Jaime Lannister in Breaker of Chains

In Game of Thrones, rape doesn’t matter.

It’s a bleak conclusion, and I don’t want to believe it, but after this week’s episode, I’m pretty damn convinced. Sure, rape can be used as a threat against characters. It can be used for viewer shock value. But rape itself — or at least, rape that isn’t brutal-gang-rape-by-strangers — just isn’t that significant.

In this week’s episode, Jaime Lannister raped his sister/true love Cersei beside the body of their newly dead son. Directors, actors and viewers alike can call it as “consensual” or “grey area” as they like, but Jaime called his sister a “hateful woman,” tore her dress and held her down while she pushed him away and told him, again and again, to stop. His response to her pleas? “I don’t care.”

That is not anything close to a “grey area.” I could sadly understand the debate if Cersei said no and then gave in, even if it was just resignation. I could at least see the perspective of those who said it wasn’t rape in that case. But that didn’t happen. Cersei said no, again, and again, and again. Jaime tore her clothes and held her down. This was indisputably, undeniably rape.

Jaime Lannister, in the context of the show, is now a rapist. And that means that Broken Chains has the dubious honor of the show’s first case of male character assassination. Because Jaime Lannister, as he appears in the books, is not a rapist. And I don’t just mean “he never rapes anyone.” Jaime Lannister, as a character, is staunchly against rape. His disgust towards rape and his understanding of the horror of it is one of the driving forces of his character: one of the reasons he despised King Aerys is that he was forced to stand guard outside the door while he raped his wife and was forbidden by the other members of the Kingsguard to stop him. He loses his hand because he protects Brienne from being raped when they’re captured by the Bloody Mummers, even though he disdains Brienne and tried to kill her in a swordfight the day before. He says that, if he were a woman, he’d rather die than be raped. Most of Westeros’s knights barely give it a thought, or consider it an acceptable part of war, but Jaime is one of the few male characters who is actually empathetic and honorable in that regard. Sure, he’ll shove children out of windows, attack Ned Stark in the street and make crass comments whenever he pleases, but he is not a rapist.

Except, according to the show, he is. A remarkable change, considering the fact that, Joffrey excepted, the show has always changed male characters to make them appear more heroic. Tyrion has been transformed into a true heroic protagonist. Robb Stark became a bold crusader instead of a lost boy king. Even morally grey Theon was given a far more sympathetic treatment in the show than in the books. He betrayed the Starks, but the show gave us plenty of insight into his inner turmoil and his confused point of view.

Why, then, would the show completely destroy the character of one of its main, sympathetic male protagonists? Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s name is now second in the credits. He’s been given a lot of screen time, and the entire last season focussed on transforming Jaime from a villain character into a fan favorite. Why would they ruin all that by making Jaime rape his sister/true love next to their dead son’s body, when the scene is consensual in the books? Why would they make him do something so out of character, and so unforgivable?

The only reasonable answer is that they don’t believe it’s unforgivable. They might think that it’s intriguingly dark, but they don’t think that it changes Jaime’s character in any significant way or even needs to have consequences for him and his relationships, beyond possibly any regret on Jaime’s own part.

I wish this was a crazy theory on my part, but several people have spoken up to damn themselves over the past couple of days. Director Alex Graves says Jaime is “trying to believe as hard as he can that he’s in love with Cersei,” when really he’s “the good knight, like Brienne.” He also commented that the scene “became consensual by the end” because the two characters love power plays. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau called it an “act of powerlessness” on Jaime’s part because Cersei pushed him away. Strangely, no one has commented on how Cersei feels or how she will react to this betrayal. No one has out-and-out condemned Jaime or claimed that it shows how twisted and selfish and villainous he can be, that the viewers had been taken in by him and made to forget all the horrific things he’s done before and now they see his true colors again. It’s all about understanding, about sympathy for him, and about explaining that it’s not rape in the end.

So perhaps I should adjust my thesis slightly. It’s not that rape doesn’t matter in Game of Thrones. It’s that only “true rape” matters. The kind that’s not committed by a beloved character, that involves kidnap, perhaps, where the victim doesn’t kiss the person at all and has never loved them. Where the rapist isn’t entitled to sex because of x, y and z, and isn’t going through some emotional turmoil that the viewers can otherwise sympathize with it. You know, that kind of rape. Not what happened in this scene.

