If you are an avid “Game of Thrones” fan but aren’t caught up yet, you should probably stop reading now and go watch “Game of Thrones.”
The famous — or infamous to some minds — fantasy-novels-turned-HBO series is not new to criticisms about the gratuitous sex and violence it portrays. The series has been under fire seemingly since day one for everything from how it portrays women to how it often deviates from the novels it is based on, yet, despite this, the show continues to tout a massive and passionate fan base that just so happens to include a few members of the IDS Editorial Board.
While exploitation of women and other adult content is not a new phenomenon for television — especially HBO television — we would like to caution fans against attacking the series too hastily for its portrayal of women and violence. An important thing for fans of any kind of television or literature to remember is that, while we read or watch the series for our own entertainment, there is a larger goal of the ?writers we don’t get to have control over.
Yes, exploitation is bad. Meaningless violence and certainly meaningless sexual violence should be cut out of any show when it doesn’t serve to advance the story line. But that doesn’t mean the mere inclusion of either merit an attack on the show.
For example, when critics of this violence and sex jumped on the show for their portrayal of Sansa Stark’s wedding night or Shireen Baratheon’s execution so quickly after the respective episodes concluded, it caused the Editorial Board to wonder what audience members do and don’t know.
Do these critical viewers already know the fate of Stannis and his men, so they can definitively say that scene was unnecessary? Do they already know how Sansa will react to her experience with Ramsay Bolton? Is that how they were able to immediately say that scene added nothing to the plot?
The truth is they probably don’t know these things because there is no way to know what is ?going to happen next in an incomplete show with a tendency to diverge from the incomplete ?novels.
Sexual violence on television should make us uncomfortable. We would be monsters if it didn’t. We as viewers should condemn shows that use it for pure entertainment. But this show is set in a time when these things were commonplace, suggesting the writers intend to condemn these kinds of actions. The show has made it clear that the dystopic world in which it exists is horrifyingly flawed and unjust.
If we continue to get stuck criticizing the shows that use these scenes in purposeful ways, it means we may not be paying attention to actual issues elsewhere. Ultimately, what the Editorial Board asks of all the “Game of Thrones” fans out there is to please remember when an artist shows time and time again that they are doing it the right way, then we owe it to art to give them the benefit of the doubt, or at the very least, resign to disagreeing with the artistic choice.