Game of Thrones and a Questionable Choice

When it comes to sexual faux pas in TV, movies, comics and other, I usually leave things to the more eloquently spoken folks to bring these discussions to the table. I wanted to break that sort of rule for a moment to discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones (aka S4 E3). If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones yet and don’t want to have anything ruined for you, I urge you to look away at this time. I normally do my absolute best to avoid spoilers but in the case of what I’d like to address, it’s necessary to bring up plot points from the show.

Game of Thrones is easily one of my favourite shows on TV right now and when it’s done, I’m betting it’ll be up there with my favourite shows of all time. Part of the charm behind the series is everything seems so black and white at first. Certain characters are bad and you hate them while other characters are good and you love them. You root for the good guys and hope for swift deaths to the bad guys. There’s no grey area where you really love a character because they’re so horrible. George R.R. Martin creates these characters so you will loathe them and vice versa.

As the show progresses, the grey areas show up and redeeming qualities appear, all for a few characters. For instance, if you had told me when I first started watching the show that Jamie Lannister would become one of my favourite characters out of EVERYONE, I would’ve laughed at you. Sure, the actor playing him (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is handsome but he’s a loathsome character and he’ll surely stay that way.

Here’s the problem: Jamie is in the process of showing change for the better in the books and the series. You see him change while he’s headed to King’s Landing with Brienne and you hear his side of the story and come to understand why he’s called Kingslayer. You feel for him as you realize how harshly you judged such a man. Of course, there’s still the whole incest thing, but it’s weird how you kind of get past that and find yourself grossly rooting for him to get what he wants. You see Jamie finally care for another person when he goes back to save Brienne from the bear without even a second thought for his own well-being. A man acting like the knight he is, gallant and selfless… and this is all after losing his sword hand.

In the books, they do a better job of conveying what’s going on with Jamie on the road and when he returns to King’s Landing, but that’s not my gripe with what happened in the series this past week. Books and TV/movie adaptations will never be the same so I’m not comparing. There is one major difference in the book vs. the series that I believe has altered the character of Jamie Lannister and not for the better.

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The second episode of this season saw the tyrant Joffrey Baratheon murdered at his own wedding feast (yay!). This episode shows a lot of Cersei’s understandable rage and sadness. She knows that her son is a little monster but she loves him all the same because he’s HER little monster. Jamie shows up to pay his respects and sends everyone away so that he can have a moment with Cersei. Since Jamie has returned, Cersei has been a stone cold b*tch and has done nothing but emotionally abuse him. Something that she’s truly always done but he’s never taken to heart. The entire time that Jamie was away, he longed for Cersei (eww, but also sort of weirdly awww!) and now that he’s returned to King’s Landing, she wants nothing to do with him. While Cersei is mourning beside the body of her dead son, she reaches over to Jamie to kiss him. The kiss quickly escalates and turns into Jamie aggressively grabbing at Cersei, emotionally abusing her and tearing her clothes. Cersei is telling Jamie to stop and saying that it’s not right over and over again. Jamie doesn’t stop. It winds up with the two of them on the floor, beside Joffrey, while Cersei begs for him to stop and Jamie doesn’t.

The result is an incredibly disturbing incestual rape scene that left me beyond words.

This is the part where I absolutely have to bring in a comparison to the books and I would like to add in the specific words George R.R. Martin used for this scene:

There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. “No,” she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, “not here. The septons…”

“The Others can take the septons.” He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother’s altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her small clothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon’s blood was on her, but it made no difference.

“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you’re home now, you’re home.” She kissed his ear and stroked his shortly bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei’s heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and see where they were joined.

In the book, there is a very clear consensual sexual act taking place between two people, Cersei and Jamie. In the series, they’ve taken a dark, dark course down the road of rape. While rape is never something to take lightly, one could almost think that the character of Jamie would be this dark knight early in the series… that he could take advantage of his sister in her time of grief when he’s another character entirely. After his ordeal with being a prisoner and his journey home, we know that he could never be that person again and that he’s trying to better himself and find a way to redeem what he’s done.

This is not the Jamie Lannister that we’ve come to like. This is a monster like Joffrey was. This is not an acceptable change in the course of the character, especially if in the series they plan on continuing to show his redemption.

I’ve heard a lot of outcry about this episode and people saying stuff like “Cersei had it coming…” or “It wasn’t REALLY a rape scene…” but whatever your justifications are, that’s simply not true. The very definition of rape in the dictionary is this:

“The unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.”

After watching the scene in the latest episode, there is no way that anyone can say that what happened wasn’t rape by that definition. Cersei is CLEARLY saying no and Jamie is CLEARLY not listening or taking no for an answer. That is rape. Let’s do an even simpler definition of rape:

“Any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.”

Maybe Cersei could’ve fought him harder, but remember that she’s grieving, probably hasn’t been sleeping or eating because HELLO, her son just died and she’s likely in a weakened state. Maybe she should’ve shouted for the septons, but if they caught Jamie with her, wouldn’t that just dredge up incest claims that have already made? We know that Cersei is cunning and we know that she would never risk her children’s welfare or their claim to the throne and anyone catching Jamie and her in the act, consensual or otherwise would compromise that. It still doesn’t make this scene right. There are a million other maybe scenarios that we could go through but rape is rape.

Rape is never something to casually put into a book, movie, TV series or comic. Not ever. It’s not the same thing as being beheaded or murdered or tortured. Anyone can have those things happen to them, men or women and while men can also technically be raped, it’s probably never something that they think about walking home alone at night. Men don’t need to get their keys out a block away from home just in case someone starts following them and they need to make a run for the door. The never have to carry their keys in a way that they can pack a meaner punch if they have to. They never have to worry about whether what they’re wearing will attract unwanted attention. Men don’t have to cover their drinks at bars just in case someone wants to drug it or drink all of their drink before finding a washroom. These things could be on anyone’s mind but as women, they’re drilled into us because almost every single woman knows at LEAST one other woman who has been raped, assaulted or sexually abused. Maybe women get touchier about rape in pop culture than men, but that shouldn’t be the case.

Rape shouldn’t be a plot device to get a shock out of people. If it’s going to be used, it should be relevant to someone’s backstory and that is NOT the case in Game of Thrones. It was not necessary to put into the show one little bit and that’s where my problem with this particular scene lies.

I still love Game of Thrones. I love the series and I love the books (at least the bits that I’ve read so far). This scene won’t stop me from watching it, but it does taint a character that I had grown to love in the books. A character that I’m going to have to now remember from the books because he’s been forever altered for the worse in the series.