Game of Thrones director Jeremy Podeswa has come forward to explain that the upcoming season will address the concerns about sexual violence that plagued season 5.
“It is important that [producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] not self-censor. The show depicts a brutal world where horrible things happen,” Podeswa insisted to an audience at Fox Studios Australia. “They did not want to be too overly influenced by that [criticism] but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way.”
The last season of Game of Thrones sent shockwaves through the fan community with its dramatic plot twists and unexpected character deaths.
While most were excited to continue their journeys through Westeros, many longtime fans found the show's reliance on rape and other forms of sexual violence against women lazy and deeply misogynistic.
On a number of occasions, male characters who we already knew were monsters (Ramsay Bolton) raped women in scenes meant to underscore just how loathsome they were.
The result? A marginally more defined villain whose fleshing out came at the expense of a female character (Sansa Stark) newly coming into her own. There were a number of things about the now infamous scene where Ramsay rapes Sansa that drew fan's ire.
In the books, it's Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole who is assaulted. For the show, Jeyne's been folded into Sansa's character for the sake of conciseness.
Even if you accept Sansa/Jeyne's rape as canon, the way that the scene was shot left many uncomfortable. As Sansa's being attacked, her friend Theon Greyjoy watches. The camera focuses on his horror rather than Sansa's pain.
"As little as any of us wanted to see Sansa physically punished and exploited, was it really important to make that scene about Theon’s pain?" Joanna Robinson asked in Vanity Fair. "If Game of Thrones was going to go there, shouldn’t they at least have had the courage to keep the camera on Turner’s face?"
Some fans have interpreted those moments where female characters experience sexual violence as opportunities for them to overcome adversity and become stronger for it. Even if you accept that as a valid argument, though, it's tough to defend when we're made to think that the people being most traumatized by the experiences are the men witnessing it.