So… Sunday night’s Game of Thrones was controversial (spoiler alert). Lots of people have been discussing “Breaker of Chains” not because of some epic battle or crazy dragon shot, but rather a scene between Cersei and Jaime Lannister, the brother/sister lovers currently dealing with the death of their secret bastard son, boy king Joffrey Baratheon. At the altar containing the dead king’s just-dead body, Jaime raped his typically gung-ho sister Cersei. Some people disagreed — both readers of the George R.R. Martin fantasy novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire” on which the series is based, and non-readers alike — with the categorization, including the episode’s director, Alex Graves, and Jaime portrayer Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
But the scene was an obvious departure, both in circumstance and context, from the actual scene in the book, where Cersei is an at-first objecting, but then ultimately willing participant in the action. By removing these more explicit moments in the scene’s construct in this new iteration, where Cersei never audibly agrees to the sex (which she does in the book), the creators of the series add an entirely new layer of implications and constructs. This, then, creates the issue of whether or not — if it was not rape — the creators were successful in their attempt to make it look consensual, because to a heck of a lot of viewers, that looked like rape, and the way David Benioff and D.B. Weiss spoke about it in this new behind-the-episode clip from HBO, it sounds like they, too, considered it rape.
So we thought it best to lay everything out on the table and look at where the controversy lies and who said what. From there you can make up your own mind and discuss (like adults!) the merits of each argument in the comments. Or, you know, go back to updating your fantasy fantasy league — whatever you want.
The Scene in Question:
You can watch it here (sorry, we can’t embed), but the text of the scene is below:
Cersei: “It was Tyrion. He killed him. He told me he would. ‘The day will come when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.’ That’s what he said to me. You saw it. You saw Joff point at him—”
Jaime: “I don’t know what I saw.”
Cersei: “Avenge him ….avenge our son. Kill Tyrion.”
Jaime is visibly taken aback. “Tyrion’s my brother. Our brother. There will be a trial, we’ll get to the truth of what happened.”
Cersei: “I don’t want a trial. He’ll squirm his way to freedom given the chance. I want him dead. Please Jaime, you have to. He was our son, our baby boy.”
They embrace, with Cersei kissing Jaime first, before seeing his golden hand and pulling away, recoiling a bit. There’s a moment before Jaime’s face turns steely and angry.
Jaime: “You’re a hateful woman. Why have the gods made me love a hateful woman?”
Jaime grabs Cersei and pushes her against Joffrey’s funeral altar, kissing her with passionate anger. She pushes him away.
Cersei: “Jaime not here, please. Please. Stop it.”
Jaime ignores her request, rips her underskirt.
Cersei: “Stop. Stop.”
Cersei: “Stop it!”
They kiss again.
They fall to the floor. Cersei continues to attempt to push Jaime away.
Cersei: “It’s not right. It’s not right.”
Cersei’s expression is pained. Jaime proceeds having sex with Cersei.
Jaime: “I don’t care.”
Cersei: “Don’t, don’t.” Cersei grabs at the curtain lining Joffrey’s funeral dais.
Jaime: “I don’t care.”
How it Played in the Book:
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.
The Differences in Circumstances:
So, as one can see from above, there are a myriad of different circumstances going on both verbally and in context. In the books, Jaime’s arrival to the sept was also his arrival to King’s Landing from his epic journey with Brienne. It was the first time seeing each other, and there was nary a gold hand, just stump. In the series, Jaime has been back for weeks, and their relationship has been fraught with tension (and markedly bereft of sibling sexytimes).
There’s also the issue of who’s telling the story. In the books the chapter is told from Jaime’s point of view, which naturally gives it a bent in Jaime’s favor. He’s not going to know what’s going on in Cersei’s head regardless of their intimacy. He’s not omnipotent, so you never know her internal machinations on the act.
Benioff and Weiss On The Scene:
Skip ahead to 1:30 to hear the discussion on this moment in particular. It’s important to note this quote from Benioff: “You see that Cersei is resisting this. She’s saying no, and he’s forcing himself on her.”
Director Alex Graves’ Thoughts:
According to Graves in a report at New York Magazine’s Vulture, “What was talked about was that it was not consensual as it began, but … Ultimately, it was meant to be consensual. … The consensual part of it was that she wraps her legs around him, and she’s holding on to 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.” Graves also states “she’s sort of cajoled into it, and it is consensual.”
What Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Thinks:
When asked by The Daily Beast, the actor stated, “Yes, and no. There are moments where she gives in, and moments where she pushes him away. But it’s not pretty. It’s going to be interesting what people think about it.”
George R.R. Martin’s Take:
On his personal blog, Martin stated that “In the novels … Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her.” But on the show, where “the whole dynamic is different,” “neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan & David played the sept out differently. But that’s just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.” He goes on to say that he’s “not sure [the scene as it was written in the book] would have worked with the new timeline.”
So, Was It Rape?:
Well, looking at the scene from the standard definition of rape, yes: Jaime Lannister raped Cersei. Is that what was intended for the scene? That’s where the issue becomes less clear. In the book version of the events, it is made plain that Cersei has given consent, even if she originally was not for the sept-romp. And it should be noted that Graves’ caveat of what made the sex consensual — “before they hit the ground … she’s way into kissing him back. She’s kissing him aplenty” — is a bit problematic on a basic understanding of the concept level.
In the television show, though, it seems quite clear that there is never that same verbal moment. But Benioff and Weiss were probably pretty purposeful in this scene coming across as it did — we doubt that Graves’ cut would’ve made the final edit if they wanted it to look as though Cersei consented, let alone as gleefully as she did in the books. (Though we could be very wrong.) Maybe this twist of the scene serves as a function of pushing forward another aspect of their story we’ve yet to see unfold. As Martin stated to above, the show is on a different timeline than the books. As someone who has only just started book four of Game of Thrones, I cannot speak to what comes later or how dynamics might change between these two, but if Benioff and Weiss had wanted a scene where Cersei was joyous at the return of her brotherlover Jaime, they would’ve written it a heck of a lot different.
So what what do you think, Game of Thrones fans? Let us know your thoughts in the comments but please remember to be your best, most respectful and civil selves. This is a tricky topic to talk about — let’s be adults!