Sunday 17 November 2019

Game of Thrones: George RR Martin defends character rape

The Game of Thrones author and creator pleads with fans to stop emailing him in wake of further backlash

Iwan Rheon in Game of Thrones
Iwan Rheon in Game of Thrones
Sansa Stark

Alice Vincent

Twenty-four hours have passed since the broadcast of one of Game of Thrones' most contentious episodes to date, and already the backlash is getting too much for Westeros's creator, George RR Martin.


Season five episode six, Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, included a scene that was not only considered by many brutal and violent viewing, but one that had been invented by the TV show's creators in a storyline that diverged from Martin's book A Dance With Dragons.

In the books Sansa Stark is on an upward trajectory away from the early tragedy in her life and is "moving from pawn to a player".

Instead, TV show creators blended her narrative with that of a character not present in the adaptation, Jeyne Poole. As a result, Sansa experiences rape at the hands of her psychopathic husband Ramsey Bolton, while her childhood friend Theon - another one of Ramsey's victims - is forced to watch.

The plot has caused outrage and debate among the fans, with feminist blog The Mary Sue declaring that they will no longer promote the show in their content.

Martin wrote a piece on his website on Monday to address the "flood of emails and off-topic comments on this blog about tonight's episode."

He stated that the TV and book versions of Game of Thrones were different, and that the small changes TV producers start making can swiftly become far larger ones:

"There have been differences between the novels and the television show since the first episode of season one. And for just as long, I have been talking about the butterfly effect.

"Small changes lead to larger changes lead to huge changes. HBO is more than 40 hours into the impossible and demanding task of adapting my lengthy (extremely) and complex (exceedingly) novels, with their layers of plots and subplots, their twists and contradictions and unreliable narrators, viewpoint shifts and ambiguities, and a cast of characters in the hundreds."

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"There has seldom been any TV series as faithful to its source material, by and large (if you doubt that, talk to the Harry Dresden fans, or readers of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, or the fans of the original Walking Dead comic books)... but the longer the show goes on, the bigger the butterflies become.

"And now we have reached the point where the beat of butterfly wings is stirring up storms, like the one presently engulfing my email."

Of the show's creators, Martin wrote: "David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] and Bryan [Cogman] and HBO are trying to make the best television series that they can."

Cogman spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the scene a few weeks ago, in an interview that was released yesterday. He defended the changes from the books, describing Sansa as: "a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland".

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"Sansa has a wedding night in the sense she never thought she would with one of the monsters of the show. It’s pretty intense and awful and the character will have to deal with it."

It is not the first time Martin has discussed a controversial moment in the TV show.

During season 4, a sex act that was consensual in the books was depicted as non-consensual on TV.

The author responded, saying "The setting is the same, but neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan & David played the scene out differently. But that's just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection."

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