Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | April 26, 2014

Some Game of Thrones Links and Complaints

1. Alex Tabarrok points to an interview with George RR Martin in Rolling Stone. (Spoilers in the interview.) Martin contrasts his own work to that of Tolkien:

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

In real life, real-life kings had real-life problems to deal with. Just being a good guy was not the answer. You had to make hard, hard decisions. Sometimes what seemed to be a good decision turned around and bit you in the ass; it was the law of unintended consequences. I’ve tried to get at some of these in my books. My people who are trying to rule don’t have an easy time of it. Just having good intentions doesn’t make you a wise king.

2. A chart showing how the Song of Ice and Fire books and individual chapters map onto the TV series — that is, which episodes incorporate or portray specific chapters from the books. (Covers seasons 1 through 3.) See also here and here.

(Below the fold are spoilers through last week’s episode of Game of Thrones and through most of A Storm of Swords, the third book of GRR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.)

3. Andy Greenwald on Tywin Lannister’s weak point:

Even after Joffrey’s death, Tywin remains the most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms. But how solid is his position in the face of the soft, unconventional power wielded by Littlefinger and his like? I’m reminded of the lesson Oberyn taught the Lannister bannermen in the whorehouse back in the premiere: Big swords aren’t all that useful in close combat. (And where did Oberyn stab the one who taunted him? In the hand.) And another thing: Tywin is so skilled at putting out external fires that it almost distracts from the inferno threatening to consume his own home. Almost. Despite all his decades of maneuvering, Tywin’s still the only member of his family capable of ruling. (The king died just as Jaime came back as his bodyguard, and I wouldn’t let Cersei manage a roadside Cinnabon.) The more obstacles he clears for his offspring, the less deserving of it they seem. At the close of last night’s episode, Tywin seemed content to let one son hang for a murder he didn’t commit while the other was busy raping his sister on the floor of a church as the corpse of their illegitimate love child slowly decomposed above them. Tywin Lannister is unparalleled at getting every house in order but his own, and I can’t help but think that, eventually, it’s going to cost him. The biggest trees, family and otherwise, are rarely felled by axes. They rot, you see, and it strikes from the inside out.

4. A few weeks ago, I took to a comment thread to defend Game of Thrones from what I thought was a conclusory and insufficiently supported accusation of misogyny. Having undertaken such a defense, it is a tad frustrating when the showrunners, in last week’s episode, decide to include a rape scene. And it is even more frustrating when the the episode director, Alex Graves, claims that the rape scene is not a rape scene — all on-screen evidence to the contrary. (According to Graves, Jaime’s rape of his sister Cersei “becomes consensual by the end,” despite the lack of any indicia of consent.)

To recap: in the episode, Cersei is in the sept (think church) mourning over the corpse of her son Joffrey, who died at his wedding feast in the previous episode. Jaime, her twin brother/lover and Joffrey’s secret father, approaches Cersei. They discuss various matters that are not pertinent here, and then Jaime forces Cersei to the floor and rapes her, three feet from the body of the first son born to their incestuous relationship. (I don’t want to embed the scene here, but you can view it at the Slate link below, if you must.)

Says Amanda Marcotte at Slate:

If Graves intended to depict consensual sex in the end, he completely failed. This wasn’t even one of those terribly clichéd scenes where a man starts raping a woman only to find that she comes around to thinking it’s hot. Cersei is still kicking and protesting when the camera cuts away. It’s as straightforward a rape scene as you’ll get on TV, unless you buy the ridiculous myth that a woman can’t be raped if she’s consented to sex with a man before. …

This isn’t to say that rape can’t be depicted on TV. It can. But Graves’ inability to see what he’s put out there compromises Jaime’s character and, frankly, makes a joke of a very serious, very violent act. (Graves calls it a “turn on,” as if “sexy rape” is a thing. It is not.) Prior to this rape, Jaime was a morally ambiguous character whose bad behavior, while deplorable, at least was motivated in ways that the audience could understand. Now he just comes across as another terrible man who abuses women because he can.

This is not how the scene played out in the book (A Storm of Swords), where Jaime and Cersei do have sex in the sept near the body of their dead son, but the sex is clearly consensual. Disgusting, on multiple levels, but consensual.

That being the case, it is really hard to figure out why Graves and the producers thought that they should make this deviation from the source material. (Nota bene: GRR Martin appears to be distancing himself from this particular editorial decision for the show. Diplomatically, to be sure.)

What purpose was served by turning the already disturbing incestuous-sex-in-a-house-of-worship-next-to-the-corpse-of-your-child scene into a rape scene? Consider what this does to Jaime’s character arc on the show. Says Julianne Ross: “The entirety of last season was basically spent redeeming Jaime for the audience — which is easier said than done, given that this is the man who nonchalantly pushed a little boy out a window during the first episode of the show. Why waste that time only to decimate his character all over again?” And Ariana Quiñónez:

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.

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.

What possible benefit was gained from this scene that was worth sabotaging Jaime’s redemption arc?

But then, Graves and others seem unclear on the concept of rape — which is not only surprising but is horrifying and exasperating and aggravating to those, like myself, who are otherwise disposed to defend the show from its detractors. Ross again (emphasis in original):

The scene, which does not go down this way in George R. R. Martin’s original books, is supremely disturbing all on its own, but the episode’s director, Alex Graves, made things even worse by stating that it was not rape. Graves said in interview with Alan Sepinwall that although Cersei Lannister spends literally the entire scene resisting her brother, the sex “becomes consensual by the end because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” In other words, Graves thinks pinning a woman down and having sex with her as she kicks, claws and repeatedly, unequivocally says “no” is not rape.

Are you kidding me? You don’t just get to force someone to have sex with you until they get so “turned on” that they relent and then call it consensual. Besides, the victim knew the perpetrator, had previous relationship with him and did not scream. This is literally the most common type of rape.

Sepinwall’s response is, unfortunately, no better: “Jaime, in turn, seizes the moment to finally perform the act he’s been denied of since the war with the North began, even if he has to get very rough at first to get what he wants.”

This is some disrespectful, dangerously oblivious rationale.

Indeed.

See also Laura Hudson in Wired, Eliana Dockterman in Time, and this post.

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