If you still haven’t seen Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones,” stop right here, as there are spoilers ahead and besides, you need to get on that shit.
George R. R. Martin, the author of the “Game of Thrones” series, A Song of Ice and Fire, has weighed in on Sunday’s controversial episode, in which Jaime Lannister raped (yes, raped) his sister Cersei in a scene that was a distinct and obvious departure from the way he had originally written it. As I wrote yesterday, the scene in the book features consensual if icky sex between the blonde siblings, who’d long been lovers, as they mourned the death of their son, King Joffrey. On the show, however, Jaime very clearly rapes Cersei, as she struggles, says “no” and “stop” repeatedly. The assault was seemingly out of character for Jaime, given the way the books/show had worked to humanize him, and not only presents major problems for the character’s trajectory, as far as I’m concerned, but kills the sexual chemistry between him and Cersei (something I quite enjoyed). And all any of us who found the scene horrifying and disappointing have been able to ask is WHY? Seriously, WHYYYYYY?
Martin weighed in on his blog, posting the following thoughtful if distancing point of view on what the show producers/directors might have been thinking:
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 [producers] 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.
Martin points out something quite relevant, which is that the show has had to make changes from the book, for a variety of reasons, and this has led to other changes, and more changes after that, in a sort of “butterfly effect.” For example, as my favorite “Game of Thrones” historian John DeVore mentioned to me when we were discussing the show, Joffrey’s death has occurred rather early on in the season, much earlier than when it occurs in the books. It was likely offered up now as a sort of payoff to the audience after the heartbreak we endured thanks to last season’s infamous Red Wedding. But having him die when he does, having Jaime be present for his death during a time when he and Cersei are not on the best of terms, does have the potential to change the dynamic between them in the sex-turned-rape scene. Martin is also correct that taking a dense series of books that are told through the perspectives of individual characters and translating them to the screen, in which the perspective is that of the audience, allows for confusion when it comes to what those characters are meant to be thinking and feeling.
With all that being said, the writers and director chose to omit all of Cersei’s dialogue in the book that signals she’s giving consent. They chose to depict a rape scene. While I’m upset that this is going to impact my ability to empathize with the character of Jaime going forward, I could live with that if it was truly best for the story that the show is looking to tell. But I can’t even consider that possibility, because even the director of that episode refuses to call what occurred between Cersei and Jaime RAPE. “It becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle,” said Graves. If Graves thinks that the sex between Cersei and Jaime was consensual, and not all that different from how it was originally written, does that mean the show intends to continue with Jaime’s redemption narrative, as if that never happened? I can’t go along with that.
As some have rightly pointed out in the comments of my post yesterday, Jaime is also a character who pushed a child out of a window, so how much could he possibly be redeemed? Look, in order to enjoy “Game of Thrones,” the bar has to be set a little lower for what amounts to “redemption” in the realm of Westeros. Rape and murder and beheadings and incest and grotesque behavior ABOUND in the Seven Kingdoms, so why would Jaime’s behavior in this scene be the thing that “ruins” him? It’s a good question! I don’t think there’s a single solitary character in the entire show who hasn’t done something repulsive. Maybe some of the kids. But that’s really it. So if you’re gonna root for anyone on the show, you’re gonna have to swallow some shit, you know? I think what bothers me so much about this scene in particular is that Jaime is raping Cersei, his sister, his love, the mother of his child/children, the woman he would literally shove a child out of a window for. To rape her is, frankly, hitting a massive new low for him. It erases, for me at least, all of the progress we saw in season three and then some. Because if Jaime would hurt Cersei like that, what hope is there for him? None, in my opinion. And for what? I guess we’ll, sigh, find out. [Entertainment Weekly]