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‘Game of Thrones’ Rape Controversy: George R.R. Martin Responds to Jaime-Cersei Scene

Game of Thrones Rape Jaime Cersei George RR Martin
HBO

[You're warned of spoilers from 'Game of Thrones' episode "Breaker of Chains."]

HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones‘ is no stranger to controversy and questionable content, though the talk surrounding a rape scene between Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) from Sunday’s latest “Breaker of Chains” drew near-unilateral fire. Now, series creator George R.R. Martin stepped in to comment on the controversy of a scene somewhat altered from its presence in the books.

Where Sunday’s episode saw Jaime Lannister committing an aggressive and unmistakable rape of his sister by their inbred son Joffrey’s corpse, Martin’s original scene within the books saw the encounter only briefly unwanted by Cersei, quickly turning consensual. Adding fuel to the fire were director Alex Graves’ comments on the scene, which too suggested Lena Headey’s character consented to the encounter in the end.

Speaking from his personal website, Martin weighed in that some of the HBO series’ changes to Jaime Lannister’s return altered the context of the scene, though he had always intended the subject matter to disturb, with or without consent:

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.

HBO declined to comment on the scene for the moment, but what do you think? Is Martin right to distance his own version of the scene from what made it into “Breaker of Chains”? What do you think the controversy says about HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’?

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