The final six episodes of Game of Thrones have received cheers and jeers, ranging from complaints over Jon Snow’s treatment of an old pal to an episode that for some was literally impossible to see. Then there’s Jessica Chastain and Ava DuVernay, both of who recently attacked the show for its treatment of women, of rape, and of diversity.
Their comments came after “The Last of the Starks,” this Sunday’s episode. Chastain singled out a bit involving Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), a character who has spent much of the show enduring rape and torture. The show’s critics have often accused the show of too often relying on female nudity and sexual assault as a narrative tool.
Still, there was one exchange that enraged the acclaimed actress, as well as others. At one point, Sansa reunited with Hound Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann), who protected her when she was trapped with the Lannisters in King’s Landing. The Hound told her he heard she was “broken in rough” by the likes of Littlefigner and Ramsay Bolton, the latter her Season 5 husband, who repeatedly raped her.
The Hound then told Sansa, “You’ve changed, little bird.” Sansa replied, “Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would’ve stayed a little bird all my life.”
The implication — that Sansa only gained strength through repeated sexual assault — caused Chastain to express her righteous disgust with a show whose writing staff has often been criticized for being mostly male, and therefore not always able to handle sensitive feminine issues.
“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.”
This wasn’t the only contentious, questionable bit in the latest Game of Thrones. Nathalie Emmanuel’s Missandei, the show’s only woman of color, was killed off in the episode’s closing moments. This did not go unnoticed by filmmaker Ava DuVernay.
“So… the one and only sister on the whole epic, years-long series? That’s what you wanna do? Okay,” wrote DuVernay, with a gif of James Earl Jones’ villainous Thulsa Doom from the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian making an ominous step towards the camera.
Since only two episodes remain, perhaps the people running the five possible future GoT shows will have to be the ones to take Chastain and DuVernay’s critiques to heart and try to do better.