Many viewers were creeped out that Game of Thrones would allow 22-year-old Maisie Williams to portray the 18-year-old Arya Stark having sex, saying it was like watching a younger sibling or daughter lose their virginity because they've watched the actress and her character grow up over the past eight seasons. The problem, says Kathryn VanArendonk, is that point of view is through an "audience-centric lens: When viewers think of Arya as a sibling or child, when we ignore her years of painfully earned self-possession, the priority is on the viewer’s experience of the show. But there’s another way to see this scene. Rather than understanding Arya from the perspective of someone caring for her, it’s possible to read the sex scene from Arya’s own point of view. From where Arya’s standing, she’s an older teenager whose formative years have been spent balanced on the knife’s edge of survival. Her entire purpose has been to avenge her family’s deaths; she knows death intimately, and she is more than capable of caring for herself. But Arya has had no time to behave like a teenager. When Game of Thrones began, Sansa was often considered obnoxious for how much she focused on love and marriage. But she was a teenager — her behavior, annoying though it may have been, made sense for her character at the time. Arya was given no similar opportunity." VanArendonk adds: "It’s difficult to think of Arya as a sexual person because everything about her — her goals, her costumes, her circumstances — has, for her own safety, deflected attention away from that aspect of who she is. It’s uncomfortable for some to watch that sex scene because, for so long, all we’ve seen is the fully armored assassin. To see her remove her own clothing is to see her more deliberately vulnerable than she’s been in years, probably since Ned’s death. From Arya’s perspective, though, this is the most typical postpubescent thing she may have ever done. Boning down with a hot guy the night before the world ends is human in a way Arya rarely has a chance to be, and that Game of Thrones made time to include it felt like a notable turn for a show that was once known for using breasts as the fleshy equivalent of a siren emoji. Arya deciding to have sex is Arya claiming agency over her own body, and staking out a definition of herself as something other than an instrument of death."
TOPICS: Maisie Williams, HBO, Game of Thrones, Joe Dempsie, Sophie Turner