Game of Thrones has had its share of controversy in its final season with fans voicing their displeasure at everything from so-called "lazy writing" to how scenes were lit to how the entire series concluded. However, the show has also seen controversy over some of the things that characters have experienced as well as how those experiences were handled -- particularly Sansa Stark's acknowledgement of the abuse she suffered in earlier seasons. Now, with the final chapter of the HBO series closed, star Sophie Turner is weighing in on her character's controversial line about abuse.
In Season 8's fourth episode, "The Last of The Starks", following the victory against the Night King and his army, everyone is celebrating. During the celebration, 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 a response that many -- including Turner's Dark Phoenix co-star Jessica Chastain -- interpreted as Sansa giving credit to her rape and abuse for her strength, as though she would never have become a powerful figure without those horrors. However, Turner told The New York Times that's not how she sees the scene at all.
"I obviously think that's not a message to spread," Turner said of the scene. "But I don't think that was the intention. It was that she was strong in spite of all the horrific things that she's gone through, not because of them. She's had resilience since the very beginning, and despite all of these awful things that happened to her, she's kept that resilience. Sansa to the core is resilient and brave and strong, and that had nothing to do with her abusers."
It's an important distinction to make, but Turner's comments may not fully resolve the issue. After the episode aired, many fans complained about it on Twitter, but 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."
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."
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