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Game of Thrones Confirms: Sansa is the Perpetual Victim

SPOILER WARNING! This is a follow-up to my previous post on the subject, and will also include spoilers for both the Song of Ice and Fire books and the show Game of Thrones.

Previously, I wrote that I wasn’t as angry as most people about Sansa being raped by Ramsay Bolton in this season’s Game of Thrones. I said that I was happy to see where that plot went, because there was a chance that her being raped by Ramsay would be the trigger for her finally transforming into a badass who takes action and saves herself.

Well, I was wrong. Sorry. Last night’s season finale made it very clear that Sansa’s rape this season was done purely for shock value and nothing else. She hasn’t grown or changed in any noticeable way since she was being abused by her first sadist husband, Joffrey. In the books, Jeyne Pool is subjected to Ramsay’s torture, but the producers of the television show decided that the torture would be way better if it was enacted on a woman who viewers cared about more.

When Sansa grabbed the corkscrew in the previous episode, I think everyone was hoping she’d use it to core Ramsay. I literally laughed out loud when she used it to pop the lock on her door and then dropped it to the ground, as if the writers were saying, “Fuck you” directly to me. I still had hope as I watched her look over the battlefield and realize this was her chance to at least escape without any confrontation at all, but apparently she wasn’t even clever enough to disguise herself in any way or, I don’t know, hustle a bit.

And when she was confronted with Myranda aiming a bow at her point blank, there was a tiny shred of me that hoped she would jump her, since a bow is a stupidly ineffective weapon at close range. But alas, instead, Sansa accepted her fate and basically asked Myranda to murder her. When Myranda informed her that she would actually be taken apart bit by bit so that Ramsay could continue to rape her, Sansa accepted that, too.

No, it was Theon who ended up the hero, as I feared. Sansa’s rape, and the threat of her being raped and abused some more, was just the nudge that poor Reek needed to transform back into Theon and bravely push Myranda over the rampart.

And even then, Sansa couldn’t figure out how to run away. She watched, slack-jawed, as Joffrey — I’m sorry, I mean Ramsay — returned from the battle, and it was brave Theon who encouraged her to run and jump off the castle wall into the snow.

So that’s all settled! Game of Thrones has wrapped up a garbage season in an appropriately garbage fashion.

Also, shout-out to the writers of this episode for actually managing to beat their previous cringe-worthy Sand Snake dialog with this instant classic: “You want a good girl but you need bad pussy.” Awesome line, guys.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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26 Comments

  1. June 15, 2015 at 5:42 pm —

    So I don’t know if I said it already, but fuck Game of Thrones.

  2. June 15, 2015 at 7:19 pm —

    My biggest concern with Sansa was why no one was this angry with IRL forced marriages. You know, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” and all that. (Not many modern white Western women are in forced marriages, and the ones that are tend to be in cults like Quiverfulls and FLDS.)

    The rape was actually cleaned up, compared to the stated threeway (and Theon isn’t enjoying it either) and implied animal contact in the book. But what are you to expect when the good guys are cannibals? But that’s not the point: In the books, Theon rescues Jeyne, but he’s just lucky Stannis is there to capture them; otherwise, they would’ve either been recaptured by Ramsay’s men, or died of exposure. The first Winds of Winter preview has Stannis interrogating Theon, leaving fans to conclude Theon will be burned, and speculate if doing so will resurrect Jon. (Going back to Mirri Maz Duur, only life may pay for life.)

    Hey, Shireen being sacrificed! In the books, this is an important point: Truth be told, Stannis is not that healthy, and Shireen is his only daughter. It’s even outright stated that the shadowbabies are killing him, and an implication that he’s infertile as a result. So Stannis can’t sacrifice Shireen as that would be an end to the Baratheon dynasty and bring us back to…another civil war a few years from now. Lovely. Another example of motive decay. (And in the books, greyscale is like chickenpox, in that once you get it, you’re immune, or are you? The Free Folk would disagree. And of course, IRL, if you’ve ever had chickenpox, you can get shingles. Typhoid Shireen still has a huge role to play in the books.)

  3. June 15, 2015 at 7:54 pm —

    OTOH we now have eunuchs in charge of Mereen and saving Sansa #TeamEunuch

  4. June 15, 2015 at 8:12 pm —

    I’m seriously questioning myself here, because I’m in the minority, but I’ve been reading Sansa’s journey as exactly how my life would go if I were in her shoes. I used to go limp when the other kids would roughhouse in the pool and hold me under water. When I was afraid a girl would best me up in high school, I knew if it came down to a fight, I’d let her hit me and then hopefully be able to appeal to authority. I obviously want Sansa to triumph at some point, but I feel like right now she’s representing those of us whose response to fight or flight is paralysis.

