Talking about things

Some sideways thoughts about the Hugos and that Game of Thrones episode

There are many Game of Thrones episodes that could be referred to as that episode but the one I’m talking about today is season five’s ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’.

I haven’t read Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen the television series. Like many people I know about the series through osmosis, because you can’t get away from it. I enjoy the surrounding commentary, however. I don’t know what that says about me, because while I enjoy the commentary I have never been tempted to read the books or see the show.

If everyone loved the same stories it would be a boring world.

Thus I had not had much to do with George R. R. Martin until I read his blogs about this year’s Hugo awards and Puppygate*. I thought they were fantastic, and summed it up well.

So I’m using George R. R. Martin as an excuse to combine two disparate topics into one. The Hugos, and the episode that for a lot of viewers might be the turning point for whether they continue to watch Game of Thrones.

The Hugos

Best novel

Many people will vote for Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem (translated by Ken Liu) because they loved the book. I suspect it will also pick up votes because many people see it as the only untarnished nominee. (Confession, I have never been able to read past the first bit, where the government kills the girl’s father. Like I say, different books appeal to different people.)

Jim Butcher may be an outside chance. A lot of Hugo voters enjoy his work, it would never have occurred to most of them to nominate an urban fantasy like his.

I really hope voters remember that neither Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, nor Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor were on the Sad Puppies slate. These two books were nominated on their own merits, even when they had a whole slate of puppy-nominations against them. I’d love to see either of these books win. Better yet, I’d love to see them as equal winners.

Best dramatic presentation, long form

So many good movies came out last year. Every one of them deserves to be on the list. Edge of Tomorrow is the most underrated of the five movies there, but I thought it was great.

Best editor, long form

Our editor is Anne Sowards, from Ace Roc books at Penguin Random House. We were delighted when we heard she’d been nominated for a Hugo. Then the Puppygate wildfire really took off and what should have been something to enjoy turned into something nasty (my words, for we haven’t spoken to Anne about this), for Anne was one of the people on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates.

I’m sorry about the way it happened, but I believe Anne deserves to be there. (I think Sheila Gilbert does too.) I’d like to see Anne win, but I think that whoever wins this year will feel the award is tarnished.

I hope she’s there next year too, under better circumstances.

That Game of Thrones episode

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

You’d have to be visiting a very different world wide web to me if you haven’t heard about the Game of Thrones episode Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

In this episode, Sansa Stark is raped, and it started a whole storm of protest about rape as a plot device.

The weird thing is, Game of Thrones is all about rape and the disempowerment of women. Chuck Wendig describes it as almost the “Where’s Waldo**” of Game of Thrones (We are not things). As in, where’s the rape in this episode?

It’s one of the reasons the book never appealed.

First, a recap on what happened.

The producers wanted to give Sansa Stark a larger role than she has in the book. Plus they wanted to streamline the plot and reduce the number of characters. So they merged Sansa Stark’s storyline with that of Jeyne Poole. I think (because I haven’t read the books) that Jeyne Poole always was raped at this particular time, by the man who now rapes Sansa.

This isn’t the first rape scene in Game of Thrones. It’s unlikely to be the last. But this one hit a nerve.

Before we dive into why we felt this was a choice which would cause us to stop promoting the show, allow us to say something very important: rape is not a necessary plot device. Really think about that before shouting “creative freedom” in our direction, please.

The show has creators. They make the choices. They chose to use rape as a plot device. Again.

Mary Sue – We will no longer be promoting Game of Thrones

It’s different when it happens to someone you know

Yes, it’s a story, but viewers knew Sansa Stark. They’d spent seasons with her, watching her grow in strength, only to be pushed down to that horrible place she started.

Sure, there were other factors involved. This is the first series where the producers are in front of the book, so viewers didn’t know what to expect.

There’s a bit of series fatigue. Something that might turn your stomach in the earlier episodes, but that you will still watch because it’s a great show and there’s nothing else like it on television, is less tolerable in later episodes. Particularly if you barely held on because of the ick factor in earlier scenes.

It’s repetitive. Same old, same old. Where’s the rape scene in this episode? Enough is enough.

Most of all, it’s different when it’s someone you know. It’s a lot more shocking. It’s a lot more real.


I read a sickening report in the paper this morning about some children who invited a younger boy to play with them, and who then stoned, strangled and stabbed the boy to death. This happened in a place where thousands of people have been killed in turf wars between the drug cartels. According to the prosecutor,  the children have been desensitised by the violence around them, with the children reflecting what they experience every day.

Television violence desensitises too. If the outcome of what happened to Sansa Stark in Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken leads to less producers choosing ‘rape as a plot device’, it can only be a good thing.



* I’m only linking to the first one. He wrote a lot of words about it. They’re well worth reading.
** “Where’s Wally?” in Australia.

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