The Spectator by 20 May 2015 16:27
If you’ve never watched Game of Thrones, it is a twee fantasy show in which men and women discuss politics at length, dance in Austen-like balls, and drink small amounts of wine by streams. Characters communicate as much by the angle at which they hold their fans or opera glasses as by the subtext of their artfully crafted bon mots. It has attracted a massive following for the cultured and intellectually stimulating qualities of the series, but there has been some outrage after the last episode featured what appeared to be a rape scene.
After four full seasons, viewers are expressing horror over an incident that has shocked regular fans of a series universally famous for treating beloved characters with cherished dignity and respect. Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti said that she was done with the show, and bloggers the world over are howling at the injustice of Sansa Stark’s rape at the hands of the previously sweet-natured Ramsay Bolton. Bolton had, until this point in Game of Thrones, predominately been seen pressing rose petals and butterflies into the pages of his scrap book. There was little or no clue that he was a man capable of such a barbaric sex crime. Ramsay, who shed more than a few tears every time he found a butterfly on its last legs (he never killed them) would often compose sonnets to the beautiful creatures before preserving them forever.
If you have watched Game of Thrones, you will appreciate the sarcasm. GoT is a culturally and artistically vacuous banquet of sex, violence, corruption, lies, and thuggery. It’s a soft porn Lord of the Rings which has creeped into pseudo-respectability for the sympathetic portrayal of a well-hung nymphomaniac dwarf. Characters are beheaded, raped, poisoned, have their eyes gouged out, stabbed in the womb, fed to dragons, and put on trial for being gay. It’s basically the Labour leadership contest in allegorical format. That anyone can be bothered at this stage to raise a complaint that Sansa Stark has been raped when series one ended with her father’s head being chopped off and settled on a pike is a terrible indictment of the blogosphere’s need for constant outrage. Did you guys only start watching?
While the real world is heaving with genuine tragedy, you would have to have a cranium stuffed with cottonballs not to see that the makers of Game Of Thrones are, like the writer of the books, clever sadists whose only guiding light is the desire to shock us just a tiny bit more each time we watch. It is violent pornography from start to finish, and since Peter Jackson’s six Tolkein films allowed us to feel OK about gorging on fantasy fiction, we’ve all convinced ourselves that this isn’t just TV for adolescents who paint wood elf figurines to masturbate to.
Just because millions of people watch and love Game of Thrones doesn’t make it worthy of the synthetic outrage it is currently receiving, which will doubtless encourage the producers to involve greater acts of violent depravity in future episodes. Anger leads to hate, and hate leads to viewing figures. Shocked that someone was raped? You’ve obviously forgotten about that time in the series when a character was raped by her own brother. Why are you still watching this stuff? You either secretly enjoy it, or you just have a column to fill.
Expressing outrage at Game of Thrones now is like suddenly, on maybe your fifth visit to North Korea, starting to question the merits of the Jong Il regime. It’s absolutely no excuse to pretend that your shock is really based upon the fact that the producers have deviated from the books, because a) so what? b) don’t pretend you read the books and c) they’ve been deviating from the books – or so people nerdier than me wail loudly online – for quite some time. That incest rape wasn’t in the books. Why didn’t you switch off then? It isn’t like there aren’t far greater television shows out there.
It’s time for people who sporadically complain about episodes of Game of Thrones to wake up and realize that their game of outrage isn’t kidding anyone. You either watch this pap or you don’t, but you’ve been fooling yourself for a very long time if you thought that in the most recent episode it finally crossed some sort of line from respectability into depravity.