Contains book spoilers and Season 5 spoilers

The same sort of explosion that followed Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken also followed last year’s episode Breaker of Chains, but on a slightly less riotous scale. Many fans and critics were angry at the rape of Cersei Lannister by her brother and lover Jaime, for a variety of reasons (and we have already discussed this at length). The rape scene in Breaker of Chains was completely unanticipated. Anyone who had read the books would have been expecting Cersei and Jaime to have consensual sex in that scene, as depicted in the book. So both book fans and television fans could not have seen that one coming. But with Sansa Stark and her new invented storyline, that Ramsay would brutalise her after they were married was fairly obvious and no one should really have been surprised. It’s curious that this is the rape scene that has broken the camel’s back. Was there this much outrage when the young Emilia Clarke was repeatedly raped on-screen? Or the offensive scenes at Craster’s Keep last year? Not quite so much.

Now I say that we should have been expecting it to happen with the confident air of someone who has spent the last couple of weeks saying “They wouldn’t! They’re not going to. They can’t be that stupid.” (aloud, no less). Which is a good lesson in investing too much faith in humanity. The real problems began in season 4, when Dan and Dave begun to stray further and further from the source material. Game of Thrones has always had plenty of sexist, homophobic and exploitative garbage in it. But woven through George R.R. Martin’s fantastic storytelling, it was somewhat easier to endure. Now the training wheels are off, Dan and Dave are heady with the knowledge of the ending, and are greedily destroying 20 years of work in the last three seasons of unadulterated fan fiction.

The preceding rant is necessary, as Dan and Dave’s complete lack of ability to understand subtlety or employ any sort of complexity is what led to the idea that that Theon being present, and focalising, this incident, should have had something to do with the male gaze. We know that the rape scene was unnecessary and will do nothing to develop Sansa’s character. Worse still, the rape was really written as a ‘consequence’ of Sansa’s developing maturity and her decision to lay down with the devil. We already know there’ll be no proper exploration of the aftermath, but it’s obvious Sansa and Theon will forge some sort of bond as mutual victims of Ramsay’s abuse.  Sansa is replacing another character in the original book scene, and there are, of course, huge problems when you stray that far from the canon. Yet again, Dan and Dave are presenting a rape scene as a boorish, exploitative plot-device and using the trope of arranged medieval marriages resulting in wedding night rape. They’ve done it before with Daenerys and Drogo. We can hardly expect Ramsay to come off as a romantic hero – or Dan and Dave to be clever enough to pull that off.

Game-Thrones-Unbowed-Unbent-Unbroken-Sansa-Ramsay.jpg_large

We can be sure producers thought it best to focus on Theon during the actual act of rape as seeing the young Sophie Turner brutalised on-screen would have outraged fans further. It also is probably going to serve as a ‘last straw’, to snap him out of ‘Reek mode’ and agree to help Sansa escape Winterfell (Dan and Dave being completely predictable). In a way it shadows what Theon went through in the book. Theon is still a victim of abuse, and being forced to see Sansa being raped is a further abuse of both of them. Neither scene, television or novel, were about the male gaze. They were about two victims of abuse. George’s original version is even grimmer.

The young woman who was actually forced to marry Ramsay in the book was Sansa’s best friend, Jeyne Poole. Jeyne was a war trophy, her father was killed when Eddard’s household was wiped out in King’s Landing and Jeyne was held captive by the Lannisters until she was shipped off north, forced to pose as Arya Stark and marry Ramsay. Jeyne is essentially a victim of war rape, repeatedly brutalised and sexually assaulted by Ramsay. On their wedding night it is not only Jeyne suffers. Ramsay also sexually abuses Theon, forcing him to perform a sex act on Jeyne. This is probably the first time Ramsay sexually abuses Theon and marks something of a terrible new ‘stage’ in their relationship.

One of the problems with the screen version of Ramsay is that he is too handsome, and interested in prolonged sexual relationships with women. The original version is neither. There is no attractive but sexually depraved kennel-girl who obsesses over Ramsay. Ramsay is not interested in pursuing attachments with anyone other than Reek.

The first Reek was given to Ramsay as a servant. He was given the name for his unnatural stench. Reek bathed three times a day and wore flowers in his hair, but the stench endured. A maester diagnosed the stench as the result of some sickness, but Reek was otherwise healthy. He once drank perfume to cure his sickness, and almost died. No one in the Dreadfort could stand to be near him so he slept in a sty with the pigs. When Ramsay’s mother came to the Dreadfort and asked for a servant to help her raise him, Roose gave her Reek as a jest. However, Ramsay and Reek became inseparable. What has yet to be made clear was who the leader was in Ramsay and Reek’s formative years. Roose Bolton would later tell Theon/Reek ‘I do wonder, though … was it Ramsay who corrupted Reek, or Reek Ramsay?’

