Speaking at a Fox Studios Australia event, Emmy award winning Game of Thrones director Jeremy Podeswa let the audience in on a pleasantly surprising bit of news; David Benioff and Dan Weiss have made some alterations after all the negative criticism over Game of Thrones’ depiction of rape and sexual assault. Whether because of intense public discussion after episodes like “Breaker of Chains” (Jaime raped Cersei) and “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (Ramsay raped Sansa in front of Theon), or because the condemnation reached the U.S. Senate, the criticism has not fallen on deaf ears.
“I welcomed the discussion about the depiction of violence on television and how it could be used as a narrative tool sometimes and the questionable nature of that. We were aware ahead of time that it was going to be disturbing but we did not expect there would be people in Congress talking about it.
It was a difficult and brutal scene [Sansa’s rape] and we knew it was going to be challenging for the audience. But it was very important to us in the execution that it would not be exploited in any way. To be fair, the criticism was the notion of it, not the execution. It was handled as sensitively as it could possibly be.”
Though I still don’t think that Sansa’s story needed that particular nasty embellishment, it’s natural the director and showrunners would stand behind their work. What’s important here is that a hugely successful series could easily weather the criticism and carry on, business as usual. In fact, a script leak seemed to indicate Season 6 might kick off with another disturbing scenario. But, Podeswa may have thrown us (and Daenerys) a lifeline.
“It is important that (the producers) not self-censor. The show depicts a brutal world where horrible things happen. They did not want to be too overly influenced by that (criticism) but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way.”
From what the director says, Benioff and Weiss are working to strike the right balance between portraying the reality of George R. R. Martin’s Ice and Fire world, and not stepping way over a line that could alienate some of their audience. With the HBO series breaking worldwide viewing records, I find it heartening to hear they’re listening. Perhaps they’ll even consider bringing on another female director for the final season; Season 6 is again, all-male.
Jeremy Podeswa directed Game of Thrones’ first two Season 6 episodes, premiering next April.