Unpopular Opinion: Game of Thrones Rape

Posted: May 18, 2015 by ryanlecocq in Off-topic

I love controversy.  It’s amusing at best, on average helps us to figure out who we are as a society and at worst is usually just tedious.  I love it most when there are two sides, equally valid from a certain point of view and we publicly decide who most people agree with on the internet.  You know what I hate?  Posturing and arbitrary positions.  What I mean by that is when people pretend to represent a camp of knowledge when they actually don’t know anything, or when people just make crap up to justify emotional reactions and instinctive behavior.  This is what brings me to this week’s internet rage debate of choice; the most recent Game of Thrones rape scene.  Now understand, I come at this with the disadvantage of being a man.  Many readers will just immediately assume I am defending the show and not bother to read thoroughly.  Hell some people may just make that assumption because I just wrote man and disadvantage together in a sentence.  Well fuck you, you too are why feminists can’t have nice things.  If you want my credentials as a feminist, I don’t have any, besides that my mom can kick your ass, even if you’re Brock Lesner.  My gripe here is literary and historical, so if ‘who is a real feminist’ is your main concern, go find something else to read.

I also love preamble, so I hope you are still reading.  My primary interest here is that the people who are boycotting the show (aka giving it even more press), seem to fall into two camps, neither of which I think have a valid point.  The two groups, as I see them, are A) People who say the show is making things more offensively violent and misogynistic than the books. and B) People who are just plain offended that the writers and producers would choose to greenlight this episode.  I’m going to address each in turn.

Group A)

You are full of shit.  The books are far, far worse and if you can’t remember that, you must have blocked it from your memory.  In the books, Sansa Stark has a character that is basically her ‘whipping boy’ named Jeyne Pool.  All of the bad things that would happen to Sansa happen to Jeyne instead.  Actually she has two, her first one was named Lollys and actually DID get raped by a mob of like ten thousand dudes and was only replaced by Jeyne because Martin needed a new, less traumatized whipping boy to traumatize.  If you have never read them, you are probably like “WTF?  What is wrong with this author?  Why would you people read this?”  The reason is actually the explanation for this whole issue.  A Song of Ice and Fire the series has a much different audience primarily than that of the show.

No I don’t mean rapists.  George R.R. Martin set out to create a fantasy series firmly grounded in reality, as a response to the fakey sunshine and rainbows feudal systems of other fantasy epics.  He chose to represent the middle ages in what he felt was the most realistic manner possible, and that means horrible.  It’s not just rape, though there was a lot of that in the books and the middle ages.  There are scenes (frequently) in the books where nobles just casually kill innocent peasants.  Just to remind us that life is horrible for these people.  So when I say a different audience I mean history buffs who are into fantasy.  People who know what life was actually like in the times similar to fantasy stories already know it was like that.  It’s still shocking as fuck, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve had to put down Martin’s books on several occasions because they made me depressed about the human race.  Not because his scandalous writing is corrupting the youth and glorifying rape, but because I know that our own history played out very similarly.

All of this is irrelevant though, as anyone saying this is probably the literary equivalent of a valor thief.  You know those people who claim they ‘read the book’ but really just don’t want people to know they just got into it when the show or movies came out.  You would have to erase large parts of the Song of Ice and Fire novels from your mind to not believe that the show has taken a very tame version of Martin’s Westeros.

Group B)

And now for you, the “this time they’ve gone too far” crowd.  You also are full of shit.  Game of Thrones, book or show, dangles threats of rape, torture, mutilation and slavery over the heads of its characters constantly.  To say that you are comfortable with the depiction of violence and rape as an institution, but are uncomfortable when confronted with it directly, just makes you a horrible person.  Game of Thrones is about a world where power and birthright give one the right to do things that are only permitted in the most unstable countries of modern times.  Martin isn’t writing it to glorify this culture.  It isn’t like Happy Days, where it’s glorifying some lost lifestyle where you only knew one person who wasn’t white.  I’m pretty sure Martin does not approve, but feels obligated to shove reality in our Lord of the Rings loving faces.  As somebody who has studied stuff, I definitely empathize with that feeling of wanting to pound reality into ignorant people with facts until they grasp it.  Much like Narnia is an attempt to repackage religion and myth in a form that young people would actually read, A Song of Ice and Fire is that to history.  George R.R. Martin is repackaging one of the worst parts of human history into the most popular fantasy epic of the new millennium not because he thinks we should go back to it, but because by thinking like the people described above, we are actually stepping closer to it.

You heard me, you boycotters are part of the problem.  You feminist blogs and liberal newspapers, you are helping rape culture exist with your denial.  By only taking outrage at the depiction and signaling that out as the problem, you are helping to obscure the pervasive suggestion of rape in everything on television, including programming you probably approve for your kids.  Saying it’s okay for the villain to chain the captured heroine to a wall, but if he mentions he might rape her, that’s too much.  Why the hell would an evil overlord chain a woman to a wall, besides to rape her?  Is it because he’s afraid she’s going to overthrow his fortress from within?  Of course not, most media is already sexist.  It’s because women have been chained to rocks since Greek mythology and damnit, we’re going to keep writing it into scripts.  In Greek mythology the other option is to be sacrificed to gods, usually by being eaten by a monster.  Between the two, I think that’s actually worse, but I’ve never been raped or eaten by a monster.  So yes, I call you out.  By allowing yourself to be shocked and titillated by the suggestion of rape, yet only calling out the media for the depiction of it, you are as bad as anyone else (besides, you know, actual rapists).

Basically what I’m saying is that if you are offended by Game of Thrones, you have been watching it in the wrong mindset.  It’s like watching a drama set in a concentration camp, you need to be prepared for the worst, because that’s the kind of place this is.  If you think that you can force this series to conform to your Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter influenced ideas of what fiction should be by boycotting it, I expect you are wrong.  In fact, I believe we should not be sugarcoating history or allegories of history at all.  I don’t approve of the prevalent homosexuality and pedophilia being removed from depictions of ancient Greece and Rome either.  Television shows that depict or mimic historical settings have been sugarcoating the reality of who we are as a species since the beginning of television.  Shows like this are not meant to make you feel good about being human.  They exist to remind those of us in privileged nations that this is still who we are if we do not resist it at every level with education and social advancement.

  1. cameragod says:

    He should have added pillage.. that would have made it OK

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