    • June 16, 2015 at 7:31 am —

      I’m with you. Not that I see a reflection of me in Sansa, but I agree that Sansa not suddenly channeling some innate kung-fu isn’t a failure of the writers. OK, it’s a failure to live up to Rebecca’s wishes, but in this case this isn’t a failure in general.

      • June 16, 2015 at 6:23 pm —

        I’m not looking for kung fu. I’m looking for a centimeter of character development. Yes, real-world people can go through their entire lives without growing or changing, but it makes for a poorly written character in a book or television show.

        • June 17, 2015 at 1:27 am —

          So sick of “realism” being an excuse for bad storytelling. Literally all the writers had to do was let Sansa be the one to shove the mistress off the edge instead of Theon. Would have been a fun callback to that time she wanted to shove Joffrey off the ledge, but didn’t.

          This wouldn’t have made up for other poor choices the writers made for her character, but it would have given us a hint of growth, agency, et cetera…

        • June 17, 2015 at 3:36 am —

          It’s not just Sansa, either. Dany’s storyline has stalled for nearly 2 seasons now.

        • June 17, 2015 at 5:35 am —

          Kung-fu was an exagerration, but your wish for her to jump whatshername would in my opinion been contrary to everything we know about her. So I disagree that it’s poorly written.

          Unlike some of my friends, who refuse to watch the show because, to paraphrase one “I watch fantasy to follow the hero to triumph, if I want to read about random bad shit happening to good people I can open a newspaper”. I enjoy the unpredictability (although a case could be made for “everyone dying” now becomming a predictable outcome) and that unpredictability includes not following the trope that any character with little agency must eventually find their courage when pushed. Thus I see Sansa being an annoying character as a feature rather than as a bug.

  5. June 15, 2015 at 9:19 pm —

    Sansa is not the only female role model in the books/show.

    Rather better role models are Brienne, Arya, Cat, Yara, Margery and Danny. They all react in different ways. But as Arya points out at the start, Sansa is useless. She does not know how to fight.

    The books have a much nastier scene. And people have been complaining bitterly about the ‘tired’ rape is empowerment trope. That is not what is going on here at all.

    Theon is only capable of acting after Sansa has brought him back from being Reek. And he has had rather worse than Sansa at this point. Come to that, Sansa has had worse happen to her. Being forced to look at the severed head of her father and Septa, the old woman being flayed alive, her mother and brother murdered by the Boltons, etc. etc.

    And there might be a lot more to the Sand Snake interaction than you expect. According to the prophecy, Myrcella is doomed. But if she dies now, the showrunners have screwed up because she hasn’t had a golden crown yet.

    • June 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm —

      Who are you replying to? I never called Sansa a role model and I don’t expect any of the characters in GoT to be role models. How horrific. All the women you list have very interesting tragic flaws.

      Also, I never said that the books didn’t have a “nastier” scene. Or that worse hasn’t happened to Sansa.

      Or that I expected absolutely anything of the Sand Snake interaction. I only pointed out that the line is incredibly cringe-worthy and is rightfully being mocked.

      • June 16, 2015 at 9:34 am —

        All the people in GoT have tragic flaws. Sansa’s flaw is that she is passive, unable to take the initiative. She does begin to do so in this episode, she picks the lock and lights the candle. But it isn’t enough – yet. They are in any case still trapped and Theon’s big idea is to jump off the walls to almost certain death. So its not like he is exactly much use either. Neither of them seems to have the idea that maybe a bit of rope might help.

        The sand snake line may or may not be a coded message. There is a strong hint that something else happened as she said it. You didn’t get the quote quite right and the difference is/might be significant, “but you need the bad pussy.”

        The show runners might just be yanking people’s chains of course.

        • June 16, 2015 at 6:24 pm —

          “The sand snake line may or may not be a coded message. There is a strong hint that something else happened as she said it. You didn’t get the quote quite right and the difference is/might be significant, “but you need the bad pussy.””

          That is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous tin foil I’ve ever heard.

          • June 17, 2015 at 4:50 pm

            I don’t think it is tin foil but the show runners might be yanking our chains. Was not wanting to get spoilerish but if you insist…

            The big question is whether Jon is alive, right? So after showing that Jon is definitely dead and confirming dead is dead, they give us five other major characters in the same episode who might not be so dead after all.

            Most folk expect Theon and Sansa to survive. Jaquen is definitely alive and we never saw Brienne separate Stannis’ head from his shoulders. So that is four quite not so dead characters. Could Myrcella make it five?

