The Director of Sunday's Game of Thrones Doesn't Think That Was Rape

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April 21 2014 11:30 AM

The Director of Sunday's Game of Thrones Doesn't Think That Was Rape

Game_of_Thrones_title_screen

Courtesy of HBO

Game of Thrones spent all last season carefully redeeming Jaime Lannister, turning the once villain into something of a hero. Sunday night, director Alex Graves threw that all away by having Jaime rape his sister/lover in front of the body of their recently murdered son.

This was not in the books. Yes, Jaime and his sister Cersei do it in front of their child’s corpse in George R.R. Martin’s telling, but the sex, while rough, is consensual. By turning consensual sex into a rape, the meaning of the scene changes completely. On the page, it serves as a reminder that this ugly, incestuous relationship is a coping mechanism for two very badly damaged people. Turning it into a rape just turns Jaime into a monster, the kind that would rape a woman he claims to love in front of her dead son to punish her for being “hateful.”

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Apparently Graves thinks that he did something more interesting and complicated than that. In an interview with Alan Sepinwall, Graves claims the sex “becomes consensual by the end because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” This is nonsense. Here's the scene:

If Graves intended to depict consensual sex in the end, he completely failed. This wasn’t even one of those terribly clichéd scenes where a man starts raping a woman only to find that she comes around to thinking it’s hot. Cersei is still kicking and protesting when the camera cuts away. It’s as straightforward a rape scene as you’ll get on TV, unless you buy the ridiculous myth that a woman can’t be raped if she’s consented to sex with a man before. (Notably, Sepinwall seems to agree with Graves, describing the scene like this: “Jaime in turn seizes the moment to finally perform the act he's been denied of since the war with the North began, even if he has to get very rough at first to get what he wants.”)

This isn’t to say that rape can’t be depicted on TV. It can. But Graves’ inability to see what he’s put out there compromises Jaime’s character and, frankly, makes a joke of a very serious, very violent act. (Graves calls it a “turn on,” as if “sexy rape” is a thing. It is not.) Prior to this rape, Jaime was a morally ambiguous character whose bad behavior, while deplorable, at least was motivated in ways that the audience could understand. Now he just comes across as another terrible man who abuses women because he can. Jamie used to be the kind of person who would kill if he felt he had to, but who deplored sexual violence because it was never necessary. Indeed, he started his path to redemption in the third season by cleverly rescuing Brienne of Tarth, a female knight, from being raped by her captors. Now he’s just a big mess that doesn’t make any sense at all, and the character’s arc may never recover.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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