×

Jessica Chastain, Ava DuVernay Call Out ‘Game of Thrones’ for Treatment of Women

UPDATED: After last Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones,” Jessica Chastain criticized the show for using the rape and torture that Sophie Turner’s character, Sansa Stark, endured in previous seasons as the reasons for her strength and cunning.

“Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The little bird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone,” the actress wrote.

Turner plays the “Dark Phoenix” in Disney-Fox’s upcoming X-Men film, which co-stars Chastain.

Throughout the eight seasons of “Game of Thrones,” Sansa has undergone a massive transformation, just like every character. She went from the princess of Winterfell asking to be wed to Prince Joffrey, to the strategic ruler of her family’s house. However, the motivation explaining her rise to power in the previous episode, “The Last of the Starks,” left some viewers, like Chastain, unhappy.

Following the chaotic Battle of Winterfell, the surviving characters celebrated with a night of drinking and merriment, and Sansa reunited with the Hound, the fierce warrior who briefly protected her when she was trapped in King’s Landing with the Lannisters. The Hound remarked that when he first met Sansa, she couldn’t look at him, and he had since heard she was “broken in rough” by Littlefinger and Ramsay Bolton. In Season 5, the manipulative Littlefinger brokered a marriage between Sansa and Ramsay, the psychotic usurper of Winterfell who raped her multiple times.

“You’ve changed, little bird,” he said.

“Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would’ve stayed a little bird all my life,” she replied.

Some “Thrones” fans believe the lack of female writers and directors led to the unsatisfying depiction of Sansa as a survivor of sexual assault. In the entire run of HBO’s series, only one female director has been brought on, Michelle MacLaren, who helmed four episodes, the last of which was in 2014. Jane Espenson, Vanessa Taylor and Gursimran Sandhu are the only female writers, contributing to nine episodes total.

The same episode saw the death of the only woman of color on the show, Missandei, at the hands of Queen Cersei. Daenerys rescued the former slave from her master in Essos, and Missandei quickly became the Targaryen queen’s most trusted confidant. Sadly, she was put in chains once more and used as a bargaining chip by Cersei to force Daenerys to abandon her attack. The Mountain executed Missandei, and her body fell to the ground in front her friends, allies and lover, Grey Worm. The shocking death and objectification of a female character once again drew ire from viewers, including director Ava DuVernay.

The episode ends on a shot of Daenerys outraged at the death of her friend, and a major battle between her forces and Cersei’s appears to take place in the series’ penultimate episode next Sunday. Two female leaders will duke it out for the Iron Throne, but will either of them actually take it by the end of the show? HBO may have trouble tying up loose ends and appeasing the millions of fans around the world as the series ends this month.

Correction: An earlier version of this story neglected to list Gursimran Sandhu as one of “Game of Thrones'” female writers. 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Hailee SteinfeldTribeca TV Festival 2019 Presents

    Hailee Steinfeld Announces New Single Tied to Apple TV Plus' 'Dickinson'

    Actress, singer and producer Hailee Steinfeld is set to release a new single entitled “Afterlife” on Sept. 19, a track she created for her upcoming Apple TV Plus series,”Dickinson.” “This is a song I’m incredibly proud of, and I feel like after embodying this character, I have a more fearless approach to my writing,” Steinfeld [...]

  • Rachel Bloom

    Rachel Bloom Announces Pregnancy After Emmy Win

    “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom made a special announcement after winning her Emmy for best original music and lyrics — she is pregnant. Bloom announced the news backstage on Saturday at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. She joked she had planned to reveal the news on Instagram but that doing it at the Emmys was even [...]

  • EVIL is a psychological mystery that

    TV Review: 'Evil'

    In its pilot installment, CBS’s new drama “Evil” delves into that which may lie beyond the rationally explicable. And the show itself represents something almost supernatural by 2019 standards, too: A well-made hour fueled by chemistry between its leads and a strong idea of itself. On the basis of its debut outing, which screened at [...]

  • Emmy Awards Placeholder

    Creative Arts Emmys: 'Free Solo,' 'Queer Eye' Among Big Winners on Night 1 (Full List)

    “Free Solo,” “Queer Eye,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Saturday Night Live” were among the big winners Saturday after the first night of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. “Free Solo,” the National Geographic feature documentary that already claimed the Oscar earlier this year, lead the field on the [...]

  • Gary Cole, Christina Anthony, Tika Sumpter,

    'Mixed-ish' Team on Why 'All Stories About "Others" Are Necessary'

    The producers and cast of “Mixed-ish” are not out to tell a singular black and white story — but one that showcases and celebrates all shades in between. “It’s important for me across the board in all of my work to talk about ‘otherness’ and identity and real, grounded characters,” showrunner Karin Gist told Variety [...]

  • Shane Gillis

    Comedians Condemn Shane Gillis Over Slurs

    “Saturday Night Live” showrunner Lorne Michaels has yet to comment on the racist and homophobic remarks made by newly hired cast member Shane Gillis, but comedians and actors are expressing their condemnation on social media, some even asking that he be fired from the show.  Footage of Gillis’s podcast, “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast,” was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content