And I think a lot of effort is put into making the rape scene shocking, but “not rape.” No effort into making it actually not rape, of course, which would have been the easiest path considering that that’s how it happens in the books, but into making it seem somewhat acceptable from a twisted perspective. Jaime calls Cersei a “hateful woman,” and the look of disgust on his face, coupled with Cersei’s cruel rejection of him in episode one, attempts to give us sympathy with him, because he loves someone so evil, because he struggled to return to her and has been rejected so coldly.

Of course, even this attempt to make Jaime the sympathetic one has extremely misogynistic overtones. Cersei is either “hateful” here because she refuses Jaime’s advances, or because she wants him to kill Tyrion. So either Jaime believes that he’s entitled to sex with Cersei, because he worked so hard to get back to her (and we’re supposed to believe in that entitlement), and is entitled to that sex next to the body of her newly dead son, or he’s using rape to punish her for her anger with Tyrion. Neither angle paints Jaime in a particularly good light.

And where is the show planning to go from here? It hasn’t shied away from changing plotlines before, but unless it alters the entire direction of the plot, some things coming very shortly cannot be changed. Last week, it made explicit that Brienne is in love with Jaime. Are we then meant to think that she’s misguided, or think that this is acceptable and supportable, since Jaime didn’t do anything too awful, certainly nothing Brienne would disapprove of? And (spoilers for the books to the end of the paragraph) how are we supposed to respond to the Oathkeeper plotline now? Does his “last chance for honor” include erasing the rape of his sister? Will Brienne heading off to rescue Sansa Stark be seen as acceptable redemption for this? Jaime’s complicated relationship with Brienne and Sansa only works because he is, at heart, a rather chivalrous knight who had all of those ideals beaten out of him when he was a teenager. He learns about honor from Brienne just as Brienne learns about the true greyness of morality from him. But TV Jaime is no longer that character. If we are to believe in the Oathkeeper plotline, we need to see Jaime as a character who’s at least likeable and sympathetic, if not entirely good. And for him to be likeable and sympathetic now, we need to see his rape of Cersei as “not a big deal.” Either not rape at all, or something that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

Both possibilities are worrying. And they once again lead back to the idea that rape, in the context of the show, simply doesn’t matter. It’s window dressing for scenes. It’s a useful threat against female characters to show how dangerous things are or to give a male character a heroic moment. It’s a punishment for “hateful” female characters, and a dark but overall acceptable way for a male character to act. It’s as notable as a visit to a brothel — shocking, titillating, but not really a significant character moment, and probably not worth commenting on again.

—————

Edit: I wanted to add a note to this after rereading the scene as it appears in the books, reading other people’s reactions, and thinking on the whole issue some more. I stand by the idea that Jaime isn’t meant to be a rapist, or anyone who would ever condone rape, but the original scene in the book is NOT a shining example of loving consent. Even from Jaime’s point of view, we hear that Cersei initially says “no” and pushes him away with “feeble fists.” Jaime assuming that Cersei doesn’t really mean it is disrespectful and the entire scene could be (and has been) read as rape if we assume that Cersei feels like she cannot say no or fight him off (a reading I ultimately disagree with, considering how she’s written in the rest of the scene, but it’s a messy call). The fact that the majority of readers remember it as entirely consensual is a pretty good sign of the rape culture we all exist in. Jaime would never rape somebody in the violent manner that he does in the show. He would never knowingly hold down Cersei against her will. But considering the messed up “we are one person, she rejects me to hurt me and then accepts me, I haven’t seen her in months, we need and complete one another” context of their relationship, he doesn’t see ignoring her initial “feeble” protests as a problem. The character and narrative implications of that are a much bigger topic for another day. But the fact that the show chose to “simplify” this by making the rape stark and violent, by making Cersei protest until the very end of the scene, by choosing to portray the scene as one of violence rather than one of (really disturbing and messed up) passion remains horrifying, and is still, in my opinion, a plot-destroying disservice to both Jaime and Cersei’s characters.

