ASoIaF vs. GoT: It could’ve been so much worse.

I’m hearing people are pissed off about a thing that happened on last night’s Game of Thrones.

This is one of those times when, in fact, the show has taken something really horrible from the books and made it somewhat less horrible. It’s still bad, but the sadism is brought down to a dull roar.

You can tell I’m talking about Ramsay fucking Bolton, yes?

TRIGGER WARNING. AND SPOILERS. BUT MOSTLY TRIGGER WARNING.

I’ve already remarked that in the books, it’s not Sansa at Winterfell, but her old friend Jeyne Poole posing as Arya. Ramsay marries Jeyne/Arya, and on their wedding night, he treats her very badly. He makes sure Theon is present, and, as AWOIAF puts it, Ramsay “cruelly humiliates both him and the fake Arya” in his quarters.

How does he cruelly humiliate Theon and Jeyne/Arya?

I’ll tell you what he does (and this is where the trigger warning applies):

Ramsay’s unhappy that “Arya” isn’t already nice and wet when he gets her undies off. So he makes Theon lick her pussy. Thus, he sexually abuses two people in one act.

Whereas on the show, Sansa is the bride, and, sure, he doesn’t bother to wait for her to act like she wants to fuck, he just tears open her gown (oh, that incredibly gorgeous wedding costume, ruined), bends her over, and penetrates her in a way that makes her cry out in pain. That’s bad. And he forces Theon to watch. That’s also bad.

Next to forcing Theon to participate, though? Pretty gentle, as Ramsay goes.

The primary difference that makes the show arguably worse than the books is who’s getting raped, not how. Jeyne is nearly a non-entity, but Sansa is a major character and plenty of fans actually care about her. I do not accept that Jeyne being an undeveloped character makes her rape NBD. Raping and torturing a steward’s daughter is bad. Forcing an already-brutalized young man to participate in the rape is also bad. A steward’s daughter should be just as worthy of our outrage as a lady.

Of course it’s not over yet. The wedding night humiliation was only the beginning of Ramsay’s abusing Jeyne in ADWD, and from the worst thing he did to her. He could still do even more horrible shit to Sansa on the show before she makes her escape from Winterfell. The preview for Episode 7 shows a rather disheveled Sansa saying to Theon that her family still has friends in the North. Which means she’s put her anger at Theon aside! And that’s a smart move on her part. She’s experienced a completed rape, which means she’s at risk for pregnancy, and she needs all the help she can get.

I’d heard about Sophie Turner talking about having filmed an especially horrible scene for this season. Thus began the rumors, which I didn’t believe, of her being Ramsay’s bride at Winterfell. The rumors were true and I was mistaken. And, hell, maybe we haven’t yet seen the worst of it! Maybe that especially horrible scene is yet to come.

I think that Joffrey forcing Roz to beat another sex worker is an awful thing to show on TV. I think the Night’s Watch mutineers violating Craster’s daughters is an awful thing to show. I think the Sparrows brutalizing sex workers and their clients in a brothel is horrible. Next to all that, Ramsay abusing Sansa isn’t really surprising. I don’t think sexual violence reaches a new level of offensiveness when the victim is a lord and lady’s pretty daughter who was a virgin up to that point. I don’t think what Ramsay did to Jeyne Poole in the book was less awful than what he did to Sansa on the show last night.

Ramsay is also the guy who flayed some of Theon’s fingers open and later cut his dick off. That shit isn’t funny; it’s fucking horrifying.

I also think that the way they handled Drogo & Dany’s wedding night in Season 1 was only mildly less violent than Ramsay & Sansa’s wedding night. We’re expected to forgive Drogo for bending Dany over without her consent because he’s a mostly good guy and she later falls in love with him, but that’s not how their wedding night was handled in the books. Book!Drogo was much, much gentler with Dany on their wedding night. It was still not an entirely consensual experience! But he clearly wanted her to enjoy it, and it’s easy to see how she’d get attached to him after that. But that’s not what Benioff & Weiss gave us on the show!

I’ve already given my thoughts on how the show handled Jaime attacking Cersei in the Sept of Baelor. (Warning: it is a long, poorly formatted post.) I feel like this show is teaching us that the moral value of rape depends on how we feel about the people involved. If the victim is a nice kid who’s suffered more than enough already, and the perpetrator is a disgusting sack of shit, then we’re supposed to be horrified. If the victim is a walking nightmare (Cersei) or someone we don’t care about (Craster’s daughters), and/or the assailant is someone we’re supposed to root for in other areas (Jaime, Drogo), then we’re expected not to think too much about what we just saw. I still love the show, but I fucking see you, Benioff & Weiss. Ohhhh, man, do I ever fucking see you.

My disagreement with Littlefinger putting Sansa at Winterfell with the Boltons stems from the expectation that Ramsay will do worse shit to her than what happened last night, and surely Littlefinger should be aware of that. I think that if Littlefinger came back to find out that Ramsay had bent Sansa over and made her cry out in pain, he wouldn’t care. If he came back to find her acting like Theon is now, that would piss him off. But apparently the showrunners will characterize him in whatever way fits the plot they want to arrange. So now we see him telling Cersei the Boltons found Sansa first, and he’s promising to put her head on a spike in return for the position of Warden of the North. That doesn’t mean he intends to put Sansa’s head on a spike! He has a different story each for Sansa, the Boltons and Cersei. But he is willing to create a situation in which someone might put her head on a spike. And I still say that’s incoherent for Littlefinger. But here we are. He’s offering to swoop in and play the carrion crow on Winterfell after Stannis and the Boltons have had their fight. Which suggests even more shit getting real at Winterfell than we may have thought.

2 thoughts on “ASoIaF vs. GoT: It could’ve been so much worse.

  1. I appreciate that people are up in arms about Sansa’s fate, and I don’t want to diminish that. But I felt really really really bad for Jeyne Poole in the books, and I think that prepared me for Sansa’s wedding. As soon as she was engaged to Ramsay, I knew that that scene would play out, there wouldn’t be any Sansa-Stabs-Ramsay like some were hoping.

    I’m not trying to tell anyone how they should feel, and again, I appreciate their distress. I just don’t share it as deeply because it’s kind of old news, I guess. I put up some defenses on that? I hope that makes sense.

    • I know, right? I’m way, way too busy being completely unsurprised—and perhaps even a bit underwhelmed!—to be upset about this.

      I can see the appeal of the idea of Sansa pulling a dagger on Ramsay, but, ultimately, it would’ve been implausible. When would Sansa have learned how to use a dagger? And who taught her? The answers are never and no one. Her pulling a weapon she doesn’t know how to use, against someone who does know how to use it and isn’t the slightest bit squeamish about torturing people, would have been a disaster. She managed her risks.

      There is one message we can get from the wedding night that isn’t really life-affirming, but still useful: girls who always do what patriarchy asks them to do tend not to be able to protect themselves. A society that wants women to be defenseless against violence tends to produce women who cannot defend themselves against violence. There’s no reason why someone like Sansa should be ashamed of being unable to do more than cry through her rape, and the rest of us shouldn’t be shocked that she has no better recourse. She’s always done what was expected of her as a proper lady. I’m sure she figured out long ago that being a proper lady isn’t in her best interests, but since then she hasn’t had a chance to learn how to be anything else.

      She may have believed, for a second there, that Littlefinger left her with the situation under control, and the situation wasn’t quite bad enough to warrant lighting a candle in the broken tower. She miscalculated. Shit had to get worse for her before it gets better.

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