There are a lot of shocking and horrific things that happen on "Game of Thrones" that we generally accept as normal within the Seven Kingdoms, but something truly disturbing happened on Sunday night's (April 20) episode.
(Spoiler alert if you haven't seen Season 4, Episode 3 "Breaker of Chains.")
The incestuous tension between Jaime and Cersei Lannister has only gotten more uncomfortable this season since Jaime arrived back in King's Landing. After losing his hand and his heroic, selfless acts last season, he became the more likable Lannister of the two. But in the most recent episode, Jaime went too far in a scene that shocked viewers and upset fans of the George RR Martin books, which the series is based on.
In front of their son Joffrey's dead body, Jaime forcefully pushed Cersei to the ground and raped her as she struggled to resist him. Besides being one of the most unsettling scenes to watch from the series (and that's saying something), it was even more shocking to book readers -- in the book Jaime and Cersei did have sex in front of Joffrey's corpse, but it was consensual.
Alex Graves, who directed the episode, as well as the Purple Wedding, told HitFix that it wasn't completely a rape scene. "It becomes consensual by the end," Graves said, "because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle." While power is definitely a turn-on for most characters in "GoT," it's a hard fight to win insisting that anything resembling rape can be excused as a turn-on. Let's not forget that in the scene Cersei continued to say "No" and "It's not right" while pushing her brother off of her -- not exactly consensual.
It's clear that Graves was more concerned with the overall symbolism of the scene than the act of rape alone. He told The Hollywood Reporter, "The whole thing for me was about dead Joffrey lying there, watching the whole thing." Graves said that having Joffrey's body in the shot was important in order to emphasize Cersei and Jaime's demented lust and sinful desires. But that could've come across just fine in the scene without the added rape.
The question remains why the writers decided to change the story for the script, yet their decision has erupted a discussion among critics on the problems of rape in television. Hayley Krischer of Salon claimed that "Game of Thrones" took the easy way out, using the cliched rape storyline to represent the male's domination of the female. Slate's Amanda Marcotte wrote that the scene put Jaime's character arc at risk and made a joke out of a serious issue.
However, worse than the rape alone is the director's murky opinion of it. He may have called it "rape" and "forced sex" in his interview with THR, but to also say that it was consensual (and to divert the focus to another character) is the bigger problem. You can't dangle a controversial, game-changing storyline only to then take it away and pretend it wasn't actually that bad. If Graves and the writers wanted to reveal the destructive sexual power struggle between the two siblings and highlight their crumbling twisted romance, they should've steered clear of any hint of rape. It's a sticky area to navigate and if you're going to go there, don't pretend it's something else.
"Game of Thrones" airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. EDT on HBO.