Is Game of Thrones Too Controversial For TV?

By Toby Howell on Jul 4, 2015 to Game of Thrones


After the conclusion of what I feel was a strong season, I believe it is now time for reflection on a show which has not shied away from controversy. HBO’s story telling powerhouse Game of Thrones has become extremely notorious for its presentation of sex and women. this was expected from a network such as HBO. ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ both have a solid reputation for realism and a strong depiction of sex. GoT following suit was almost inevitable. This season, the scene which has caused a mass media outrage was the rape of Sansa. Many have argued that the show went way too far with the explicit nature of the scene.  Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair has asked:

“Did they really need to go there on Game of Thrones? Did we really need to see Ramsay Bolton rape Sansa Stark?” Robinson later concludes “No, we absolutely did not”.



This scene broke the internet


This is not the only growing act of frustration towards the show. Senator Claire McCaskill went to Twitter to express her frustration.

These two examples were put to George R.R Martin who defended his original material and the show in telling Entertainment Weekly:

“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”


HBO Winter 2011 TCA Panel

George R.R.Martin – right or wrong?


Mark Cassidy of is one of many who support Martin and the show. He has stated:

Of course you don’t have to be okay with any of it, but that’s the point: Game Of Thrones is a brutal, bleak show where more often than not the weak and the gentle-hearted suffer the most. If that’s not for you, then don’t watch, but why act as if it’s only now veered off into unsavory territory?

Viewers of the show were also in fury after the brutal execution of Shireen. When Stannis Baratheon agreed to the killing of his young 15 year old daughter the internet exploded creating a stigma circulating around the show much like when Sansa was raped earlier in the season. But is this stigma necessary? Many have argued in the its defense that the show is a “revolutionary attempt to honestly portray a character driven story”

I guess the main question here is; Does the show deserve to be negatively judged by those who watch it? Or should those who do negatively judge the show stop watching it and let those who do enjoy the show, enjoy the show?

Please note that to have a view is personal preference, it ultimately comes down to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to decide as whether the inclusion or the gratuitous nature of the scenes explored above is necessary. But I do believe the audience have a very strong voice on the matter. If you believe the show has gone too far, then should HBO take your opinion into account as the show continues? Then there are those who are relatively neutral on the matter who will tell you to just turn the channel over. 

However the way you view the points explored above, I would love to hear from you. Has Game of Thrones overstepped the boundary? We will be discussing some of the best (or worst, depending on your viewpoints) scenes in our next collaboration piece, which should be posted in the next few days so be sure to keep an eye out for the thoughts the HBOWatch writers have on this very issue.

For now, let us know your opinion!

Is Game of Thrones too controversial?

View Results

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  • Nahojism

    I can’t remember that there was an outrage when Khal Drogo raped Daenerys in season one.

  • MickeyDee

    I knew it wasn’t going to be sunshine and lollipops when I signed up for it. The books aren’t filled with good triumphing over evil. I will say that D&D have taken gratuitous T&A to new heights. I hear the fans made a drinking game about it. As for what happened to Sansa, I would agree with the people who did not like the change of source material. D&D said they were changing her story to make her more powerful and progress her character. They made her a victim again and made her story about Theon’s redemption. I was upset they changed Stannis into someone in books who said he’d never burn his child and if he loses his life to put her on throne ,to being a coward who burns his child. and hides behind his men while she screams and dies horrifically. If the viwership does not like the show…stop watching. Many women who loved the books have stopped watching the show. Just look to Tumblr to see the hate for the way the show runners have changed source material. There have been many changes I hate, the Sand Snakes into cartoon characters of the strong empowered ladies in books is a huge one. Sometimes, I shake my head and wonder if Game of Thrones isn’t going to end up being a poorly written fanfiction.

  • Julieanne

    What rape scene?? We didn’t get to see anything – which I’m happy about – so I think all the hoo ha is just people getting their knickers in a twist over not much really. As for Shireen, that’s already happened in the story of Troy and no-one got their dander up. Sacrificing daughters has been the final desperate attempt to appease the gods for warlike men for centuries. Why get all pooey when George does? Go watch Downton Abbey for chrissakes.

  • Roberta Liford

    After reading the first few comments, seems to me they don’t quite “get” the objections, which are not about the fact of bad things happening, including the rape in question, it’s about the perhaps unnecessary ultra-graphic presentation.

  • quoi?

