WOMEN

Why Talking About 'Game Of Thrones' Rape Is Important For Feminism

05/22/2015 12:15 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2015

You don't have to be a "Game Of Thrones" viewer at this point to be familiar with the show's history of depicting rape on screen. But a scene that aired last Sunday stirred and upset many fans and casual viewers alike, especially among the feminist community.

The controversial sequence prompted The Mary Sue, a pop culture blog with a feminist point of view, to declare that they'd "no longer be actively promoting the HBO series."

"In this particular instance, rape is not necessary to Sansa’s character development," the site's Jill Pantozzi wrote. "It is not necessary to prove 'how bad things were for women.' ... Rape here, like in all instances, is not a necessary story-driving device."

Dr. Michele Polak, an English professor at Centenary College, shares The Mary Sue's reservations, arguing that the rape served more to advance a male character's storyline rather than that of the Sansa Stark, who was raped.

"I think it was there to move the narrative of her brother," Polak told HuffPost Live on Thursday. "I think that really did great for his narrative more than it did for Sansa's."

Still, Polak laments The Mary Sue's choice to forego "Game of Thrones" coverage in the future. She explained:

We have so few platforms [where] feminist popular culture [is] really being dissected. To remove one of them from the very limited scope we have in mainstream media breaks my heart. I love Mary Sue, I wish they would write about it -- even if it's in frustration about the things that are happening -- because it does prompt conversation. It bothers me that they're not going to write about it anymore, however it is their choice ... but I wish they would continue so we can continue these conversations.

Slate contributor Amanda Marcotte and contributing editor to Washingtonian magazine, Hilary Kelly, joined the discussion of what is meant by a "gratuitous rape scene" and whether "Game of Thrones" can depict rape in service to a broader, important cultural conversation.

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