or main character, or prominent characters is not the hallmark of a bad narrative. It is also true that GoT has used sexual violence perhaps a little too excessively, ie: more than strictly needed to establish the realities of the universe. However, ASOIAF isn’t exactly sunshine and fuzzy bunnies. There is a LOT of, arguably unnecessary, violence and sexual violence there too. It’s true that some things have a greater effect on the consumer in visual form than written form, but they are still the SAME thing. Anyone who had read any of the ASOIAF books before starting GoT should have known what they were getting into.

Does the show have an obligation to do better than its source material from a social justice perspective (or any other)? No. I honestly don’t think it does. In the same way we don’t expect fanfiction to thrown canon out the window or to improve on it. GoT isn’t ASOIAF fanfic (although…lately, with the huge plot changes, it looks a little more like it) but it’s also not an independent show. It’s not even a separate part of a franchise. It’s an ADAPTATION. So can we really blame it for sticking to things/the sorts of things that happened in its source text?

This post isn’t super organized or an essay or anything. I don’t have the energy for that. But I did want to put down my thoughts on a few of the arguments I’ve been hearing the most.

“There was no need for Sansa to have been raped of all things.”

Wasn’t there? I mean, imagine it. Sansa marries Ramsy. Ramsy knows that in order for the marriage to be valid it must be consummated. Ramsy is also a sadistic fuck. There is no way Sansa actually wants to have sex with Ramsy.

So the only way that Sansa is NOT going to get raped is if Ramsy decides not to consummate their marriage. Does anyone think that would be even remotely in character?

I suppose it could have happened off-screen. Hidden away and only implied later on. But is this actually better? Does it make what happened to Sansa any less rape? Because if this is the problem, then the issue isn’t that Sansa was raped, the issue is that we were forced to see it. And that’s a whole different story and also not what everyone is mad about.

Note that the scene was not played to be sexy or for laughs or anything like that. It was meant to be awful. It did not focus on Ramsy’s power trip but on Sansa’s pain. (And Theon’s, who is also a victim in this whole mess.) We were asked to empathize with this character and wanting to hide away from that is an understandable reaction. But anyone having that reaction is not the show’s fault or responsibility.

“Sansa could have had agency! She could have talked her way out of it. Or just stabbed Ramsy! They’re taking away her agency, don’t you see?”

Ok, stop. How realistic is all this? And is Sansa’s agency really being taken away?

Sansa talking Ramsy out of consummating the marriage is ridiculous. Sansa is nowhere near that proficiency of manipulation and I doubt Ramsy is the sort who could be talked out of something he’s already decided on in the first place.

How would Sansa stabbing Ramsy go do you think? Even putting plot that needs to happen (I suppose, going by the books) aside and putting aside whether or not Sansa would resort to that sort of thing. How would this go? Do you really think she could get away with it? Does she have a reasonable expectation of getting away with it? In a castle full of armed Bolton men where she is basically a hostage (for now)? Sansa may lack a lot of things I doubt common sense is one of them.

Open resistance is also not in character for Sansa. And you know fucking what? That’s ok. That’s not how everyone choses to fight. It doesn’t make her less strong and it’s not a complete lack of agency. And speaking of agency…

Has Sansa really taken a step back? She certainly got feisty with Myranda in that earlier scene. But being catty to a serving girl is different than being catty to Ramsy or anyone else with actual power over her. Biding your time and seeming to surrender in order to survive until you have a chance to escape or fight back with odds on your side is A TACTIC. It can be a choice like any other. Sansa made the choice to go to Winterfell and marry Ramsy. Manipulative or not, Littlefinger did give her, at least seemingly, a choice. And she agreed, because this was a way for her to get her home back. By now, Sansa knows enough about life that she would have known that marriage = sex. Sex that she would not want, because the Boltons are her enemies at the least, and that it might not be pleasant. I suppose she could not expect how MUCH of a sadist Ramsy is, but I’m sure she knew she was making a gamble on her husband’s potential awfulness. It doesn’t make her experience any better or any less rape, to be clear, but it also doesn’t mean that she did not have agency coming into this situation. Sansa knows she has to lie low until she can find a way to strike at the Boltons when they least expect it. Having to suffer Ramsy’s awful treatment of, frankly, everyone is just another hurdle she has to face down on her journey. I really don’t think Sansa’s character development is in danger here.

