“Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken”: A Few Thoughts On HBO And Game Of Thrones

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I officially declare this season the weakest of Game of Thrones to date. Too many disappointments, too many plot holes, too many cringe-worthy events. I’ll add that episode six was the weakest episode ofGame of Thrones so far. Sorry, Olenna, even you couldn’t save it.

“Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” ended with a rape scene and, of course, the Internet lit on fire. People have been writing articles, ranting on social media, and submerging poor George R R Martin with angry emails. I don’t understand that last part, to be honest. People either think that he either (a), wrote any of this – he didn’t, or (b), that he has way more power over what happens in the show than he actually possesses – which is not much at all. In any case, the Internet is disturbed, shocked, and outraged. What about this Bun, then?

Well, I thought about it for a while. Here’s what I decided: there will be no recap this week. Last year, after what happened to Cersei in “Breaker of Chains” (S04E03), I didn’t write a recap because I didn’t quite find the right words to express my frustration. This time, I am willfully skipping this recap. I think of it as my way of calmly protesting against HBO’s tendency to savagely assault female characters for no reason.

That being said, I wasn’t surprised by what happened to Sansa. Annoyed? Yes. Surprised? Not at all. Now try to keep your fingers away from your keyboards while I try to explain.

On his LiveJournal, George R R Martin himself talked about the butterfly effect – how, little changes after little changes, the producers and writers of the show had arrived to a story that is radically different from that of the original source material. He’s right. In the books, Sansa Stark is nowhere near Winterfell in the fifth volume. She’s in the Eyrie, while Roose Bolton captures Jeyne Poole and forces her to take the identity of Arya Stark so she can be married to Ramsay and legitimize his position as future Warden of the North. In the books, while Sansa tends to the needs of a spoiled child, Jeyne Poole is the one who suffers at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. Now the big question: who among the fans of the show remembers who Jeyne Poole is? Probably nobody. Game of Thrones has a cast of many. Why would you remember that one friend of Sansa’s whom you haven’t seen in ages? Sending Sansa to Winterfell instead of a secondary character was an attempt to keep the show on track. Was it a good decision? That’s highly debatable. The simple fact that Littlefinger didn’t know anything about Roose Bolton’s bastard felt coincidental at best, and the ever dubious Baelish leaving his darling Sansa at the hands of a man whom he doesn’t know, or by definition trust is an act that I would qualify as out of character. That being said, replacing Jeyne Poole with Sansa, however badly it was done, meant that Ramsay was going to rape Sansa instead of the other character.

In almost every season since the beginning of Game of Thrones, a main male character has raped a main female character. The ones that immediately come to mind are from season 1 and 4, when Khal Drogo repeatedly raped Daenaerys, then when Jaime raped Cersei in the High Sept near their eldest son’s mortal remains. Taking into account what Ramsay did to Sansa, that’s three major female character rapes that didn’t exist in the original source material. I am way past being shocked when it happens, but I still feel as frustrated as any fan out there. My question is: why does it have to happen?

In terms of violence, there’s an ocean of differences between the books and the TV show. After all, this is HBO. “The Red Wedding” was a gorefest in the show, for example, and the writers never lose an occasion to show us someone being dismembered, slashed, beheaded, stabbed, and other happy ways to die a violent death. Violence in itself is not a problem. The problem is that HBO seems to think that the only kind of violence that women should face is rape and the writers seem bound by contract to write a major rape in every season of their show. In 2015, a writer should be able to find other ways to torture a woman than by sexually violating her. Even worse, you shouldn’t try to thrill your audience with it. Rape is nowhere on the list of things that make an audience quiver in anticipation. Not even talking about rape survivors or the fact that it happens every day, rape is too sensitive and complex a topic to sprinkle it on your show like you would tabasco sauce on a plate of chili. Rape is not just your average rough sex scene. Plus, Game of Thrones doesn’t need that. It already has the whole package of Middle-Age problems that make us feel uncomfortable. After all, this season brought us the Sparrows and their tendency to put gay people behind bars.

Adaptation is hard. I know this is something I say every other day, but it really is. Trying to translate the essence of someone’s work from one media format to another is one of the most difficult tasks a writer can face. On top of that, George R R Martin’s books are complex, with a character count that goes into hundreds and so many important plot points that trying to fit everything into the show would be suicidal. Plus, like I said before, the writers are working with HBO. HBO likes violence. It needs to tick all the boxes on its list of gore and disturbing things that can happen to people. I’m just asking for them to stop adding rape to a story that doesn’t need it.

In short: HBO, update your list. Please and thank you.

– Anais L

Some say she’s French. Some say she’s a voodoo witch. What is certain is that Anais left her awkward print on all things artsy at one point or another in her life, performing as a singer and a pianist, exhibiting photographs and paintings, and leaving an embarrassing amount of visual proofs of those events on the internet. Anais’ dream is to be an animation writer. She thinks everything should be animated and she is more than half convinced that she is herself a cartoon character. She hopes that one day, Pendleton Ward or Jennifer Lee will read her screenplays and say they’re neat.

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