Game of Thrones is winding up for another season release, and Sophie Turner is giving out interviews left and right. Though she was only 13 when the show started (my god), Turner can now weigh in on things that happened to her character, Sansa Stark, as an adult.
One of the most controversial things to happen to Sansa was a rape by sociopath Ramsay Bolton, a plot point used to some degree as motivation for a male character, who watched it in silent horror. It’s also not something that happens to Sansa in the books, making her rape seem all the more gratuitous. And the use of sexual assault to move the story along is a problem the series has had in general with its other women characters.
In an interview with Time, Turner was asked is she was surprised by the intense reaction to Sansa getting the Game of Thrones treatment, which I am sharing in full because it has so many twists and turns:
I wasn’t overly surprised. Of course, it’s a sensitive subject. And there is still such a taboo surrounding subjects like that and you don’t really see it portrayed onscreen that much. But one of the things it stirred in me was surprise that so much of people’s time and energy was being spent discussing a fictional scene on television when you hear about people in third world countries —and not just third world countries, all over the world! — getting raped every day, and sexually assaulted every day. This was the trending topic on Twitter, and it makes you wonder, when it happens in real life, why isn’t it a trending topic every time? This was a fictional character, and I got to walk away from it unscathed. Also, why should it be taboo to portray onscreen? If it gets that discussion going then I think it’s really important. It has to be brought into the mainstream because it is. Whether people want to hide it in the closet or not, it happens all the time, everywhere. It is mainstream. So it would almost be an injustice for us to ignore. Things like that did and continue to happen. And I feel so passionately about it that when something like that happens onscreen and there is a discussion and there is an uproar, great! Let’s take that discussion and that dialogue and use it to help people who are going through that in their everyday lives. Stop making it such a taboo, and make it a discussion.
There certainly was a lot of discussion, so if that is how we judge the merits of representation, it was a successful choice on the part of the showrunners, who are men, and the many Game of Thrones directors who are all men, with one exception. In fact, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff also weighed in on the sexual violence women face on the show, as part of the same series of interviews with Time. They don’t think it could have been avoided:
Benioff and Weiss claim to have seen no other possible outcome for a character stranded in a marriage to a psychopath, in a skewed version of feudal society. “It might not be our world,” says Benioff, “but it’s still the same basic power dynamic between men and women in this medieval world. This is what we believed was going to happen.” Adds Weiss: “We talked about, is there any other way she could possibly avoid this fate that doesn’t seem fake, where she uses her pluck to save herself at the last? There was no version of that that didn’t seem completely horrible.”
In lighter news, Sophie Turner revealed in another interview with the Sunday Times that she actually learned what oral sex was through a Game of Thrones script. These are the dangers of growing up on this set!
“The first time I found out about oral sex was reading the Game of Thrones script,” she said. “I said, ‘Wow! People do that? That’s fascinating!’ I guess that was my sex education. Being on Game of Thrones.”
Deadline reports that the finale of Season 7 will be 82 minutes, and Season 8 is planning to make every episode almost a full length movie. Turner told Time that her hope for Sansa is that she “continues to keep growing more and more powerful and confident in herself.”
She added, “But in reality, it’s probably not going to happen, and she’s probably going to die!” If she’s facing taping full-length movies on a TV show schedule, Turner may even be hoping Sansa dies.