“Ok, fine. The rape happened in the books. But it happened to Jeyne not Sansa.”

Ah yes, poor Jeyne. Whose only purpose seemed to be to be raped by Ramsy and then saved by Theon. Because this would have been so much better to see on your screen, right?

Ok, sure. We have more investment in Sansa because she’s a major character, we care about her. But is a woman getting raped any BETTER because we’re not as invested in the woman who was raped? It’s easier for us emotionally, but from an amorphous “treatment of women by the text” standpoint – is it?

And don’t tell me that if it had been Jeyne there would not be screaming about “they introduced a female character only to rape her!” But you can’t have it both ways, guys.

I suppose Ramsy didn’t have to marry anyone. Then there would be no poor girl for him to rape. But we can’t say for sure this was an option. Firstly, what to do with Theon’s plotline. Secondly, there would be other consequences to this Bolton-Stark marriage thing that we have not seen yet either in the show OR the books. We can’t say with any certainty that this would have been a valid option.

Also, from a tv-only standpoint, it makes sense for Sansa to take over this plotline. I balked a little at first because it was such a big change from the book but honestly? Even just from a structure perspective, Sansa would not have much to do in the Erie. But they couldn’t just cut her out completely because tv shows can’t/don’t just cut out major characters for the majority of a season. Inventing something completely out of left field like Jaime’s plotline may or may not have been plausible.

“They’re using this for Theon’s character development. Ew.”

Newsflash: Ramsy’s mistreatment of his new wife was used first and foremost for Theon’s character development/plot in the book. In fact, it was ALL about Theon there. It was even from Theon’s POV. So I don’t see why it’s a problem if Theon’s character arc/plot gets a shove from all of this in the show too.

Yet, it’s actually LESS likely that the situation will be ALL about Theon here BECAUSE Sansa is a central character. Sansa’s reactions, feelings and development will be center stage during the fallout because this plotline is actually about her in the show. She is a major character so the narrative cares about her and has time for her. So yea, Theon will “profit” character development wise, but he won’t be a complete narrative attention hog the way he was in the book. You can see that as an improvement, if you’d like.

Honestly, this scene is not nearly as problematic as people are making it out to be. You know what rape scene was so much worse in the sense of “totally unnecessary”? That Jaime/Cersei one. Because that one actually fucked with characterization and relationship dynamics. And yet, somehow, people got over that one quickly enough. It certainly did not cause an equivalent ragequit uproar. And I do have to wonder why.

[User Picture]From: nearlyconscious
2015-05-23 06:13 am (UTC)

I have dtopped watching GoT a while ago because of unnecessary ultraviolence. I realised I was no longer really looking forward to discovering the new episodes but was in fact genuinely scared of what they would come up with next to horrify the hell out of me. The books are full of violence, sure, but writing and film are different mediums  and I think the choices made are extremely unfortunate. Clearly they're picking storylines for shock value, adding characters so they can get extra sexualised, raped and killed (Ros), adding dubious sexual stuff when there was none (Meera), and showing a lot more than they'd need to (in the case of Ros: was showing her body stuffed with arrows in strategic places really necessary? Did we not know already that Joffrey was a murderous sadist?). I had been fed up for a while and what tipped me over the edge was actually Oberyn's death, but that's merely because it was very graphic and it made me have a panic attack. Shortly after I learnt of Jaime raping Cersei and I was SO annoyed. They're just messing up characterisation so, so much just so they can add rape. It is utterly out of character for Jaime to rape Cersei. Makes no sense, except to satisfy all the fans that have no understanding whatsoever that rape is not entertainment or a punitive device for characters they hate.
About Sansa. Personally, I'm most worried at the fact that the writers went out of their way to get sure Sansa would get to that point. They had planning that plot since Sophie Turner was about 14-15. They waited impatiently for her to be of age just so they could have her raped on screen. I find it disturbing that they felt it was needed to keep THAT storyline (that they "loved") when Arianne Martell was cut out, Lady Stoneheart was cut out, etc. We can obviously that their priority is more rape, more violence, more shock value. The character is also very much underage even if Sophie is now of age and barely.
I think people are just bored that GoT has becoming this: lazy writing for shock value purposes based on sex and violence, when Asoiaf is so much better than that. There was so, so much potential to this show and they're really ruining it. GRRM wants to shock and shake his readers, but there is a LOT of content and the violence is framed, contextualised, the books aren't a litany of rape and murders. The plot is complex, the backstories are complex, the universe is developed. HBO cut short everywhere and what did they keep? What did they add?
I just wish people would stop watching instead of complaining though because in the meantime, they're still making tons of money even with a good portion of the fandom who hates the way they're going, idk. I mean, obviously they do not care.

