This post contains “Game of Thrones” spoilers.
Poor Sansa Stark can’t catch a break. And fans are taking to social media to express their outrage following the latest atrocity inflicted on Sansa in last night’s episode of “Game of Thrones.”
Sansa, portrayed by 19-year-old Sophie Turner, has survived horror after horror in the hit HBO fantasy series. From losing her direwolf Lady, to witnessing the beheading of her father Ned Stark, to suffering the brutality and humiliation inflicted by Joffrey Lannister, to being attacked by a riotous mob, Sansa’s lot only seems to worsen over time.
And after fearing sexual assault by Joffrey, by the Hound, by the mob, by Tyrion and potentially even by Littlefinger, Sansa is raped on her wedding night by her new husband, the psychotic Ramsay Bolton, as a tearful Theon Greyjoy, a.k.a. Reek, is made to watch.
In George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, on which the show is based, it is another young woman Ramsay weds and assaults, in a scene even more graphic and twisted.
But fans found the scene in the show — which frequently uses sex to illustrate power dynamics — particularly troublesome considering Sansa’s series-long journey from naive child to savvy survivor; after being victimized at the hands of those who murdered her family, Sansa has emerged from hiding this season as a woman ready to reclaim control of her story. Equally troubling is the fact that the scene focused primarily on Theon, leading viewers to wonder if the show’s writers planned Sansa’s rape for the benefit of Theon’s character arc.
In fact, producer Bryan Cogman, who also wrote the episode, told Entertainment Weekly that the scene marks “an important turning point” for Sansa’s relationship with Theon. “She’s seen Theon and hated him and thinks he killed her brothers and betrayed them but she’s very conflicted by what she’s seeing there,” he said.
He also argued that Sansa’s circumstances are the result of her agency.
“This isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey,” Cogman said. “This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland.”
As for Martin, who has received “a flood of emails” about the episode, the author took to his blog to iterate that the characters are fictional, and that differences between the show and the books are inevitable and will only increase.
“There have been differences between the novels and the television show since the first episode of season one. And for just as long, I have been talking about the butterfly effect. Small changes lead to larger changes lead to huge changes,” Martin wrote. “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.”
This is hardly the first time “Thrones” has stirred up controversy with its depictions of rape; last April, a sex scene between Cersei and Jaime Lannister was interpreted by many viewers as nonconsensual. And in the following episode, mutineers from the Night’s Watch raped the women living in Craster’s Keep, north of the Wall.
Here's a sampling of fan reaction to last night's Sansa scene::
Really does Sansa need to go through a rehashed terrible husband storyline? I mean didn't she go through that enough with Joffrey?— Brad Litt (@FreshLee_Baked) May 18, 2015
Ned and Catelyn are spinning in their grave with Sansa' storyline.— nymeria (@Amstramgrm) May 18, 2015
So many bad things happen to Sansa in the books. This was the one thing that hadn't. So I am upset that @GameOfThrones went that way.— Soldier Jane (@sgtjanedoe) May 18, 2015
Someday I hope Sansa finds true love with a kind, caring, respectful woman.— OhNoSheTwitnt (@OhNoSheTwitnt) May 18, 2015
Sansa is supposed to be the strongest woman around right now. Not a victim. Never a victim.— Cersei the Fair (@NiceQueenCersei) May 18, 2015
I mean I guess the reason this Sansa stuff is so particularly terrible is because WE TALKED ABOUT THIS ALREADY LIKE A YEAR AGO?? guuuuuys.— sonia furiosa (@soniasaraiya) May 18, 2015
@AngryGoTFan AS SOON AS "SHOW" SANSA GETS A BIT OF SELF CONFIDENCE D&D HAVE HER RAPED. GREAT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. SMH— Kile (@SolarProphet_) May 18, 2015
they changed the show and went away from the core text specifically to hurt sansa. to have her assaulted. they purposefully did this— miccaevelli (@aprikii) May 18, 2015
Sansa Stark has grown into a smart, courageous and strong female character. Why did the #GOT show runners need to invent that rape scene?— Jennifer Gasbarro (@JenGasbarro) May 18, 2015
cant wait to read a long passionate argument as to why putting sansa in a joffrey 2.0 situation has artistic merit— Patricia Hernandez (@xpatriciah) May 18, 2015
#GoT's major flaw is a lazy reliance on Who Will Rape Sansa as a narrative engine. (Joffrey? Peasants? The Hound? Tyrion? Littlefinger? Etc)— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) May 18, 2015
I don't think I've ever wanted to jump through the TV screen and rescue a character more. My heart f'ing broke for Sansa. #GameofThrones— Melissa (@MadMakNY) May 18, 2015
Sansa and Margaery and Olenna ride dragons across Westeros and burn literally everything.— Joe Reid (@joereid) May 18, 2015
Arya is scrubbing corpses and killing little girls, and yet Sansa...Sansa's life is still worse. #GameOfThrones— Eric Rezsnyak (@EricRezsnyak) May 18, 2015