Monthly Archives: April 2014

Recommended Reading on Game of Thrones

These are all well worth reading on the issue of rape, sexual assault, and objectification in Game of Thrones (spoiler warning for S04E04 “Oathkeeper”). Obviously, huge trigger warning here.

Lena Headey was finally interviewed about the rape scene in episode 3, and was frustratingly noncommittal about it, though she’s probably in a difficult position and may not feel comfortable speaking out against the scene.

This summary of episode four discusses quite a lot of issues with it, and very well (I concur that the scene with the Night’s Watch mutineers was absolutely disgusting, even compared to a lot of things we’ve already had in the show).

Melissa McEwan has written two posts in the wake of this episode and both are well worth reading (as well as the comments). The second post in particular makes an extremely important point, which had completely escaped me until she pointed it out: that the discussion of the Jaime/Cersei rape scene in episode three has almost completely centred on the consequences of making Jaime a rapist and almost completely ignored the effect it might have on Cersei. If you follow only one of these links, make it that one.

(h/t to various commenters at Shakesville for linking to the first two articles)

If you find other relevant pieces on the subject, please link them in the comments.

The more I think about all of this, the angrier I get, and the more apprehensive I become about watching the next episode of this show. This may well ruin the show for me; I’m going to keep watching, because for better or worse I’m a fan of the books and I can’t help myself, but I’m not sure how much I’m going to enjoy it any more.

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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in mitchell


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The Cuckoo’s Calling, part one

Onwards we go, gentle readers.

Part One opens from the point of view of a secondary character, Our Hero’s Plucky Sidekick, a woman named Robin. (This is a bad example of a Meaningful Name; a sidekick named Robin is just poor, and it’s also something of a title drop with the inexplicable bird theme we seem to have going on.) I award Rowling one brownie point for starting with a female character and a character who isn’t the protagonist. I then immediately remove this brownie point because she is literally thinking only about her fiancé Matthew. Robin works for a temp agency and is on her way to meet a new client, it’s effectively a job interview, and yet she is genuinely only thinking about how sparkly her engagement ring is. This isn’t an exaggeration, either, sadly. (Spoiler: this book doesn’t even come close to passing the Bechdel test.) Also more comma abuse, which I don’t recall from other Rowling books; maybe she forgot how they work. I’m choosing to see this as evidence that the publishers knew exactly who “Robert Galbraith” was, because a new unknown author would get at least a vague attempt at proofreading.

Robin is tall, blonde and pretty. This is all the description we will ever get. The only female characters in this book to get full descriptions are the unattractive ones, whom the narrative invariably requires us to hate (anyone who’s read Harry Potter will have noted that the Good Guys can’t be ugly in any way and the Bad Guys always are, with the single exception of the Malfoys; Rowling has improved as far as male characters are concerned, but among the female cast, ugly=bad and pretty=good still). Non-evil female characters are just ‘pretty’ or ‘very pretty’, with hair colour or clothing sometimes thrown in if you’re lucky. This does not change whether the scene is from a male or female point of view.

The new client is our protagonist, Cormoran Strike. I have no idea why he needed a name like that instead of Joe Smith or something more normal. I was wondering if it’s supposed to tie in to the bird theme, as a sort-of homophone of ‘Cormorant Shrike’; the name Cormoran is from Cornish mythology, the giant who created the castle on St Michael’s Mount, though the name isn’t of Cornish origin and nobody’s quite sure where it’s from. None of this is relevant to the character in any way, Meaningful or otherwise; Rowling just wanted a complicated name for some reason, as far as I can tell.

Interestingly, Strike is ugly. Not just not handsome, but downright ugly as far as usual standards go. He’s described as a big, slightly overweight guy with almost brutish features and a lot of body hair, and his hair will be repeatedly compared to pubic hair until you start to feel nauseated. This makes him the first non-pretty Good Guy of either gender in anything Rowling has written, which is overall a positive thing but I feel she might be making too big a deal of it. He also has a black eye and some bloody scratches on his face, which Robin will notice several times without ever wondering about the cause, let alone asking him about it.

We switch to Strike’s point of view. He has been sleeping in his office, having left his fiancée recently and being in debt to the point where he apparently can’t find anywhere else to live. He is as fixated on his love life as Robin is on hers; this is very annoying and doesn’t bode well for the rest of the book, but the plot hasn’t started yet for either of them, so I can let it slide on this occasion. His first meeting with Robin is bizarrely sort-of hilarious and very weird – he’s leaving his office in a hurry, slams into her, almost knocks her down the stairs, and saves her by grabbing her breast and yanking her back onto the landing.