ETA: personally i think it doesn't make much sense for Baelish to have Sansa marry Bolton in terms of characterisation. BUT, what you say about Sansa's agency makes sense. I think the whole "she could have stabbed him!!!" thing makes no sense. Sansa is not Arya, ppl.

Edited at 2015-05-23 06:35 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: alley_skywalker
2015-05-23 08:04 am (UTC)
Ah...so, I did not get the impression that D&D were waiting "impatiently" for Sansa's actress to be legal just so they could have her be raped. If they were bending timeframes unrealistically in order to accommodate this that's one thing. But this is a natural time for this plotline to happen. I really, really think this was more coincidence rather than them gleefully waiting for a chance to have her raped.

It's true they've added probably more violence than needed. But they also don't have every instance of violence that was in the book. Even if there is more violence in the show, I don't think the difference is quite as egregious as what people make it out to be. After all, they've also added things that are not violence based, such as Margeary being a far more prominent "player" in the show than she is in the book. But either way, there are times when I think it's justified to be mad at things they've added (like Jaime raping Cersei) but this post was about how I don't think this scene was really much of a violation.

Ellaria effectively replaces Ariane. I know it's not the same, but it's not like they cut out Ariane and kept Quentyn, or something. To be quite honest, I don't see the value of Lady Stoneheart, even in the books, nor do I really understand people's attachment to her. She's not even Cat at all, more a one-track-mind zombie than anything. I'm almost glad she was cut, but that's just my opinion.

Anyway, I realize that we disagree. And no one should have to watch/read something they aren't comfortable with, so...
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[User Picture]From: nearlyconscious
2015-05-23 12:45 pm (UTC)
(Okay first of all I had just woke up and was sleep-deprived when I wrote the comment above so I apologise if it was going offtrack or not very clear)

About the impatience, I was referring to the fact that they had been planning that for a while and, of all the storylines, deliberately kept this one, but I still can't find a good reason why. I mean, the show has already shown how fucked-up Ramsay is at that point, right? It's not like it adds anything to his characterisation. Sansa has been through a lot of shit and I'm not sure it was necessary for her character to go through that abuse, either. Perhaps they'll do something interesting with it, but I kind of doubt it? We'll see.

I think my issue with violence on the show is how unnecessarily graphic and hypersexualised it is, very often. Is it plausible that rape and murder happen very often in that universe? Yes, absolutely. Do we need to see every single gritty detail on screen? I don't know. In the case of Ros, they totally could have shown her feet dangling off the bed with blood dripping, for instance -- that would have gotten the message accross just fine. But they chose to show her barely naked with arrows in her breasts and crotch, you know?

