In response to Game of Thrones and its Black Wedding Night

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So many momentous events transpired in last week’s episode of Game of Thrones. Queen Margery was thrown in prison by religious zealots. Jamie and Bronn were apprehended by the Dornish Royal Guard. Jorah and Tyrion were capture by Essos slavers. And yet, in typical Game of Thrones fashion, all everyone wants to talk about is a wedding. Or to be more specific in this case, a wedding night.

The fact that the bedroom scene with Ramsey, Sansa and Theon was brutal is pretty much universally agreed upon. But what perplexes me is the two camps that seemed to have formed around this scene that seem to highlight our society’s seemingly misguided definitions of what constitutes rape.

Let me be clear at the outset. This scene was clearly a depiction of rape, and I don’t know how it could be construed as anything but. And yet, out of the woodworks come people saying “She knew what she was getting into when she married Ramsey!  So she chose this path for herself.”  Ah, choice. The magic word that somehow absolves a rapist of his crimes. An argument that holds about as much water as the, “She was asking for it,” defense. But let us examine this “choice” that Sansa had.

Yes, Littlefinger told her that she should marry Ramsey, and use her position to defeat the Bolton’s from within. But once she acquiesced, did she know that she was going to subject herself to being brutally assaulted? Recall that during their first meeting when she and Littlefinger arrive at Winterfell, Ramsey is the perfect gentleman. Sure, he is the son of the man that murdered her brother, but he himself did not outwardly show any signs of being the cruel sadist that he is. That was only slowly uncovered after Myranda takes her to the kennels and sees how Ramsey has treated the prince formerly known as Theon.

Myranda further warns Sansa about what happens to people with whom Ramsey becomes “bored”. Now, she finds herself trapped in Winterfell, marrying someone that she is now realizing is even crueler than her previous husband Joffrey (no small feat). Meanwhile, Littlefinger is off to King’s Landing, continuing to play the Game of Thrones more effectively than anyone else this side of the wall. So Sansa is now stuck in Winterfell, surrounded by enemies, with her lone protector off making side deals with Cersei in the South. And yet, she has a choice? She chose to marry Ramsey Bolton. That much is true. She did not “choose” to be wedded to a cruel and atrocious human being. And once she realized just how inhuman Ramsey is, she no longer had any choice at all.

Let’s say that, Sansa had pushed Ramsey away on their wedding night, and said, “No, Ramsey, I’m not okay with this,” with the warning of Myranda still ringing in her ears. By doing this, she basically “chooses” to be tortured and die. The threat of violence looms over this entire scene. Her taking off her clothes was not an act of acceptance or obedience, but rather resignation to the fact that she had no choice.

Now to be fair, I don’t know how showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss could have avoided the inevitable assault that was bound to happen by marrying off Sansa and Ramsey. They painted themselves into this corner by replacing Jeyne Poole (the character that marries Ramsey in the books) with Sansa. Let’s assume that for reasons known only to George R.R. Martin, Ramsey needs to stay alive to progress certain plot points in future novels. Only now, Ramsey has been married off to Sansa. As much as we would have loved Reek to jump in there and reclaim his identity by stabbing Ramsey in the back, what if that ends up breaking the larger narrative and continuity of the show? So we have to grudgingly accept this Sansa/Ramsey pairing, assuming that it will serve a greater purpose in the show. But it’s not as if Weiss and Benioff could have said, “Well, actually Ramsey will be a perfect gentleman with Sansa and not take advantage of her physically and emotionally at every opportunity.”  Ramsey is an evil miscreant and he was going to sexually assault Sansa. Anything less would have been out of character.

However, what appalls me is the fact that even if Weiss and Benioff had to marry Sansa and Ramsey once they had written it into their story, the decision to film that scene, and film it the way that they did, was fully at their discretion. I have long been the biggest apologist and cheerleader for these two creative geniuses, who have somehow turned one of my favorite book series into one of my favorite television series. But what we saw yesterday was completely unnecessary. Did we need to be reminded of the suffering that Sansa was going to endure at the hands of the Bolton’s? We already a saw a delicious example of that in the previous week’s episode that saw Sansa at the dinner party from hell, where she was forced to break bread with her brother’s murderer, his wife and his son, all while being waited on by a shell of what was once an old childhood acquaintance. We’ve already seen Sansa dragged through the emotional wringer throughout the series. There was no need to further remind us of this fact in such bleak and brutal terms.

No one who has gotten this far into Game of Thrones should ever be surprised when people are tortured, murdered, or abused. But while I certainly grant any storyteller as much leeway as possible for them to communicate the vision that they want to share with us, there is a limit to what we should have to endure for the sake of this story. I knew Sansa was going to have a very rough time of it in the new House of Winterfell. But in that scene, I learned nothing new. Beyond the cynical fact that shock value is a great way to boost fan discussion and television ratings. But I already knew that. And it’s not a lesson I particularly care to be reminded of.

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nerd Reactor. 

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