The Way Game Of Thrones Tackle Sexual Trauma Needs To Be Discussed

The Starbucks cup was emblematic of a lack of thought in episode four and women paid the price

Game of Thrones

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

You may not have seen it, but you sure will have heard about it. When a Starbuck’s cup appeared in a scene in Game of Thrones on Sunday night, everyone online went wild. How can a show that spent two years creating six feature-length episodes go from giving us one of the best TV battles of all time in episode three to this level of thoughtlessness - and nonsensical plot jumps while we’re at it – in episode four?

Every TV production is capable of making blaze mistakes, of course, but that fateful Starbucks’s cup has come to signify a lot more than just a lack of thought in the prop department, for this episode at least. Because, sadly for Game of Thrones fans everywhere, Sunday night’s show seemed illogical and disappointing, especially in the developments of the female characters.

Let’s start at the beginning – of season seven at least, we haven’t got all year. It seemed that after seasons upon seasons of female characters being disrespected, abused and subject to many, many gratuitous rape scenes the women were succeeding in their personal endeavors and becoming the main beacons of power on the show. They may have primarily relied upon male advisors in those positions, but they were there nonetheless.

We saw them leading men into battle, commanding the respect of entire Kingdoms and baking men into pies, excellent stuff. Alas, as we enter the final part of season eight, one of the most likeable female powerhouses on the show – Daenerys Targaryen– is slowly being written into an irrational savage who will abandon her entire raison d’etre in her thirst for the Iron Throne. It seems we are being led to prefer humble old Jon Snow as leader of the Seven Kingdoms, despite the fact his constant need for righteousness often clouds his judgement and borders on naivety, a quality that would have any leader killed within months of taking the throne.

Danys character arc isn’t really the main issue though, at least in Sunday night’s show. Let’s explore Brienne of Tarth – because unlike the writers of episode four, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, I’m actually leading up to my main point rather than jumping randomly to an illogical conclusion. Brienne was needlessly shamed for having never slept with a man before and then crumbled into pieces after she was abandoned by Jaime following actually doing it. The first scene in which we uncover she’s a virgin felt unnecessary, for a start. If she’s going to confirm the fact she’s a virgin with the line ‘I’ve never slept with anyone before’ just before going to bed with Jaime Lannister, why was Tyrion attempting to embarrass her in the first place necessary?

Are we, as viewers, meant to value her relationship with Jaime more knowing she chose to sleep with him first? It’s the sexist notion of her ‘giving it up’ for Jaime that is seemingly meant to have us invest more in their relationship and feel hurt when he goes on to abandon her on his quest to Kings Landing. FYI GoT writers, being a virgin doesn’t make you any more valuable in the eyes of viewers. Of course, it was her heartbreak at him leaving, literally spluttering while holding his face pleading with him to stay, that was the most unbelievable. Write her to be sad, sure. Write her to cry even. But to write her crumbling to pieces and begging, when the only change in their relationship is that they’ve had sex? Please. That’s not Brienne. What was once an endearing example of platonic male-female friendship has now been ruined by the archaic notion women become bumbling wrecks as soon as they sleep with a man.

Click through to see all of the clues you missed leading to THAT Arya Stark moment...


All the clues you missed leading up to THAT Arya Stark moment...

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CREDIT: Twitter

The first target

As Bran attempts to draw his arrow and hit the target, Arya interrupts him with a sudden intervention and hits the target with her own arrow – to the surprise of Jon Snow and Rob Stark. It was one of the first times we saw Arya's skill with a weapon, and her surprise Bran with a secret attack.

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CREDIT: Twitter

The first lesson

Her first lesson, Jon tells Arya 'stick him with the pointy end', advice she then gave to Sansa in Sunday night's episode. Considering many expected Jon to kill the Night King, the foreshadowing is quite chilling.

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Melisandre literally told us...

The most obvious clue came in season three - while still following the narrative of the books – when Melisandre, the red priestess, told Arya, 'I see a darkness in you, and in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes sealed shut forever.' Of course, she's killed many brown-eyed men, including Walder Frey. Now the Night King with blue eyes, and who do we know with green eyes?!

