Game of Thrones: I Don’t Understand

After a long hiatus while my writing muse went into hiding, last night’s episode of Game of Thrones has revived my inspiration to write about TV again. Unfortunately, it is for an extremely negative reason.

In “Breaking of Chains”, Jaime Lannister became a rapist and I’m not alright with that. This isn’t the first time that Game of Thrones has turned a consensual sex scene from the Song of Ice and Fire series into a rape scene. It is made all the more unfortunate by the fact that the director doesn’t seem to think it was a rape scene or at least not entirely one. Sonia Saraiya at The AV Club has already written a fantastic article about this problem that I highly recommend, but it has been bothering me so I thought I’d chime in as well.

I understand that people have different interpretations of media. I recognize that people won’t always see a certain scene or a character in the same way that I do. What I don’t understand is how a scene in which a character is explicitly rejecting the sex being forced upon her the entire way through can be seen as consensual in any way. There was no moment in that scene where I felt Cersei was turned on and desiring Jaime. If this was not intended to be a rape then I place the blame on the writers and directors for not recognizing how it would come across to what appears to be a sizable part of the audience. It was a bad choice.

In A Storm of Swords, this scene was still creepy and conveyed how screwed up the relationship between Jaime and Cersei is but it did so while being consensual. It’s not normal to have sex with your brother in the equivalent of a church next to your son’s body. Their relationship is already unhealthy and destructive to both of them and it could have been conveyed on screen without making it rape. The separation between them was shown in “Two Swords” during their conversation. This sex could have been an expression of their grief or Cersei recognizing that she still wants Jaime. But it wasn’t. This was an act on anger. Jaime recognizes his love for his sister then punishes her for being a “hateful woman”. In that moment, what little agency Cersei has was taken away and Jaime’s road to redemption just became a lot more complicated.

While it wouldn’t solve the underlying problem of adding extra rape to an already cruel universe, I wish I understood why this change was made. What extra bit of character information were they trying to convey about either Jaime or Cersei? As far I can tell, we’ve just added more tragedy to Cersei’s life and destroyed Jaime’s characterization. The pointlessness of the act is truly bothering me. I don’t feel that this change added anything to either character’s story or gave us new information of Westerosi society as a whole and therefore, it was unnecessary.

I would also like to know if this will ever be addressed again. Will Jaime feel guilty about raping his sister? Will this be worked into Cersei’s future arc? This isn’t an act that can be forgotten about. It’s not something that can be glossed over. If it is, I don’t really know how I can continue to enjoy the show or Jaime as a show character. It crossed a line that really did not need to be crossed and today all I’m left with is disappointment and anger.

6 thoughts on “Game of Thrones: I Don’t Understand

  1. I feel what the writer tried to impose here was that Cersie wanted Jamie. ( when she kissed him while crying). That was a sign that she wanted support a d whol else better that his brother and lover. But at the same time, all the days jamie was away from her, she realised how much damage his relation with jamie has done and how much more could be done. That is why she resists him in episod one when jamie asks for it. She is in a mental dilemma of whether to stay with jamie or to bring an end to this incestous relationship. Some part of her still wants him, that is why she did not shout, when she could have, while jamie was , what is proposed, raping her. Also, I inferred that though the novel had consensual sex, writers must have thought that maybe a little revolt from her side would not project a very bad image of her (of having sex I front ofhis son’s crypt).

  2. OK, so I have finally caught up and watched the episode in question. I am somewhat jaded having read the commentary of outrage as well as George R.R. Martin’s carefully worded response. But if I strip that away for a moment and look at the scene on its face, as a person who has only watched the series. I have to say that I don’t think it is out of the realm of the actions for the series. I have to break it down though between two prevailing issues that permeate the universe that is Game of Thrones.

    The first is the show’s inherent portrayal of women. Women are objects and pawns in the game that is Westeros. They are objectified, abused, discarded and often in horrifically violent ways. The women who survive have one common thread that keeps them there (save for perhaps Sansa) and that is cunning. Cersei, Magaery, Lady Olenna, Ayra and even Daenerys all possess it in some way. The fact remains that the entire series, for those of us who are only watching, is about a group of terrible people doing horrific things, even those who we would want to see as noble or redeemable only manage it through a difficult prism that is filled with compromised failure.

    That is the framework from which I approach the show so within that context the scene between Jamie and Cersei, while somewhat surprising didn’t give me the visceral response that many had on Sunday night. Partially because when Jamie threw Bran out of the window his capacity for self preservation was set. As a non-reader of the novels that moment was shocking and only trumped by Ned Stark’s beheading which clearly telegraphed for me as a viewer that dignity, fairness and righteousness were not going to win the day, certainly not in the short run.

