Game Of Thrones and the reality of war
This does contain spoilers
Game Of Thrones, or A Song Of Ice and Fire, is a property that is universally regard as a text of the highest quality. It deals with a number of complicated issues that are normally too hard to discuss or thematically symbolise in a “censored” text, they cover issues that are normally declared to be “taboo”, thoughts and problems that are so sensitive that they are never properly discussed in an intellectual manner. Game Of Thrones, atleast in my opinion, deals with many of these topics in a way that is realistic of their hardship and often brutality. However, it is because of this that the show and novels often are criticised or become controversial. They present an image of something many belive to not warrant discussion in pop culture or on a medium that is heavily exposed to mainstream audiences.
Many argue that Game Of Thrones depicts themes, acts and plots that should not be shown or highlighted to a normal audience, they are only deserving of a ‘select audience’. The novels and show showcase ideas that audiences should not need to think or be aware of. It is this form of reaction and narrowed thinking that I have a huge problem with. Life is supposed to a journey of exploration, a pursuit of knowledge. Not only does Game Of Thrones discuss topics that are rarely commented upon but its presents it in a high quality, realistic and intellectual way. I’m going to use one example in particular as I believe it defines this idea in every way.
In episode 6 of season 5, (Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken), of Game Of Thrones, Sansa Stark was sexually assaulted, raped. From a narrative point of view the decision was agreeably odd as Sansa was being built to be a character that would finally become independent, a stronger, tougher character, that was seemingly starting to play ‘the game’. By making her endure such an act, this whole idea was “undercut”, and contextually it deserved some criticism for that. But what I disagree with, is the outpouring of disgust at the show for presenting such an image.
The reality of war and reality of many cultures is the idea that woman are seen as property, owned and manipulated by the male counterpart, well thats the entire problem, the men are not counterparts but superior to the women. Game Of Thrones has depicted such an idea in numerous fashions, such as the submissive nature of the Dothraki women, or the ‘breeding’ of women at Craster’s Keep, but never have fans and critics been so shocked as they were when this episode aired. Why? Game of Thrones has shown women being violated a number of times, all for thematic symbolism and response, yet never has the question been raised if this is too far. Some state that the controversy comes simply from the point that Sansa is only a teenager, a child, but weren’t many of the women at Craster’s Keep only children when Craster had sex with them? Yes, this was often consensual but purely for the reason that the women knew that if they did not submit they would be killed.
Again this idea is presented that women are pieces of property in many situations. War is one of them. George RR Martin has crafted a world and an ideology that highlights the brutality but very real events of war, the actions away from the battles, away from the frontlines. Rape and sexual assaults are a very real part of this. As real as the murder and the fighting. As factions and groups conquer lands, it is often those who do not fight that face the worst consequences. Throughout history this has always been the case. Whether it be in the Roman Empire, or recently in the American invasion of the Middle East. This happens very often yet it is rare that it is openly discussed. Game Of Thrones discusses the reality of war in a way that is both shocking and interesting. To survive war every bad man will have to make a justified act, just as every good man will have to make a unjustified one. It is a matter of perspective, yet either way the act still occurs. Sansa being raped perfectly highlights this reality. Women are often sold or taken by men in war or in some certain cultures simply for sex. So depicting this should not be controversial. Sansa being raped shows the injustice and corrupt nature of hierarchy, where those in power can take advantage of their superiority for their own pleasure. Just as a lord in the show and books can use their power to order someone to die, they can order a woman to submit. Its not morally right and under no circumstances can rape ever be justified in society but it is something that happens. It is the truth behind the propaganda. One reason I believe Sansa’s rape is also an effective comment on society is the idea that even those who are seen as independent, as Sansa was finding herself, can be subjected to the harshest of crimes, it is a matter of power and hierarchy rather than of morality.
Game Of Thrones discusses horrendous situations. It gives them the spotlight when others do not. Yes, it does walk a fine line, but it reflects our society. Those in disgust at the show should question why they are so surprised. Game Of Thrones is a show and text that is not scared to discuss aspects of real life that are not often commented upon. It is these form of events and plot twists that come often on the show, they not only depict the quick changing reality of war but it’s brutality. I wont elaborate, but there is a misogynistic view to this, where was the outrage at Gendry being raped? For entertainment to continue having intellectual and thematic meaning, sometimes showcasing these taboo topics is necessary and it is in my opinion that Game Of Thrones highlights rape as a terrible event, as reflected in Theon’s reaction, but as horrendous as it is, it is something that occurs all over the world and keeping true to the purpose of Game Of Thrones, it is a clear depiction of the reality of war and one that should not be censored or silenced. Sansa’s storyline, while narratively unjustified, gives service to those compromised by those in power, the harsh nature of war and life. It is supposed to provide a forum for viewers to think and discuss why these actions happen as well as providing a very real notion of the actions brutality and denial of innocence, it shows how awful these events are in a very realistic manner.