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‘House of the Dragon’ Showrunners Were Told by Women That Brutal Birthing Scene ‘Needs to Be More’ Bloody

"It's raising a point that seems to hit a real trigger for women, which is this idea of choice," co-creator Miguel Sapochnik explained.

A man and pregnant woman with white-blonde hair in regal medieval garb; still from "House of the Dragon."

“House of the Dragon”

HBO

[Warning: The below contains spoilers for the first episode of “House of the Dragon.”] 

The creators behind “House of the Dragon” already promised the “Game of Thrones” prequel wouldn’t “shy away” from violence inflicted on women. But when it comes to childbirth? It seems the series didn’t even go as far as it could have.

Viewers were stunned during the first episode for HBO’s “House of the Dragon” when Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke) is brutally cut open to save her unborn son, at the urging of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) who is desperate for a male heir. Aemma dies while begging for her life, birthing her child in a procedure very much against her will.

“House of the Dragon” co-showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal revealed to Insider that they did not want the scene to be “excessive” and made it clear that the series wasn’t “glorifying” the death. In fact, the producers were “unanimously” urged by women in their lives to make the sequence more grotesque to make it feel “horribly real” to those who have given birth.

“We did make a point of showing it to as many women as possible and asked the very question: ‘Was this too violent for you?'” Sapochnik explained. “And unanimously, the response was ‘no.’ Often the response was ‘If anything, it needs to be more.'”

Sapochnik added the the scene showcases the lack of choice by Aemma, which is “really important” to both the series and the modern era since the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

“We shouldn’t be shying away from this thing that’s happened because it’s raising a point that seems to hit a real trigger for women, which is this idea of choice,” he said. “She doesn’t get to choose. She’s effectively murdered by her husband. And that is a good indication of the state of play in this world that we’re inhabiting.”

Sapochnik continued the comparison by juxtaposing the birthing scene with a literal fight on a battlefield: “As we stated earlier in the episode, the birthing bed is almost a battlefield. You have 50 percent chance of survival. And so it seemed like this was an appropriate time to draw that parallel visually between the male and the female struggle. One’s fighting on the battlefield, the other’s fighting for survival — sometimes from the person closest to her.”

Actor Steve Toussaint additionally told Men’s Health that having female directors and writers on the series makes the show “less of the exploitative thing” than what at times plagued “Game of Thrones.”

“I hope in [‘House of the Dragon’] the importance of having other voices in the room comes across,” Toussaint stated.

“House of the Dragon” made history at HBO for the largest audience for an HBO original series premiere. Novelist George R.R. Martin, who penned series basis novel “Fire and Blood” and consulted on the show, previously stated that the stories are not “misogynistic” or excessively brutal, but rather historically accurate — even though Westeros is a fictional land and this is all a fictional history.

“I don’t think Westeros is particularly more anti-woman or more misogynistic than real life and what we call history,” Martin said. “I get inspiration from history, and then I take elements from history and I turn it up to 11.”

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