We apologise for the interruption to this post.
There was going to be an image expressing the
appropriate level of OW this must have caused.
But Loten made the mistake of doing an image
search for “ouch” without filters and now needs
to go and vomit. Do not try this at home. Ever.

I have no idea what this says about either the author or the characters. Personally, when someone near me has slipped or tripped and nearly fallen over, I tend to automatically grab for their arms, or maybe their jacket or bag, rather than far less useful and far more painful areas of anatomy. Maybe that’s just me. But just try to imagine a genderflipped version; imagine a guy starting to fall down the stairs and being saved by someone grabbing his dick and pulling him back? (That would probably hurt more, admittedly, but it’s the same context.) Robin seems peculiarly unaffected, actually. It seems to hurt a bit (um, DUH), and she is very briefly sort-of indignant, but it’s forgotten extremely quickly – possibly because this is still from Strike’s point of view, as will be 90% of the book from this point on.

Because of his debts, Strike had intended to cancel his contract with the agency so they would stop sending him temp workers he can’t afford any more. Because he’s apparently incompetent, he didn’t do so. Nor does he tell Robin this. I’d like to say that’s out of concern for her feelings, rather than because she’s pretty, and we’re not actually given a reason in the narrative, but I suspect I would be lying.

Strike and Robin meet a client, John Bristow. John’s brother was in Strike’s class at school, before being killed in a cycling accident near an old quarry. Here we have an evil-teacher flashback, because I don’t know, Rowling’s never seemed fond of teachers. I don’t believe for a second that when a teacher has to explain to a class of ten year olds that their friend has died horribly, the teacher will gloat about how the boy had been forbidden to go there and was showing off so clearly deserved to die. Anyway, this is totally irrelevant but does explain why John has come to Strike in particular… apparently he was keeping track of all his brother’s old friends for decades and thus knows that Strike became a private investigator two years ago? I don’t know.

The dead supermodel was John’s adopted sister. Her name is Lula Landry (Rowling loves alliterative names. Wait until we get to Harry Potter. There are dozens of them) and for reasons that will remain unclear for most of the book, he’s sure she was murdered instead of committing suicide. The police don’t believe him since there is absolutely zero evidence and he can’t provide any, so he’s come to beg Strike to investigate. Strike has read about the incident in the paper and he thinks it was suicide, but he needs the money, so he agrees. Robin is just standing in a corner as far as I can tell. John’s girlfriend Alison comes in to nag him that he needs to get back to the office, because the stereotypical bitchy nagging girlfriend trope is clearly a much better writing choice than John himself deciding that he should go back to work, and they leave.

Robin pokes around the office for a bit. It’s a cluttered disorganised mess but there’s somehow no evidence that Strike is currently living there. In a drawer she finds a stack of death threats that an unhappy former client has been repeatedly sending; she’s horrified but Strike laughs it off in a slightly patronising way, because apparently death threats are nothing serious. He has no work for her to do yet, so she goes home and he goes for a walk.

It’s taken fifty pages, two point-of-view chapters and a walk through London for Strike to think about the fact that he has a prosthetic leg, and it gets half a line before the subject changes. Modern prosthetics are incredible, it may well be possible to forget you’re even wearing one a lot of the time, I wouldn’t know, but Strike’s isn’t one of those, it’s the standard plastic kind. We don’t find out for quite a while what actually happened, but to save you the irritation I felt at chapters of hints before getting any real information – he was some kind of military investigator/police figure, and he was in Afghanistan and he lost most of his lower leg two and a half years before this story opens. Not having researched amputees, I don’t know how easy it is to forget about it, but I suspect Strike’s attitude isn’t normal because it reads as abnormal. Particularly since we find out that he walks with a limp and the stump hurts because he’s gained weight and the prosthetic doesn’t fit properly; Rowling apparently doesn’t realise that he would still be receiving regular checkups on the NHS and if it didn’t fit they’d measure him for a new one. Despite being in pain all the time, Strike goes for walks a lot, and is usually described as ambling, walking determinedly, and other adjectives that don’t fit with this. At the end of this chapter there is one sentence that vaguely hints that Rowling may have heard of phantom-limb, which is the only mention of that in the whole book. As we’ll see in Harry Potter, she usually fails at showing long-term consequences of anything, physically or psychologically.

I can’t blame Rowling for not wanting to make the character’s injury the core of his characterisation, of course; his being an amputee doesn’t define him. But ignoring it entirely does negate the point of making him an amputee in the first place. Near the end of the book there’s a scene that I suspect was the only reason for Strike to have a false leg, since it really does add nothing to his character at all, and it’s not a good reason.

