Yesterday’s Television Critics Association panel for HBO yielded few surprises for the state of Westeros. It was all but certain that Game of Thrones Season 8 would be the last. Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss had been upfront about that. It’s also not a big surprise that HBO is trying very gently to lead them to say yes to a spin off. It’s there’s one thing we know about the entertainment industry is that if something works the way Game of Thrones does, they’re not just going to let it end because the story completed. Confirming these things was mostly a formality at this point.
But what was surprising, as I checked in to the Twitter feed yesterday to read the news was the sudden left turn the panel took towards the end of the Game of Thrones segment, as the usual routine questions about the show’s violence and sexual content, and specifically the violence displayed against women, came up.
Fans are used to these questions by now, which have been asked ever since Season 1 with the coining of the term “sexposition,” and especially after Season 5. Though Season 6 did not have a major incident this year to set off waves of controversy, the question is by now part of the standard set put forth by the critics in the audience, and was to be expected especially in light of Bloys having only just taken over the position from Michael Lombardo this spring. Asking the new president what he thought, one would assume, would be a given.
Carter Bloys was NOT prepped for questions about whether HBO drama overrelies on sexualized violence against women. #TCA16
— Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint) July 30, 2016
Apparently it never occurred to Bloys this would be a given, nor did anyone at HBO think to point that out. Within minutes it was obvious to the room that he had not been prepared for the question. When it came up, he turned it into a joke. “We’re going to kill everybody.”
“We’re going to kill everybody” is not the ideal response to a question about pervasive use of rape as a story point. #TCA16
— Haleigh Foutch (@HaleighFoutch) July 30, 2016
As one can imagine, the critics were a little shocked and in the executive session began pounding him on it.
“I don’t necessarily see it as specific to women,” Bloys pushed back. “The point of is there a lot of violence in Westworld and Game of Thrones? Yes, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s specifically isolated to women.”
“No, you haven’t seen men being raped,” he agreed. “But the point I would make in Game of Thrones for example is men are castrated, a guy is fed a cake made of his sons. The violence is pretty extreme on all fronts. I take your point that so far there have not been any male rapes, but my point is the violence is spread equally.”
Bloys’s answers on whether HBO overuses sexualized violence against women are full Reddit, “Well, people are murdered! That’s p bad!” #TCA16
— Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti) July 30, 2016
That did not satisfy critics who kept coming back and back to the question, asking if he thought that such depictions across the network, including new shows like Westworld, “normalized” sexual violence against women.
For the Westworld pilot, the point in Westworld is they’re robots. How you treat a robot with human-like qualities? Is that reflective of how you would treat a human? It’s a little bit different than Game of Thrones,where it is human-on-human violence. But to your larger point: Is it something we think about? Yeah, I think the criticism is valid. I think it’s something that people take into account. It’s not something we’re wanting to highlight or trying to highlight, but I think the criticism is point taken on it.”
HBO’s Bloys getting third question about onscreen rape of female characters. “I think the criticism is valid.” #TCA16
— Daniel Holloway (@gdanielholloway) July 30, 2016
With Game of Thrones turning more towards the final battle between the dead and the living, not to mention the long break between seasons we’ll have this year (and presumably between Seasons 7 and 8), the show may finally find themselves no longer in the direct crosshairs of these sorts of questions going forward. But with HBO’s new shows under fire for the same issues, and especially in light of a possible spin off and a return to Westeros in a different generation, these questions won’t fade from view for very long.