“In elevating rape as ‘character building’ you perpetuate rape culture.”
Jessica Chastain, a Hollywood actress who has frequently expressed feminist sympathies, criticized Monday evening the use of rape in HBO’s fantasy TV show “Game of Thrones” as a “tool” to depict the empowerment of a female character.
The actress is known for portraying strong-willed women and speaking out on women’s rights issues. In 2017, she declared she was “so proud to be a woman” and praised her fellow “brave warriors” speaking out against sexual harassment in the wake of #MeToo.
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“Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger,” Chastain tweeted. “A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The little bird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.”
Tell them!! This season has been a joke and of very bad taste, they butchered all the female characters, because the writers just don't know how to write them, while the men are getting everything just because they have a c*ck as they literally said in the past episode pic.twitter.com/VsSWGXpLtX
— Stefany ︽✵︽ (@SttefyG) May 7, 2019
Chastain was responding to a moment in the eighth season of the show’s fourth episode, which aired Sunday night. In the episode, Sansa Stark (played by Sophie Turner) replies to a question from the Hound (played by Rory McCann) about the mistreatment she’s faced at the hands of men, which includes a vicious rape perpetrated by Ramsay Bolton (played by Iwan Rheon).
“Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would’ve stayed a little bird all my life,” Sansa says in the scene.
Chastain’s take went viral, garnering more than 30,000 likes and thousands of comments. Social media commenters and feminists applauded the “Zero Dark Thirty” actress’ message of empowerment, and journalists echoed Chastain’s sentiments.
“What ‘Game of Thrones’ Gets Wrong About Sansa Stark and Abuse,” read a headline about the episode in The Daily Beast. Refinery29 published a piece titled, “‘Game of Thrones’ Has a Sansa Stark Problem.” IndieWire’s television awards editor Libby Hill was outraged by how the show’s writers handled Sansa’s character development.
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“Now Sansa’s saying that she wouldn’t have grown as a person were it not for eight seasons of gratuitous torture porn,” Hill wrote. “For as much as adversity does strengthen some people, it beggars belief that after years of abuse a woman comes out the other side brushing the dirt off her hands and saying, ‘You know, that was tough, but I really learned something about myself.’ Way to rob Sansa’s journey of any meaning, you dumb jerks.”
Hi. As a rape survivor who just watched #GameOfThrones, I’m gonna go ahead and take FULL FUCKING CREDIT for the strength I’ve gained since my attack.
I’m not about to thank my rapist for getting me to where I am, like Sansa just did.
— Chrissa (@chrissahardy) May 6, 2019
Some commenters accused “Game of Thrones” of perpetuating rape culture. “people who climb over themselves to argue that ‘rape forges strength’ – y’all, that is not how it works. We survive in spite of – not thanks to. In elevating rape as ‘character building’ you perpetuate rape culture. Stop this,” wrote one user. Other users on social media took the show to task for its lack of female writers and directors. One commenter said “Game of Thrones'” writers “are obsessed with making rape and abuse part of a woman’s ‘character development.'”
Whether it be commentary on “Game of Thrones’” depiction of feminism, immigration or gender – the show and its cast seem unable to escape the broader culture’s penchant for injecting all facets of society, no matter how frivolous or seemingly apolitical, with political or ideological significance.
Chastain will star in the upcoming X-Men flick “Dark Phoenix” alongside Turner.
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