Note: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.
The following is a conversation between myself and fellow blogger TheOriginalPhoenix.
The reason for this conversation was this post of mine:
Thank you to TheOriginalPhoenix for allowing me to post her words.
The reason for the piece of art above is that I think TheOriginalPhoenix is awesome. 🙂 She constantly makes me think about things I hadn’t thought about before, or causes me to see things from a new perspective that, ultimately, leaves me better off. It’s also just nice to know that there is someone who cares: It’s nice to know that there is someone who takes the time and effort to say “I agree with you because ___,” or “I disagree with you because ___.” And as someone who loves art, I wanted to find art that is as awesome as TheOriginalPhoenix. I found many pieces of suitable art, but the reason I chose this one is because I thought that it fit with the theme of her blog:
A girl, like a phoenix, being reborn and baring herself — i.e., sharing her thoughts, feelings, and experiences: becoming emotionally naked — in order to help people.
TheOriginalPhoenix (TOP): You have an interesting rationale for not watching “Game of Thrones.” I choose not to watch it as well but for a slightly different reason; I believe it glorifies rape.
timothyach (TA): Thank you for commenting. Your words helped clarify my thoughts on the portrayal of controversial subjects (like rape) in fiction or non-fiction stories.
My thoughts on your comment:
There is a difference between portraying evil and condoning evil.
One of the reasons I’m a fan of the “Game of Thrones” books is because I never got the impression that they were glorifying the horrors the characters went through or inflicted on others. Evil was never sugarcoated as good.
From the one episode I’ve seen, I wouldn’t say that the “Game of Thrones” TV series glorifies evil such as rape — for example: On Daenerys’ wedding night, we the viewer are supposed to feel as horrified as she is because, as viewers, we (hopefully) empathize with Daenerys’ and, thus, share her pain — but I did find aspects of the show gratuitous nonetheless. For example: The seemingly pointless pan down that showed all of Daenerys’ butt.
[2:34 — 2:39]
TA: I won’t praise a story for glorifying evil, or for portraying evil in a manner that I feel is gratuitous, but I will praise a story if I feel that it treats subjects like rape with the sensitivity and thought that such subjects — such evil — deserve.
TOP: The reason I think it glorifies rape is because it just keeps coming up again and again, and I don’t think it starts any form of conversation at all. Also, I don’t recall the rapists ever being punished for what they do (I may be wrong because I’ve never watched it.) My main point is that depicting rape as the horrendous crime that it is doesn’t just make it okay. Rape has NO PLACE in any culture so, frankly, I don’t think it should be portrayed at all. Now I’m not advocating for silence, I fully support women speaking out against rape and sexual assault. That I believe is productive and actually stimulates society. Pointlessly portraying rape scenes over and over doesn’t do anything except, God forbid, desensitize people. It already happens with violence and drugs. That’s just my view.
TA: Thank you for sharing your view.
Ideally, portraying a subject like rape with the sensitivity and thought it deserves — portraying it in a non-pointless way — will not desensitize people.
Speaking for myself: I don’t believe that, because of “Game of Thrones,” I have become desensitized to evil such as rape. I believe that, because of “Game of Thrones,” I have more of an understanding of such evil: Why people do it, and how people suffer from it. As a result, “Game of Thrones” has strengthened, not weakened, my conviction that rape is an evil, horrifying act that no one should suffer through for any reason.
When it comes to Daenerys and her relationship with the husband that was forced on her by her brother, the husband doesn’t suffer because of raping Daenerys, but he does suffer and die nonetheless. And Daenerys, because of what she goes through as a result of her husband, is changed in many ways. Are those ways good or evil? Daenerys is still figuring that out.
I understand why Daenerys’ relationship with her husband is criticized, but I wouldn’t say that George R.R. Martin (the author of the books) glorifies the horrors that Daenarys goes through. What he does, I think, is this: Show a woman suffering through some of the most horrifying circumstances imaginable, who chooses to rise above that horror and become more than she, or anyone else, thought possible.
Having read the books, and seen spoilers for the most recent season, other rapists are punished for their actions. For example: One man gets eaten by his pet dogs. And another man gets poisoned.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that evil such as rape will always have a place in every culture. The reason why is because we are all imperfect — we all fall short to some extent. What I believe can be done to combat that imperfection — that tendency to commit evil — is portraying evil in a way that doesn’t desensitize people, but causes people to think about evil in a way that ultimately has them going “I will never do that. And I will do what I can to make sure people don’t suffer from that.”
TOP: Wow this made me think. I’m still not going to watch the show because I find it deeply offensive but you really made me think.
TA: Thank you. I’m glad I made you think.
I don’t know if I’ll finish the show.
And the books have their flaws. But, ultimately, I consider myself a better person for having read them.