c.e. taillefer

May 6, 2013

Game of Thrones and Sexualized Violence


I have been mad at Game of Thrones before. I was mad when they made Daenerys’ wedding night into a graphic rape scene. I was mad at some of the asshole-clenchingly awful sexposition scenes. I was mad about the attempted rape on Sansa during the riot (and the dream-recap the next night). I was livid about the scene where Joffrey abuses two prostitutes.

Last night, I was mad enough to actually stand up and yell a lot. There was huffing. I scared Gary.


From the very beginning of the show, the producers have added new characters, or created composites of existing characters for a couple of purposes – to fulfill roles played by multiple characters in the books, and to give us insights into certain characters we don’t normally get POV exposition on – Pycelle, Varys, Littlefinger, Tywin, etc.

Ros was a new character for the show, who had a pretty typical story (working girl moves from small time to big city) in an atypical setting (people are disgusting monsters as opposed to Pretty Woman-style telling). She heads off to King’s Landing with the Starks early on, and in time, becomes a madam of a pretty swanky brothel (For the book readers, she ends up being both Alayaya and Chataya, basically). Her role was pretty controversial – many book readers hated her, simply because she offended their book purist senses – and sometimes her scenes felt weak.  Sexy background to Littlefinger’s friend-zoning story was straight up HBO titillation. Sexy background to the idea that Grand Maester Pycelle isn’t what he seemed. And so on.

But she also was a connection to Winterfell, as her scene with Shae and Sansa in S3E1 showed. She wasn’t ashamed of who she was or what she did, but she cared about protecting her girls, and others like her. Despite everything that happened to her, she wouldn’t wish someone like Littlefinger on anyone.

Of all the people in the show, I had no reason to expect Ros WOULDN’T live, simply because, she wasn’t GRRM’s creation. She was, I thought, above the arbitrary header of “anyone can die”

I forgot, of course, she was a sexual woman on a tv show, and it’s much more important to have her serve as a lesson and motivation to the MEN in the show. How silly of me! How absolutely absurd.

There is still plenty of time and space where Ros could have played an interesting and valuable role.  She’s smart, she’s implied to be learned, she’s resilient, she cared about taking control of her own life, even if it was in ways that other people sneered at. And yet, for all that, she was mostly just a piece of scenery to be abused – by Cersei, by Joffrey, by Littlefinger.  Varys was the only one who treated her as any kind of equal – even Shae seems insulted by the implication that her and Ros were anything alike (and I say this as someone who loves the TV-version of Shae. Of course, I don’t hold out much hope for her survival.)

If Ros had to die – even if it was for something as terrible as “the writers got bored/didn’t know where to go with her/we had to show how much of a dick Littlefinger is”, did they have to show it? wouldn’t it have been enough to show Joffrey walk out of his room with a cross-bow without the backdrop of a dead whore in his bed? We already know he’s a monster – people keep saying it, for one but we also KEEP SEEING it.

I feel like the adage “Show, don’t tell” has done us a massive disservice as storytellers.  It’s become de rigeur to show monstrosities as a way of depicting monsters.  But the scene in season 2 with Joffrey, Daisy and Ros would have served its purpose just as easily if there had been a brief line or two about what had happened to the women Tyrion had “gifted” his nephew.  You could even contrast it with the Podrick scene which, aside from the women’s introductions, was not shown. It’s almost as if, in addition to the idea that sex without violence isn’t worth showing, but the producers believed that viewers could use their imaginations to envision impressive acts of sexual prowess, but not use those same brains to imagine something awful.  I assure you, given the fact that humanity is often a seeting pustule on the earth’s butthole, most people could have managed it.

Same with the Theon scene. I get it. Ramsay’s awful.  I could probably watch Iwan Rheon’s face change a million times in one scene forever, but I am not sure we needed a play-by-play flaying either.  And again, Theon’s helplessness and the violence done him is very sexualized – bondage (so to speak), threats of rape; if they hold true to the books, genital mutilation and sexual torture.

Stop it. Seriously. Cut that shit out. I know you can do interesting, high-stakes scenes without it being all pornographic.  The hideous speed and brutality of Jaime losing his hand, while awful to watch, was an extraordinarily well-done scene.  The bath scene, which was for all intents and purposes, a monologue, was tense and effective.  Even Littlefinger’s monologue, closing in over Sansa’s distraught face would have been an incredible moment – it didn’t need Ros to be impactful.

Also, can we talk about fandom response, because you know there’s one for such a controversial character:

Joffrey finally did something I agree with!!! I hated this character adaptation!!!!!!!!!! I think D and D gave us, “Bookies” a bone here . . getting rid of Ros and having us cheer King Joffrey!!!


This was really not okay, PatrickStormborn was right. Ros’ death was very triggering for me… it brought me back to a time in my life when a boy-king tied me up and shot me with a crossbow. D&D should be ashamed…


The only problem with her dying is that they didn’t show it happening.


All I know is Ros was bad, sexy, and a fucking turn on, and now she’s dead.
To some people, that makes her even hotter.


Joff is awesome as usual! Nice way to put a bad story line to an end.


These people only care because a woman suffered, not because of her actual character; if it was a man they would care less. These fans are all of the belief that every single female character in this show is good and all the males are bad. Just ugh.


Makes me feel like a bit of a sicko to say it, but I thought she looked very beautiful in death.


Has it been said how horrible her death must have been for her? He probably toyed with her for a bit and watched fear him. Can you picture being tied there with this maniac staring you down with a crossbow? Horrifying. And if he didn’t get her with the first quarrel, the screams may have been horrible.

(quotes courtesy of the toilet bowl that is westeros.org btw)

Yeah, I’m real mad about this.  Maybe this is just the relatively minor straw that broke the camel’s back, but despite looking forward to this season for a long time (since they announced the show, really!), this is the first time I’ve really considered stopping to watch.  I won’t, because I’m a hideous pop culture slave, and I’ll probably get mad a lot more before its over.

But STOP THAT SHIT. Stop it right now. You can do better than this.  This was lazy, piss-poor and misogynistic narrative and it didn’t need to happen. Fuck you, producers.


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