George R.R. Martin Weighs In On THAT SCENE From Last Night’s GAME OF THRONES

Yes, he says, it was supposed to be upsetting. 

I promised myself I wouldn't get into this debate, but I'm a liar. Last night's Game of Thrones featured a scene where Jaime Lannister forced himself on his sister Cersei... next to the corpse of their son. it was like a huge pile of ickiness, and it made people feel icky and then they got mad at it. There was a lot of outrage, and a lot of people who didn't seem to understand that show wasn't presenting some sort of weird pro-rape message. Matters were made worse by an interview with the director of the episode who, some believed, seemed oblivious to the rapey nature of the scene. 

There are a lot of complaints about the scene, some of which stem from the usual, censorious 'You should never have a rape scene' point of view, and some that stem from a continuing - and bizarre - belief that the show itself is misogynistic. Much as happens with Mad Men people often confuse the characters' beliefs for the creators' beliefs, and this is why we very often can't have nice things. Some were also upset that the scene in the show deviated from the scene in the book, although I'm of the belief that the scene in the book is also (purposefully) troubling in terms of consent. 

But when it comes to deviations from the book, there's one expert: George R.R. Martin. And he took to his LiveJournal to share his thoughts:

I think the "butterfly effect" that I have spoken of so often was at work here. 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 Dan & David 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.

It's interesting that those who compared the scene to the book did so without context - without realizing everything surrounding the scene had also changed. This is almost always the case with the morally outraged - context is thrown out and it's the depiction that is engaged. This happens on the right and the left, and the impulse is equally censorious and unhelpful. There are people who will never, ever be able to understand that depiction isn't the same as condoning, and they will always become outraged about scenes like this. Add to that an audience that has perhaps forgotten where Jaime came from - what he did in the first episode - and you have people who feel like a hero has betrayed them.

But Jaime isn't a hero! And while he's on a redemptive path, that path yet stretches out before him. This is about halfway through the series; if Jaime had found himself at the end point of his arc by now he'd be boring (and he frankly sort of is in many of the upcoming A Song of Ice and Fire novels). This is a murderer, a man engaged in longterm incest, a man who attempted to kill a child. The showrunners know Martin's endgame for the character, and they're making decisions now that play into that, just as they have with many different characters. It's safe to assume he will continue to be a man whose worst impulses get the better of him. I am a little confused to think that the Jaime Lannister of episode one was redeemable, but this somehow destroys his character forever. 

Yes, it was an ugly scene. That's clearly the purpose of it. You were supposed to be upset. You were supposed to be horrified. Thats' what good storytelling, what good art, sometimes does. Sophisticated viewers understand that, and look at upsetting sequences in context. 

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