Ellaria does replace Arianne, but at what cost? It seems like characters are interchangeable to the show's writers. Jeyne can become Sansa, Arianne can become Ellaria, it doesn't really matter apparently. I have to say that this storyline fucks up Ellaria's characterisation big time, though. Ellaria was not a vindictive, vengeful person. In the show she's going against what Oberyn stood for, too ("In Dorne we don't hurt little girls"). And I guess I wouldn't be annoyed if it wasn't so boring? Like, this characterisation for Ellaria is so tired. I would have liked for her to actually be like "Ok, let's not add up violence to all of this shit, revenge will lead us nowhere, Oberyn already died to get revenge, hurting Myrcella is bullshit."

I would agree Jaime raping Cersei was definitely worse, in terms of characterisation and plot, than Sansa's rape by Ramsay. I think maybe the outrage about it is also due to the fact that it comes after Jaime/Cersei getting fucked up. I mean, a lot of Sansa fans are also Cersei fans and were really bitter about that. But I do think some people might react more strongly because they care less about Cersei getting raped. They hate Cersei, so they might think she deserved it or something like that.

I'm happy to discuss this even if we disagree! I like to discuss things without animosity, and there isn't much place for that in other platforms, lbh :')

Anyway, overall, now my criticising of the show is much more... detached, somewhat. I don't watch it anymore and I have absolutely no intention of ever watching it again. The scenaristic choices just push my buttons and I'm so saddened to see such potential go to what, to me, is somewhat waste. As someone who was raped as a teenager, and who identifies very strongly with Sansa, I'm beyond glad I never got to that scene, really.
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[User Picture]From: alley_skywalker
2015-05-23 09:28 pm (UTC)
Well, I feel like I tried to explain somewhat in this post why I thought it would be hard to get away from this storyline. I mean the options were:
1) Sansa gets raped.
2) sansa gets raped, but we don't see the scene only hear about it, for example.
3) Jeyne gets raped.
4) Ramsy doesn't marry anyone and no one gets raped.
I get the impression that you would prefer #4, but as I said above, we don't know yet how feasible that would be because it's not clear what fallout there will be from this marriage plot-wise. So yea, we'll see I guess.

I have to admit, I don't remember Ellaria's characterization very well from the book (it's been a while) so I can't fully comment on how this does or doesn't mess that up.

I mean...I guess you're right in that there is probably no need to make the violence as graphic as it is. Maybe I've just built up a tolerance to it. Like, I recently watched the Spartacus series and the violence there was even worse (although, it was less sexualized, I guess) and I still liked the show *shrug* I mean, personal experiences go into this sort of thing too, of course.

I guess...I just feel like some people are being hypocritical? (Not you, to be clear.) Like, they will scream about how the show has all this violence but never call it out in the books and act like the books do everything right and the show ruins everything. And I feel like that's a terrible exaggeration of the situation. IDK. Like...for me the hardest part was Theon's torture and humiliation. Arguably, the books were worse on the torture end but the show is worse on the post-fact humiliation end, which is harder for me to stomach. Like, those weren't necessary additions either but...it's not like the books were so much better at avoiding torture porn? IDK. Sorry, I'm just...not very good at expressing how I feel about the situation, I guess *shrug*

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[User Picture]From: nearlyconscious
2015-05-24 01:02 am (UTC)

I think 2) or 4) would be my preferred options. I mean sticking to canon is good but a graphic rape scene of Jeyne wouldn't have pleased me either, because again: we already know how fucked-up Ramsay is, re: scenes with Theon. 2) seems reasonable though.

