This past Sunday HBO aired the fourth episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. While there are many things to criticize about the final season – and a lot of the criticisms I do agree with – there was one line in the latest episode that has drawn criticism and I do not agree with the anger.
In episode four Sansa Stark, who has gone through one of the biggest character transformations in the show, had a conversation with The Hound. It had been YEARS since The Hound offered to take Sansa, who he used to call Little Bird, away from the cruelty of the Lannisters at King’s Landing. Since they last saw each other Sansa had been manipulated by Littlefinger, sold to the Boltons, and raped by Ramsay. The Hound tells her “None of it would have happened if you had left King’s Landing with me. No Littlefinger, no Ramsay, none of it.” Then Sansa replies to him with this:
“Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest…I would have stayed a Little Bird all my life”.
When I first saw this scene I was like, “YES Sansa. You are taking the trauma that has happened to you, something you can’t erase, and have learned to live with it in a way that doesn’t make you feel weak, or less, or like a victim”.
But a lot of people feel very differently.
There are people who heard this line and took it as Sansa being GLAD those awful things happened to her. That she would not have been able to grow and mature without them. That she is crediting the men who abused her for her growth.
I don’t see this. At all. It’s not “problematic”. What is problematic is people projecting how other people should react to trauma. What do people think the better alternative to this would be? If Sansa responded to The Hound with a more regretful response of “I wish I left with you and you saved me from all that”? But then people would probably say she isn’t acting strong enough. She can’t win. Imagine how people in real life feel who have to navigate all of these contradicting messages on how to deal with something so personal.
Sansa can’t change what happened to her. She is choosing to own it and not be a victim. Obviously she would rather those things never happened to her but she can’t change it. Like any major life event – traumatic or not – it’s going to shape you. These are Sansa’s circumstances that happen to be terrible ones. It’s a shame that we can’t give more care and attention to all the characters and sensitive subject matter but that’s what you get when you decide to wrap everything up in a six episode season.