More musings on Game of Thrones (and rape)

05 May

[Content Notes: Game of Thrones, discussion of rape]

[Spoiler Warning: Game of Thrones S04E05 “First of His Name”]

A short post – I’m not dead. Homecoming post will be delayed this week, I had a lot more to say about chapter one than I thought I was going to and I haven’t quite finished with it yet. Hopefully I’ll get it finished in a day or two, but if not I’ll try for a double feature next week.

In the meantime, some musings about Game of Thrones.

Firstly: it’s a very weird experience watching the show now, because they’ve now changed enough things from the books that I often have no idea where things are going to go. Obviously I still know a lot of the broad strokes and major events, but as to which events are going to happen when (or in what order) and the fates of a lot of pseudo-minor characters who were changed substantially (Shae and Bronn in particular, Locke who was the replacement for Vargo Hoat, probably a few others that aren’t immediately coming to mind), I almost feel like I’m unspoiled. It’s very bizarre, and I’m not sure I like it. I feel weirdly anxious watching the show, partially because I’m not sure what they’ll be changing and how that will impact the show as an adaptation of books I love, and partially because I’m never sure when there’s going to be a cringe-worthy GANG RAPE ORGY out of nowhere like there was last week (my eyeballs were given no opportunity to consent to that!).

That said, I think this week’s episode was pretty solid, and a definite improvement over the last two in that I didn’t see anything to get truly outraged about. There is, of course, still problematic content and I’m not going to say the show is perfect, but there were a few things I definitely appreciated.

Mainly, what I wanted to comment on was the fact that I thought the women at Craster’s Keep were able to regain some agency in this episode, which was a welcome relief after the aforementioned gang rape scene in episode four. There was a scene in which Jon Snow is fighting a losing battle against Karl (the man who shouted “rape them until they’re dead” in the previous episode, and ostensibly the leader of the mutineers), until one of the women comes up behind him and stabs him in the back. A bit cliche, especially for Game of Thrones which tries to subvert and avoid cliche wherever possible (or at least the source material does), but it was a welcome sight. And after that, once Jon et al were finished with killing the mutineers, he asks the women what they’re going to do and offers them a place at Castle Black; the oldest one refuses – “we’ll find our own way” is what she says – citing the fact they’d been abused by Craster and abused by the mutineers who were formerly Night’s Watch. Jon also asks them whether they intend to stay at Craster’s keep; the spokeswoman says no and tells them to burn it to the ground, which they do.

It’s not perfect – in particular, notice the fact that these women are all still nameless, which I struggled with while summarising it – but I nevertheless think it was a significant improvement and helps to make up for the awfulness in the previous episode a little, though obviously it can’t negate it. At least in this episode I didn’t feel like those women were being treated as props by the narrative (thank god for small favours!).

I won’t say the episode was completely free of problematic material; there was a scene in which Meera Reed serves as a damsel in distress and is threatened with rape only to be conveniently saved by the bell as the Night’s Watch party arrives and begins their attack (not only do we once again have a competent female character forced into a situation in which she must be rescued by the actions of men, but the ‘conveniently interrupted rape’ is also a horrible cliche that I’d prefer not to see the show resort to). And there is still the problem that the rape of Cersei Lannister by Jaime is completely ignored by the show, as if it had never happened at all (not that I honestly expected otherwise).

I’m not going to pass a verdict overall; if you decided to stop watching the show in the wake of the last two episodes, I don’t think it’s in your best interest to start again (particularly if you wish to avoid triggering material), but this week’s episode may leave a better taste in your mouth than they did.

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Posted by on May 5, 2014 in mitchell


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