Anyway, Strike has a possible murder case to think about as well as his leg, but he would much rather angst about his ex-fiancée Charlotte. At least half the book will pass before we’ll learn what happened; all we know at this point is that she’s tried to leave him numerous times and he’s always talked her into trying again, but now that he’s the one who’s decided it’s over, that’s obviously the real end of the relationship. There are vague hints that she might have lied about a pregnancy at one point, and some more hints that she lied about everything all the time, and that she caused a scene that morning. Oh good, the hysterical deceitful woman trope. This is a pretty misogynistic book.

He does briefly review the actual case he’s being paid to investigate, in between the angsting about refusing to tell any of his friends his engagement has ended because he would rather sleep on his office floor than have anyone who cares about him feeling sorry for him; he calls a friend in the police to get the phone number of the detective assigned to the suicide. John did the rest of the work for him, leaving him several pages of notes and CCTV photos and the phone number of the security guard in Lula’s apartment building. Two black guys were seen running nearby at around the time Lula died. That’s pretty much it so far.

And that’s the end of Part One, even though nothing much has happened. We’ve met our protagonist and his sidekick, they’ve met each other, and the case that forms the plot has been opened. This could have been done in one chapter, two at a push; it took seven.

Part Two coming soon, containing a brief bit of actual plot and a whole lot of angst, backstory, and irritating hints.

The Cuckoo’s Calling:
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five


Posted by on April 29, 2014 in loten


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(Homecoming) The Memory of Earth: Prologue

I apologise in advance, but this is probably going to be a short post. I’ve been having a difficult week and didn’t have much time to work on this (owing mostly to insomnia, which my current meds have been causing; being unable to get enough sleep isn’t fun). That said, that situation is hopefully improving at least a little. I didn’t want to neglect this project entirely this week, so I’ll be analysing the prologue, which is only two pages long. We’ll get into the actual story next time.

So. Onward.

The prologue is written from the perspective of “the master computer of the planet Harmony”. The prologue is the only part of this book where we are given anything from its perspective, which is an interesting choice on Card’s part – though this isn’t exactly uncommon practice; I’ve encountered lots of books using a one-off perspective in prologues (I wonder if TV Tropes has a name for this technique). We will get further glimpses into this computer’s perspective in prologues to later books as well.

The reason I find this an “interesting choice” as I said above is because, at least for the most part, the story tries to pretend that this computer isn’t a computer while it plays the role of a god in the narrative. Framing the story with a prologue that explicitly discusses it as a computer undermines that to some degree, especially because its being a computer is the first thing we learn about it (and therefore this computerised aspect of it is likely to remain salient to the reader). I think Card may have actually been trying to do something interesting and complex here; exploring the implications of a society where a computer actively plays the role of a god and is worshiped by humans could actually be an interesting thought experiment. Particularly when proposed by a religionist like Card, because you could grapple with some interesting and difficult questions about the implications of religious behaviour and divine command ethics (the issue of divine command ethics becomes much more interesting if you believe there actually is such a thing as the divine), or what it would even mean for something to be a god at all. I think that’s what he was trying for. But the story itself seems to cop out on this for the most part, and outside of the prologues ignores the fact that it’s a computer whenever possible.

So, back to the story – we open with this computer being “afraid”, though Card is quick to explain that this was “not in a way that any human would recognize”. Essentially, the computer has become aware of the fact that its abilities are deteriorating and it can no longer influence humanity to the degree it used to do, and it worries that it will become unable to fulfill its “mission […] to be the guardian of humanity on this world”. In which case,

“it knew without a doubt – every projection it was capable of making confirmed it – that within a few thousand years humanity would once again be faced with the one enemy that could destroy it: humanity itself, armed with such weapons that a whole planet could be killed.” (page 7)

This is SF so I won’t object to a computer’s ability to have emotions – obviously as far as we know, no current computers are capable of it (though I have occasionally ruminated on the possibility that there could be a subjective experience of what it is like to run Microsoft Word, if consciousness is a strictly emergent phenomenon; needless to say, such speculation is largely pointless because it is completely untestable), but I see no reason for it to be impossible in principle.

