Mad Max > Game of Thrones IDST

Content warning: This post discusses rape and violence against women, and contains spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road and Game Of Thrones S05E06.

Why yes, this is the second post in a week about what Mad Max: Fury Road is doing right, so right. Or, at least, more right that a hell of a lot of the shite that’s on our screens these days.

Readers of this blog will likely be aware that the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “Unbroken, Unbowed, Unbent”, featured a rape scene which was not in the books and seemed to serve little purpose (although I’d argue it did serve a function, and a fucking horrid one at that). Defenders of the scene, and defenders of the show’s attitude towards rape in general tend to follow a similar line. “But it’s accurate that in a medieval setting, women would get raped!” “Would you rather they just ignored the issue?”

First of all, the historical accuracy argument is fucking bullshit in a show where dragons and zombies gad about doing dragon and zombie stuff, the climate produces seasons that last for decades, and everybody has a full smile of straight white teeth. Let’s see it instead for what it is: a fantasy setting where, along with all of the above things which didn’t really happen in medieval Europe, it’s also a dystopian world where women are treated as chattel and therefore rape and violence against women is commonplace. Here, the “would you rather they just ignored the issue” argument has slightly more traction.

The thing is, if that is indeed a conscious part of the world that has been built and is being explored in the show, the writers and producers are still doing a fucking terrible job of pulling it off. If they want to explore these issues and show this horrible world they’ve created, they can look to Fury Road to see how it’s done.

Fury Road takes a look at violence against women in a dystopian world, and it does this without a single rape scene–hell, there’s probably only a few seconds of screen time dedicated to showing any violence against women. Instead, they explore it through competent writing, realising that we do not need to be shown these things to appreciate that they are bad and that they are a very real problem for the victims. Instead of being shown women being victimised, we are shown the impact it has on them, their desire to get away. We see instead their feelings, scrawled in paint across the room in which they were kept. We see them angry, we see them sad. We see its perpetrator, and we despise him without having to have every little detail of his violence rubbed in our faces.

It is entirely possible to address and discuss these issues on screen without subjecting the audience to the horrors. In fact, it’s easy to write a blow-by-blow rape scene. It is perhaps more challenging, but infinitely more rewarding for the audience to use some fucking subtlety and actually delve into what this means rather than what happened. Fury Road went to the length of employing a feminist to consult on the handling of violence against women, and it shows, because what emerged was a far better and more nuanced exploration of a world rife with gendered violence than much else.

We live in a ridiculous world full of dreadful writing if I have to call a fucking Mad Max film subtle and nuanced.


7 responses to “Mad Max > Game of Thrones IDST

  • Alasdair

    Well, that makes me want to watch Fury Road all the more… and rather puts me off getting caught up on Game of Thrones. The sexual violence on that show has long been deeply uncomfortable, since it’s clear the writers mainly use it for shock value. (Although it’s got to the point where it seems hard to believe anyone could really be shocked by *another* rape scene in GoT. Tired and disappointed perhaps, but there’s no longer anything remotely shocking about it.)

    The writers could at least have the decency of admitting there’s something deeply fucked-up about the brutality and misogyny on regular display in GoT, but they don’t want to risk alienating their core audience (and admitting that some of them are probably watching it *for* the rapes). So they instead go with the eye-rolling argument that it’s really criticising patriarchal violence rather than revelling in it. As you eloquently put it here, that’s a load of bullshit.

    (For my part though… I don’t know, it’s hard to let go. Maybe I’ll just skip to the bits with the dragons.)

  • John Lawrie

    I just watched ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ last night, and I couldn’t agree with you more on that regard. They deal with the subject exceptionally well. However, I have some points regarding ‘Game of Thrones’ that I would like to bring up. I agree that if you can deal with rape without showing it then great, but that scene wasn’t just about the rape. It was about the character development of Theon. It was important to see how it affected him and his relationships with both Ramsey and Sansa. Considering that I feel the portrayal of the act was important for this reason, I also feel that it was dealt with extremely well, it was neither vulgar nor gratuitous. I would also like to address the public outcry that I have witnessed over the last 48 hours regarding the scene. Where was the outcry when Ramsey Bolton, the same character perpetrating the rape, was torturing, maiming and emasculating Theon for weeks on end in an earlier season? Or did I just miss that? I do not intend to belittle yours, or anyone else’s right to complain, I simply wish to understand how this week’s episode has caused so much more outcry than previous episodes.

    • stavvers

      Yep, you must have missed the outcry, because it was there.

      And also, it’s kind of puzzling you think using the rape of a woman to advance the character of a man is all right. And, furthermore, as you say, we know that Theon has been treated badly by Ramsey, that scene was completely gratuitous.

      Thanks for playing!

  • The Arbourist

    @John Lawrie

    Where was the outcry when Ramsey Bolton, the same character perpetrating the rape, was torturing, maiming and emasculating Theon for weeks on end in an earlier season?

    This, on the surface, looks like a variation on “what about the men?” idea that periodically gets raised in conversations like these.

    Comments such as these tend to raise questions about the commenter’s knowledge of race, class and privilege and how they work in society.

    Or did I just miss that? I do not intend to belittle yours, or anyone else’s right to complain, I simply wish to understand how this week’s episode has caused so much more outcry than previous episodes.

    Women and men experience life differently in society. A woman being killed,raped, or maimed to advance the story of a man is a toxic trope perpetuated in hollywood (society) that needs to stop.

    It is not just in GoT, but almost everywhere.

  • H

    My gut feeling, upon hearing of (I do not watch) these scenes, is: men made them, for Reasons. And those Reasons? Have little to do with women as actual human beings, and very much to do with the Men Who Made Them, their personal need to have this imagery on file, publicly, and explicitly. Meaning, that these men made the scenes, and they were made for prurient reasons, and any deflection of this objective is pure and unadulterated *bullshit*. So, just as a matter of decency, as one watches these scenes, or excuses them, or fan them away with a dismissive hand, ‘Oh, yeah, that was terrible – BUT [whatever – the books were not written by these men? the intent was [whatever], the series overall is more engaging than [other things in the genre]–‘ or snee-de-snee -this is worth thinking about. These scenes were *graphically portrayed* *for a reason*. And that reason was, the men who made them *wanted* them to be graphically portrayed.

    Why was that? Ask yourself. And then see if you can find a good enough excuse, because I? Can fucking NOT. At all. And this is one in many god damn reasons WHY I will NOT WATCH THIS utter horseshit. Ever. It’s not because I can’t appreciate the genre, or because I don’t like film or media, it is because the captains of industry who produce this garbage have proved, over and over, that they do not give a good god damn what I think or feel about anything – or what anyone in my gender even *might* feel about anything. That is why. I have no incentive to watch any of it, and the movie-makers can kiss my ass.

  • Alasdair

    Well, two months later, I finally got round to watching the episode in question. And yeah, it’s just as unpleasant and unnecessary as I’d been led to expect. All I can say is, I don’t think it’s even the worst thing that happens in that episode – it also includes the younger Stark girl, Arya, being whipped, which I found even more unpleasant to watch.

    Game of Thrones really is a fucking horrible show. The acting and the stories are just about enough to keep me watching, until the end of this series at least (though I’ve heard that there’s still worse developments to come). But my feelings above remain, that this is a TV show created by sadists, for the enjoyment of sadists. (And not in the consensual BDSM sense.)

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