The rape of Sansa Stark


Okay, take a deep breath. We are going to talk about rape, more specifically, TV rape, so if this is a trigger issue, please stop reading now. This is not a post you will enjoy. Come back later, I promise this will not be an ongoing topic. Warning number 2. If you haven’t yet watched Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones (GOT), stop reading now. The post will be dark and full of spoilers. Still here? Okay let’s do this.

I want to start with this, I want to make it emphatically clear, rape is bad. Whether we are talking about raping a drunken co-ed or serial rape, it’s bad. How disgusted am I with this form of violence? I think everyone who has been convicted should have his dick cut off. Is that clear enough? I don’t think anyone who violently forces himself on a woman should get any kind of pass.

Having said that, I am shocked and confused by the visceral response to Sunday’s GOT episode and find the outrage disingenuous and hypocritical. The level of hate thrown at the writers really has me puzzled. Many people Tweeted that they are going to stop watching the show. Others suggested the writers must hate women, and accused the show runners of being insensitive to women. Most of those who voiced their feelings felt the rape scene was unnecessary and over the top. One woman Tweeted over and over again, “We are outraged because rape was used as a plot point! This led me to wonder if she would have been okay with it, had it been gratuitous, like most of the other forms of violence we see on the show? And over the top? No, from what I saw, the writers dealt with a bad situation as best they could.

If you don’t know what I am talking about let me take a moment to explain. During the last few minutes of Sunday’s episode, after Sansa marries Ramsey, he takes her to his room and makes his servant, Stockholm Syndrome victim, Theon (Reek) watch as he rapes his virginal wife. Viewers do not see the rape, we heard it, but the camera stayed on Theon’s face the entire time. The camera faded to black as we watched Theon cringe and cry. This pissed off a Salon writer, who felt this was an indication that the writers were more concerned about Theon’s feelings than they were with Sansa’s. Ironically, the piece that argues that the focus should have been on Sansa (a woman) used a picture of Tyrion and Jorah (two men) as the header. Didn’t really think that through did you Salon?

As I stated earlier, I was shocked and confused by the outrage. This is what people and some article writers are pissed about? You’d think this was the first time GOT explored the violent side of human nature. It’s not. Here’s a list, off the top of my head of graphic violence viewers have seen:

Men getting their heads cut off

Babies being stabbed in the belly and thrown in the ocean

Baby boys being left in the snow to die or be taken by the White Walkers

Two young boys burned alive and strung up as trophies

A prostituted tied and shot with a cross bow (okay, we didn’t actually see Rose get shot but we saw the aftermath)

Theon being tortured week after week cumulating in his dick being cut off.

A girl torn apart by dogs (okay, we didn’t see that either, but we heard it just like we heard Sansa scream).

I think you get the point. This is a very violent show. Yet when the aforementioned list was shown, not much was said. Oh there were a few sniffles and mild comments, but nothing like what we saw after Sunday’s show. Why? What the hell makes this particular violent scene worse that any previous violent act? Why is this worse than seeing babies being killed? Why is this worse than seeing anyone killed? Remember the Red Wedding? A pregnant woman was stabbed and left to bleed to death. Why didn’t those who vow to stop watching the show now, stop then? Was it because these deaths weren’t used as plot points? Because we weren’t forced to watch Sansa reaction? This is something Salon seems to think is an issue. Who the hell wanted to see that?!

The Salon writer, Libby Hill, suggests that because we saw the rape from Theon’s point of view, the show is more concerned about his reaction than Sansa’s. I suggest Hill keeps these two things in mind: we saw a little of Sansa’s reaction when she was being forced on the bed. And unless you’ve seen all of the remaining shows ahead of time, reserve judgment. I guarantee we will see Sansa’s reaction soon enough, and it won’t be pretty.

That we saw the rape from Theon’s point of view was a relief. If we were subjected to seeing the actual rape, I could understand the outcry. Again, who the hell would want to see that? Let’s look at three reasons we saw this from Theon’s point of view and why this was used as the dreaded plot point:

First, we saw this from Theon’s point of view as a cinematic devise. Theon was a stand in for the audience. His reaction was our reaction. He shared our horror and was used as a means that allowed us to forgo watching the rape.

Secondly, Theon suffers from an extreme case of Stockholm syndrome. He is petrified of Ramsey and allows himself to be abused because at this point, he is not even sure who he is. Being forced to watch as Ramsey abuses Sansa will be the thing that pushes him over the edge, the thing that makes him snap out of it.

Theon is not a sympathetic character. Remember he is the one that had the two boys burned alive and let everyone believe he had killed the two youngest Stark children. There is not much he can do to redeem himself to the audience at this point. The audience, like Sansa doesn’t care what happens to him. But if he avenges Sansa or helps her kill Ramsey, the audience will cheer and forgive him for his past.

And finally, we watched this from Theon’s point of view because the writers knew that this was a touchy subject. It is not that they hate women (and spoiler alert, this is from the books, though a different character is raped) but they understood that this would be hard for women. Though my personal preference would have been to have an implied rape, I think the writers acted as delicately as they could, given the narrative and need for something horrible to happen in order to drive the storyline forward. Like it or not haters, plot points are used to drive a story forward. As horrible as this is, it might be the only thing that would make Sansa align with Theon. Moments before, she said to him, “Do you think I care what Ramsey does to you?”

This scene was no more violent than most. In fact, I’d argue that it was less graphic and jarring than what we’ve seen in the past. I don’t understand why this is worse than anything else GOT has thrown at us, and why torches and pitchfork are being raised. All forms of violence are horrible and deserve our outrage, if they happen in real life. But this is a TV show, and if you are going to be outraged by this, you damn well better be outraged by all of the show’s violence with equal measure.