25 comments on “Jaime Lannister in Breaker of Chains

  • Malena , Direct link to comment

    Jaime Lannister in the series is not a rapist and he is much against violence toward women. Cersei told Ned (First Season) that Jaime would kill Robert if he knew he had struck her. In Season 2, Tyron told Shae and Bronn how Jaime had chased away the men who tried to rape Tysha. In Season 3, in a complete departure from the book, the writers had Jaime lose a hand in his efforts to protect Brienne from being violated. It´s not only that Weiss&Benioff feel rape is not unforgivable, is that they don’t care. The fact the scene was so poorly directed an edited just show their carelessness. All they wished for was buzz in the social network and other media.

  • Marina , Direct link to comment

    I haven’t seen the episode, but when I heard the comments on tumblr that D&D had changed the sept scene I, as usual when i read horrible spoilers, chose to believe it was just a rumor. I just didn’t think a shift for the worst where Jaime is concern would be made, one that would turn him into an unforgivable character (notice I don’t mention that I didn’t think they’d do this to Cersei, because I do expect them to stoop extremely low with female characters and that’s all I need to say here, right? /sighs all over the place over my love for this woman and what this show’s is doing to her). And that’s when, just like you, I concluded they don’t think Jaime being a rapist makes a diference. To say I’m disgusted is not enough. But more than that I’m disheartned, especially after reading to what people involved in the show and GRRM himself hat to say about it.

    Again and again I gave this show another chance after episodes that left me feeling like the writers had hit me with a bucket full of shit and stood there screaming and doing jack off motions while I tried to get up (I don’t think there’s a better description). This time I’ve enough, some rumors about another rape scene involving Sansa have come up and at this point I don’t put it past them. I’m letting this show go, there’s got to be a line somewhere, and I simply cannot watch another character I love with all my heart going through such terrible act of violence when the show acts like it isn’t.

    • Ivana , Direct link to comment

      I’ve been a lurker on this website, and I haven’t had a chance to see this episode yet, so I’ll comment on it some other time. But regarding this rumor about a Sansa rape scene – I’m a member on Westeros.org and WinterisComing, and there’s been no rumors about any rape scenes involving Sansa. Are you sure it’s not a misunderstanding stemming from that recent interview where she told the story of her parents visiting her on the set during the shooting of season 2, on the very same day when she was filming the attempted gang rape scene (during the riots in King’s Landing, when the Hound saves her)? The author of that article idiotically described it as her parents “watching their daughter get raped”.

      • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

        I haven’t heard of any rumors about a Sansa rape scene either, so I hope that it is a misunderstanding as well. Then again, I hoped that about the scene in this last episode too, and they are exploring her Littlefinger plotline this season… so it seems UNLIKELY to be true, but I don’t trust anything about this show any more.

        • Marina , Direct link to comment

          Oh, it might be, I can’t remember where I found the link to the article talking about it, I don’t think it stated which season they were talking about, so hopefully I got it all wrong. I’m always prepared to wait for the worst and, as you said, they’re going to start on the Littlefinger plotline and I just overreacted. But again, I wouldn’t put it past them.

          • Ivana , Direct link to comment

            I think that’s what it is, I’ve just seen this on Tumblr: http://fyeahsophieturner.tumblr.com/post/83378989540/signal-boost

            It seems that there has been a rumour on Tumblr caused by an article? The linked article from the Telegraph, where it’s just mentioned that Sophie’s parents were on the set while she was shooting a “rape scene”, without mentioning when, is what probably caused the confusion. I remember the original interview that the article used as a source, where Sophie told the story about her parents’ visit during season 2, when she was filming the mob scene.

            Of course, there is an attempted rape scene in the second part of ASOS when Marillion sexually assaults Sansa, but Marillion is certainly not going to be in season 4 since they changed his fate on the show.

  • Azi , Direct link to comment

    I can’t decide between two things:

    1.) They changed it, to make it more shocking and for all the “reasons” they are giving us, defending that scene

    or

    2.) They honestly didn’t know what kind of scene they put on our screens and are now all outraged that people don’t see it the same way (I for one only visited the corners of the internet where people were upset about it… but I’m sure there were places who react quite the same as the director and co. are now)

    And I can’t decide which is worse.

    You see, I actually understood the decision in the first season, when they made Khal Drogo rape Dany in their wedding night, because that scene really muddles the water in the book imo (it’s pretty clear that while he waited for her “Yes” the first time, he never did in the times after and there are lots of people out there who don’t get that you can be raped even after you said “Yes” once before) but this one is just really puzzling and it will be worse next week, when Jaime and Cersei will act like nothing happened…

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      From the interviews and other reactions, it sounds like they simply didn’t know that it was a rape scene. Which is incredibly disturbing, imo.

