Water is still wet, the sky is still blue, and “first-world” countries still have trouble calling rape, well, rape.
Spoiler alert for all Game of Thrones fans who have not seen the episode “Breaker of Chains,” and a trigger warning. The word “rape” is used often.
On Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones (GOT), fans watched the Lannisters deal with the death of their son, grandson, nephew, and brother king Joffrey. Basically, Cersei is the only crier. When mother and father, Jaime, are left alone with the corpse, the Kingslayer sees an opportunity to force sex on his sister. In plain words, he raped her. In front of their dead son.
Here’s where things get tricky.
After the episode aired, GOT director Alex Graves spoke to writer Alan Sepinwall of HitFix and claimed it was not rape. I demand to differ.
Let’s breakdown the scene. Brace yourself. In this clip, Cersei is still crying over the reprehensible Joffrey and turns into her brother’s arms for comfort. They embrace and begin to kiss, but Cersei pushes Jaime away with clear distaste. Jaime calls her a “hateful woman,” forces her to look at him, and then into another kiss.
The first protest we verbally hear from Cersei is “Jaime, not here. Please, please.” Then while she tells him to stop it, as he is ripping off her gown, Jaime growls, “No!”
True to his word, he never stops and she never stops telling him to stop. At one point she says, “It isn’t right,” to which Jaime ends the clip by repeating, “I don’t care.”
It was not only disturbing, but unnecessary.
Episode director Graves and GOT creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff altered this scene from the version by writer George R.R. Martin. In the book, the sex was consensual. It’s worse that Graves first admitted to the Hollywood Reporter that it was rape. Then he told Sepinwall it became consensual by the end.
I watched to the end. No consent was ever given. Why deny that?
It is known that GOT is HBO’s second most watched show since The Sopranos. It is safe to assume that in that viewers’ demographic are women and men between the ages of 18-24. This age group makes up a large portion of Canada’s post-secondary campuses. This age group is also when most Canadian women “experience the highest rates of sexual violence“.
This is a problem.
A 2013 fact sheet by the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario explains how rape culture remains prominent our nation today. “Many on-campus sexual assaults occur during the first eight weeks of classes,” the report states. And more than 80 percent of rapes that occur on a post-secondary campus are committed by someone the victim knows. This is literally what happened in this week’s episode. Jaime returned from captivity, his lover denied his sexual advances repeatedly, so he forced her.
Granted, this isn’t the first violent or sickening scene GOT lovers have seen. It’s a common trend on the show. An argument can even be made that Jaime’s assault happened because his true nature is a constant battle between kindhearted and antagonistic. Like all the characters, the Kingslayer is conflicted.
But on his blog Martin, the character’s creator, admitted he originally had the siblings mutually lust after each other in the scene.
If the episode’s writers saw the need to tarnish Jaime’s new-found goodness, so be it. But there is no excuse the writers could make about filming a rape scene, and then denying what it is. Look at the statistics. That’s a risk we really can’t afford to be taking.