            Well she is a twincest Lannister and their sigil is a lion. So the Myrcella survival theory is that Tyene slips Bronn the antidote while she is saying that. ‘The bad pussy’ is Myrcella. Bronn’s face changes as she says it.

            I am not certain that this is going to happen but I am certain that the words were deliberately chosen to imply this as a possibility.

          • June 17, 2015 at 5:19 pm

            Why on earth would that require Tyene to use the phrase “bad pussy”?

            EDIT: Does the theory include Ser Pounce in some way? I hope so.

          • June 17, 2015 at 10:04 pm

            Again, there is a real possibility that the showrunners just did this to yank fan’s chains.

            There is a suggestion that Prince Doran is behind the poisoning. Note that they waited till Myrcella was on her way from Dorne and in Jamie’s custody. So Tyene can’t foil the plot by warning Doran.

            She slips Bronn the antidote but she needs to tell him who it is for. The Lannister sigil is a Lion. So the bad pussy that Bronn needs is a twincest Lannister, Myrcella which he needs to stop a war. If she just slipped him the antidote there is a real risk he might just put it in his pocket and forget about it till it was too late.

            There are quite a few examples of the showrunners deliberately yanking the chains of folk posting on forums and one of their favorite setups seems to be to put in a scene they know will cause complaint and then demonstrate that it was pivotal a few episodes later. The gay sex scene with Loras and Margery in episode 5.1 for example.

            There are Ser Pounce theories of course, some bookreaders claim that Tommen actually killed Joffrey in revenge for killing his cats.

          • June 18, 2015 at 4:34 pm

            Oh, you want tinfoil…

            Aerys ‘took certain liberties’ on Tywin’s wedding night, therefore, the youngest Lannister sibling is a Targaryen. Somehow.

          • June 22, 2015 at 12:07 am

            Re the Tyrion tinfoil… yup, some folk have some weird ideas. Though the idea that Tywin was impotent and all ‘his’ children were by Aerys is discussed seriously. The idea being that Aerys played on multiple occasions.

            What I define as tinfoil are the folk who watched episode 1 and spotted plot holes in the next episode that had not aired yet. The showrunners didn’t seem to know or care about their theory you see…

    • June 17, 2015 at 3:39 am —

      Are you seriously arguing that being forced to look at her father’s severed head or the old woman’s flayed body is worse that being continually raped and brutalized by Ramsey? WTF?

      • June 17, 2015 at 5:09 pm —

        I don’t think it remotely sensible to compare them as if they are independent. As Myranda points out, Ramsay will murder Sansa in a similar fashion as soon as he has an heir and a spare.

        Remember those female ninja bodyguards that used to surround Gadaffi? One of the survivors described a remarkably similar sort of treatment.

  6. June 16, 2015 at 12:14 am —

    I think I’m done with this show.

  7. June 16, 2015 at 7:19 am —

    I thought the season was pretty good overall. The sand snake portrayal was weak and Sansa could definitely have had a more satisfying outcome but those outcomes are few and far between anyway. I did like the Jon Snow story, Arya’s character is really interesting, Tyrion and Daenerys have potential and Cersei seems like she’ll have an interesting season 6.

    Calling it garbage seems a bit much. Didn’t you like any of the story lines? I almost don’t want you to answer though….. I don’t want to have one of the few shows I actually watch ruined.

    • June 17, 2015 at 7:55 pm —

      FWIW, Jon Snow might not be present in season 6, but there’s always season 7.

      Arya…I’m actually unsure what they’re doing with her. Actually, one of my biggest problems with A Feast for Crows was that her parts felt like a shaggy dog story.

      What’s really missing is the ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ aspect of Theon’s story. Theon is captured by Stannis. But here, Stannis is dead.

      As much as the fandom hated A Feast for Crows, D&D should know removing it and replacing it with whatever they think of because you know it’ll be better is the recipe for bad fanfic.

  8. June 16, 2015 at 10:07 am —

    Can’t stand this show.

  9. June 16, 2015 at 2:57 pm —

    I thought it was absurd that she even agreed to go and marry the son of the guy that betrayed her family. It made no sense at all to me. The diabolic plan for her to get revenge was what exactly? After all she had gone through before that, there was no way anyone would agree to that.

    • June 17, 2015 at 7:47 pm —

      I assumed she was trying to poison him. You know, poison being ‘a woman’s weapon’ and all. But then again, at this point I’m not sure what in the name of the gods old and new they were doing. Skipping nearly all of Feast for Crows left a lot of important background info out, and killing Myrcella before Tommen threw Cersei’s arc off the rails.

      I’m a fan of the Many Small Northern Conspiracies (MSNC) theory, rather than the Grand Northern Conspiracy (GNC) theory. It works a lot better.

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