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 "Game of Thrones." The show airs Sundays at 9 P.M. Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Emma Kolesnik

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?