Game Of Thrones spent much of its first four seasons asking us to play the voyeur as men like Tyrion Lannister, Littlefinger and Oberyn Martell moved from brothel to orgy while the women around them were objectified by the aforementioned men.
But even if it wasn't always clear where the line between straight-up voyeurism and a sense of sympathy for those women lay, the show never really crossed a line — until the most haunting episode of Season 5, when Sansa was wed to Ramsay Bolton, who then took sadistic glee in raping his new bride while Theon Greyjoy watched on.
As a deviation from the source material, the rape scene and the men who devised it, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, took a lot of heat, and 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken' remains the only Game of Thrones episode rated rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. Ironically, though, none of the episode's critics seemed particularly interested in what Sophie Turner thought about Sansa's wedding night trauma.
Speaking to Time recently, Turner spoke about how her initial response to reading the script didn't even consider the possibility of the scene creating controversy:
"Sexual assault wasn't something that had affected me or anybody I knew, so I was pretty blase about the whole thing. Naively so. And then I shot the scene, and in the aftermath there was this huge uproar that we would depict something like that. My first response was like, maybe we shouldn't have put that on screen at all."
She then explains why, in her mind, the show was absolutely right to take Sansa down such a dark path:
"There's still such a taboo surrounding subjects like [rape] and you don’t really see it portrayed onscreen that much ... Why should it be taboo? If it gets that discussion going then I think it’s really important. It has to be brought into the mainstream because it is mainstream ... I feel so passionately about it that when something like that happens onscreen and there is a discussion and there is an uproar, great! Let’s take that discussion and that dialogue and use it to help people who are going through that in their everyday lives. Stop making it such a taboo, and make it a discussion."
Considering the provocative nature of the subject, Turner's passionate defense of the rape scene is guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows and probably spawn a thousand thinkpieces, but it's hard to deny that the aftermath was sensitively handled, with Sansa emerging a stronger person and bravely facing Ramsay again in Season 6 (where revenge was served as dog food). Nobody should be looking to Game Of Thrones for role models, but any woman who does will likely find something to relate or aspire to in Sansa's immense strength of character.
Season 7 comes to HBO July 16, when we might discover a little more about that ominous "lone wolf" warning.
Do you agree with Sophie Turner's defense of the rape scene, or did Game Of Thrones push it too far?