On Game of Thrones, Part Two

[Content Note: Sexual violence. Discussion of Game of Thrones' last two episodes which includes spoilers.]

Part One is here.

In comments here, and in other spaces, I've seen people express surprise that the rape scene at Caster's in the most recent episode did not get nearly the amount of attention that the scene of Jamie raping Cercei in the previous episode did.

And I wanted to take a moment to tease out why I think that is, because it's an important reflection of the rape culture—and which incidents of sexual violence we collectively care about, and why.

I've read an absolute fuckton of commentary on the scene in which Jamie rapes Cercei, and one of the narratives that quickly became evident was that the primary concern of most critics of the scene was not that Cercei was raped, but that Jamie had been turned into a rapist. At first blush, that might sound like a bit of semantics, but it's not: There was not an outpouring of grief for Cercei being victimized; there was, however, an awful lot of grief that Jamie's redemption arc had been ruined by turning him into a rapist.

To be clear, I absolute sympathize with (and share) that complaint. There's no way I'm going to watch a man rape his sister in one episode, and then enjoy his friendship with another female character I adore (Brienne) in the next. Turning Jamie into a revenge-raping monster absolutely fucked up the story.

But I was also concerned and upset that Cercei had been raped. That is not a concern that was widely shared.

The overall tone of the criticism of the scene was not about what Jamie had done to Cercei; it was about what the writers of the show had done to Jamie.

* * *

In contrast, the scene at Caster's, in which multiple women are being raped, did not get nearly as much criticism, or even online discussion. In many recaps of the episode I read, the sexual violence wasn't even explicitly mentioned.

This, despite the fact that the scene at Caster's is inarguably more graphic; there are more victims; there was no defense of the scene as anything other than rape from the writers, the director, the author, the actors.

So why was there so comparatively little criticism of this scene?

Well, we're not meant to like the male characters who are doing the raping in that scene. We're meant to hate them. The depicted rape is there specifically to invite our contempt.

Returning to my piece from yesterday:
It is a violent show altogether, but the way that sexual violence was used took on a particular tone that suggested sexual violence is uniquely despicable, but also fair game for casual use as shorthand for character development.

...Which brings me to last night's episode, featuring a scene that opened to the sound of a woman weeping while being raped and showing multiple women being raped as background, while a male character directed his men to "fuck them 'til they're dead."

This scene was invented for the show.

The women being raped are not major characters; they were props being used to establish that this new male character is not a nice guy.
These men are supposed to be rapists. But Jamie Lannister isn't.

* * *

Why one scene was met with a torrent of opprobrium and the other wasn't doesn't have anything to do with rape at all. Not really. It certainly has nothing to do with any of the female victims, including Cercei. It has to do with rape only insomuch as being a rapist reflects on male characters and upholds or subverts our opinions of them.

The truth is, virtually no one cared about female characters being raped, even when one of them was a major female character. Virtually none of the mainstream criticism has been centered around the concern for female characters being victimized.

It's been centered around Jamie Lannister, beloved male character, being victimized by the show.

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