Huge spoiler alert coming up - this post is about the latest episode of Game of Thrones. So if you haven't seen it, I suggest you stop reading now.
If you watched the episode that aired on Sunday (Monday for us in Britain), I'm sure you'll remember what scene I'm referring to when I say that the episode was slightly controversial, (even if it didn't really address the death of Joffrey as well as I would have liked but that's for another discussion.) Mostly, the controversy lay in the scene between Cersei and Jaime Lannister, the twin lovers who are trying to come to terms with the death of their bastard son, Joffrey Baratheon. In the scene, Jaime effectively rapes his twin sister beside the body of aforementioned dead son.
It was an uncomfortable scene for me, because a) I watched it with my parents and boyfriend in the same room and b) it seemed so clear to me that it was rape, which is definitely not how it happens in the books. In the books, Cersei primarily objects to having sex but ultimately, she changes her mind and she willing has sex with Jaime. On the show, however, Cersei doesn't actually agree to participate and it is so clear that she does NOT want to have sex with him. She fights him the entire time and repeatedly says "no", "stop", and that it "isn't right," and Jaime's response is, "I don't care, I don't care." There's nothing consensual about the scene at all; it is violent and it has morphed from passionate, heartbroken, (albeit very messed up) sex scene to a rape scene.
The thing is, Jaime raping Cersei made absolutely no sense. This is the same Jaime Lannister who wanted to stop Aegon from raping Rhaella, the same guy who saved Brienne of Tarth from being raped and the very same man who was adamant that her would rather die than be raped. It just isn't something his character would do.
It's not the first time the show has completely deviated from what happens in the book and altered a consensual sex scene for shock factor. If you cast your minds back to season one, Dany was raped by Drogo on their wedding night, which was completely different to the scene in the book, in which Drogo actually gave Dany the opportunity to refuse, which she doesn't take. Actually, the moment in the book is quite sweet, and yet, the show translated what was a tender moment between the couple into a man forcing a girl onto all fours and raping her.
The scenes on the show between both couples were completely unnecessary. They deviated from the consensual sex scenes in the book for no reason other than the shock the audience. The rape scenes don't serve any purpose to the story or the characters. Why were the scenes interpreted and made in this way? Because we, the audience, can't understand that the world of Game of Thrones is dark and frightening? We understand that. Westeros is a cruel land for women; that's made clear when characters such as Brienne of Tarth is repeatedly threatened with rape for being a woman in a man's role, and may even go some way in explaining why Arya disguises herself as a boy. Plus, all the other rapes to take place in Westeros, the bloodshed and the fighting have already proven that to us, so adding more rape scenes to further that point is completely unnecessary.
I think that my main problem, however, with the way that the sex between and/or rape of characters has been portrayed in the series is how it is treated in the aftermath, and how the victims of rape are depicted. Take Dany and Drogo, for example; Drogo rapes Dany on their wedding night on the show. A few episodes later, however, the scene was forgotten about because Dany falls in love with Drogo and thus, we fell in love with their relationship, and somewhat forgot about their initial rocky start. Fortunately, in that case, neither character was lambasted but, the way that the scene on the show was essentially swept under the carpet in the aftermath made it seem that rape between characters doesn't fundamentally change the rest of their story. Of course, when applied to real life situations, this simply isn't true.
What I fear of the aftermath of the rape scene between Jaime and Cersei is that Cersei is going to be attacked because she is such an unlikeable character, whereas Jaime is handsome, funny, and occasionally noble and brave. I personally feel like those who run the show may be asking us to overlook the scene for the sake of character development, which is ridiculous and says a lot about the way we treat rape victims, especially those who aren't likeable. At the end of the day, Cersei is a victim, whether we like her or not, and the character did not deserve what happened to her because of her despicable actions from previous shows, or in earlier chapters of the books. To quote a comment I read on another piece about the scene;
"[There isn't] a more deserving character to get raped."
Outside of Game of Thrones and in our own reality, we wouldn't dream of saying that to a rape victim.
It is hard to shake the idea that the show doesn't see a problem with pushing a scene from consensual sex to outright rape, and that's incredibly worrying. It seems to me that Game of Thrones is falling into a trap that so many other television shows have fallen in to; exploitation for shock value and, in particular, the exploitation of women's bodies. In the case of Jaime and Cersei and referring back to what I said earlier about the aftermath, the two characters had a connection that has been altered dramatically by this rewrite. Whether the story will now play out differently to the books, or those writing the show will sweep the scene under the carpet, as they did with Dany and Drogo, only time will tell. Either way, I'm really disappointed.