'Game of Thrones' to tame depictions of sexual violence after public outcry
Smash-hit series 'Game of Thrones' may tone down its depiction of sexual violence after a backlash from viewers over the last season.
When the curtain comes up on Season Six of the eagerly awaited blockbuster, which has conquered the TV world for its creative ambition and cinematic scope, it may have a less brutal and less raw texture.
It had made headlines in particular for its difficult and distressing depiction of rape.
Balancing horror with the harsh and brutal realities of war, which gives the series an edge, is fraught with risk. But such was the backlash and swell of complaints that creators of the fantasy series, David Benioff and DB Weiss, are reviewing how the subject is portrayed.
Director Jeremy Podeswa, who has directed two episodes and is expected to helm more this season, has revealed the unease felt by the show's creators.
Mr Podeswa said they "were responsive to the discussion and there were a couple of things that changed as a result".
"It is important that (the producers) not self-censor. The show depicts a brutal world where horrible things happen. They did not want to be too overly influenced by that (criticism) but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way."
Mr Podeswa was behind last season's episode 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken'. The programme became hugely controversial because of a harrowing scene where Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) raped Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) on her wedding night.
The traumatic scene - which does not feature in George RR Martin's books - generated numerous complaints from audiences. Many critics objected not just to the notion of the act, but to the execution of the scene, and it proved so controversial that it was even discussed in the US senate. The scene focused on another character - Theon Greyjoy, played by Alfie Allen - witnessing the rape. Some criticised this decision, saying it took away Sansa's agency.
Critic Charlotte Runcie said of the episode: "The grim scene was difficult for the show to justify. Sansa has been through plenty already and using rape as female character development is a fantasy cliché that can so easily look crass."
George RR Martin defended the changes to the book, describing Sansa as "a hardened woman making a choice - and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland."
Mr Podeswa explained his approach to the scene. "It was a difficult and brutal scene and we knew it was going to be challenging for the audience," the director said of that moment. "But it was very important to us in the execution that it would not be exploited in any way."
The episode was not the first time Game of Thrones had come under fire over sexual violence. Typically, members of the cast and crew have justified the presence of rape scenes by arguing that Westeros is a brutal place, sexual violence often occurs as a result of war, and many of the show's depictions come from the source material.
But author Martin has previously said: "Rape, unfortunately, is still a part of war today. It's not a strong testament to the human race, but I don't think we should pretend it doesn't exist." (© Daily Telegraph, London)