Let’s Talk About {Rape,} Baby – A Little Conversation on a Larger Issue

{If not now, when? } As the reigning Queen {or Kahleesi, as I prefer to be called} of the Game of Thrones fandom, I with all the other freaks, geeks and critics was impacted by this Sunday’s haunting episode. {Let’s just say there is no way you can watch this one without being pierced by Sansa’s cries as she is brutally raped by Ramsay Bolton. They stay with you.} It’s not an episode that allows turn on, click off and go about your nighttime routine. As a viewer, I need time to heal and I’m not even sure I’ll be cured in time for next Sunday’s viewing. In the spirit of living as humans do, we all have choices {as physical and fictionally created beings} and I believe I am faced with a choice as I confront the fires kindled by this episode of Game of Thrones and the larger destruction caused by popular culture. {If you’re asking yourself what kind of world do these violent crimes and heinous acts happen all to often both on and off the screen? Sadly, the answer is ours.}

At this point in the HBO series, three rapes have occurred that were not originally penned in the novel. While that is daunting train of thought, it is no comfort because several others occur in the pages of the Game of Thrones series. {So take your pick because anywhere you turn, whether you’re a book lover or a visual-junkie you can’t hide.} That being said these scenes, while painstakingly uncomfortable and painful, they provoke the question – is it necessary. Are such scenes necessary to a) the storyline and b) the success of the enterprise?

On one hand I can understand the inclusion {bear with me} of rape scenes because rape is {an unpleasant} reality. Rape happens with a daily frequency; that if one bears the thought, for its complete enormity and consequence, would be crushed under the weight in a matter of seconds. With this in mind, television and cinema should be reflective of reality. {This is a coping mechanism, a crutch – while I’m no expert in cinematography or the genius that keeps us coming back for more – I believe television in its most basic and even fanatical forms is a mechanism of socialization, that can both mold and crack one’s fragile illustrations of the world, a welcome hiatus from living.}  If we call for an accurate presentation of reality in the media, we would be asking for a lot of things, including the equal inclusion and representation of a multiplicity of things { women, ethnic groups, disabilities…the list goes on – another topic for another time.} To connect the dots, to follow this train of thought – rape happens it should be visible in the media and addressed in such a manner that brings awareness, education, and ultimately empowerment for survivors around the world. So far, Game of Thrones has not portrayed rape in this way {if there are shows/movies that do, I’d like to know} but what the show has accomplished is success in stirring its viewers.

As Entertainment Weekly blogger, James Hibberd, states {reading my mind:}

“But watching a deadly serialized drama like Thrones—or The Walking Dead or The Sopranos—is like being in a co-dependent abusive relationship with a TV series. We love the show, but the show hurts us to entertain us. And we want the show to hurt us—that’s part of the reason we watch. If nothing really bad ever happens to characters we love on Thrones, we would grow frustrated and bored. In fact, earlier this season you started to see some of this, with viewers complaining that not enough was happening. But do we want Thrones to really push our boundaries? Or do we want the show to stay within certain lines? To wound, but not too deeply?”

There’s a reason we crave {a certain amount of} drama in our lives and in the sensational lives of our favorite characters. Being complacent and content breeds boredom especially on TV, routine is the reason we yawn, romantics wouldn’t be romantics if the obstacle part of the story was removed and the lovers had no struggle to be together {and so the conversation continues…}

This episode, especially, has made us feel something – the marker of a success. You know when you watch/read something and at the end, all you think is that was a waste of time, you’re left starving for thought that’s the mark of a one star production. If something provokes great love or great anger or great something it has impacted you – sweet success. Game of Thrones does this.

The most important question for me is: How do I respond as a feminist? Do I keep watching a show that perpetuates the violent assault and treatment of women? Does the empowerment of other female characters make up for it? Do I stop watching? What do I do?

The answer: I’ll keep you posted, tune in next time.

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