So yeah I'm gonna try to get out some feelings about this week's episode of A Game of Thrones here. If you don't watch the show or if you're not caught up, you should skip this. I'm not really going to be blabbering about plot so much - this is more about the online conversation surrounding the what-happens - but the what-happens is involved, of course.
I was tempted to title this post "Rape: What It's Good For." And I intend to make that point, too! I'm tired of walking on eggshells with this stuff. Screaming the word rape has become a way to shut down conversation and it needs to stop. Stop it! Stop stop stop it! People are raped in the world! Constantly, horribly, viciously! And if a show can't deal with that, if we've got websites throwing online temper-tantrums trying to shut it all down instead of engaging with a very real-world horror -- if an HBO drama can be more realistic about this stuff than Senator Claire McCaskill! -- then I worry about the future not just of Art but of Everything. (Hand in hand, those two.)
Anyway hit the jump, I've got a whole lot to say...
We should be thankful to Game of Thrones for raping Sansa. Here's the deal, since everybody seems to have forgotten this fact: Sansa is not a real person. "Sansa" is the construct of many writers and directors, costume designers, electricians, and an actress. Sansa is an idea, and as such, it is the duty of the fictional space that this "Sansa" inhabits to place this construct into situations for narrative purposes. The dudes who write and direct game of Thrones did not rape a girl. They presented the audience with a play-act of pretend rape, presented as such to specifically elicit the audience's disgust, and pity, and horror. Writers wrote the lines, actors spoke them, an editor edited it together. Every thing that happened happened because a choice was made by fifty people. It happened for a reason! It didn't just fall out of the sky. It happened because they want us to talk and to think about rape.
In this instance, they wanted us to talk and to think about rape in the marital bed. Show me the exact date on the calendar when that became a non-issue, and I'll shut up and say this show, man, it's beating a dead horse. Husbands never violate their wives anymore. Pshaw! Seriously though. And the argument that this doesn't fit with "Sansa's narrative" is even grosser to me -- people have been arguing that we've been watching Sansa get stronger and self-actualize... as if strong women are never raped. Oh sorry no that can't happen, she dyed her hair a few episodes back, she's impenetrable now! What does this say to strong women who have been raped? Oh sorry, you were actually weak all along. It's your fault!
It's the same bullshit argument that got tacked onto Jamie Lannister and Cersei's scene last year - people were horrified that Jamie would do what he did, because he was on "a redemption arc." Coming back from pushing that little boy out the window, you know, by quipping around with Brienne in the woods for awhile. Your sense of narrative arc is the problem, dear viewer. You're the problem. The fact that a rape disturbed you is not the problem. You can stop being disturbed by art when the real world stops disturbing the artists.
A Game of Thrones is not a perfect show. Egads that fight with the Sand Snakes last night was embarrassing. And they did handle the rape scene with Jamie & Cersei last year clumsily. But what I saw on last night's episode was one of the most powerful and upsetting and disturbing displays of patriarchal dominance ever put in screen, and folks tossing their hands up in the air and giving up on the show over it, it makes me crazy. This is why this show exists! That scene was the show firing on all its cylinders, provoking and disturbing with a display of real horror, and maybe all this means if you're freaking out is that this show just wasn't meant for you, and you should just be watching The Big Bang Theory or Friends repeats.
If that sounds dismissive - GOOD. Because I am tired of being told this isn't a conversation we need to be having. The show is having the conversation. The world needs to have the conversation. There is a human being raped every single minute in the United States alone. So you, dear viewer, you toughen the fuck up or get off the boat. Adults are talking here.