You guys have seen the storm of discourse that has risen up in the aftermath of Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones. I’m a Song of Ice and Fire fan, have read all the books, and watched the first three seasons of the show, though I haven’t caught up on season four yet.
Last night I finally noticed the headlines and learned what happened. Long story short, consensual sex between Jaime and Cersei Lannister was recast as rape.
In an attempt to find a silver lining, I posted a long status to Facebook saying, in short, that I hoped this would be an opportunity for all of us to remember that rapists are Jaime Lannister more often than we like. That is, they’re people we know, people we like, people we admire and relate to. But they’re also people who have committed a crime.
Lots of really smart people have said lots of really good things in the discussion of this scene, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite quotes from the various articles I’ve read. Some of the quotes from the FB thread I started. I’ve divided them into the three major themes I see emerging. All emphasis added is mine.
I encourage you to post some that you’ve liked in the comments, your own or someone else’s! (With a link. Because I love articles.)
[UPDATE] This is the only time I’ll post this, but I will continue to add quotes as the discussion about this scene goes on, so keep the link and we can use it whenever someone wants to talk about rape in fiction. I also encourage you to read this whole discussion over at The Mary Sue–too many good quotes to paste here!
On what rape is
Despite the commentary by some of the creative team and Coster-Waldau, it’s hard not to see a scene as rape when Cersei is yelling, “Jaime, not here…please…stop it!” during most of the scene.
What occurred was rape. That is without question. Yes, Jaime and Cersei have a complicated relationship. Rape can occur within complicated relationships. Rape can occur between siblings, spouses, friends, acquaintances and strangers. Let’s be clear about this at the start: Jaime raped Cersei.
Was she secretly giving into it? On a book page, this might actually be something you could get across, as we have access to internal dialogue. On-screen, we are left purely to text, only to visual, and what we’re left with is a character who says “no” up until the end, who struggles (albeit weakly), and whose rapist basically says “I don’t care.”
That’s rape. Despite what anyone will tell you, it’s rape.
On how we use it in fiction
They took agency away from Cersei and changed [Cersei and Jaime’s] relationship so much now to where I’m like… How are you coming back from this.
When the post-rape emotions and actions of the survivor are given weight, prominence and meaning, a storyline about rape can rise above the level of the exploitative or the expedient. … Much of my reaction to the “Game of Thrones” rape scene is dependent on how the show treats it going forward.
[…] I did wonder if the showrunners thought Jaime had been excessively tamed by his redemptive arc with Brienne, … If “Game of Thrones” airs for seven seasons, we’re only halfway through its run, and Benioff and Weiss may have thought it was too soon for “nice” Jaime to take up residence at the center of the narrative.
[GoT producer David] Benioff, […] No one was asking that you take the altar scene at it was in the books … and turn it into a hallmark of emotional stability. But did you have to make it so whenever, throughout the rest of the show, Jaime has good character moments, you’re asking us to cheer for a rapist? To sympathize with a rapist? Did you have to trivialize rape—which a lot of people in the real world don’t think is a big deal, going by (among many other things) the amount of rape threats that get thrown around online—by including it as a point of character development?
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 [producers] Dan & David played the sept out differently. But that’s just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.
On the page, [the consensual sex] serves as a reminder that this ugly, incestuous relationship is a coping mechanism for two very badly damaged people. Turning it into a rape just turns Jaime into a monster, the kind that would rape a woman he claims to love in front of her dead son to punish her for being “hateful.”
Mourning and grief does weird things to people. There are tons of reasons why they could have wanted to bone. Like you can’t tell me the unnecessary rape of a woman was necessary to the plot when it clearly wasn’t. Not buying it.
Rape exists in fiction. And it has to be allowed to exist in fiction. It’s a rough, tough, terrible topic, but to ignore it is all the more sickening — to sweep it under the rug and not shine a line in that dark space is basically to deny it in reality, as well. … There exists a mode of thought that says authors have zero social responsibility, and I’d argue that’s technically true in the same way that nobody anywhere has any social responsibility to anyone. … what makes us smart storytellers and capable authors is thinking about the ramifications of our stories. […] Some of your audience will be victims of rape. Remember that, and think of them.
On Jaime Lannister as a rapist, Jaime Lannister as every rapist, and the “rapist” label
Jamie used to be the kind of person who would kill if he felt he had to, but who deplored sexual violence because it was never necessary. Indeed, he started his path to redemption in the third season by cleverly rescuing Brienne of Tarth, a female knight, from being raped by her captors. Now he’s just a big mess that doesn’t make any sense at all, and the character’s arc may never recover.
There could have been a bajillion other motivations [for Jaime and Cersei to have sex in the context of the show]. Would all of them have been in character for Jaime? No. But you know what would have been cool? If Jaime had started on Cersei, and she said no, and then he stopped, and then maybe Cersei was like I’m so tired of being mad at you come here let’s bone. Cause THAT would have been in keeping with Jaime’s current character arc.
[…] One could argue that saving Brienne from rape was more about Brienne than it was about the rape. …Jaime has always been a douchebag and his arc is toward the less douche-y but yeah, I’m pretty sure Jaime doesn’t give two shits about rape and murder unless it affects the small sphere of people he’s decided to care about.
-Me on FB
[Jaime] just didn’t speak highly of rape and rapists so I assumed he wasn’t one.
