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Game of Thrones Sparks a New Controversy

Sunday night’s episode of “Game of Thrones” featured one particular scene which called into question an entire character arc and left several outraged.

In the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “Breaker of Chains,”  viewers watched as, in the midst of a candlelight vigil for her son, King Joffrey Baratheon, Cersei Lannister was raped by her twin brother/lover/father of her children, Jaime Lannister. Several bloggers have taken to the internet to express their opinion about the scene, and how it deviated from the original content. Since the episode aired, everyone from George R.R. Martin to the episode’s director have revealed their take on the interaction. What is disturbing is the lack of consensus on whether or not what transpired actually constitutes rape.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser
Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

In an interview with The Daily Beast, actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who plays Jamie Lannister) was asked if Jaime raped Cersei.  “Yes and no…there are moments where she gives in and moments where she pushes him away. But it isn’t pretty.” You’re telling me. But let’s get one thing straight: if at any time, someone says no, and the other person fails to stop? That’s not a blurred line. If the other person has to use force while someone is saying no, that is also not a blurred line. Sex requires consent every time and if, at any point, that consent is revoked? It’s called rape.

Aside from the fact that both Coster-Waldau and the director of the episode in question, Alex Graves, have insisted the scene is a “blurred line,” one of the most upsetting aspects of the scene rests on the show-runners’ decision to depart from the original dialogue in A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s true that Jaime and Cersei chose to have sex over the corpse of their recently deceased son in the novels- and yeah, it’s kind of weird. However, the manner in which George R.R. Martin originally wrote the scene is both consensual and makes far more sense in the context of both Cersei and Jaime’s character arcs. Many critics seem to agree, the new nature of the interaction between Jaime and Cersei in the Sept seriously calls into question the development audiences have seen from Jaime over the course of the last three seasons. Can that kind of action be redeemed?

source: AP
source: AP

It’s a universal fact, one of the most compelling aspects of A Song of Ice and Fire is George R.R. Martin’s characterizations. The author presents a world in which few people are truly monstrous, without a shred of honor or love in their bones (clearly, Joffrey Baratheon and the Bastard of Bolton are two such exceptions). As for everyone else,  Martin offers exceedingly flawed characters who are driven by their experiences and passions, by greed, love and honor. Jaime Lannister was one such character, and to this point, the show and Coster-Waldau had done a marvelous job of presenting this character who was extremely flawed but still maintained a semblance of honor, as well as a deep, abiding adoration for his sister –the only woman he has ever loved. Jaime’s decision in the show to force himself on Cersei is a step away from his textual persona, who was infuriated at the thought of anyone forcing himself on Cersei. This wasn’t because he thought of her as an object, or his to have, rather because he respected her.

On twitter yesterday, we shared an article from the A. V. Club which questioned why the writers’ for HBO’s epic series continue to “rewrite the books into misogyny?” The article reminded readers that this is the second time GoT writers have taken a consensual sex scene from the series and rewritten it for the show as rape.

The other significant rape scene in the series happens in the pilot, when Daenerys Targaryen is sold [into] marriage by her brother Viserys to Khal Drogo. Much has been made of the fact that Dany falls in love with Drogo, despite that initial rape; less has been said of the fact that Khal Drogo goes out of his way to obtain consent from his child bride in the books…Changing a scene from consensual sex to rape is not just a pedantic issue of accuracy—it’s a problem with story. The Daenerys Targaryen who falls in love with a man who granted her respect when no one else would is different from the Daenerys Targaryen who fell in love with her rapist. It changes that relationship. (Dany falling in love with Drogo, and calling him her “sun and stars,” makes a whole lot more sense now, doesn’t it?)

The article goes on to discuss how in A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin takes the time to depict female agency in a misogynistic world. While some of that has translated into its HBO adaptation, recent developments on the show ultimately lead The A.V. Club to question whether or not Game of Thrones is deteriorating into exploitation for shock value. As for George R.R. Martin’s take? The writer confessed that he doesn’t recall being consulted on this particular scene, so he can only guess at the reasons behind the marked departure in dialogue and action between the show and the books.

“I think the “butterfly effect” that I have spoken of so often was at work here. In the novels, Jaime is not present at Joffrey’s death, and indeed, Cersei has been fearful that he is dead himself, that she has lost both the son and the father/ lover/ brother. And then suddenly Jaime is there before her. Maimed and changed, but Jaime nonetheless. Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her.

The whole dynamic is different in the show, where Jaime has been back for weeks at the least, maybe longer, and he and Cersei have been in each other’s company on numerous occasions, often quarreling. The setting is the same, but neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan & David played the sept out differently. But that’s just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.

Also, I was writing the scene from Jaime’s POV, so the reader is inside his head, hearing his thoughts. On the TV show, the camera is necessarily external. You don’t know what anyone is thinking or feeling, just what they are saying and doing.

If the show had retained some of Cersei’s dialogue from the books, it might have left a somewhat different impression – but that dialogue was very much shaped by the circumstances of the books, delivered by a woman who is seeing her lover again for the first time after a long while apart during which she feared he was dead. I am not sure it would have worked with the new timeline.

That’s really all I can say on this issue. The scene was always intended to be disturbing… but I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons.”

 (Featured Image Credit: HBO)

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