To Love or Not to Love: Game of Thrones

by Tess Adair

This week in fantasy: the Game of Thrones trailer dropped.


(If you don’t want GoT spoilers through the end of the last season, look away now.)


So, I have an extremely love/hate relationship with Game of Thrones. Fittingly, I have already developed a love/hate relationship with this new trailer for the upcoming season 6.


Here’s the trailer, if you’d like to check it out:


Oh, Game of Thrones. I never know for sure how I feel. I think if I’d read the book series when I was bit younger, I would love it unquestioningly. As it stands, I didn’t try to read them until I was 25 and had already consumed 4 straight seasons of the television show. I enjoyed reading the Arya sections, but almost every other chapter struck me as a boring, overwritten version of what had happened in the show. So I gave up.


Kinda like how I gave up on reading Lord of the Rings as soon as I hit overblown Tom Bombadil and his nurturing-domestic-goddess cliche of a wife.


When I was 14, I wanted so badly to find myself wrapped up in a new fantasy. I’d loved Harry Potter so much, and it made me want to dive deep. But Lord of the Rings was not for me. For starters, I got 100 pages in and there were almost no women. Certainly no women I liked or even recognized at all. And I found myself almost completely incapable of connecting with Frodo or any of the hobbits.


So I put it down and I never picked it up again. But I always wanted something like it--something with all the beautiful world-building of Lord of the Rings but also with characters I actually wanted to read about.


Enter Game of Thrones.


GoT has a lot of the LotR trappings: a faux-medieval universe, with a well-defined new universe and geography. But it also has a lot of things that LotR is missing: a rich human history full of politics and messy no-good-guy wars, back-stabbings and murders, wealth and poverty and starvation. And, oh yeah--a whole plethora of fantastic, fully realized female characters.


In particular, it has Arya. I mean, you know, I love all the female characters--hell, I even love Cersei. But I can only have one absolute favorite, and it’s Arya Stark.

Arya’s pretty much everything I want in a heroine: spunky and brash and forthright, insistent on speaking her mind even though she lives in a world that prefers pretty compliance and demure silence from its women. I loved her from her very first screenshot.


In fact, let me just take a moment to talk about the first time you see Arya in the show.


First, you get a shot of her doing needlework--looking sulky and disinterested, like she might drop dead of boredom. Then you get Bran, her younger brother, trying to impress his father and brothers by firing an arrow at a target. He misses completely, causing his older brothers to laugh while his father assures him that they used to suck too, and all he needs to do is keep trying. He gets ready to fire again--and suddenly an arrow hits the target, dead center. But when the camera returns to Bran, he hasn’t fired yet. So they all look behind them.


It’s Arya, of course. Kicking ass. As soon as they notice her, she runs--she’s not supposed to be there at all.

This is one of my favorite character introductions. It’s so simple and easy, but it says so much. Arya is already an outsider, even though she’s a member of one of the most powerful families in Westeros. She’s willful and tricky, and she’s never ever going to fit into any of the roles her gender would assign her.


There are two things any work of fiction can do with a character like this. It can beat her down, thwart her, over and over, until she learns her proper place. Or it can give her small moments, let her slowly and secretly build into the person she wants to be, until she emerges at the end of some version of the heroic journey.


Oh, or it can go the Game of Thrones way. It can let her start to grow in secret, then throw so many horrific traumas at her that she has no choice but to forcibly turn herself into a homicidal semi-psychopath just to survive.


See, that’s what I love about Game of Thrones. Not only did they give invert the traditional boy-hero-origin story by giving it to a girl, they also pointedly perverted it by making it teaching our hero to lose all respect for the value of human life.


It’s not her fault--the world she lives in gives her no other choice. Arya kills violently and without remorse--she has to.

I love this part of the show. I love everything about Arya’s storyline. I would go so far as to say that it’s not really Game of Thrones I get excited about--it’s just Arya Stark.


So I guess you probably want to know--if this part of the show is so great, then why don’t I just love it? Where’s the hate part of the love/hate? What’s that about?


It’s about all the rape, actually.


Yep. All the rape. There’s a LOT of rape. Seriously.


I won’t go into it too much. I will just say there is a scene with background rape. Like, there’s a conversation happening in the foreground, and in the background of that scene, at least one sobbing, faceless woman is being raped. You can hear it, and you can see it, though it is blurry. The sounds suggest that it may in fact be happening to more than one woman. It adds absolutely nothing to the scene (well, for me, it adds a distinct desire to vomit right on David Benioff’s face.)


Fun fact: this wasn’t even the rape scene that pissed everybody off that season.


So, yeah, a LOT of rape.

Haha, see? Arya is my spirit animal. Half of her lines are basically my reactions to the showrunners of GoT putting yet more rape into the goddamn show. Sometimes I feel like GoT is almost a game for me--a game of dodging rape scenes in order to get to my Arya prize.


But honestly? I forget about all the bad shit the second a new trailer goes up.


I mean.


Did you see it?


I mean.


I have so many questions.


Is Davos getting his own plot this year? Has Melissandre given up on her commitment to creepy weirdness? How hard did the writers laugh when they inserted half a second of an already-established Jon Snow shot? Will someone please kill the fuck out of Sam Tarly so I don’t have to deal with his horrible plot line anymore? Has Khaleesi been cursed by the Dothraki horse god to walk across the desert every 3 years? Is that ALL THE ARYA you're going to give me? SERIOUSLY?? SERIOUSLY????

My spirit animal, and my hero.


I hope they keep the rape scenes down to, like, under 3.