The scene in the “Game of Thrones” episode “Breaker of Chains” where Jaime Lanister rapes his sister and sometime lover, Cersei, next to the corpse of their dead son has prompted some of the most incisive writing and intelligently sustained discussion in the show’s history, but it hasn’t all been great. Oscar blogger Sasha Stone took it upon herself to decry the storm of “faux outrage,” using her apparent psychic abilities to discern that people are apparently just pretending to be upset about rape and suggesting they devote their attentions to important things like the environment and the frontrunners for the Best Picture of 2015. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the scene as a consensual, if still icky, encounter in his book, was more or less agnostic on the change, chalking it up to the “butterfly effect” in which small changes in the show end up taking the narrative in substantially different directions, and concluding: “The scene was always intended to be disturbing… but I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons.”
Stone’s concern trolling notwithstanding, what’s become known as simply “THAT scene” is of profound importance, for reasons eloquently laid out by Maureen Ryan at the Huffington Post. And yet, it’s possible to feel that way and still be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of verbiage devoted to the subject, as well as the tendency to circle the discursive wagons and evaluate the encounter according to the criteria of contemporary feminism rather than the quasi-Medieval world of the show.
That’s what makes Dan Abromowitz‘s alternate script for the scene such a brilliant work of both parody and criticism. Although his comic version of their interaction recalls the snickering over Antioch College’s controversial rules for informed consent — “JAIME: Thank you for having the trust in me to verbalize your lived experience” — there’s no confusion about the fact that Jaime raped Cersei, and that even the perverse nature of their previous relationship and the emotional strain placed on both of them by Joffrey’s murder does not excuse Jaime’s actions. But it does allow that, in a world where brutal violence is quite literally a way of life, the potential for mixed signals might be a little greater:
(Note: I do realize that by lingering over certain parts of Abromowitz’s script, I risk, as with Amy Schumer’s “The Foodroom,” explaining something that’s funny until it’s not funny any more, but I think it’s worth the trouble.)
The script then goes on to pointedly criticize the way “THAT scene” has been written about in our world, although it’s worth pointing out that especially astute writers like Ryan and the Washington Post‘s Alyssa Rosenberg have been able to question the show’s presentation — and especially the statement by the episode’s director that the sex was “consensual by the end” — while still thinking through Jaime’s actions in dramatic and thematic terms.
Considering that HBO is not making advance screeners available for the remainder of “Game of Thrones'” fourth season, critics and viewers will be going forward at the same pace, which should make the ongoing discussion — and the fallout, whatever it may be, from “THAT scene” — all the more interesting.