Klavan On The Culture

I 'Liked' the 'Game of Thrones' Rape Scene

[Game of Thrones spoilers.]

I put the “liked” in quotes because, in fact, I could barely watch the scene, having developed so much protective affection for Sansa Stark and conceived such a visceral hatred of the squirrely sadist Ramsay Bolton who attacked her. I should also, just to be precise, put the “rape” in quotes since I imagine, in the medieval-style world of Game of Thrones, that was not technically a rape at all but merely a husband enjoying his wedding night privileges as he saw fit. But frankly, to hell with him; it was rape in my book.

And I should clarify, since those attacking the scene keep using words like “explicit” and referring to the show’s overuse of nudity: there was no nudity in the scene and it was not explicit at all; it happened offscreen.

But bottom line for me: While I’m sure this will be misread as blaming the victim, the rape flowed naturally out of all the characters’ actions and natures. What did you think a creep like Bolton would do to his bride? And did you really think Littlefinger cared for Sansa when he convinced the traumatized and innocent girl to barter herself away? And when Sansa agreed to Littlefinger’s plan, wasn’t she agreeing to buy revenge and power with her body and virginity? Game of Thrones is all about revenge and power and what people will do to get them. And the answer is: Anything.

The scene was attacked on one side by feminists, for… well, whatever silly reasons their fluffy little heads came up with. One girl at Salon whined that the camera focused on a male character’s reaction instead of the victim’s!  Absurd. That was to keep from showing us the rape and also because the director knew we were all looking to that male for rescue — it made the scene infinitely more painful to experience as he stood there helpless.

Anyway, it always makes me snicker right cruelly whenever someone on the left declares himself offended by a work of art. Art should shock you! they say. Art should challenge you! they say. But by you they mean you, not them; they have no need or desire to be shocked or challenged out of their pristinely moral positions. So, as with Ramsay, so with the feminists: to hell with them.

But defiantly judgmental Christian writer Matt Walsh (you know you are, Matt!) also attacked the show and called on Christians to stop watching it. Feh.

Walsh rejects the Christian defense of the show found at Christian Post and National ReviewHe summarizes their arguments as:  “The show reveals the complexity of human nature and illustrates the ugliness of sin, therefore viewers can learn from it.” And he dismisses them as: “Clever rationalizations, but flimsy. Flimsy particularly because this could apply to literally everything that’s ever been filmed. By this line of reasoning, Christians should watch child porn just to fully understand the realities of our imperfect existence.”

But no, the defense is right and Walsh is wrong because he has left out an essential element of the argument: the show is spectacularly excellent. Its characters have more depth and reality than any others now on television or on film, its plot line is real and gripping, and its moral world is, well, the moral world. None of that is true of child porn.  (It is telling that Walsh uses Schindler’s List as a positive example, by the way. A beautifully made film, it is also one of the most dishonest movies ever produced. It places a courageous and redemptive act at the center of an event in which courage and redemption were statistically non-existent. The movie is a wonderfully acted, wonderfully directed, soppy, sentimental Hollywood lie and candy-assed gloss on the most important incident in living memory. It’s everything that art shouldn’t be.)

In fact, what we are getting from both sides, left and right, is the same old demand: Make art that shows me what I want to see. Make art that shows me the world as I wish it were. Make art that doesn’t challenge my world view.

The answer of the artists producing the brilliant Game of Thrones is simple: No. We’ll make art instead.