An Open Letter to 'Game of Thrones'' David Benioff and Dan Weiss
*Warning: This letter contains spoilers for the current Game of Thrones episode.
Dear Most Excellent Game of Thrones Writers and Showrunners,
First, I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve been through and accomplished to bring George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series to television. As a reader, I am consistently thrilled, entertained and challenged by the way Martin’s vision has been translated. I’m also a reader who has no need for you to specifically follow every word, deed or chapter to your utmost ability; part of the fun of watching Game of Thrones is to understand and appreciate the material in a new light, or to travel down a side road the source may not have taken. That said, I’m certain you realize after Sunday’s “Breaker of Chains” aired, audience reaction to Jaime Lannister raping his sister Cersei was exceptionally conflicted.
For many of us, there is what feels like an unacceptable change to the nature of the scene, not so much because it’s different from the book, but because it alters audience perception of both characters. (We’ve watched Jaime go through an evolution of sorts—not that he’s perfect by any means—but he is a man who protected Brienne from rape, and said were he a woman, he would fight his rapist to the death.) Even for many non-readers, rape is incongruous with the Jaime they’ve come to know. Perhaps more importantly, there is quite a disconnect between your (David Benioff) comments on HBO’s Inside the Scene clip: “It becomes a really kind of horrifying scene, because you see obviously Joffrey’s body right there, and you see that Cersei is resisting this. She’s saying ‘No,’ and he’s forcing himself on her, so it was a really uncomfortable scene, and a tricky scene to shoot,” and those of episode director, Alex Graves: “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle…”
There is clearly a chasm between how Mr. Graves intended the scene, and how the rest of us have interpreted what we saw Sunday night. I can assure you that I don’t know anyone who saw that rape and thought Cersei was turned-on at the end. Regardless of how this event undoes Jaime’s redemptive character development over the past three seasons, and the possibly ill-advised Cersei sympathy drummed up, doesn’t a different scene interpretation by showrunners and director tempt disaster?
Last August, when you both appeared on The Writers’ Room, I was so impressed by your humility and honesty. To hear the hurdles and mistakes overcome was human and inspiring; this is a moment where a bit of clarification could turn the tide. As a colleague of mine mentioned in an ongoing discussion, if there is a longer scene where Cersei’s consent becomes obvious, releasing that cut could go a long way toward audience understanding. You could be the guys who aren’t afraid to say, “Hey, obviously our read on the scene isn’t how it was widely interpreted—here’s what we meant…” (I swear, a heartfelt statement would make you guys the coolest, most respected showrunners out there.) If there’s something gained by another twist of rape (Daenerys Targaryen’s was perhaps more understandably being used to establish the Game of Thrones world), a good portion of your audience has failed to understand. If backpedaling Jaime Lannister’s character growth is somehow beneficial, we’ve been left confused. Sexposition is one thing, but adding an unnecessary rape to incest and funeral sex may prove a bridge too far.
p.s. In case you haven’t seen, George R. R. Martin had a little something to say as well.