    Get this broom out of your ass seriously ! You never rode books, where bad things happen ? Damn, it should be happyness and flowers everywhere ? Things like this happen everyday in your real world, so before crying about a tv show, plz watch reality. And we dont see anything on the scene, we just know this is gonna happen.

    Just stop watching GoT if your mind cant handle it, but plz stop cry everywhere

  • Kathryn Wyant

    Frankly I applaud everyone involved in the show for their dedication to presenting a fantasy that is not influenced by the Sugar Plum Fairy set. It seems to me that people forget that the show is not about us. It is about a wholly different world with different standards and different mores. If you try to take out the brutality and survival of the fittest then all you have left is us in costumes. There is also the fact that there are people in our world who behave exactly like those in George R. R. Martin’s novels but nowhere will you see that mentioned by the people who are so outraged by show. I love that HBO and the team bringing us this rich tapestry of morality and life have the courage to present it in all its colors from the darkest shadows to the brightest and sunniest. Please continue to keep the show from becoming more mediocre pablum for those who can not handle spice and new flavors.
    As for the death of Shireen, that is straight out of Greek history and I do not recall so much as a peep about it in Troy. Nor the brutality in 300. People ya can’t have it both ways!

    • Eleonora Iafano

      I agree with you but it’s just hard to stomach. Yes, I turn my head when horrific things happen in the series. The medieval times weren’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. I majored in it, and just getting through some of the political stuff was hair raising, indeed. The path to being in power was littered with treachery, deceit and a LOT of dead bodies.

  • Cee Jay

    Anyone moaning about that off-screen rape has far too much time on their hands. The final episode of Outlander featured a graphic male on male repeated rape of the hero by the villain after he nailed his hand to a table. That’s something I can understand being up in arms about, not some off screen sex between reluctant newly weds.

    • Eleonora Iafano

      I believe that the outrage of Sansa’s off screen rape was due to the fact that this never occurred in the books. What’s worse, we finally see Sansa taking back a bit of power and learning from Petyr Baelish, only to be handed off to a monster, Ramsay. Yes, it was off screen. So we were spared that crap. But the fact that Sansa has once again been delegated to victim status just stinks. However, it was not sex between reluctant newlyweds. Reluctant suggests being a bit awkward and embarrassing. Ramsay Bolton is just plain sadistic and gets off on the torture and pain of people. You can hear the pain and distress in Sansa’s cries. There’s nothing reluctant about it. It’s just horrible. She’s become a victim all over again. I get that D & D have to adapt a huge book per season but for cyring out loud, Season 5 felt like it was a letdown in so many ways; I’m not the only fan to express this. As for Highlander, I can justly say that there was a LOT of outrage and disgust at that horrendous sexual assault. I’ve been reading the books and I felt like I wanted to vomit. Lots of fans were upset and protesting over it, too. I don’t blame them one bit. Sexual assault and rape are horrific, no matter who it happens to.

  • Eleonora Iafano

    Oh, this is a loaded question. As a book reader and a show watcher, I have a few opinions. Yes, there are some story lines that quite frankly, were stupid or a waste of time. The whole story line with Sansa and Ramsay doesn’t happen in the books, so why did it have to be put in the show? Shireen didn’t need to die but apparently this is something that takes place in The Winds of Winter. I’m not too pleased about that but unfortunately it too, came to pass. As a student of medieval history, I can also attest to the fact that medieval life was grim and harsh. There was nothing romantic about it either. If it wasn’t disease and starvation that didn’t kill you, it was war and its’ aftermath. The threat of rape, unfortunately, has always been present in the past, in the present and I personally wish we didn’t see it on screen. My final opinion in the matter is that it is a controversial show, given all the themes. However, it is also what the writers do with the material – they could curb some of the violent stuff down a notch. We don’t need to see bodies continually being slaughtered, nor do we need to see or hear yet another sexual assault off screen. Just my humble opinion.

    • Benjamin

      “Shireen didn’t need to die but apparently this is something that takes place in The Winds of Winter.”
      What about warning us of spoilers for TWOW before writing this?
      Very few people know about this, me among them.

      • Frans Albertus Hanekom

        There is a spoiler warning underneath the heading at the top of this article…

      • MickeyDee

        Winds of Winter is not out yet. We are guessing it happens. We were all spoiled by it.

    • Alexandra Mitchell

      Well said. You took the words right out of my head.

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