The recent sixth season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the first not to be based directly on the released entries in the George R.R. Martin book series, saw the series attempting to escape some of its notoriety for very dark scenes in its previous years – namely its use of rape as a plot device.
Though complaints from viewers happened throughout the first few seasons, it was the Jamie on Cersei scene in the fourth season and the Ramsay on Sansa scene in the fifth season that have drawn the most ire. Both scenes were in the novels though in a different enough way that there have been understandable complaints that the artistic license taken wasn’t justified.
The HBO series airs on Sky in the UK and this week Sky’s content director Gary Davey appeared at the Edinburgh International Television Festival where he was asked to respond to the criticism the series has received – specifically the backlash to the Sansa Stark rape scene in the fifth season. His response, via The Guardian:
“I think that is nonsense. I think that is there is an awful lot of violence to men. For anyone who has watched the show, it can be a very violent show. I don’t think the violence to women is particularly highlighted, it’s just part of the story. The rape happens, it’s part of the story, it was in the book.”
In the books, there is a rape scene with Ramsay but it is of another character who had since been cut from the show – with Sansa becoming the victim. Ultimately she saw her tormenter meet his fate at the mouths of his own vicious dogs, but as critics have pointed out – the violence to women in the show is far more often sexual in nature and highlighted differently than the violence to men.
The debate is one of accuracy and sensitivity – scenes in the book, like the Jaime and Cersei sex scene, appear less consensual in the screen versions than the literary versions which makes them open for debate. Same with the show’s attitude to nudity which has previously come under fire for lack of balance – there’s been plenty of female nudity but very little male nudity despite cast members like Kit Harington calling for more of it in the interest of fairness.
Despite the arguments, Davey says Sky had only received three complaints about the show’s often extreme scenes of sex and violence:
“I think it is bit silly, it is not like sex and violence on TV is a new idea. I feel like I’ve been defending it for most of my adult life. In fact I’m not sure it’s any worse or any better than it’s ever been. And I think part of the issue is context. I think Sky Atlantic in particularly is a really good example. People know what to expect there. It is challenging content whether it is the story structure, the characters or indeed the intensity of the content in sex and violence context really matters.”
“Game of Thrones” will return for its seventh season on HBO next Summer.