HBO’s sensation Game of Thrones has recently gotten a lot of flack due to a controversial rape scene. The controversy stems from a plethora of factors, mainly that the scene was not a rape in the books, but rather a depiction of consensual sex. The controversy appears to have two sides: those who are appalled and those who are asking “What did you expect? It’s a violent show that takes place in a sexist world!”
For one thing, some of the upset comes from a show reaching a point where being a feminist and watching it appear to be at odds with one another.
Why feminists may have watched it in the first place:
1. Catelyn, Arya, Daenerys, etc. And even Cersei. The thing that may have made people who identify as feminists feel like they can enjoy such a show is that not only were there a lot of female characters (as opposed to the amount in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars), but these women were full and complex characters with flaws and virtues. Instead of merely being bad ass chicks who are pretty and can sword fight, but not much else, these characters had interesting short comings as well as interesting depths.
2. A show about power. Game of Thrones is, in large part, about power. If a viewer has an interest in gender studies, they can see incredibly interesting themes having to do with power playing out in the series. There are loads of female characters in the show who are vying for some type of power, and it’s feminist because they’re not trying to emasculate men in the process (something that people misunderstand as being one of feminism’s main goals), but simply to find their own place in a world where everything is against them.
Why feminists are angry:
1. The rape. Specifically the arbitrary nature of the change, and the lack of knowledge on the part of the show runners to realize that what they had done was arbitrary. Using a rape for shock value, or as some kind of short hand for “you see? Jaime has the power!” shows the feminists watching that anything feministic about the show up to this point may have been accidental. The internet outcry stemmed, in part, from the fact that viewers already sensed that the scene was not going to be addressed in later episodes. Which leads me to the second reason that feminists were angry.
2. The rape was not addressed. Not only was something so upsetting and shocking used merely for shock value, but the show went right back to the more dashing version of Jaime that we got to know in Season Three. The rape scene from “Breaker of Chains” hung over the following episode like an elephant in the room for many viewers. Which is why the muffled screams during the scene in Craster’s Keep seemed to be the nail in the coffin for many. The women being raped in the background of that episode, while male characters ignored it and talked casually in the foreground became a metaphor for…women being raped while men ignore it and talk casually. And that might be the last straw for some of us.