We have seen something of Ramsay’s “hunts” on screen.  Ramsay would hunt women with Reek, and after Ramsay had raped and killed them,  Reek would indulge in necrophilia. This strengthened the unnatural bond between them. But when Ramsay tricks Reek into posing as him so Ramsay can escape, and Reek is killed, it is hard to gauge how Ramsay felt about it. Or why he would throw his companion to the wolves.

Game-Thrones-Unbowed-Unbent-Unbroken-Theon

After Ramsay captured Theon, he destroyed him physically and emotionally, piece by piece, until Theon was no longer himself. Ramsay could then recreate him as his childhood companion. But Ramsay broke Theon physically as well as mentally. Theon/Reek could never hunt women with Ramsay, or rape them, he had neither the strength and if he had not been physically emasculated, he was certainly emotionally emasculated. One might speculate Ramsay repeatedly abuses Theon because he is not Reek. It is certain wants to keep Theon in his power. But that may well be out of an obsessive love for him, rather than just control.

Ramsay and Jeyne Poole’s wedding night was not just about the two of them. Whether Ramsay even felt satisfied with his repeated abuse of Jeyne is unclear, he gets far more pleasure, arguably both emotional and sexual, from abusing Theon. He is more possessive of Theon than he is his wife, he is able to show Theon real affection when he has a mind to. The sexual abuse of Theon may have been the last step towards Ramsay’s perfect relationship.

 

About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

3 Responses

  1. Underdogge

    I’m prepared to cut the show-runners a bit of slack and will wait to see how the aftermath of this horrific scene plays out for the rest of season 5 of GoT. If it does turn out to have been sensationalism for the sake of sensationalism I will not be best pleased. Like many women, maybe all women, and some men, I have had nasty experiences in my life (though not an actual rape – and don’t let’s tempt Providence) and I would never condone the inclusion of a sensational scene for its own sake alone.

    I tend to switch off my “book mind” when I watch the show, though my instinct (regarding the Sansa character) was “hasn’t she been through enough already”. My tendency is to prefer adaptations to stay faithful to the source material if possible (hence my rants on successive adaptations of “Far from the Madding Crowd”). The show-runners may have wanted to keep Sophie Turner on board (you may have posited this yourself, Olga – I’ve a problem with my mouse button going up and down the (computer) page at present).

    If fan-fiction is deemed as being fiction, whether in print or on the screen, about characters already existing in literature (or the written word anyway), there has been a fair amount of it in recent years. The NBC version of “Dracula” did not work too well despite having good actors playing some of the parts and it was cancelled. I suppose that could have been deemed to have been “fan-fiction”. Could “Black Sails” and “Penny Dreadful” be deemed to be fan-fiction, one being a “prequel” to R L Stephenson’s “Treasure Island” and the other something of a mish-mash of various nineteenth century novels? However, I must admit I have only seen a few episodes of both of those series.

    I’m going to stick with GoT till the end of the present series at least. I have found Conleth Hill’s portrayal of Varys throughout the run of GoT interesting and Kerry Ingram has made me more invested in show Shireen that book Shireen (though I am very worried about her future – i.e. that of show Shireen). I also like Liam Cunningham’s depiction of Ser Davos.

    Reply
    • C S Hughes
      C S Hughes

      The show still has a lot going for it. The design and cinematography, the recreation of the GRRM’s fantasy world, most of the performances. The departure from the complexities of the plot and character relationships for the more simplified TV version is where it mainly disappoints. Some of the ridiculous dialogue and scenes between characters that never met in the books is also over the top.

      Reply
  2. Olga Hughes

    Yes I am using “fan-fiction” derisively because they are bad writers and the further they stray from the source material the more the quality declines. The cinematography and the actors – for the most part- are what makes the show. The writing is horrible.
    This week we saw three violent attacks on women, Sansa covered in bruises, an old woman murdered by Ramsay and Gilly set-upon by two of the Night’s Watch. And after we have seen the Sand Snakes defending themselves admirably -albeit in a really badly choreographed scene – we have to see one naked. For no good reason either, she had already poisoned Bronn earlier.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.