In light of the latest step of sexual violence galore in Game of Thrones, with Sansa’s rape, I am among the many who are disgusted by the writers’ decision to go down this path. Since the third season, it has felt as if the writers must always bring sexual violence to the forefront, especially when it is against women.
I am by no mean saying that rape can’t be included in story lines, but the problem is that Game of Thrones uses it as a cheap trope.
I haven’t read the books but have talked with people who did and have educated myself in how certain scenes and story lines happened in the novels. I have been left shaking my head at how the writers turned scenes into rape since the first season when there was no need to. The two worst things have been Cersei’s rape by her brother in season 4 and Sansa’s in season 5. I can’t get why the writers went this way when they already had plenty other opportunities to talk about sexual violence.
Much has been said about these developments in Game of Thrones and it made me reflect on how other TV shows brought up the topic of sexual assault, which is a grave issue in our society.
In the first season, Jack Bauer’s wife, Teri is kept captive with their daughter Kim. When one of the men looks into raping Kim, Teri offers herself instead. She does this to protect her teenage daughter. The rape scene isn’t shown but Kim hears what happens.
Once Teri and Kim are rescued and go to get a medical check-up, Teri asks the doctor not to tell a word about her rape to her husband.
The second season arc with the Pegasus‘s crew, led by Admiral Cain brings rape to the forefront. Both victims are Cylon women, who are considered less than humans by the female Admiral.
The first victim, Gina, is shown shackled and beaten up after having been assaulted multiple times, with Cain’s blessing. The other victim is Sharon Athena who is kept aboard the Galactica in decent conditions. Cain’s men accidentally alert Helo – who fathered the child Athena’s carrying – and Tyrol about how others are going to “have fun” with Sharon. The two men are able to stop the rapists as they’re assaulting Sharon.
Both Gina and Sharon must deal with the scars these assaults have left on them and Gina eventually kills Cain at the end of the Pegasus arc.
Dollhouse / Stargate Universe
These two shows make little case of the notion of consent. In Dollhouse, the way men and women (mostly female characters are focused on) are blank slates to become whoever a client pays, including in terms of sexual activities, tosses consent out of the window. Regardless of how the “Dolls” don’t remember what happened to them, it doesn’t make it any more acceptable.
In a similar way, Stargate Universe presents body swaps as a regular plot device. Due to communication stones, two persons can switch bodies. Several times, characters get intimate while one of them is in someone else’s body. It isn’t a business like in Dollhouse and people don’t know what happened to their bodies while they were in another one. Yet, it is the same kind of abuse. Using someone’s body for sexual activities they didn’t agree to partake in tramples consent.
In the fourth season, high ranked Peacekeeper Grayza captures John Crichton and sexually abuses him. Grayza’s pregnancy in the final miniseries, Peacekeeper Wards, never confirmed or denied whether John was the father of her child. Yet, it is a common theory given the timeline. Crichton gets tortured several times in the course of the series, but Grayza is the one who brings sexual assault to the table.
Once Upon A Time
This show isn’t graphic at all but still deals with psychological violence and abuse topics. Coercing someone into having sex like the Evil Queen did with the Huntsman or Zelena with Robin Hood is abuse. The same way, Hook admitting that alcohol helped with several of his female conquest, shows that consent didn’t always mean much to him.
Regina and Hook have been working on putting their dark ways behind them. It doesn’t change what they did but them addressing their dark past is a significant aspect of their story lines. As for Zelena, she has shown no remorse about masquerading as Robin’s wife. She did this so he would agree to have sex with her, which resulted in her getting pregnant with his child.
This list isn’t exhaustive but it shows other options to depict and denounce sexual violence. It is important to talk about this problem. Depicting sexual violence must have meaning and not just become a pattern for writers who don’t know what else to do with their female characters.
What TV shows do you think have done a good job at fostering discussion about sexual assault issues?