Follow Us on Twitter

Game of Thrones in new rape storm following Sansa Stark book deviation

Game of Thrones

Story by Jack Foley

HBO’S fantasy series Game of Thrones is at the centre of another rape controversy following its most recent episode, Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.

Notoriously violent anyway, the show has nonetheless courted controversy before for its handling of sexual violence – most notably a scene involving a reunion between Cersei and her brother Jaime that many described as rape.

But Monday night’s episode went one step further in showing Sophie Turner’ long-suffering Sansa Stark being married off to the psychotic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and subsequently raped on her wedding night while her dead father’s former ward, Theon (Alfie Allen), stood in frozen horror.

The scene is actually a digression from the books, in which Ramsay marries (and abuses) a different character, a girl who is posing as Sansa’s sister, Arya, and its inclusion has appalled those who condemn on-screen violence against women, as well as fans of the show who are fiercely protective of both the books and its characters.

In the former camp was US Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, who Tweeted immediately afterwards: “Ok, I’m done Game of Thrones. Water Garden, stupid. Gratuitous rape scene disgusting and unacceptable. It was a rocky ride that just ended.”

While in the latter camp, furious devotees of the books bombarded the Twitter page of author George R.R. Martin to express their disgust at the unexpected turn of events, prompting him to issue a statement defending the TV version.

Writing in a blog post, Martin said that HBO and the producers were “trying to make the best television series that they can”, adding: “How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have? Three, in the novel. One, in the movie. None, in real life: she was a fictional character, she never existed. The show is the show, the books are the books; two different tellings of the same story.”

He continued: “There have been differences between the novels and the television show since the first episode of season one. And for just as long, I have been talking about the butterfly effect. Small changes lead to larger changes lead to huge changes.

HBO is more than 40 hours into the impossible and demanding task of adapting my lengthy (extremely) and complex (exceedingly) novels, with their layers of plots and subplots, their twists and contradictions and unreliable narrators, viewpoint shifts and ambiguities, and a cast of characters in the hundreds.”

One of the show’s two main writers, David Benioff, did hint at possible deviances from the book when he said, prior to the start of the current season: “We really wanted Sansa to play a major part this season. If we were going to stay absolutely faithful to the book, it was going to be very hard to do that. There was a sub-plot we loved from the books, but it used a character that’s not in the show.”

But he has yet to respond to the criticisms following the episode, which have well and truly divided fans over its merits.

Next story: CSI to end after 15 years