Game of Thrones

[Trigger warning for sexual violence and exploitation. Spoiler warnings for episode one of Game of Thrones. Please note this is my personal review of the show; I am not implicitly making any commentary on your reaction, your taste, your aesthetic, your principles, or anything about you at all.]

So. Game of Boners Thrones premiered last night, and, unfortunately, it turns out I was right to have been trepidatious about it. The start was promising enough, but one brothel orgy, two sets of brother-sister incest, one rape scene, and approximately a biebillion naked titties later, I was well and truly done.

Now, I'm not axiomatically averse to nudity and sexuality in film; some of the best feminist films contain nudity and depictions of sex. (And sometimes sexual assault.) I am, however, averse to gratuitous pornified images of naked women being inserted into entertainment in a way that treats their breasts like props. And I don't regard the line between the two as remotely fuzzy or difficult to navigate.

Leaving aside the exploitative nature of the storytelling, it's also just lazy and intellectually insulting. I am a grown-ass adult capable of understanding that Tyrion Lannister is a lech without actually hearing the slurping sounds while he gets a blowjob and seeing three naked prostitutes gifted to him by his brother. I have the faculties to discern that Viserys Targaryen is a horrible shit without actually having to watch him molest his teenage sister's breast. Etc. And if you can't communicate these characters' attributes without lingering close-ups on tits, then you are not a good filmmaker.

Ultimately, the substitution of exploitative female nudity for actual character development turns the show into "a bunch of dudes fighting for power—PLUS BOOBIEZ!" which is a story so old it whiffs of primordial ooze. It's some kind of brass chutzpah to advertise an epic fantasy and then deliver the narrative equivalent of professional wrestling.

But the true nadir of the episode was the scene of Khal Drogo raping his teenage bride, Daenerys Targaryen. As he removes her clothes, she covers her breasts; he moves her arms and tells her, "No." She asks him if he speaks the common tongue; he replies, "No." She asks him if no is the only word he knows in the common tongue; he replies, "No." The only thing he ever says in the scene is no.

I can't adequately describe my reaction to watching a scene in which a huge man is fixing to rape a petite girl, telling her, over and over, no no no. Her character, of course, is never allowed the say the word at all.

There will certainly be arguments that the show is depicting a medieval world and "that's how things were," or some variation on that theme. Sure. But presumably there weren't 10-year winters, either. It says something interesting, and not at all pleasant, about our culture that we are willing to accept a complete reinvention of the planet's climate for the purposes of fantasy, but not the possibility of a culture devoid of sexual exploitation and rape, as if the weather is just a suggestion but rape is immutable.


Iain, who gets the credit for "Game of Boners," made a very good point about the show being on HBO. He noted if it had been on a network in which the filmmakers weren't able to insert nudity, it would probably have been a better show, and I think he's right. On AMC, say, they wouldn't have been able to rely on tit-propping to shorthand their way through actual character development.

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