Game of Thrones in nasty scene shocker

Stephen Beard

Topics Culture

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This week, the internet was hit by another tide of righteous outrage. It began when a handful of viewers of popular TV series Game of Thrones took issue with a scene in last Sunday’s episode, in which Sansa Stark, an emerging new female lead, was raped. They soon took to social media to make their disdain known. There has now, inevitably, been calls for a boycott.

For the uninitiated, Game of Thrones is a fantasy series set in a deliberately gritty and brutal medieval world. It is notorious for its grim and graphic plotlines, featuring plenty of child murder, incest and torture. All of this raises the question: why are fans of the show suddenly so shocked? Stark, having been forced to marry the sadistic Ramsay Bolton, is shown being raped on her wedding night. While, as many have pointed out, this particular scene didn’t feature in the George RR Martin novels on which the show is based, it is still completely in keeping with Game of Thrones’s grim aesthetic.

While the latest bout of fauxrage was probably not representative of the feelings of the Game of Thrones fanbase, it does reflect a worrying trend whereby depictions of women in fiction are being put under intense scrutiny – especially in the worlds of sci-fi, fantasy and videogames. Anita Sarkeesian has criticised the ‘misogynist’ depiction of women in videogames. More recently, DC Comics pulled the cover of an edition of the Batgirl series after tweeters raged that it promoted violence against women. Following the GoT scandal, it now seems to be taboo to depict violence against women at all, let alone ‘promote’ it.

So where does this leave writers, filmmakers and games developers? Will they have to seek approval before they depict women in any sort of compromising position? When artists are put under such intense moral scrutiny, constantly harangued for not sending ‘the right kind of message’, artistic freedom itself withers. It’s time artists stood up for their right to create.

Stephen Beard is a writer based in Liverpool.

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