By the way, you may want see what Sophie Turner, the girl who plays Sansa has to say about the scene

Libby Hill, A Game of Thrones recap Salon. com

Post-show wrap ups A case for why we need the Humanities

Future dragon trainer?
Future dragon trainer?

Last night was the 5th season premier of Game of Thrones. No, don’t worry. This isn’t a recap or review of the show. Nor will there be spoilers. I use this as a reminder as to why we need to keep the study of the Humanities in our classrooms.

Humanities, at least in America, are being pushed aside for more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes .We apparently want our children to learn how to make technological advances, but not ask questions about these advances like, “is this a good thing to do? And, how will it benefit mankind?

The Humanities teaches us critical thinking skills and asks us to search our worldview and ourselves. What does it mean to be human? is a question posed not just by science alone but by the Humanities as well.

A lot of students find these classes boring and whine because they are asked to read and consider the Classics. What they don’t realize is that humanity expresses itself through words, art, drama, architecture, and religious worship. These symbolic gestures form our world. To know what it means to be human is to study and understand these very same symbolic gestures.

Once upon a time (really not that long ago) one of the foundation stones of a college education was acquiring critical thinking skills. This meant that one was not easily swayed by bullshit. A measure of one’s education was knowing when to ask questions and look beyond whatever was being presented. “Does that make sense? Is there more than what meets the eye? How do I know this is true?” Those who mastered these skills were equipped to view the world without the use of cultural and gut-feeling filters. They were able to draw upon their education when faced with symbolic gestures and could easily place them in proper context. Humanities majors made good use of these skills, with many becoming novelists and journalists. These were the people who knew what it meant to be human and could translate world events through storytelling or news reporting.

Today there is a push for specialized fields. My son was a journalist major for three years and never once did he have to take a Humanities course. Rather than focusing on learning why things happen, and then learning to write about it, the focus is on how to get the story out. This is disheartening to me, as the first question should always be, “is this true?”, not, “how do I get my Twitter followers to read my news article?”

We have yet to see the full ramifications of this new breed of journalists, but we are starting to get an idea of how this type of approach can be damning. One has to look no further than the recent Rolling Stone article about a campus rape. The story went viral and caused public outcry as well as damage to the University of Virginia (where the rape allegedly took place). The story started to unravel as more experienced journalists started asking questions. A review into the story led to the conclusion that Rolling Stone failed its readers by not asking the right questions. Most of what the young girl claimed turned out to be false. You can read a great analysis of the review here.

Rolling Stone made a lot of mistakes, and many people are to blame, yet all of them could have been avoided by first, asking one simple question: how do I know this is true?

Another example of this new breed of “journalists” can be found on social media. There is a growing trend of podcasts on YouTube and iTunes that call themselves “After Show wrap ups”. Afterbuzz TV, a very popular collection of these shows says this: “For decades, sports fans have been treated to post-game wrap up shows after watching games. Thanks to AfterBuzz TV, at long last, TV fans can do the same”. What they fail to realize is that sport post-game wrap up shows are hosted by former players and sports journalists who know what in the hell they are talking about. This new breed, not so much.

I like to watch Game of Thrones, but because most of my friends do not I have no one to talk to discuss it with. I decided to download an episode of one of these post-show wrap ups. I thought I would be offered some insight into things that I might have missed as I stared dreamily at Peter Dinklage. What I got instead was a train wreck.

I looked at the bio of the hosts for clues as to their stupidity. I won’t name them, as I do not want to cause them embarrassment. They do this to themselves just by opening their mouths.

Would it surprise you to learn they all claimed to have college degrees? Would it be equally surprising to learn that these are specialized degrees? I doubt one of them took a Humanities course or if they did, slept through it and dreamed about being famous.

It would appear obvious that in order to successfully talk about storytelling, one would have to possess a good understanding of the medium. Since the Game of Thrones is primarily about the human condition, one should have a solid foundation for this too. These hosts do not.

Picture yourself watching a scene in which a very large religious statue is being pulled from atop of a pyramid by an army who had just conquered the city. The statue crashes down in spectacular CGI fashion and breaks a part upon impact. You my dear readers do not need to be told what the breaking of the statue represents. Yet here are the hosts talking about it:

Female Host: “ I don’t get it. Why did they pull the statue down?”


Male Host: “I guess to show them who is in charge?”

WTF? They just watched an army conquer a city and then systemically destroy the religious icons and yet, the female host cannot figure out why. You don’t need a college education to understand the meaning behind this destruction. It’s happening right now in the Middle East, and yet this young woman is clueless. She can no more understand this than she can understand why Daenerys (a young queen with pet dragons) would need Tyrion’s (a politically savvy outcast) help. But sadly, neither do the other hosts. As they talk about this possible alliance one of the hosts says this:

Well, he has read a lot of books. Maybe Tyrion can teach Daenerys how to train her dragons”. I bet he’s read a book about it”. The hosts then go on to discuss the possibility that this is how Tryion comes to help Daenerys. Not by teaching her the game of politics, but how to keep her dragons from eating innocent people. At this point I turned the podcast off. So much for an insightful discussion. Should have just talked to myself as I watched the show. Okay, I would have a least looked at the cat when commenting.

These hosts could have benefited from a few Humanities courses. They would have learned the fine art of storytelling, what symbolic gestures mean, and how politics, not dragon training, is crucial to nation building.

It would be ideal if STEM were to be changed to STEAM. We need the arts, and by arts I mean the Humanities. For without them we wouldn’t know why we do the things we do. Technology might allow us to build better dragons, but Humanities will have us ask: Do we really need them in the first place? I’ll take the guy who’s read a lot of books over the girl with the out of control pet dragons any day.

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