There’s been a lot of discussion, Internet rage, and general overall hoopla following Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, as the television show made the most shocking book-to-screen deviation to date. *Spoiler free for future books.*
Jaime and Cersei finally had their reunited love scene, and suddenly for book readers, Jeyne Westerling seemed like a small cinematic sacrifice to make in comparison. I don’t want to get into a philosophical discussion on whether or not this scene constitutes as rape. Smarter people than I have already done that.
What we have to work with in the scene is what the characters said and did because we can’t know how they felt. And whether or not the scene was intended to come across as consensual sex, the way the scene was cut by the director makes it definitive to the audience that it was not consensual. Cersei repeatedly said no while Jaime forced himself on top of her and answered that he didn’t care as his creepy voiceover carried out onto a shot of Arya staring at mountains. If that’s all we know about the scene, then yes, in the television show Jaime raped Cersei.
This scene was disturbing for everyone to watch, but it especially shocked book readers because it deviated so completely from the character and story narrative of the novels. In the books, Jaime and Cersei’s reunion-sex is disgusting: literally and figuratively. The twins have sex in a holy sept over the body of their dead, incest-bred son, and to top off the lovely twincest metaphor, Cersei is menstruating, so there’s blood everywhere (and that’s probably symbolic for all of the people who’ve had to die for the preservation of their love… or something). It’s all so gross. But it is consensual.
Jaime emerged from his horrific captivation a true romantic. He wants to be an honorable knight worthy of wearing the Kingsguard cloak — the kind of man who fights for what he believes is right without shame or hesitation. The kind of man who makes an honest woman out of the person he loves. So when Jaime proposes to Cersei in the sept after their passionate reunion, their disconnect stems from the fact that while apart they have both grown into two completely different people than from who they were when he left King’s Landing. Tortured, held captive, and newly crippled, Jaime is tired of living his life by everyone else’s rules, while Cersei, who was left alone in King’s Landing, has just had a stark reminder through her son’s death that playing by certain rules is the only way to stay alive in the game of thrones.
So, why did the showrunners decide to change the original sept scene? Was it done in an effort to victimize Cersei even further so that she could gain the audience’s sympathy? Because to the audience’s credit, I really think that by this point, we get it: Cersei’s life has been horrible. Her power player father basically sold her to be a baby-making sex slave to a drunk, fat king who hated her, and to top it all off, she literally just watched her child die a horrific death on what was supposed to be the happiest day of his life. She has the sympathy vote, even if she is crazy-bonkers. We understand that her recent bouts of alcoholism are not some feeble attempt to bond with the Dornish — this is a woman who is hurting enough on her own.
Did the scene change then have to do with exploiting our current anti-hero television obsession? Was tossing a 10-year-old out of a window not enough to show us Jaime is a morally ambiguous character? We needed to watch him rape his sobbing sister to be reminded that this guy floats in shades of gray? Because unlike making the rash decision to cripple someone else’s child in the hope of preserving the lives of his own family, raping the woman he loves because he’s sad about his hand is definitely not a gray-area issue. It just feels like the showrunners buying into their own hype that Game of Thrones is the steamiest, edgiest show on television. You’ll never guess what happens next! Surprises at every corner! Nobody is safe! Boobs!
But giving the showrunners the benefit of the doubt in terms of Jaime, it seems that this scene was an attempt to show just how broken he has become by what he’s experienced the past two seasons. From recent interviews, it seems that they wanted to show that Jaime has reached a very dark, emotionally empty place, and that he is searching for whatever kind of physical embodiment of affection that he can get. But honestly, I think that there were better ways to make this point before deciding to assassinate Jaime’s character by turning him into a rapist.
Unlike in the book series, where Cersei is the one adamant to keep things the way they were and Jaime is the one who knows things must change, the television series has chosen to make Jaime desperate to salvage his secret relationship with his sister, while she pulls away from him. This is a creative choice that takes the characters in new directions, but does not alter their fundamental character development. What’s so frustrating about this rape scene, then, is that it not only does not fit into the continuity of Jaime’s character arc in in the books, but it does not even fit in with the character development that’s been established for Jaime within the television show.
Jaime Lannister and feminism:
Whatever dishonorable things he’s done, Jaime was a man who still always had his own code of honor: he protected his family and the innocent — in that order. And as far as his naturally brash nature is concerned, Jaime has calmed down significantly since his capture; his losses last season led him to a place where he seems much more sad than angry and vengeful. Because of this, the rape scene feels like the showrunners’ forced attempts to be “edgy,” rather than a culmination of Jaime’s pent up anger and frustrations.
Jaime idolizes Cersei. Even aside from his new, calm demeanor, at this point in the story we know that Jaime would never even hit Cersei, let alone rape her. Jaime would never rape anyone. While watching the show, we’ve learned that Jaime thinks rape is so abhorrent that he saves Brienne from getting raped — even though he was trying to kill her only a few days earlier. He acknowledges to Brienne in that same episode that if he were a woman, he would sooner fight his captors to his own death than let them rape him.
Jaime Lannister is a feminist. Because of his love and respect for Cersei, he doesn’t objectify or dehumanize women the way that so many other Westerosi men do, but rather he treats them as three-dimensional, perceptive, formidable human beings — even the women he doesn’t like.
Jaime has proved time and again that he is one of the few people around King’s Landing who judges others purely for who they are, without external biases. He is able to see the value in the people that others easily dismiss. He respects Tyrion’s cunning and Cersei’s strength of will as matches to his own physical strength. And while others discount Brienne because she’s a woman, Jaime always saw her for who she was: at first a boring, stubborn, powerful opponent, and later an honorable and trustworthy knight.