Game of Thrones
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Game of Thrones (2011-19) is an American medieval fantasy television series, created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and aired for HBO. It is based on George R. R. Martin's best-selling novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.
About Game of Thrones
- Rape is often presented in television plotlines, where it has far-reaching and lasting consequences for the affected characters. But critics of “Game of Thrones” fear that rape has become so pervasive in the drama that it is almost background noise: a routine and unshocking occurrence.
- Dave Itzkoff, "For ‘Game of Thrones,’ Rising Unease Over Rape’s Recurring Role", New York Times, (May 2, 2014).
- Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves.
- George R. R. Martin, qtd. in Dave Itzkoff, "For ‘Game of Thrones,’ Rising Unease Over Rape’s Recurring Role", New York Times, (May 2, 2014).
"“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger:” The Fallacy of Rape Narratives as Paths to Women’s Empowerment in Contemporary Television" (2020)
- 19.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the finale of HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones (Patten). For reference, if the Game of Thrones audience made up a country, it would be 62nd most populated in the world. As an extra to one’s cable package, HBO needs just one show to bring in high enough viewership numbers so that people keep paying for the network, and Benioff and Weiss’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s popular book series A Song of Ice and Fire more than delivered. For eight seasons, people tuned in to watch spectacular dragons, incredible special effects, political intrigue, and lots of sex and violence. With copious nudity, excessive violence, aggressive displays of masculinity to exert power over others, and a narrative built on devastating blows to beloved characters, rape seems inevitable on the world’s most epic television series. As Anne Gjelsvik notes: “sex and violence are integral to the contest for power which underpins the story” (57) of Game of Thrones, and are what many find so entertaining about the series. One need not wait long to see an assault on-screen: one of the show’s protagonists, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), is raped in the pilot episode when she is supposed to be only fourteen years old. The series’ creative team and its fans were able to explain that assault and the incestuous rape of Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady) in season three on the fact that both rapes occurred in Martin’s books and the show was just being loyal to its subject matter. Many fans, however, could not abide by the show depicting the rape of a major teenaged character that does not occur in the books—that of Sansa Stark on her wedding night in the fifth season of the series. Before this episode, Sansa is meek and constantly made to suffer. Afterwards, she stops passively existing within her narrative and letting other people make decisions for her and, motivated by her desire for revenge, works with her siblings to destroy her husband and all of her other enemies to become queen. Her character arc begs the questions: Why did the writers feel it was necessary that she be raped? Why is her rape the event that makes her “strong” enough to become an active heroine and achieve her goals? Men on Game of Thrones become powerful by doing harm to others, but Sansa becomes powerful by having harm done unto her.
- In order to fully understand this trope of rape making women stronger within Game of Thrones, one must examine the series’ ubiquitous, shocking, and often gratuitous use of sexual violence against women. Game of Thrones never explores the effects of rape on its survivors, and often only employs it to elicit shock value.
- Figures such as US Senator Claire McCaskill and the president and founder of the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) felt compelled to respond to the episode. The president of RAINN announced that his organization “receives an influx of calls following the portrayal of sexual violence in popular programs such as Game of Thrones” (Hannell, 4), proving that not only was this episode upsetting to viewers, it was actually triggering to survivors of sexual assault. The episode’s director Jeremy Podeswa was surprised by the intense backlash to the episode and stated at a press conference that he and the showrunners “were aware ahead of time that it was going to be disturbing but we did not expect there would be people in Congress talking about it” (Robinson). Either they did not comprehend the impact their series has on viewers, which I find hard to believe since they are well aware it was a global phenomenon with a dedicated fan base, or they did not understand how disturbing watching the violent rape of a teenager would be for the audience.
- SansaStark’s transition from crying, feminine, helpless princess to unfeeling, masculine leader is the apex of the Game of Throne’s creative team’s ignorance of sexual violence and how it affects its survivors. GOT’s admittance that Sansa’s prolonged sexual abuse is what made her the strong woman leader she is by the end of her narrative in “The Last of the Starks” makes its choices for Sansa’s character arc more appalling, because it proves that the showrunners knew the implications of making Sansa’s rape the catalyst to her strength and leadership. They thought the ends justified the means: that the fact that Sansa was abused by cartoonishly evil men for five seasons was excused because it made her strong enough to become Queen of the North.
- Sean Bean – Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark
- Michelle Fairley – Lady Catelyn Stark
- Maisie Williams – Arya Stark
- Kit Harington – Jon Snow
- Lena Headey – Queen Cersei Lannister Baratheon
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – Jaime Lannister
- Peter Dinklage – Tyrion Lannister
- Mark Addy – King Robert Baratheon
- Jack Gleeson – Prince Joffrey Baratheon
- Ian Beattie – Ser Meryn Trant
- Emilia Clarke – Daenerys Targaryen
- Trent Harry Lloyd – Viserys Targaryen
- Richard Madden – Robb Stark
- Sophie Turner – Sansa Stark
- Alfie Allen – Theon Greyjoy
- Iain Glen – Ser Jorah Mormont
- Jason Momoa – Khal Drogo
- Finn Jones – Ser Loras Tyrell
- Natalie Dormer – Margaery Tyrell
- Dean-Charles Chapman – Tommen Baratheon
- Pedro Pascal – Oberyn Martell
- Rory McCann – Sandor Clegane
- Aidan Gillen – Petyr Baelish
- Conleth Hill – Varys
- James Cosmo – Jeor Mormont
- Peter Vaughan – Maester Aemon (TV final role)
- Carice van Houten – Melisandre
- Gwendoline Christie – Brienne of Tarth
- Liam Cunningham – Davos Seaworth
- Stephen Dillane – Stannis Baratheon
- Kerry Ingram – Shireen Baratheon
- Gethin Anthony – Renly Baratheon
- Charles Dance – Tywin Lannister
- David Bradley – Walder Frey
- Partick Malahide – Balon Greyjoy
- Ian McElhinney – Ser Barristan Selmy
- Tom Wlaschiha – Jaqen H'ghar/Many-faced God
- Ciarán Hinds – Mance Rayder
- Indira Varma – Ellaria Sand
- Owen Teale – Alliser Thorne
- Mark Gatiss – Tycho Nestoris
- Michiel Huisman – Daario Naharis
- Michael McEllhatton – Roose Bolton
- Iwan Rheon – Ramsay Snow (later legitimized as Ramsay Bolton)
- Rose Leslie – Ygritte
- Jerome Flynn – Bronn