    Now the journey that Jamie Lannister has taken over the course of the last season has certainly brought him to a fuller circle of complexity and a path towards redemption. Someone who yearns to be more than his title of King Slayer. Someone who seeks to define his own nobility. But he has returned to Kings Landing practically a stranger in a strange land. He is not the man who left Kings Landing, but the man he’s become has no place there and moreover is flat out rejected first by Tywin and later by Cersei last episode. It doesn’t condone the fact that Jamie overpowers Cersei in that moment, but I understood what drove him to it. Cersei absolutely initially gives into this moment when she kisses Jamie in grief over their dead son. When she quickly rebuffs him Jamie is lost – lost in anger, grief and self loathing. It is why when they wrestle to the ground and Cersei protests Jamie’s cadence of “I don’t care” matters. It matters not because it absolves him from the action of forcing himself on her in that moment, but because it lends itself to the credibility of the moment. He loves Cersei and he hates himself for it. In a moment that should have united Cersei and him in the love and grief of their son she is still manipulating him to her own purpose. Again, doesn’t justify the action, but merely explains it. Cersei emotionally controls Jamie, she does have power over him and uses his love to serve her own purposes. In that very raw moment, he takes the one momentary action that overpowers her, the only way he can. It is why he doesn’t care when she protests that it is wrong.

    Not having the context of what comes next for Jamie on this path allows me as a viewer to see him in real time. Not in where he is headed (which is how I believe you and many who have read the source material view this trajectory). For me, Jamie is broken literally and figuratively. Yet we see the glimpse of his capacity for compassion and love when he stops young Tommen to check on him and reinforce that he will protect him. The juxtaposition of that moment and the end of the scene I believe is deliberately contradictory. It is the turmoil that reflects who Jamie Lannister is and is attempting to become. His actions, while wrong for me are no more abusive than Tywin literally swooping in as she mourns and taking control of Tommen before the body has gone cold. Cersei is dehumanized by both Tywin and Jamie in that scene, Jamie’s was merely more graphic. Her lust for blood in Tyrion and Sansa speaks to her hateful nature as well. These are people who were born of violence and act in violence. That the violence turned inward on Jamie and Cersei for me was inevitable. It is also what makes last week’s scene with Brienne all the more salient and important. Brienne is the change that is removed from Lannister bloodshed. It is the place for Jamie to inevitably reach.

    Just as the series softened Catelyn Stark, it has taken license with this scene that many have seen as a pivotal piece of Jamie Lannister’s journey. For me it’s a set back. Not an insurmountable derailment. I think that the power of that scene is also a credit to the actors portraying these characters both in the run up and eventual play out of the scene. Headey’s performance in the series never ceases to astound me and her silent reactions all through Tywin’s manipulations were stellar.

    To answer your latter questions, I am not certain what it added to their characters but I didn’t think it was pointless. I think it was a reinforcement of the lies and power that drive Kings Landing and just how much has changed to pull Cersei and Jamie apart. I don’t think the events will be glossed over and that the incident will have ramifications. What they will be wouldn’t/couldn’t guess. But as a viewer of only the show, Jamie forcing himself on Cersei was no more or less graphic/horrific than the cannibalistic invasion of the village to send a message to Castle Black.

    1. Thank you for leaving such a fantastic comment, I appreciated your novella!

      Reading the way you saw the scene without knowledge of future events has made me see it a little differently. As Martin said, Jaime and Brienne arriving in Kings Landing early created a butterfly effect and almost necessarily changed this scene. From that perspective, I think your explanation of things makes a lot of sense. It makes it more consistent with Jaime’s character which makes me feel a little better in regards to the writing.

      “Cersei emotionally controls Jamie, she does have power over him and uses his love to serve her own purposes.”

      This has been a viewpoint that has been sorely lacking from the discussion this week. This has always been the way that I have viewed Jaime and Cersei’s relationship and I’m glad that has come across on screen. A lot of other interpretations of their dynamic I’ve seen have felt off to me and I’m happy it’s just because of differences in the way people see things rather than the show portraying something else.

      “The juxtaposition of that moment and the end of the scene I believe is deliberately contradictory. It is the turmoil that reflects who Jamie Lannister is and is attempting to become.”

      I don’t have any great comment in reply, but I just wanted to tell you how much I love what you said. I didn’t pick up on that the first time I viewed it, but you’re right, it’s a very sharp contrast between Jaime’s past and present/future self and a great way to represent that turmoil.

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