Breaker of Trust: Game of Thrones and Rape

Everybody is talking about it, blogging about it, and thinking about it: The rape of Cersei Lannister-B. Well, okay, maybe not everybody but it is still on my mind. I cannot shake what it is about this particular choice that I find so upsetting. Make no mistake, Game of Thrones is a show where most of the characters on it do horrible, deplorable, monstrous things to others and themselves. This is a show that asked us to suffer through a whole season of seeing someone be tortured, which resulted in the character losing a certain part of themselves, and dehumanized to the point where he lost his name and took for a name an adjective. We have seen beheadings, murders, the trading of men and women for profit and gain, and yes, we have seen the rape of women (the most controversial -- also being a departure from the source material -- Dany and Khal Drogo). Yet, somehow this rape sticks with me more than the others. I am trying to tease out why.

I thought that perhaps my issue has to do with this being the second major character on a hit show to be raped within the 2013-2014 season; more importantly, it is the second major female character to be raped for whom the audience is supposedly, assumedly, not rooting. Of course the other character is Scandal's Lady Macbeth/Blanche DuBoius/Maggie the Cat Mellie Grant. Much was made of the rape of Mellie, which occurred in arguably one of the Scandal's strongest episodes, and how it was, seemingly, deployed to curry sympathy for her. The rape hung over every scene Mellie was in for the rest of the season; the rape of Mellie was so defining that it was raised again in the season finale. I still am unsure about how I feel about the use of rape in regards to Mellie.

Truthfully, if we are going to tackle the subject of rape onscreen then it does little good or use to pretend that every rape victim/survivor is a saint, rather than flawed humans. So I can see the benefit in forcing an audience to deal with rape via the rape of a problematic character. And yet, I could not shake the "calculated" nature of the rape, nor could I, nor can I, ignore that there exists seemingly two Mellie Grants: she pre-audience knowledge of her rape and she post audience knowledge of her rape. We, many of us, see her differently. I am not sure what to do with this. But, I suspect for me part of me trusts Shonda Rhimes a little more when it comes to telling this story because, in general, and I admit that this is problematic, I trust women a little more when it comes to telling stories about the horrors women have been forced to endure. Yet there are other things about Scandal's use of rape that is different: the rapist is dead.

I think that what sticks in my craw the most is that Game of Thrones had one of its core antiheros, Jaime, rape Cersei and in doing so, we are forced to live with him. Unless the show just drops the plot thread, which would be rather disingenuous, we may be forced to endure seeing him "redeemed" (I am not sure I am up for another round of "redeem the Game of Thrones rapist"; it was hard enough with Khal) ; we may be forced to "root" for him again at some point; we are invested in a rapist. This is an odd position to be placed in; one I had hoped to never be in again post-General Hospital (Luke and Laura), Days of Our Lives (Sami and EJ) , and Rescue Me (Tommy and Janet, Sheila and Tommy). We may be forced to hear countless rationalizations as to why this was done, why the writers felt Jaime had to rape Cersei. Indeed, already people have been scrambling to lift some blame from D.B. Weiss and David Benioff by pointing out that in the novel the encounter happens from Jaime's point of view so that we are not sure what is going on in Cersei's mind, but -- and call me crazy -- I would like to think that a writer wouldn't cloak a rape scene as a disturbing (this is incest at a dead son/nephew's wake) consensual sex scene. So, for me -- and I have yet to read this novel -- the explanation that lays the blame at the feet of murky or complicated writing doesn't hold.

I am trying, desperately hard, to understand what investment television writers, particularly male writers, have in having their female characters (because rarely are we seeing this happen to male characters; look at Law and OrderL SVU, how many times has the strong female character Benson been placed in sexual danger compared to her male counterparts?) raped -- particularly when it can be avoided. I am at a lost.

My trust in the writers feels a little broken.

I think, perhaps, in addition to rape being a traumatic event to witness on screen or endure in life, that is why I am struggling with this episode; because, at the end of the day, we are going to be forced to live with a rapist on Sundays for who knows how long and it didn't have to be that way.