Personally I tolerate much more violence in what I read than in what I watch... I guess I'm very visual in general (visual memory, visual imagination), that might have something to do with it. And I think GRRM depicts a lot of violence, including rape, but it doesn't feel like he purposely goes out of his way to focus on it? Like, he creates a very violent world and he goes into details about pretty much everything -- smalltime bannermen, genealogy, ancient history, geography, food, the universe of asoiaf is very well shaped out. There is so much more context to the violence and I feel like in the books, power, mind games, political stakes are more important. And they unfold in very violent ways -- but the focus is still on the whys and hows. Isn't it? GRRM does want to surprise and shock his readers, keep them on their toes, but I don't get the feeling he neglects characterisation in doing so, on the contrary. I can't really say the same for the show (anymore, anyway). It just pours hypersexualised violence allllll the time now. I mean, my issue with ultraviolence is one thing; it's quite personal, really. One of my phobias got triggered at some point and I just couldn't take it anymore. Some people take ultraviolence just fine and really are able not to cringe that much at it ; I guess that can allow to watch certain very good movies with gore (I really can't). My issue with hypersexualised violence is different. Noncon and dubcon fic is one thing: there is usually a high awareness of what is happening in the fic, warnings. You can choose not to read it and you are aware that what you're reading is not something that should happen in reality. Getting off on a fantasy is something, and I am not coming after that *at all*. But hypersexualised violence in a show, without any sort of warning, in a universe where it's presented as the norm, and shown to people who are for the most part very uninformed about consent? Eeeeh. I mean, I'm wondering what seeing this does to us. Some people are going to look at it critically and take a step back, but some are not. I don't know how I would have reacted to GoT if I had been a teen. And some comments about the rape scenes and the characters of GoT are really disturbing. Some fans were actually complaining that Sansa's rape wasn't MORE graphic. I mean... Shouldn't ppl just watch porn that roleplays rape, and quit asking a mainstream show to do it, at that point? I know some people who watch this who are as young as 14. Suggesting sexual violence is actually a way of making light of an issue that is well alive today, I don't think it would be best to censor it altogether and present a Westeros where no one gets hurt because it wouldn't be realistic. But I guess they're really pushing it and doing it in a way that feels really in-your-face. It would be ludicrous to expect the show to be without violence, but I'm sad that it's become the utmost priority.

Hopefully I'm making sense >.<

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[User Picture]From: alley_skywalker
2015-05-24 04:39 am (UTC)
Ah, I think I'm seeing at least part of where we disagree. For me, #2 and #1 aren't actually that different, because what I'm focusing on is what actually happened, not whether it was on screen or not.

(As a side note, since you mentioned it, I don't think this show was meant to cater to 14-year-olds in the first place, though. It is most certainly an R (or higher) rated show. I mean, I know that teenagers still get hold of content via internet or whatever, that they are not meant to get a hold of. But that's more on their parents than the showrunners. Otherwise we'd never have mature content in things because "the kids could see it.")

And I mean, sure. Books and tv/movies are different mediums, so things can read differently. For example, you can just write "X walked into a brothel" in a book. You don't need to describe the naked prostitutes to establish the setting or anything. In a visual medium, the most organic way to show something is a brothel is to show...well, prostitutes. Who will probably be naked. I guess for people who are sensitive (more than I am, anyway) to this sort of thing this all adds up. And similarly, in order to describe a setting, GRRM must use up a page or two to do it in detail. Visually, all that description can be done in two-three shots. So it looks like there is a lot less scene setting. I understand that showrunners/directors should be sensitive to this sort of thing, but I don't know how much of it is fixable and, like for me persoanlly, I don't see the need to bend over backwards to fix it either. But, as I said, we're probably different here. Whether or not Sansa's rape happened off or on screan wouldn't make a difference to me. To you it obviously does.

I'm not saying the show it all it could have been. I've been irritated at changes too, especially when they have to do with plot (and major characterization issues). But, IMO, it's not as bad as people are making it out to be.
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[User Picture]From: nearlyconscious
2015-05-24 09:57 am (UTC)
Yep, that's it!

Oh, I definitely think the show isn't for 14-y-o. But, you know, I think GoT is the epitome of the "everyone talks about it" phenomenon. I mean... the way everyone started watching it and talking about it about two years ago? I had rarely seen something so intense. Well, maybe Breaking Bad. I think the peer pressure to watch GoT to see what it's about and just be aware of what's going on would be very very strong for someone young if their friends are into it. Obviously censoring everything so it's kids friendly is ludicrous, I totally agree with you on that matter. But I think if you *can* stick to your plot and just make things less graphic, why not? Because it seems to me it makes a huge difference for teens (and more some people who are more sensitive to visual stuff like me, too).
At some point I am puzzled by the need they have to make all rapes so obvious. I'm really happy it makes no difference to you and to some other people bec it means you can still enjoy the show and that's pretty great, really! I'm just like: what does it take away if you suggest rape but don't show it? You can have the characters talk about it. You can show scars. You can even maybe just have the audience hear sounds but not *see* it. I think my issue with seeing the scene is that rape is so, so glamorised. And while I have no issue when it's done in fanfic where it's literally the point and it's acknowledged that it's a fantasy, when it's done in a show for entertainment and people aren't necessarily going to think about it/question it.... Eeeh >_<

