HBO’s Game of Thrones returns for Season 6 on April 24. Gritty, violent, at times gory and always uncompromising in its choice of subject matter––in short, very much adult––the show is one of the network’s top-rated programs. But the show has received criticism from even its most die-hard fans for its worsening portrayals of violence against women; some believe the show has already crossed the boundary between acceptable storytelling and outright misogyny.
THE “RAPE OF THRONES”
Two years ago, Game of Thrones was plunged in the midst of its very first substantial controversy. Fans found themselves divided over whether an incestuous encounter between Cersei and Jaime Lannister on the tomb of the late Joffrey Baratheon was, in fact, rape. Critic Andrew Romano believes viewers should pretend the scene never actually happened. “Pretty much 100 percent of the people who tuned in for [the episode] ‘Breaker of Chains’ thought that what Jaime did to Cersei on screen was rape—and they were unequivocally, unavoidably, undeniably correct,” writes Romano. “There was no verbal consent—just refusal. ‘Stop…it’s not right!’ Cersei snapped. ‘I don’t care,’ Jaime hissed back. The last word Cersei said before the cameras cut away? ‘Stop.’ Again. For the fifth time. And Jaime kept going. That’s rape, plain and simple.”
The scene, says Romano, “set out to violate as many taboos in a single scene as they [the showrunners] possibly could—and then violated a couple more, just for kicks.”
In a widely circulated piece titled “Rape of Thrones,” Sonia Saraiya lambasted HBO for a “violation of Cersei’s agency” because, according to the books, Cersei actually wants to have sex. On paper, the scene does provide room for concern (Cersei “raises objections, in the midst of love making”) but it is not one motivated or dictated by anger; onscreen Jaimie repeatedly violates Cersei despite her objections and frequent sobs and pleas for him to stop.
“It’s not impossible,” wrote Saraiya, “that the rape is a conscious choice that will take these characters in a new direction,” because going from page to screen often requires changes to ensure a successful transition to the visual medium. This is inevitable. “The question is,
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