Game of Thrones has once again come under fire regarding its treatment of women, with actor Jessica Chastain and director Ava DuVernay slamming the show over certain plot lines, something which the show is not new to.
Chastain and DuVernay are referring to the latest episode "The Last of the Starks", taking issue with two separate concerns. Following Episode 3 "The Long Night", fans couldn’t wait to see what was in store for them, and for the characters that survived last week’s epic battle, which saw Arya dispense with the Night King and his dead army once and for all. For Chastain and DuVernay though, the latest episode was problematic regarding how women were treated.
Chastain and DuVernay both took to Twitter following Episode 4, keen to voice their discontent over certain plot points relating to Sansa Stark and Missandei. Chastain voiced concerns and disappointment over Sansa’s conversation with the Hound, where she talks of how the abuse she suffered from the likes of Joffrey and Ramsay made her the woman she has now become. Meanwhile, DuVernay made reference to the death of Missandei, angry at Game of Thrones for killing the only black woman, especially at such a crucial stage of the story, in her tweet. Check them both out in the space below:
Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.#GameOfThrones pic.twitter.com/TVIyt8LYxI— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) May 7, 2019
Game of Thrones has been controversial from the start, particularly in the way that women have been represented, and never did that become more apparent than in Season 5 when Sansa Stark was brutally raped by her new husband, Ramsay Bolton, on their wedding night. It was a scene that, along with Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame, divided fans, with some even declaring that they were now done with the show.
Such issues will always be highly problematic, as they are large, raw gaping wounds within our culture that hurt when they are exposed. One thing that Game of Thrones does as a show, and, it should be remembered, as genre literature, is serve this up on a platter for people to see in all its vileness. There are times when the show has been so hard to watch because of its lack of light; because it can reach into the pit of despair and sometimes, such as the death of Jon Snow in Season 5, throw fans down into the abyss, only to throw down ladder later on.
Game of Thrones is complex, probably more complex than viewers are yet aware of. The cast of characters is huge and their arcs are often unpredictable. Nothing is simple with Game of Thrones. It was a show that started more humbly than the phenomenon it has become over the years, and though it may look like just entertainment, it can be safe to assume that this is not how or why it was conceived by author GRR Martin years ago. Maybe, given its popularity and the time in which we live, with movements such as Me Too, Times Up and Black Lives Matter, it is a relevant platform to raise such issues, whether they are intentional or not. After all, this is a story about power. It is not merely a story about how things should be, it is a story about how things have been and how they still are. It could be argued that it showcases both the best and the worst of us as a species, and until wounds are revealed and stared in the face they can never truly be healed.