Game of Thrones has been a highlight of controversy when it comes to the themes of sexual violence in both the HBO TV series and books by George RR Martin. But in a recent interview, Martin has opened up about the reasoning behind the portrayal of women, and the themes surrounding them, and for the creator of the critically-acclaimed series, it all comes down to historical accuracy.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, George RR Martin opened up about the gender issues in A Song of Ice and Fire series and the series based off of them, and the author stands by his portrayal of the sexual violence covered within the stories. Martin chalks it up to the fact that while these stories are fictional, they are based in history, and the themes of medieval Europe. He explains:
The books reflect a patriarchal society based on the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were not a time of sexual egalitarianism. It was very classist, dividing people into three classes. And they had strong ideas about the roles of women...There were, of course, some strong and competent women. It still doesn’t change the nature of the society.
Though there are dragons and elements of fantasy, Martin stands by the idea that there are historical accuracies in his text, and he wants to expose the human elements that made the society the way it was. Unfortunately, that includes the rape and sexual violence seen within the text, and Game of Thrones series. Most fantasy fiction he terms, “Disneyland Middle Ages” which include prince and princesses with knights in shining armor, but they don’t show the reality of how society in that time functioned. Martin knows of many female readers who love the books and love the female characters he’s portrayed from Arya, Dany, Sansa, and even Cersei. But to be non-sexist he would have to portray an egalitarian society, and that’s not history. When it comes to the sexual violence, that is the nature of times of war. Martin continues:
And then there’s the whole issue of sexual violence, which I’ve been criticized for as well. 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.
Martin has chosen to portray the struggle in his dramatic writing, and that comes from conflict. He believes that by including drama based in historical fact, it makes the book more interesting. And for the millions of fans out there, even those who draw issue out of the violent sexual themes, his style tends to work, and continue to draw more and more fans.