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The 'not today' lesson

Then came her training with Syrio Forel from season one. 'What do we say to the God of death?' he asked her, 'Not today', he taught. The Night King largely represented death, and she sure proved it was NOT today. In service of the House of black and White in Braavos, Arya goes blind in her training with Jaqen H'ghar. As she struggles with her identity, she becomes 'no one', and able to wear the masks then will see her kill many men. When Bran explained the danger incoming, he stated 'no one can kill the Night King'. And 'no one' truly did.

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Then she became 'no one'...

In service of the House of Black and White in Braavos, Arya goes blind in her training with Jaqen H'ghar. As she struggles with her identity, she becomes 'no one', and able to wear the masks then will see her kill many men. When Bran explained the danger incoming, he stated 'no one can kill the Night King'. And 'no one' truly did.

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Arya could surprise Jon easier than he could her...

Of course, the clues came thick and fast in the most recent season. We saw Arya sneak up on Jon in episode one of season eight, to his surprise ('how did you sneak up on me?', he asked), in the exact same place she would sneak up on the Night King on Sunday night's episode.

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The all-knowing Bran knew to give her something special...

Then, when Arya is reunited with Bran for the first time in years, he returns the dagger that would later be used to kill the Night King in the exact place she would kill him.

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And we saw her signature move used right before...

And just before battle, as Arya trained with Brienne of Tarth (that's Ser Brienne of Tarth to you), she used the same move flipping her knife from one hand to the other to stop her in battle.

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So, what else have we missed?

Of course, will all of these clues, there are now tons of fan theories about what's happening next. The main clue comes from that Melisandre quote about green eyes, are we to expect Arya to kill Cersei next, or at least one of the green-eyed Lannister's? It almost seems too obvious at this point, given that we literally missed every tiny clue they gave us about Arya's fate for an entire eight seasons – would they make it that easy for us? We're betting not.

The needless scenes continued with the now most hated moment of the entire episode, Sansa’s ‘little bird’ comment. The writers seem set on reminding us every episode of the horrific rape and abuse Sansa has suffered throughout the series. In this episode, Dany reminds Jon of it in one scene where she states Sansa is no longer the girl he knew after all she’s been though. You would think that would be enough if the intention is to ensure we feel sympathy for Sansa. But no, we have to be subject to that God-awful scene with the Hound where he not only refers to her as being ‘broken in rough’ but when commenting on how she’s now a changed woman, Sansa says ‘without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would have stayed a little bird all my life’.

Yes, that is Sansa’s character essentially saying that her entire character development into the powerhouse manipulator she is today is because of the rape and abuse she suffered. Not the fact she’s had numerous female influences that taught her how to play this game, not the fact she’s learnt for herself spending the first six seasons surrounded by enemies in a constant battle for survival, not that she’s seen and understood the behaviour of many powerful people who have since been killed because of their own character flaws. Just the fact she was raped and emotionally manipulated.

This – again unnecessary - scene signified for many what is quickly becoming glaringly obvious with the female characters on this show, these women are being written solely by men. Men who could not possibly understand the trauma of not only living through rape, but generally being a woman in the Game of Thrones world. They are not best-placed to represent how a woman would feel or act based on their character developments, and we are reminded of this every episode.

Are we meant to be satisfied with Arya Stark’s denial of Gendry’s proposal as our fix of female empowerment? The women in this show can deny marriage, fight in battles and lead nations (as long as the men advising them don’t turn on them first), and so the women are empowered in Game of Thrones! Yaas, Queens!

Honestly, the faux feminism was becoming laughable even earlier in this season. Especially, in episode three, when scenes showing men respecting a little girls will to fight in the battle were thrown in for good measure. Apparently, all it takes is a few token women in power to change an entire patriarchal system that saw women endlessly abused and married off against their will for centuries just months earlier. Now, the men respect women, even little girls!!! Who knew!?

It’s a shame, really. Because, as much as it doesn’t sound like it, I absolutely love Game of Thrones. But it could be so much better if there were female writers contributing to these developments. To base an entire season around women in power but not have one woman in the writing room is the definition virtue signaling. It’s shallow, empty, performative feminism and I’d quite like to enjoy a TV show without rolling my eyes every ten seconds

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