For years at this point, Game of Thrones has had to contend with the issues inherent in adapting such a bleak, often despairing story into a visual medium. Some of the things which take place in the story, particularly to the women of Westeros, were grotesque enough to begin with in the novels, but took on an elevated impact when depicted onscreen.
One of the most embattled characters of the series, from end to end, has been Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who’s both survived (so far) and grown over eight seasons, but with no shortage of suffering along the way. Particularly since the fifth season, in which she was forced to weather the endless violent degradation of Ramsay Bolton, the series has drawn increasing ire from fans of the show and/or character who took umbrage with what many saw as needless brutality in the service of moving a character along, written by a predominantly male writers’ room with too little understanding of how to handle such subject matter.
A line in Sunday’s episode “The Last of the Starks” has reignited this audience blowback, specifically the one in which Sansa tells Sandor “The Hound” Clegane that “Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would’ve stayed a little bird all my life.”
Unsurprisingly, many were immediately upset by what was seen to be the show’s continued endorsement of forced weddings and onscreen rape as a triumphant moment of character growth, rather than an acknowledgment of suffering along the path. Among the fans who went public with their disdain was actress Jessica Chastain, who took to Twitter to argue against the scene.
“Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly,” Chastain contends. “The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.”
Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.#GameOfThrones pic.twitter.com/TVIyt8LYxI
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) May 7, 2019
The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones airs on Sunday night on HBO.