Game of Thrones is one of the best shows on TV, without a doubt. It’s large cast of complex and engaging characters make every season, every episode, a veritable dramatic feast for the millions of viewers that tune in on a weekly basis, plus, it’s got kick ass action, and follows age old themes about power and destiny. But suppose we were to make a list of things you don’t like about Game of Thrones, short though it maybe, what would be at the top? Chances are it might be the shows treatment of women, particularly the recurring use of sexual violence against them.
Evidently, the makers of Game of Thrones have heard your complaints. Jeremy Podeswa, who directed the controversial “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” offered insight in a new interview with Forbes. You’ll recall that the episode in question involved the vile Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) marrying Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and then raping her on their wedding night. Many fans and critics felt that the events of that episode went too far in its treatment of the already long suffering Sansa, and compounded the series already problematic use of rape and sexual violence against its female characters.
“It is important that [the producers] not self-censor. The show depicts a brutal world where horrible things happen,” explained Podeswa. “They did not want to be too overly influenced by that [criticism] but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way.”
Podeswa added that despite what people may think of the scene thematically, both he and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss took great care in showing Bolton’s actions for all its ugliness while not making it overly exploitative.
“It was a difficult and brutal scene and we knew it was going to be challenging for the audience. But it was very important to us in the execution that it would not be exploited in any way. To be fair, the criticism was the notion of it, not the execution. It was handled as sensitively as it could possibly be; you hardly see anything.
“I welcomed the discussion about the depiction of violence on television and how it could be used as a narrative tool sometimes and the questionable nature of that. We were aware ahead of time that it was going to be disturbing but we did not expect there would be people in Congress talking about it.”
Of course, as much as people might recognize the care that Podeswa and the Thrones team took in filming the scene itself, many have noted that the core problem was not that Sansa was sexually assaulted, but rather that the repercussions to her were hardly given any air time at all. Instead, it focused on how it affected Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), who would eventually help Sansa escape Winterfell. In a year where Jessica Jones dealt with the aftermath of sexual assault from the victim’s point of view in a very real, very visceral way, I think “at least we were tasteful” is a pretty feeble justification. I guess we’ll see how well the production team heard the complaints when season six of Thrones premieres.
Game of Thrones returns this spring on HBO.