Game of Thrones fans are still bickering over the Sansa Stark rape scene, with many fans saying they would no longer watch the series. Others have pointed out a certain hypocrisy in watching incest, cannibalism, infanticide, and all sorts of violent murder without any protest, while forming a virtual lynch mob after one rape scene. It may seem like a contradiction, but if you ask Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller, he might not be so quick to agree.
Fuller told Entertainment Weekly that he has no interest in exploring rape on Hannibal, as he feels the topic is overdone on TV in general. But he also had plenty to say about the Game of Thrones controversy, and explained why on a show as violent as Hannibal — which also depicts cannibalism and ultraviolent murder — he feels rape has no place in the story he’s telling, even though it does exist in the books on which Hannibal is based. This stance has created a bit of a dilemma with the upcoming Red Dragon story being introduced this season.
“In crafting the story arc of the Red Dragon, it became a challenge on how to keep true to the novel but deemphasize the exploitive qualities of women being raped. That was one of the big challenges in terms of how do we keep our promise [to not tell rape stories] to our audience — which is largely female — and also service the novel. It became a tricky matter of deemphasizing women being targeted, and making more pronounced the crimes against the victim’s family as a whole… It happens, but it’s a horrible cherry on top of the [expletive] sundae of crimes committed against a family.”
Fuller says that rape in TV shows has become the easy way to upset a show’s audience and create drama to the point it has become too “callous.”
“That’s something I can’t derive entertainment from as an audience member… And I’m saying this as somebody who can derive immense entertainment from cannibalism – there’s an irony to cannibalism that I find horrific and amusing. I can totally get behind cannibalism and have fun with it. But rape? Not so much.”
While some may be shocked at that comment, the Hannibal creator went on to clarify that the rarity of cannibalism makes it “less real” and more of a “fantasy crime; not a societal problem.” He told EW he felt that the rape issues portrayed on TV in general do not do the topic justice as it’s too complex a subject to explore in the short format of a television episode, which averages 42 minutes of actual story time after commercials for a typical one hour episode.
So, bearing in mind that Hannibal is one of the most violent shows on broadcast TV, what did Fuller think of that infamous Game of Thrones rape scene?
“I thought it was handled tastefully, all things considered. You could have done that scene on broadcast. With Thrones, you’re telling a story based on a time where those sort of violations were common. And women did not have the stance in that world to effectively resist. And with Sansa Stark, and that particular attack, we know Ramsay Bolton as someone who is a horrible violator of all things human — what he did to Theon Greyjoy is part and parcel of his cruelty. So it felt organic to the world… I see why they’ve made the choices they have in the stories they’ve told, so I can’t criticize them for using that tool.”
[Photo by Elisabeth Caren/NBC]