Trigger warning: Rape
Yesterday, I logged into Goodreads and was notified that George R.R. Martin had posted a notice on his blog explaining to his fans that the show and the book series are vastly different.
And yes, more and more, they differ. Two roads diverging in the dark of the woods, I suppose… but all of us are still intending that at the end we will arrive at the same place.” (x)
It was apparent that something had to have happened in the show that did not happen in the books. I shrugged off the little curiosity I had and continued about my Goodreads business. That is, until I opened an article detailing about the most recent development that Sansa was raped on her wedding night, the ending of the episode that did not occur in the book.
First, some notes on what I am about to say. I have read the first book; it has become a favorite of mine. I have started the second book but am finding this reading experience to be slower than the first. But I do plan on reading the series in its entirety. I have seen the show’s first season, and various clips of the succeeding seasons. I also hold an English degree; as part of my studies, I had to take various creative writing courses. And there was a constant in every one of these classes.
Whatever is written has to further the piece.
Every word has to contribute to the poem; every description has to further the plot or offer some kind of depth. Everything has to have a reason for the sake of the story. If not, the writer runs the risk of pausing the plot, interrupting the reading or viewing experience, to provide empty content.
To the audience, this divide from the books has significance – but what is that significance? The violence experienced by Daenerys, Cersei, and Sansa has only one meaning: to portray the characters of the men raping them.
While it may provide little depth to the rapist, this does not move the plot forward. Will some kind of focus be on Sansa’s experiences? I doubt it, considering the first two rapes were overlooked by the following episodes. If the show is consistent with its past treatment of rape, we are watching the continuation of a cycle of violence for the singular purpose of shock-and-awe.
Violence against anyone should not be solely for shock&awe entertainment.
— Amanda N. Butler (@arsamandica) May 19, 2015
To those who say that portraying rape in the Middle Ages is realistic: yes, it is realistic. Since the dawn of time, rape has been a factor of war and pillage. But for the storyteller, the presence of rape in their story must be more than a stance of power. It must set the scene for further meaning, which the writers did not do with Daenerys or Cersei.
As a writer, you have to make mistakes. In my own undergraduate studies, I tried to write a play in which one of the characters had been raped prior to the events of the piece. I did not know how to handle such serious material, which resulted in an offensive play. I threw away all physical copies and deleted all digital copies, but I made sure that the memory stayed with me. I have learned from my experience, as writers should. To write good stuff, you have to write the bad stuff first and learn from it.
This third instance of not-in-the-book rape shows that the writers are not learning. They are not growing as writers. They seem to be merely focused on ratings, which is disappointing to the audience. Will they learn from the past, or will they do what they have done before and glaze over it? Only time will tell. As for me, I’ll stick to the books.