HBO’s “Game of Thrones,’ the episode before last, broadcast one of the most shocking scenes in the history of a series that’s had way more than its share: Jaime Lannister and Cersei Lannister had a sex scene that looked an awful lot like rape- next to the corpse of their incestuously conceived, recently deceased son, King Joffrey.
It would have been disturbing enough without the incest, or the presence of a dead body, or with the knowledge- as imparted immediately by many, many people on Twitter- that it didn’t happen that way in the books.
The scene set off a huge brouhaha, exposing numerous established fault lines of the Internet and life: between men and women, between those who believe in rape culture and those who don’t, between people who root for anti-heroes and those who don’t, and (of course) between between Game of Thrones fans who have read the books and those who haven’t.
Just about everyone weighed in: George R.R. Martin himself. The actors. The director of the episode. Dustin Rowles of Pajiba had one of the best takes, on how audiences process rape completely differently than they do murder and other crimes.
My opinion? It seems like the show screwed up here, and meant to depict something different from what actually showed up on screen. I wasn’t sure that was the case until I watched the next two episodes, in which the rape was neither mentioned or commented upon. The show runners seemed to have had no idea that their audience would perceive that as a full-on rape, and that’s on them.
A less educated take? Let’s hear from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean:
I’ve never seen the show but the “Game of Thrones” article in the NYT today makes me wonder about HBO’s respect for women
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) May 3, 2014
Look, I’m not one to say people don’t have a right to their own opinion. But it might be nice to save discussion of TV shows to people who have actually watched the show or episode in question. Dean may very well have a point about “HBO’s respect for women”- but I don’t think he’s in position to comment on the show without watching it. And besides, bashing popular culture without actually watching it is something much more associated with the right than the left.
At least it led to some funny reaction:
“I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, but YAAAAARRRRGHHHH!” – @GovHowardDean
— rick (@CrystalPepsi) May 3, 2014
Of course, Dean Scream/GoT mashups are nothing new: