‘Game of Thrones’ neglects to provide trigger warning | The Triangle


‘Game of Thrones’ neglects to provide trigger warning

The sixth episode of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” stirred up quite a strong reaction from fans after it aired. For those who watch “Game of Thrones” religiously, you will remember this as the episode that ended with Sansa Stark being raped on her wedding night. The days following the episode’s premiere were filled with a frenzy of outraged fans, who were outraged for various reasons; the most common ones being the deviation from the book, the fact that the addition was unnecessary to the character development of Sansa and the fact that the scene was punctuated by zooming in on Theon’s face, as though he were the victim.  Many people have withdrawn their support of “Game of Thrones” because they were so disgusted by the rape scene. But what disgusts me about the entire thing, which most people have not discussed, was the lack of a trigger warning.

This is not the first time rape has been in “Game of Thrones.” The subject is often mentioned and attempts or actual rape have been shown before (the attempted rape of Sansa as well as the actual rape of Cersei). I think the difference in the case of Cersei is that she and Jaime have a sexual history (though this definitely does not make it right for him to forcefully have his way with her) and the fact that in the book a sexual act does occur and is actually consensual. Watching her being raped was also uncomfortable and many people were similarly disgusted, but the outrage was not as big as with Sansa. In the case of Sansa, she was not raped in the book. Her rape was unexpected. There was no warning.

This where I think the greatest problem lies. Not that they chose to change the storyline (this coming from an avid reader who curses most movies for being inaccurate), not that they panned over to Theon and showed his reaction (yes, this is awful, but it is definitely better than actually watching Ramsay rape Sansa as opposed to just hearing it), but that there was no trigger warning. There was absolutely nothing to warn people that there would be such a graphic scene.

A trigger warning is an advisory that is there to prevent people who may have post-traumatic flashbacks or anxiety triggered by certain subjects. Encountering those subjects whether it is war, rape or suicide, which are some of the common topics that often work as triggers, usually leads to strong and sometimes damaging emotional responses.

Since the episode has aired, articles about the rape have focused on Sansa being a minor (The Daily Beast), rape being a terrible motivator for character development (Vanity Fair) and that Theon should not have been the central focus during the rape. But I have yet to see an article discussing the lack of a trigger warning. According to Entertainment Weekly, “Game of Thrones” has a viewership of 20 million people. Twenty million. If anyone has ever even glanced at rape statistics, it can be assumed that a fair amount of viewers have been sexually assaulted or raped. And the producers of “Game of Thrones” really did not think to put a trigger warning on the episode?

Many who have never been through a traumatic sexual experience found the ending of the episode incredibly heavy to watch. After watching the episode myself with friends, we all sat in an uncomfortable silence, trying and failing to understand what we just saw. Alfie Allen, who plays Theon Greyjoy, expressed himself that the scene was “hard to watch.”

It honestly baffles me that no one seems to care about the lack of trigger warning, except apparently for those who have been sexually traumatised. There is so much talk nowadays about the presence of rape culture, but where is the sympathy and compassion for rape victims? Where is the support and understanding? Whether the storyline should have been changed or not, whether it perpetuates rape culture, whether it is anti-feminist to zoom in on Theon, that all should come second to the importance of trigger warnings and being sensitive to those who may have experienced something similar that was the most traumatic experience of their lives. Because no one wants to relive that experience, especially when watching their favorite show. 

Kaitlin Thaker is a junior international area studies major at Drexel University. She can be contacted at [email protected]

  • Mark Schmidt

    They have one. Its called TV-MA. Its rating for graphic scenes including violence and sexual situations. They mention it at the start of every episode. If you aren’t mature enough to watch it or it makes you uncomfortable, then turn it off. No one is forcing you to watch the show. And are you really surprised when one of the shows, famous for being graphic, is in fact graphic.

    The tagline is “All Men Must Die”. Where’s the article on why that is sexist? It doesn’t exist because you’re trying to play off this victim culture. Society needs to change because there’s something I don’t like.

    The world doesn’t revolve around you. I spilled hot coffee on myself once. It sucked. I don’t get to fight Starbucks to have a trigger warning on every advertisement. You put yourself in the situation where you were watching the TV show. Don’t blame someone else because of you’re decision to watch a show you can’t handle. Take responsibility for you’re actions and instead of watching next weeks episode, throw on a Spongebob episode. Unless you had a bad experience in the water once and require a trigger warning for that too.

    • Kaitlin Thaker

      Hello Mark. Before I delve into your response, I would like to invite you to read the definition of what a trigger warning: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/de/definition/englisch_usa/trigger-warning. While shows do have ratings, ratings can only indicate that there MAY BE certain content in a series, but not specifically what the content may be for a particular episode. You are right that people who are sensitive to certain materials should self-sensor themselves and that it is not the responsibility of everyone to accomodate, though I must disagree that people who have been sexually assaulted lack the maturity to watch certain material. Maturity has nothing to do with the matter.
      The sexism that you have pointed out with regards to the tagline has nothing to do with the point I am trying to make, though I do appreaciate you pointing that out. If you would like for us to write an article as to why this is sexist, you can send your recommendation to [email protected] and we will take it into consideration.
      As for your comparison of being raped to spilling hot coffee on yourself, I really hope you will reread that part and realise the absurdity in the comparison. A friend of mine suggested a good solution to the issue of providing a trigger warning without spoiling the content for other people: she suggested there be a website, where people can check ahead of time if a specific episode is likely to trigger something for them and they can then make an informed decision from there.

      • Matt

        “You are right that people who are sensitive to certain materials should self-sensor themselves and that it is not the responsibility of everyone to accomodate, ”

        Then you concede. This statement nullifies the rest of your comment as well as the crux of your article.

      • The Confused

        I agree with Matt. Way to contradict your own article Kaitlin.

  • The Confused

    Considering GoT is one of the worst shows to be aired, the incidence of rape and other deviance really isn’t (nor shouldn’t) be surprising.

  • Sasha Fox

    I think it has to do with the fact that sexual violence has always been a prominant feature of the world in Game of Thrones. It portrays a violent, patriarchal, society at war; I find it hard to believe that by season 5, episode 6, anyone would still be watching this show if they were triggered by viewing acts of sexual violence.