George R.R. Martin Explains Why ‘Game Of Thrones’ Doesn’t Romanticize Medieval Society

In a recent interview, author George R.R. Martin discussed the women of Game of Thrones and the problem with “Disneyland Middle Ages” in fantasy.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for season 5 of Game of Thrones.

The TV adaptation of Martin’s book series has been the source of controversy lately, particularly in regard to violence against women on the show. Senator Claire McCaskill tweeted that she was “done” with the show after the May 17 episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” and The Mary Sue announced that they would “no longer be promoting” the show.

Martin talked with Entertainment Weekly extensively about women in the books, saying that fans love the variety of female characters in the books (even Cersei). He also explained that making Westeros a patriarchal society was a deliberate choice to offset the idealized version of Medieval Europe in the fantasy genre (“Disneyland Middle Ages”).

The best part of the interview, though, is when he addressed the amount of sexual violence against women in the story and whether the show’s writers are, as The Mary Sue put it, using “rape as a plot device.” While Martin obviously doesn’t condone the actions of characters like Ramsay Bolton, he said that to portray war without acknowledging the sexual violence that happened in the Middle Ages, and still happens today, is “fundamentally dishonest”:

“I’m writing about war, which what almost all epic fantasy is about. But if you’re going to write about war, and you just want to include all the cool battles and heroes killing a lot of orcs and things like that and you don’t portray [sexual violence], then there’s something fundamentally dishonest about that. Rape, unfortunately, is still a part of war today. It’s not a strong testament to the human race, but I don’t think we should pretend it doesn’t exist.

“I want to portray struggle. Drama comes out of conflict. If you portray a utopia, then you probably wrote a pretty boring book.”

The rest of the interview is available on Entertainment Weekly.

Despite the controversy (or maybe because of it), ratings for Sunday’s episode “Hardhome” were way up with over 7 million overnight viewers and a final scene that has already become a meme.

In full disclosure, I am a former contributor to The Mary Sue, but I was not a part of the discussion or decision to stop covering Game of Thrones.

(Via Entertainment Weekly)