Whether or not you watched the fifth season of Game of Thrones, you likely caught wind of the controversy surrounding its especially gratuitous violence against women. Even fans of the show condemned certain scenes—Sansa Stark’s rape in particular—as both excessive and lazy plot devices. And what do you know? The showrunners have tempered the sixth season in direct response of these criticisms.
According to the New York Daily News, “director Jeremy Podeswa, who is helming several episodes of the upcoming sixth season...says that the backlash over a shocking rape scene involving Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) has brought a toning down of the way sexual violence is tackled on the show.”
Podeswa recently spoke at an event at Fox Studios Australia where, the Telegraph reports, he made the argument that the producers should not “self-censor.” “The show depicts a brutal world where horrible things happen,” he explained to the audience. The producers “did not want to be too overly influenced by that [criticism] but they did absorb it and take it in and it did influence them in a way.”
Protests regarding the scene were intensified not just due to the scene’s utter brutality, but also because it involves a male spectator: Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), whose viewpoint is centered, erasing Sansa’s. The scene focused on Greyjoy’s face as he reacted to the rape, making the rape a characterizing device for him.
In George R. R. Martin’s book, it’s not Sansa who is raped by Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), but another more minor character. Swapping one woman for another does not make the act more or less abhorrent, but it did cause fans to further question the premise of showrunners’ choices.
But as Sophie Turner told Entertainment Weekly in May, she was not put off by the cruel violence her character faces. “When I read that scene I kinda loved it,” she said, “I love the way Ramsay had Theon watching. It was all so messed up.”
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Image via HBO.