So I want to address a certain group of people who are crying out about the rape on Outlander versus Game of Thrones. As we all know, this season, Game of Thrones showed a non-canon rape against Sansa Stark. There was outrage about this. I was one person that was outraged about the backward character development and shock-value violence against a woman on screen. Game of Thrones is all about violence and politics and has had a lot of gratuitous rape scenes not canon to the books (Daenerys and Drogo on screen, Jaime and Cersei Lannister in Season Four). This rape of a main character was obviously a last straw for several people. There was reason for the outrage. It was seen as a lazy plot device meant to further along the story of Theon Greyjoy and ten steps back for Sansa Stark. Now people are complaining that Outlander fans who complained about the Sansa rape should be decrying the rape shown on screen of Jamie Fraser by Black Jack Randall. Calling those of us that aren’t rallying against it, hypocrites. Why? Because we aren’t screaming out about it.
The thing is, what happens between Black Jack Randall and Jamie Fraser is in the books. It’s described in great detail, all of the things that happen between these two men. In the books, it was very visceral and difficult to get through. It was disturbing and gut wrenching. It was sob-worthy. It was also very key to the character of Jamie Fraser, who is influenced by this event for the rest of the series, most especially in book two, three, and four. It was cannon where the Sansa scene was not.
I think the real issue is, while Game of Thrones used a gratuitous scene of sexual violence against a woman, the focus was not on the victim, but rather on the man forced to watch the exchange. The camera did not show the graphic depiction of the horror taking place for Sansa Stark, instead focusing on the tears rolling down Theon/Reek’s cheeks at being forced to watch the exchange. He was the victim we were supposed to consider in that episode. Not Sansa Stark. Her rape was just a plot device to further Theon’s story.
Outlander handled rape differently. Instead of just panning away, it shoved it down our throats. It showed us how rapists get off on the power they have over their victims. It showed BJR trotting away from a broken and shattered Jamie with a look of satisfaction on his face. It showed BJR breaking Jamie down piece by piece by piece. Not only did it show the power of BJR, but it showed the vulnerability of Jamie. Sansa Stark’s character was very weak in the beginning, spoiled, selfish and impulsive and she was on her way to becoming stronger before being victimized yet again in one of the worst ways a woman can be victimized. Jamie is shown as strong and manly and stubborn from the very beginning. From what I can tell this episode was meant to show how even strong men, who are stubborn and proud can be broken down and waste away into a shell of their former selves. It shows how rape, at it’s most violent, can utterly destroy someone. Unlike nearly every other rape scene on television, it shows the gritty repercussions of what rape can do to it’s victim. The haunting looks, the PTSD, the emotional and physical trauma of losing your will, and having someone else degrade you in the worst way possible.
You will get no outrage from me over what happened in Outlander. It was in the books and honestly, while terrible and horrible and disturbing, I knew that it was something that had to happen. Honestly though, it was handled better than what I thought it might. To take that scene from the books and barely look at it, or pan over it quickly, cheapens that scene somehow. By showing it so much, by showing the screams and the torture and the breakdown, we are deeply affected by it. Jamie is deeply affected by what’s happened to him, and by seeing it, we too, are left with that impression of him losing control and losing his pride and his strength. We understand how truly horrible he was treated, and his reasons for wanting to end his life.
If it had been handled differently, it might well of been a joke. Just like male on male rape has been treated as a joke in the past (think the jokes made about Deliverance). Hell, even male on male love scenes are poked fun at or treated with disgust by some of it’s audience (outrage over homosexual scenes in Game of Thrones, and movies like Brokeback Mountain). It’s very difficult for viewers to poke fun at this, to make light of it. And in a way that’s good. From what I have seen, sexual assault victims of both genders, have said the scene portrayed is very similar to how they felt. That it was a terrible thing to watch, and perhaps triggering to some, but ultimately they appreciated it because it was a very honest representation of their own personal nightmares and was not treated lightly.
So there will be no outrage from me for the honest portrayal of how rape affects it’s victim. There was nothing gratuitous in this finale episode of Outlander. The violence and the rape, necessary if not hard to get through. It was a very real depiction of rape and violence. And for non-book readers, we tried to warn you without giving it away. We understand that you might want to not watch any more after this, that it might be to much for you. But for us fans of the books, it’s part of the story. A necessary evil that was explored in a very respectful and honest way. At least that is my humble opinion on the matter.
Don’t call us hypocrites though, for not crying out in rage and anger over the depiction of rape when we did so in Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is an entirely different entity, geared more toward a male audience than a female one. While they are both rated M for mature, and fantasy shows on premium cable networks, that is about where their similarities end.
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