Cable TV juggernaut HBO is in hot water again for its depiction of rape on television.
‘Game of Thrones’ fans would recall the criticism the show faced from some quarters, and the defense by some cast and crew, for the alleged rape scene in Season 4 between twincest lovers Cersei and Jaime, and also the rape of Sansa Stark on her wedding night by the psychopathic Ramsay Bolton in Season 5.
From fantasy to futuristic
Well there was no rape controversy for Season 6 and attention has moved from the medieval fantasy to upcoming science fiction show ‘Westworld’, a retelling of the eponymous Michael Crichton 1973 film about a futuristic theme park with androids. During a screening of the new show at the Television Critics Association Summer Tour in July the audience was shown a sequence of a female robot (Evan Rachel Wood) being dragged off to be raped by a villainous character played by Ed Harris.
The situation was not helped when new president of programming, Casey Bloys, when asked if the violence was more heavily inflicted upon women than men in the shows, joked “we’re going to kill everybody”. Producer Lisa Joy was much better when she tackled the question: “Sexual violence is an issue we take seriously. It’s extraordinarily disturbing and horrifying. In its portrayal, we endeavored for it to not be about the fetishization of those acts. It is about exploring the crime and establishing the crime. And the torment of the characters within the story. And exploring the stories — hopefully with dignity and depth.” (independent.co.uk).
My two cents
Now I have seen both scenes from Game of Thrones and I am looking forward to watching Westworld, which premieres October 2, so I decided to give my own view. For me when it comes to rape scenes in shows there are two major factors: the why it was done and how it was done.
On the “why” my questions are: does the rape scene fit with the characterisation of the characters; is it expected behaviour based on the character’s previously demonstrated behaviour; and lastly does it move forward a character arc or plot. In the Cersei and Jaime case the rape, which is still debated, was not surprising considering their strange and turbulent relationship, and the act only served to demonstrate that. In the Ramsay case he is an evil misogynistic bastard so I do not believe anyone would be surprised by him raping Sansa. And this act, though disturbing, was a necessary part of her character arc which included her future and most satisfying revenge. I did not see the Westworld scene so I would withhold comment on that.
On the “how” my question would be: is how the act being showed glorifying or sexualising the rape? Because if there is a scene showing that a rape is “good” or “desired” then that is just plain wrong, promotes sexual violence against women and should be denounced by all right thinking people. In the Game of Thrones scenes there was nothing sexy about it and both were disturbing. The Westworld scene was reportedly off screen. I saw a concern posed that there was more sexual violence shown against women than men. So do we need to have equal rapes of men to women? Or no rape scenes whatsoever? It is not a logical line of thinking.
In conclusion both these shows, and others, are adult shows which feature awful human beings doing awful things to each other including rape, torture and murder. I will not support any show that promotes or makes light of sexual violence against women; this is why I stopped watching Comedy Central show ‘Tosh.0’ following Daniel Tosh’s gang rape joke back in 2012 (theguardian.com). If I see that Game of Thrones, Westworld or any other show is doing that they would similarly be dropped like a hot potato and I would add my voice to any protest or criticism.
For me a rape scene on an adult show that is in character and in keeping with the plot and setting, but does not glorify or justify sexual violence, is not an issue. There are many, many issues that need to be highlighted and spoken about when it comes to sexual violence against women AND men. Let us not be distracted by the non-issues.
So what is your view of the Game of Thrones and Westworld rape controversies? Feel free to comment below. And if you enjoyed this article feel free to like and share.
For my Game of Thrones Season 6 finale review you can click here and for my Top 5 contenders for the Iron Throne post you can click here.
I will forego my usual goodbye catchphrase for this – NO means NO and rape is never okay under any circumstance. Be safe out there guys.