Game of Thrones isn't without controversy as the final episodes bring everything to a close in the coming weeks. The fourth episode of season 8 aired this past Sunday, and many fans have taken issue with quite a few things. But some leading voices in film and television are now speaking out, and they are going above the plot to call out both rape and racial insensitivity.
First up, IT: Chapter 2 star Jessica Chastain is taking HBO and the Game of Thrones creators to task for using rape to build out Sansa's story arc. The episode titled The Last of the Starks supports the fact that Sansa Stark's sexual abuse and torture throughout the series has made her a stronger woman. Chastain went on social media to air her grievances with this plot device in character building.
Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.#GameOfThronespic.twitter.com/TVIyt8LYxI— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) May 7, 2019
Sansa is a character that has sustained many character transformations throughout the past 8 seasons. She started as the Princess of Winterfell, at one time asking to be married to Prince Joffrey. Now she is the strategic ruler of her family's house. During The Last of the Starks, Sansa reunited with Hound Sandor Clegane for a victory banquet. The Hound protected Sansa when she was trapped at King's Landing under the watch of the evil Lannisters. The show recalls the multiple rapes Sansa suffered at the hands of husband Ramsay Bolton in Season 5, which at the time came under quite a bit of scrutiny for using this sexual abuse as a narrative tool.
In The Last of the Starks, the Hound remarks to Sansa, "You've changed, little bird." Sansa's reply has gotten some blowback, Jessica Chastain included. Sansa says this, indicating that rape has made her a much stronger woman.
"Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would've stayed a little bird all my life."
Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, will soon star with Jessica Chastain in this summer's Dark Phoenix. Much criticism has been lobbed at Game of Thrones for its lack of female writers and directors, which many claim is the reason for the disappointing portrayal of Sansa as a survivor of rape. Ava DuVernay, director of A Wrinkle In Time, is taking a very different issue with the show, calling the latest episode out for being racially insensitive.
Ava DuVernay took issue with the fact that Missandei, one of the only woman of color on the show, was killed off in a very gruesome way in the closing moments of Sunday night's episode. Many are disagreeing with her, though, pointing out that anyone can die at any second on a show like Game of Thrones, and it's almost more of a disservice to the characters and narrative to let someone live simply because of their race, which itself could be looked at as being backwards insensitive, not offering the same opportunities as the other characters, even if in this opportunity it's death by beheading.