      But I also think the change to the Dany and Drogo scene in season one was a good one. It certainly makes it more consistent and a lot clearer to the audience that Drogo rapes Dany for the first few weeks of their marriage — and it’s important that that’s clear. This, on the other hand, is totally changing the nature of Jaime’s character and his relationship with Cersei, as well as taking away Cersei’s sexual agency.

  • Lars Sjöström , Direct link to comment

    I wonder if the rape is a horrible misunderstanding of the corresponding event in ASOS, Jaimes 7th chapter. In that scene Cersei protests and pounds Jaime but not against the sex for its own sake, but for the risk of being discovered. In the end she tells him to do it quickly. The producers might have considered it a canon rape scene. Jaimes behaviour in that scene is questionable at best, parhaps a grey area. At best the producers simply made a mess of things, at worst they might consider that some rape isn’t rape.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I think GRRM was very diplomatic there, since he can’t really criticize the show. The scene in the books is disturbing too, but Cersei’s dialogue in the books has her explicitly, repeatedly and enthusiastically consenting. I feel like he’s saying “well, if Cersei CONSENTED like she does in the books, it wouldn’t have been rape. But she didn’t.”

  • Haizea , Direct link to comment

    II wouldn’t say the scene in the book is “totally consensual”, it is a pretty messed up scene, but it is their REUNION scene and the context is different and while the scene was creepy it wasn’t as wrong as this. What they did makes no sense, it’s wrong, it ruins everything.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      You’re right, I’ve since reread the scene, and I think it’s not just messed up but also questionable in the beginning. I regret saying it’s “totally consensual,” because it’s hardly a perfect picture of enthusiastic consent. Her saying “no, not here” and banging her fists feebly against his chest are not exactly GOOD signs, and it contributes to the general fucked-up-ness of the scene. But she does consent to it and become enthusiastic BEFORE they have sex, which is definitely different from how they interpreted in the show.

  • Mark , Direct link to comment

    I think the show has done a bad job portraying Stannis and Mel too. They are basically villains in the show. Stannis is nothing but a puppet that answers to either Mel or Davos.

    I had a bad feeling about Jaime since they had him kill his own cousin when he tried to escape. The show has done a good job of making Cersei more sympathetic over the years, Tyrion more of a hero, but they have failed with Jaime.

    The following contains a minor Spoiler from A Dance with Dragon

    That scene reminded me of the scene in ADWD where Asha and Qarl the Maid have sex. It plays out the same way, except with them it seems like it is a game the two have played before.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I’d forgotten about the scene where Jaime kills his cousin! That definitely bothered me at the time as well, because it seemed far too much like planned cruelty for Jaime, who imo can be cruel, but only in a very reactive, spur of the moment way. But Jaime’s portrayal in season three was so good.

      They’ve definitely worked to make Cersei more sympathetic, or at least taken some of her more evil acts and given them to Joffrey instead, and yet this scene almost came off as a punishment for Cersei. She’s evil, she’s a “hateful woman,” so she deserves this. They made her more likeable, and yet we’re still supposed to sympathize with a man who feels “compelled” to rape her? It’s beyond disgusting.

  • Hayley , Direct link to comment

    Yeah, I really don’t understand why they did the scene that way – ruins Jaime’s character :c
    It’s not the first time they’ve done it either – they did it with Drogo’s character too… Although his first night with Daeny is still a little bit of a gray area in the books, he’s much more sympathetic and patient with her, really wanting her to to not be afraid of him and have consensual sex. Which creates the nice juxtaposition of the caring barbarian husband next to her spiteful, entitled prince brother. And it makes her love for Drogo a lot more understandable.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I have mixed feelings at best about their change to the Dany and Drogo scene. On the one hand, he is gentle with her then in the books, and the reversal could be seen as a reversion to racist, barbarian stereotypes. But on the other hand, Drogo does rape Dany repeatedly AFTER that in the books, and even the first scene is morally grey at BEST considering that she’s thirteen years old and has just been forced to marry him. So the show could arguably just have been simplifying things to make a clearer statement to the audience.

