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History cannot be excluded from television, even if the truth may disturb us

Iwan+Rheon+as+Ramsay+Bolton+and+Sophie+Turner+as+Sansa+Stark+in+%22Game+of+Thrones.%22+The+show+airs+Sundays+at+9+P.M.+Photo+Credit%3A+Helen+Sloan%2FHBO
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History cannot be excluded from television, even if the truth may disturb us

Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in

Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in "Game of Thrones." The show airs Sundays at 9 P.M. Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in "Game of Thrones." The show airs Sundays at 9 P.M. Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in "Game of Thrones." The show airs Sundays at 9 P.M. Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Emma Kolesnik

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Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in "Game of Thrones." The show airs Sundays at 9 P.M. Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in “Game of Thrones.” The show airs Sundays at 9 P.M. Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

History is not always pleasant. Hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago things were drastically different than they are in our modern world. This means that we can’t always look at history through the lens of someone living today.

In a time period without the luxuries of the modern world, priorities shift. Survival is key, and is often put above happiness. Making choices based off of emotions such as love and happiness was not a realistic option in the past.

The genre of historical fiction in television, movies and books is often highly romanticized. It gives us the impression that people in the past were in the same position, and basic “rules” were the same. This, however, was not the case.

Arguably the most popular television show set in the past is “Game of Thrones” (based on the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin). Season after season viewers have been shocked by many of the events that take place.

There are a handful of scenes in particular that have caused major uproar from viewers. In just the first episode, the main character of Daenerys Targaryen was raped by her stranger of a husband, Khal Drogo.

The “Red Wedding” was a massacre in season three that caused a huge reaction from many fans. After this episode aired, some fans decided that they were done with the show.

Fans claiming that they are done with the show is a surprisingly common occurrence. Just this week US Senator Claire McCaskill tweeted that she would no longer be watching “Game of Thrones.”

The most recent episode of “Game of Thrones” brought up the conversation, yet again, of its “unacceptable” and “disgusting” content. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however this is not a black and white issue. The people condemning the show for its brutality should consider that many of the controversial scenes portray realistic events for that time period.

Today, we marry out of love, however historically this could not be further from the truth. If a woman was lucky, she may have some choice in who she was wed to. “Game of Thrones” (usually) adheres to the historical reasons for marrying.

When the determining factors of marriage were money, power, and lineage, matches were often made that today we see as strange. Older men would be wed to girls under the age of 16, and this wasn’t uncommon.

Sex during marriage was not based off of love or lust; it was often only motivated by the need to produce heirs. The consummation of marriages was rarely a pleasant thing for the woman, especially at younger ages.

Up until the mid 20th century, it was acceptable for husbands to use violence against their wives. In the past centuries, divorce was not allowed, meaning there was no real escape from marriage.

The historical realities of marriage are not pleasant to our modern minds in the slightest. However, just because we don’t think something is acceptable or right doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The recent controversial rape scene with Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton is awful. Ramsay is a psychopath who enjoys torturing people, so the violence of the scene is not unexpected. This scene is not pleasant in the slightest. However the scene, historically, is very realistic.

The historical accuracy in many of the events in Game of Thrones is often undervalued. No, most of the events did not actually take place, but similar ones did.

Game of Thrones, along with other movies, books and TV shows in the historical fiction genre, is supposed to be fiction. But, if it incorporates accurate details about the reality of living in the past, that should not be considered “unacceptable.” In fact, it should be encouraged.

Game of Thrones has had some scenes that could be considered unnecessary, but scenes like the one with Sansa Stark are not. This scene not only serves a purpose for the storyline of the character, but also shows us the less appealing and romantic parts to living in many historical societies.

We can’t look at shows set in the past through the realities of our modern world. Reality and history are not particularly romantic most of the time.

While this may disappoint us, or even disgust us, we cannot pretend that it wasn’t a reality for many of our ancestors.

What do you think?
2 Comments

2 Responses to “History cannot be excluded from television, even if the truth may disturb us”

  1. Khaila Hartung-Dallas on June 4th, 2015 1:28 pm

    Good article, but I think you’re missing the main point as to why so many people were upset about the rape of Sansa Stark and the general treatment of women within the “Game of Thrones” universe. Yes, historically, women were treated very poorly and events like the ones you talked about in your article most certainly did happen, but the way in which the writers of GOT are handling it can be negligible at best. Looking specifically at the rape of Sansa Stark by Ramsay Bolton people are in such an outrage not necessarily because she was raped (although that was a factor), but because of how it was handled. The scene very quickly focused on the pain that Theon Greyjoy was feeling because he had to watch Sansa be raped on not the pain and anguish that Sansa was feeling, very clearly establishing that this scene was about Theon’s own growth and characterization and not about the character being sexually assaulted. In addition to that GOT has a history of depicting widespread sexual violence against women as the only was to convey to the audience that these characters are experiencing pain and trauma. While sexual violence was extremely prevalent within the time period, and now, people are primarily upset about the writers inability to not turn to sexual violence to show that female characters are suffering, in addition to the focus on other characters pain over the pain of those being violated. Overall it was a good article and you made some very good points about the importance of historical accuracy, especially in the show like GOT, but it’s not a coincidence that at soon as Sophie Turner (actress for Sansa Stark) came of age her character was raped on screen.

     
  2. Kiley Beekeeper on June 5th, 2015 4:45 pm

    I’m glad a show featuring dragons in a world that only has white people is remaining historically accurate by using sexual violence against women as a mode of character development for a man! Really sticking with the history of neglecting and abusing women for the benefit of men.

     

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History cannot be excluded from television, even if the truth may disturb us