Honestly, you're probably right -- it's probably not as a bad as people make it out to be. But everything is exaggerated by fans on tumblr. The positive, the negative, the meta, everything. You have very interesting, relevant stuff, and you have major wank. I think you can find a lot of hardcore purist fans that use that space to vent at the stuff that irk them. I think if I had had tumblr when I was about 13-14, I would have ranted my heart out about how the Harry Potter movies weren't good enough, lololol. Now I'm just like "eeeh, they really fucked up GoF plot and I'm pissed off at it, but not enough that I can't watch it and appreciate the special effects, the scenery, and just the mere fact that it's a HP movie".
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[User Picture]From: alley_skywalker
2015-05-24 10:35 am (UTC)
Funny story: my brother is 14 and I don't think he even knows what Game of Thrones IS, lol. It's totally not unlikely that other teens his age know, though. My brother is kind of a dork.

Hmm. See this is interesting. I would have found it jarring if something this major happening to a major character would have been just mentioned off-handedly or something. Like, really? She was raped but we're just going to have people talk about it? And who would talk about it? Sansa doesn't have anyone to talk to really. Ramsy and co. would discuss it in the most harmfully disgusting way possible, I'm sure. ... I don't know how much you know about the scene, but it wasn't sexualized at all. Like...we see a shot of Sansa's back as Ramsy rips her dress. Then there's a shot of her face for a few seconds and then a shot of Theon's face for a few seconds. Hmmm...maybe they could have cut straight to Theon after showing Ramsy Sansa's dress and then fade to black? That would still establish that there was a rape and Theon was forced to watch without actually showing any of the rape? But I guess I don't see how this is so much different from what was actually shown. (My point being: in no way was this rape sexualized or even very graphic. Not like the Jaime/Cersei disaster...)

Like, I understand what you're saying, and I totally respect that this is just not something you're comfortable with watching. But you've also left watching the show a long time ago. And from what I'm getting from you is that there's just a big difference in what you can handle visually vs. reading, which is totally understandable. I'm more side-eyeing people who have made it this far through far-far worse and THIS is what they chose to have a riot over.
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[User Picture]From: your_insomnia
2015-05-24 02:39 am (UTC)
I think it's the cumulative effect of the writers constantly using rape and sexual violence as a plot device that has people pissed. Like, if it was an isolated incident then I don't think there would be so much outrage. But on top of Dany's, Cersei's rape and now Sansa's (yes, it was in the books with a different character, but the writers feel absolutely no obligations to adhere to the books like 80% of the time, especially this season so the fact that they've chosen to go the most violent route establishes a disturbing pattern to their preferences).

Also, I completely agree with this:

lazy writing for shock value purposes based on sex and violence, when Asoiaf is so much better than that. There was so, so much potential to this show and they're really ruining it. GRRM wants to shock and shake his readers, but there is a LOT of content and the violence is framed, contextualised, the books aren't a litany of rape and murders. The plot is complex, the backstories are complex, the universe is developed. HBO cut short everywhere and what did they keep? What did they add?
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[User Picture]From: alley_skywalker
2015-05-24 04:27 am (UTC)
Honestly, I think they were decently true to the books until maybe...last season. I mean, know they made alterations before that too, but those always felt minor to me or things that made sense when adapting from one medium to the other.

(Also, I know people claim Dany's rape didn't happen in the books. But I mean, come on, she was 13. It totally did.)
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