Over the course of Game of Thrones' previous eight seasons, fans have watched each of the HBO fantasy epic's characters grow and change largely due to the things they've witnessed and experienced. For Sansa Stark, played by Sophie Turner, many of those experiences have been particularly brutal -- something that was acknowledged in Sunday's Season Eight episode. However, not everyone is thrilled with how some of the more controversial experiences are being attributed as the source of Sansa's strength, and now actress Jessica Chastain is speaking out about it.
On Monday, Chastain, who co-stars with Turner in the upcoming Dark Phoenix, took to Twitter with her issue with the most recent Game of Thrones episode; specifically, in how it dealt with Sansa's character and the abuse she's suffered and the implication that that is why she's grown.
Now, before we get to Chastain's exact tweet, it's important to offer a little context. In Sunday's episode, The Hound tells Sansa that she would have avoided the abuse and trauma she's endured had she simply left with him in the show's second season. He's referring to a controversial moment in the show's fifth season where Sansa is brutally raped by her then-husband, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Sansa ultimately exacts her own form of justice against Ramsay by having him eaten by his own dogs. In response to The Hound's comment, Sansa claims that had it not been for Ramsay -- as well as other experiences -- she would have stayed a "little bird" all her life. It's that claim, that had she not been raped that she'd still be "weak," that Chastain took issue with.
Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.#GameOfThrones pic.twitter.com/TVIyt8LYxI— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) May 7, 2019
"Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger," Chastain wrote. "A woman doesn't need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone. #GameOfThrones."
Chastain isn't alone in calling out Game of Thrones for trying to "silver lining" Sansa's rape. Many fans also complained about the moment on Twitter, and it's far from the first time the show -- and, by extension, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss -- have been called out for their use of sexual violence in the series. Back in 2015, The Atlantic ran an article listing the instances of sexual violence, particularly against women, and how it specifically differed in a more brutal fashion than in the source material by author George R.R. Martin.
As for Benioff and Weiss, the pair have themselves addressed Sansa's character progression since the series' start, revealing in a recent interview that she's the character they think has changed the most.
“Sansa,” said Benioff. “She started out so naive and was forced to undergo the most brutal possible education into the world but emerged from it and became this powerful figure and kind of against all odds. I don’t think too many people watching the first season had any expectation that Sansa would become the woman that she became."12comments
Benioff added, "And part of that is the story and part of that is Sophie Turner and the phenom she turned out to be as an actress. We knew when we cast Sophie that she was this really good child actor, but we had no idea she’d become the force that’s she’s become. So if I had to pick one, I’d pick Sansa.”
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.