Do I believe that Jaime would rape someone? I saw him throw Bran out a window, so I am predisposed, as a viewer, to thinking Jaime does impulsive, rotten things. […] Rape is about power, and Jaime has lost a lot of that with the loss of his hand.
Someone who has raped once when they were a teenager and beaten themselves up over it for the rest of their lives is a completely different person than someone who rapes chronically, for the fun of it and that’s how they get their rocks off. They’re both given the label of rapist, but the label itself is ineffectual. It actually tells you very little, because–in its strictest definition–“rapist” is someone who has committed the act of rape. It isn’t someone who WOULD commit the act of rape currently, but rather has done it in the past. It explains what they have done, but it doesn’t explain why or what they will do in the future.
My original point wasn’t about Jaime at all, it was about using this experience with him to think about IRL rapists. …most people would struggle to accept a Jaime in their real lives. And despite all its twisted trappings, this scene’s rape scenario is a very real life one. So this is another opportunity to remind people that “Hey, you probably know someone who’s done this or tried to do this” […]
Rape apologists don’t want to accept that someone they know, someone who seems otherwise decent, could do such a horrible thing. Some survivor advocates don’t want to ever think of a rapist as a human being again. […] How do we think of Jaime now; do we rationalize, do we boycott the show, etc? How can we learn from our reactions to this fictional character and his writers (who betrayed what we’d known of him from years of reading the books and watching the show) and apply those lessons in the real world?
I’m asking if rapist is a descriptor of a person who has committed a certain crime, or if it is itself a type of person. […] I will admit it’s very semantic for me. A psychopath is a type of person … a kind of personality. Whereas rapist or murderer is a label for someone who has committed a rape or murder respectively. A psychopath may also be a rapist, but a rapist is not necessarily a psychopath. Psychopaths are incredibly dangerous, inherently, in a way that affects literally everything they do, because it’s about their brain chemistry. […]
So what about the rapist who is not a psychopath? … Do we say they are dangerous, inherently, and never to be trusted? That’s the difference between labeling a person as a rapist and DEFINING a person as a rapist.
-Me, in the FB thread
I am posting this quote from Maureen Ryan in full, because I’m annoyed that the focus is so much on Jaime and because Ryan’s comments are exactly my feelings. Emphasis mine:
Lena Headey has brought the TV version of Cersei alive in a way I didn’t think was possible. Cersei can be vindictive, cruel and self-absorbed, but she’s not one-dimensional. It wouldn’t be much of a leap to call her an alcoholic — not an implausible response to the years of rape and violence she endured during her marriage to Robert Baratheon. Witness this proud woman’s piteous plea not to be sold off in marriage again to another man not of her choosing: It was heartbreaking to see her beg for a scrap of autonomy from her ruthless father, who has always cared more for power than for his own children. Cersei has been treated as an object to be bought, sold and displayed all her life, and now the one person in whom she could find comfort has violated her in the most heinous way, beside the corpse of their son, no less.
Many people have written that the rape was the most disturbing scene they’d ever seen on “Game of Thrones,” and I can understand that. A grieving mother had had one relationship that was intimate and safe for her, and that one scrap of comfort was ripped away from her in the most brutal way possible. The one person who didn’t see her as an object objectified her, selfishly and violently. A lot of people have been killed in Westeros, but this was an attempt to kill someone’s soul, and it may well have worked.
Rape is a crime of power, and Jaime did everything he could to reinforce Cersei’s sense of powerlessness and isolation. That is a special kind of cruelty and brutality, and it cannot be glossed over or minimized. The biggest fear that I have is that “Game of Thrones” may not have enough time to deal with the aftermath of the rape, and this development absolutely should not be treated as one more in a series of unfortunate Westeros events. If we just get the occasional scene of Cersei drinking wine and throwing shade at anyone in her immediate vicinity, that will be a serious abdication, and it will affect how I view the show.
This was written by me in response to a comment that has now been deleted as per the commenter’s request, but I wanted to put my comment up again because there are a lot of criticisms being thrown at Cersei from apologists.
Ehhhh harsh and also kind of ignorant of the many levels to the emotional development of these characters. See the last quote I put in above, about Cersei. Frankly, the only lady who has more backbone than Cersei in GoT is Sansa (more on my love for Sansa another time…). Cersei is like a freaking mountain, okay? She keeps standing tall and strong and yes, hard, even as she’s slowly eroded by the (mostly male) elements around her: her father, her husband, her son, etc. That’s why this is so fucked up: Jaime was the calm for her. He was the time when the wind stopped howling and the rain stopped pounding and the lightening stopped striking and the mountain could breathe a little.
Your comment is also a little insensitive to rape survivors, honestly. Cersei did fight back, but like many survivors of acquaintance or date rape she was undoubtedly in a hard place where someone she LOVED or knew or trusted was hurting her. If your fiance was Jaime and you were Cersei, what would you do? We all like to think we’d do the “right” thing, but frankly that’s victim-blamey and a serious minimization of the circumstances. (FYI, the only absolute “right” thing to do when you’re raped is survive. Whatever that takes. Even if it takes silence.) As for calling the guards, well, Cersei and Jaime’s affair is kind of illegal and he’d probably be executed and there are still a lot of feels there for her brother and lover and you see how complicated it gets? So let’s back away from the black and white please.
Major stuff. Respectful discussion encouraged in the comments.