  • Christina , Direct link to comment

    They really struck out here, I don’t understand it. The one thing that comforts me is that, regardless of what the show-makers think of rape, it is clear the fans are not buying it. I frequent reddit’s /r/asoiaf and /r/gameofthrones subreddits, which are, needless to say, not the most feminist places on the internet and the consensus there is that the scene incontrovertibly depicts rape, that that is a big deal and that the consequences for Jaime’s character arc are devastating. Hopefully the show-makers will take the concern seriously and avoid future blunders of the same kind? It’s a big deal when the majority of your fan base is crying foul.

  • M.C , Direct link to comment

    Well, this is it. This is the point where I stop watching GoT. They made many questionable choices and I always found a way to overlook them, but this time… I love love love Brienne and I used to be such a J/B shipper. But now I could only keep shipping them if I forgot that Jaime is a rapist. And I don’t want to be the kind of person who forgets rape or dismisses it as being unimportant.
    So, goodbye GoT fandom. I’m gonna miss you. But probably not that much after what you’ve done too me.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I’m a J/B shipper too, and I’d really been looking forward to their scenes next week. Now the idea of it kind of makes me sick. She needs to stay as far, far away from him as possible. And like you said, it would be possible to pretend this scene never happened, since it was so out of character for him, but then we end up buying into the message that rape is insignificant and rapists can still make good love interests. Ugh.

    • Ivana , Direct link to comment

      Well, you can just stick to the books. There are no reasons not to ship them in the books.

      This is generally a comforting thing about anything that the show does: it doesn’t affect the book canon at all.

  • Becki , Direct link to comment

    I have mentioned this on literallydarling as well, but you and your commenters also seem like people who may understand my thoughts on this, so sorry for venting here, but it seems like a safe place.
    On top of my concern at the show runners using women’s bodies as tools to further male characters and reducing the female characters to the tropes the source material tried to undermine, and now this abominable screw up, there is another thing concerning me.

    The coverage and discussion about this scene is almost entirely focused on Jaime. We as readers/viewers are rightly drawn to the change to his character as a primary impulse, as it is so huge. But it seems that, maybe because Cersei is a less likable character, discussion of how this scene alters her character arc, and the impact on her if they intended to show any, (as they seem torn on whether they thought they were depicting a rape) is being sidelined to discuss the male character changes.
    I wonder if there are wider cultural issues with male primacy at play, even in how people are reacting to this scene/change?
    Basically the whole incident makes me feel squicky, including my own reaction in jumping to defending Jaime’s character, and not considering Cersei far enough beyond an object he acted upon. It’s understandable, as in her book POV chapters she doesn’t appear to feel she was victimised by Jaime (I could be wrong), but I still feel guilty for treating her as a less important character in her own rape and can see the damaging real world similarities/implications in that reaction.

    Also, are they going to make this the reason she starts to fall apart? Is this another case of using rape as a plot device to make a female character sympathetic (like losing her kids isn’t enough)? As a “survivor” myself I find that trope troubling and offensive, and disempowering if not handled well. And I don’t trust Benioff and Weiss to handle it well. I for one will probably be happier for Cersei when Jaime pulls away than I was reading the books. That had always felt, to me, like him gaining agency back from a psychologically abusive partner (and a respect for male victims of domestic abuse and awareness that abusive relationships are not always physically violent)…what is it now? Cruel abandonment of his victim in a time of need? Callousness? Undeserved abandonment by the one man Cersei could trust? It’s weird.

    It would be nice to see someone with a platform, understanding, and respect for the subject, like yourself (not implying you should, that’s none of my businesss, just trying to complement) address this element of the male focused rection. Should we as consumers try to widen the discussion to encourage more self-reflection from a cultural standpoint before the outrage is too long gone? Or am I seeing issues where none exist?

    Thank-you so much for your reviews and insights. I enjoy reading your pieces as they are so much more than or lip-service to the issues.
    Sorry for the long post. I guess I’m just really disappointed in the show runners and confused about how to feel now. 🙂

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      Thanks so much for your insightful comment. I’ve been thinking about this issue as well, and was very uncomfortable when I realized that I had prioritized Jaime in discussing the scene. Jaime is one of my favorite characters in the books, so the change upset me more than it would have for other characters, I think, and it dominated my thoughts on the episode. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I did then write about Cersei, and about how she’s been ignored in many discussions of this scene, on Friday: http://feministfiction.com/2014/04/25/cersei-in-broken-chains/

What do you think?

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