So Season 4 of Game of Thrones is in full swing once again and so far it’s been pretty standard. As someone who has already made her way through George RR Martin’s original works, I’ve always through that the show stayed as faithful to the book as it possibly could (considering the author’s potential lack of focus) and, at times, improved upon the original. I have enjoyed the book but I certainly think Martin has a tendency to overcomplicate things. The show has done a great job of fitting the huge books into seasons of 10 episodes and has created some memorable original scenes. The ones that instantly leap to mind are the moments at Harrenhal between Tywin and Arya. Of course, there is every chance that my appreciation of these scenes may have something to do with my utter adoration of Maisie Williams and the fact that I think Charles Dance is a fucking legend. However, I suspect it has more to do with the fact that the original scenario where she works for Amory Loch followed by Roose Bolton just wasn’t as attention grabbing.
It was always going to be a difficult task to whittle down the information offered in the books into such short seasons whilst keeping the drama moving. There are plenty of down moments in the novels where nothing much happens (I’m talking the majority of Book 4 and the latter part of Dany’s story) so I guess it would be easy to cut large chunks. However, I am a literary fangirl at heart and am always slightly concerned at major changes to works I have a special place for in my heart. It’s the very reason I refuse to admit that there was ever a Picture of Dorian Gray film. There have been a few niggles here and there throughout the first three seasons (I mean how the hell are they going to play the Siege of Meereen whilst Dany knows exactly who Sir Barristan is?) but it hasn’t been up until season 4 that I really became annoyed about the show messing around with the source.
Firstly, the timeline has been fucked up so much now that certain things just don’t make sense. Mainly Brienne being in King’s Landing before Joffrey dies. She was there for days at least and Sansa was within her grasp. If she really wanted to keep her oath to Catelyn then why didn’t she approach Sansa and get her the fuck away from the Lannister’s? It doesn’t fit with Brienne’s character in the slightest. The only positives that I have seen from her presence have been her encounters with Margaery and the Queen of Thorns. However, I love every second that Diana Rigg is on screen and am eternally saddened that she won’t most probably won’t be on screen for much longer. She fucking nailed that character from the moment she opened her mouth. Despite this brief encounter, Brienne’s presence in King’s Landing before Sansa’s escape just doesn’t make as much sense.
Secondly, and more importantly for me, is the treatment of Jaime. I, like virtually every other reader, came to love Jaime after his experiences with Brienne. He changed which meant when he got back to King’s Landing he found himself disgusted with the people he was reunited with: mainly with Cersei. In the book Jaime returns just after his son has been killed and finds his sister as an emotional wreck by his corpse. Naturally, their increased emotional state and eventual reunion leads to the pair having sex beside their dead firstborn (I mean we’ve all been there, right?). However, in the season 4 episode 3, the writers handled this moment in a significantly different way and I, along with a large proportion of the internet, just aren’t happy about it.
Jaime made his return at the end of season 3 and has had a certain amount of time to see just what kind of person Cersei has become. We already see that he is moving away from his vicious sister and doesn’t exactly approve of who she has become in his absence. By the time Joffrey dies it is justifiable that Jaime no longer loves his sister with the intensity that he used to. However, not wanting to miss the chance to show a bit of sex on screen, the makers still include their encounter in the Sept of Baelor. However, it makes for even more uncomfortable viewing than it did in the novel. Basically, Jaime takes his sister’s moment of absolute grief to rape her which is something that is not only horrible on its own but doesn’t comply with his new character. The man who prevented Locke’s gang from raping Brienne (at that point a near stranger and an enemy) is now happy to force himself on his mournful sister. It doesn’t make any fucking sense.
Of course, following the backlash, episode director Alex Graves was quick to justify his scene by releasing the following statement: “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” Hmmm…. what? It becomes consensual “by the end”. So that’s a handy note to any potential rapists out there. If you just keep trying hard enough your victim may eventually get into it. It’s a ridiculous and appalling thing to say in defence of a scene that clearly depicts rape. Cersei is seen continually shouting the word “no” and is not heard changing her mind before the scene cuts away. If that doesn’t sound like rape then what the fuck does? This so called “power struggle” actually amasses to Jaime using his superior strength to push his sister to the floor, rip her skirts and force himself on her. The struggle is entirely one sided as it is quite clear Jaime is the one with the power here.
Graves offers further “solid” proof that the audience misinterpreted the scene.
The consensual part of it was that she wraps her legs around him, and she’s holding onto the table, clearly not to escape but to get some grounding in what’s going on. And also, the other thing that I think is clear before they hit the ground is she starts to make out with him. The big things to us that were so important, and that hopefully were not missed, is that before he rips her undergarment, she’s way into kissing him back. She’s kissing him aplenty.
This may have been the intention overall but there can be no avoiding the inescapable fact that Cersei continues to cry “no” and “don’t” throughout the scene. Her movement to grab hold of the cloth could be read in a way that suggests rape just as easily, if not more so, than Graves’ explanation. The scene cuts after Cersei cries “don’t” and Jaime definitively states “I don’t care”. Whether Cersei participated in a bit of making out or not, this all seems very rapey to me.
Now this particular rant isn’t about rape being used as entertainment: though I would always query the decision to show a sexual assault being carried out on screen. This is simply about character and needless change. It doesn’t make sense for Jaime’s character in this context to carry out such an attack. He has undoubtedly changed emotionally. Graves states than in that moments Jaime wanted to get his relationship with Cersei back to how it was: “That’s part of what’s behind him, that lie he’s telling himself, that seasons two and three didn’t happen. So it’s a last act of stupid clinging to what’s been home for him, because it will never be the same.” Not only have we already seen how unlikely it was for their relationship to return to normal but the idea that Jaime, in a desperate attempt to recapture his loving relationship, would rape the woman he loves is insane. It is because the act is so against the character’s recent development that fans have reacted so badly to the news. Jaime was becoming, not a wholly good character, but at least a better man than the majority of his family. In one single moment the show’s writers and directors have obliterated the development they spent two seasons working towards.
Which would be less of an issue itself if this was taken from the original text and leading to a specific point. The major fact is, George RR Martin never intended the scene to be a rape (or at least with much less room for interpretation than the TV show left it.)
“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you’re home now, you’re home.”
Yes the chapter is written from Jaime’s POV which will always mean he come on top (bad choice of words given the circumstances I guess) but there can be little doubt that Cersei is as into it as her brother. Yes there is a little moment when Cersei, uncomfortable with the setting, says no but the reader is never left with any doubt that she wants Jaime as much as he wants her. I’m not trying to say it’s the healthiest sexual encounter possible (and that’s before you even get to the incest part of it) but at least it’s a consensual one.
One of the major arguments that I have seen in favour (as it were) of the scene is that Martin’s books are full of mentions of rape and sexual assault. Now I won’t be fully defending George RR Martin’s treatment of women in the books any time soon but, I type tentatively, a lot of it is fairly in keeping with the historical setting it is depicting. Again, I’m not an advocate of using rape for entertainment purposes but there can be no denying it is a historically accurate concern. Studying literature means I’ve had to read an awful lot of sexist and offensive works that have made my blood boil in certain ways. I had an entire semester studying novels of sensibility where a woman’s only defence against her rapist was to faint. However, I also easily identify with New Historicists and am intensely aware of contextualising literature. A Song of Ice and Fire deals with a time in which women were often treated sexual and reproductive commodities. It’s hardly a positive point in the history of humanity but there’s nothing we can do about that.
HBO, on the other hand, chose to change the original text and create a scene of sexual assault for, as far as I can tell so far, no reason. Unless they are planning to address this in the future and further fuck up the timeline of the proceeding novels, then this was nothing but an uncomfortable and uncharacteristic display from someone who was fast becoming a 3-dimensional character. It shows a lack of awareness in regards to both characters and audience. I hope HBO find a way to continue Jaime’s path towards the lighter side.
(For those interested the interview I gained Alex Graves’ quotations from can be found here.)