Spoiler alert: Jaime raped Cersei in “Breaker of Chains.” If you’re reading my blog and this is the first place you’ve seen that, I’m going to feel really special that you came here before you read all the other internet magazines that have been covering this issue.
I have approximately one thousand thoughts about this and responses to the articles and all that, and I’m going to start distilling them here into coherent posts. Let’s start with something simple – namely, my big problem with what I’ve read on the internet in the past 48 hours.
Ready? I’m ready. Let’s do it.
Today I’m going to talk about the two of the main issues I’m seeing raised with this scene: one, that Alex Graves (director of the episode) and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) don’t see the scene as necessarily being rape; and two, that it is not rape in the books.
There are a lot of articles out there on the internet right now that bring up both of those things (like this Jezebel article) and are angry about both. For those who haven’t read about this yet, Alex Graves said, “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau reportedly responded to the question of whether the scene was rape: “Yes, and no. There are moments where she gives in, and moments where she pushes him away. But it’s not pretty.”
I’m on board with being mad at Alex Graves and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau: that scene is clearly, unequivocally rape. Cersei says no, and Jaime persists, and that’s what rape is. The only reasoning I can come up with for why these men might have said otherwise (other than just blaming rape culture, obviously) is that they both had to focus on a lot of other things besides “and then a rape occurs”: Jaime has to play some motivation in this scene, and the director has to set up a visually striking shot.
One issue with making a big deal of these guys saying these things, and with comparing the scene in the show to the books, is that it shifts focus from considering what the scene actually does. If you’re interested in the impact a show like Game of Thrones has on our society, most people who watch it (I assume – obviously I am not one of these people) will not immediately compare it to the book or see what the people involved in the making of the show had to say. It’s more interesting to me to analyze what the scene itself actually does or doesn’t do. (I know I’m not doing that in this post – I will down the line, I promise.) Besides, determining whether this scene furthers or flies in the face of rape culture will largely depend on what happens next, which we don’t know yet because we lack Bran’s ability to see into the future.
Anyone feeling like this scene was out of character for Jaime would do well to think a little harder about that. (But more on that in another post.)
The major issue here, though, is that people are mad about the ambiguity that the director and one of the actors sees in this scene (has no one asked Lena Headey for her opinion on this, by the way? For feminism’s sake if nothing else?) and they’re mad because it’s not a rape in the books. This is making me want to throw things just a little bit. Here’s the passage from A Storm of Swords, which is pasted all over the internet right now:
She kissed him. A light kiss, the merest brush of her lips on his, but he could feel her tremble as he slid his arms around her. “I am not whole without you.”
There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. “No,” she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, “not here. The septons…”
“The Others can take the septons.” He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother’s altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon’s blood was on her, but it made no difference.
“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.” She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei’s heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and seed where they were joined.
Yeah, see, that’s rape, too. You can’t bully people into sex, or keep going for it after they say no. That’s what rape is. You can say that she consents at the end, but that’s only after he persists – doesn’t count. Besides, it’s not like if the camera just kept going for ten more seconds after the scene from “Breaker of Chains” ended and Cersei said “yes,” then the scene wouldn’t be rape – it still would, because of what came before.
Plus, in the books, we have point of view characters. This scene is from Jaime’s point of view; what if it were from Cersei’s? That murmuring about the risk and pounding on his chest with feeble fists business isn’t a big deal from Jaime’s point of view, but if you try to think about it from Cersei’s, it’d probably be a lot more like what we saw in “Breaker of Chains.” Point of view characters can be unreliable – Sansa remembers the Hound kissing her before he left the Battle of the Blackwater, which doesn’t happen in the books or in the show. (Though it does happen in a whole lot of fanfiction – do your best not to type “Sansa and the Hound” into Google images. That’s a good thing to avoid if you can.) Here we have Jaime raping Cersei without really realizing that that’s what he’s doing, and we have to read between the lines of his perspective to see her lack of consent.
See? Not kissing. Don’t believe what Sansa or any of those fanfic writers say.
The whole point is that someone’s consent isn’t a blurred line. That’s why people are all mad at Alex Graves and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, but it’s the same thing that’s going on in the book. People should feel free to be mad at Alex Graves and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau anyways, but they shouldn’t reference the book in the same article and pretend that makes the show’s version worse. Besides, if the rape is handled poorly in the show, it won’t matter if it was based on the books – it’ll be handled poorly either way.
People are making this comparison to drive home the point that it’s the show’s fault, not the book’s fault, but it doesn’t really matter. Comparing the show and the books is super fun if you’re a big nerd like me, but ultimately, they are separate works of art. There are lots of movie versions of classic books out there in the world that did a good job of adapting the book, but are terrible movies. The show is the show, and they change things from the books all the time, though they didn’t really in the case of Jaime raping Cersei.