The more interesting thing here, I think, is that this is a simultaneously incredibly bleak and incredibly optimistic view of humanity. It would take a few thousand years for humanity to destroy itself? Even if what Card is talking about here is something along the lines of nuclear warfare or anthropogenic climate change, consider that it has by most metrics been less than 500 years since the scientific revolution, and many would argue we are already at a high risk of causing our own extinction. Why, then, would it take a few thousand years to reach this point from an already highly-developed technological society, even one that had been formerly meticulously censored by a computerised overseer? So Card, or at least his fictional computer, is very optimistic about the time scale here; the pessimism is in the assumption of inevitability. I think it’s actually debatable whether this view is correct in-universe/in-text or not; the second book in particular has a great deal of warfare breaking out rather quickly once the censorship ends, but not yet on anything close to an extinction-level scale.

Anyway, the computer decides that it has to act, but realises it doesn’t know how. I’ll quote the relevant passage because I actually sort of like it:

“Yet the master computer had no idea how to act. One of the symptoms of its decline was the very confusion that kept it from being able to make a decision. It couldn’t trust its own conclusions even if it could reach one.” (page 8)

That’s definitely a difficult dilemma. (Also, the pedant in me wants to correct that last sentence, I think it should probably be something like “It wouldn’t be able to trust its own conclusions even if it were able to reach any.” Subjunctive tenses exist, even in English.)

It goes on to think about how it needs help and there’s only one place it can get it (it’s ambiguous about what that is for now), but it’s too far away to communicate with so the computer will have to go there. Then we get this:

“Once the Oversoul had been capable of movement, but that was forty million years ago and even inside a stasis field there had been decay… It needed human help.” (page 8)

Did you catch it? The thing Card just did that absolutely enrages me?

I’m not sure if it can be called an equivocation, per se, because instead of eliding the distinction between usages of the same word, he’s suddenly shifted to a different word with vastly different connotations and yet treating it as interchangeable with the prior one. “The master computer of the planet Harmony” and “the Oversoul” have precisely the same referent, but this switch of terminology is not value-neutral, and certainly not trivial. And yes, the computer will be called “the Oversoul” throughout the rest of the series, and only referred to as “the master computer” occasionally in prologues. This gets much worse when you consider how the human characters use the term “the Oversoul” – very much as an object of reverence and worship, which most of them believe to be an actual supernatural entity rather than a computer; that is certainly an equivocation on Card’s part even if the original shift in terminology wasn’t quite so. Furthermore, the shift is accomplished in-text with no explanation or forewarning: he simply substituted “Oversoul” in and expected the reader to take it in stride. Needless to say I find this quite interesting (and infuriating, in turn) and will have more to say about it in the future, but for now all I can really do is point out what he’s doing.

So the computer spends some time

“[searching] its vast database, evaluating the potential usefulness of every human being currently alive. Most were too stupid or unreceptive; of those who could still receive direct communications from the master computer, only a few were in a position where they could do what was needed.

“Thus it was that the master computer turned its attention to a handful of human beings in the ancient city Basilica. […] it began its work, sending a steady stream of information and instructions in a tightbeam transmission to those who might be useful in the effort to save a world named Harmony.” (page 8)

WHAT?! Essentially, this computer has decided it needs help getting repairs so it’s going to manipulate some humans into providing that help. Never mind the supposed altruism here, or for that matter the paternalism: essentially, its argument is that it’s for their own good in the long term, but it doesn’t actually know that – all it knows is that its intended purpose was to censor humanity for its own safety and that it’s no longer capable of fulfilling its purpose. If we are to treat this computer as if it has moral agency, then this is fundamentally a selfish motive being justified via instrumental utility: “I don’t want to fail in my mission, which happens to be doing this thing that is helpful to humans” (or at least is presumed helpful in the narrative universe of this story). Kant would be appalled at this violation of his categorical imperative (or, in other terms, at this rampant objectification of people as means to an end). It’s possible to argue that it’s justified in pursuing this course of action on other moral theories (e.g. some forms of consequentialism), so I won’t unilaterally condemn it, but I don’t think it’s obviously all-good the way the book will treat it in future.

Additionally, in order to consider this computer justified in its actions, the reader must make the additional assumption that its assessment of the situation is correct – an assumption which the text directly contradicts, or at least renders uncertain. What the computer thinks is good for humanity may not necessarily agree with what humans think is good for humanity (or, for that matter, with what is actually good for humanity, which may well disagree with the desires of both).

Let’s see… where else have we seen a hyperintelligent nonhuman entity manipulating humanity for what it believes to be the greater long-term good?

Oh, right. Hi there, Kyubey. So nice to see you.

I will say in closing that I think the premise of this story could actually have been a great way to explore the concept of Friendly AI, its feasibility and its failure modes, and so on, if written by a different author. Somebody like Eliezer Yudkowsky, perhaps. But sadly, we’ll have to be satisfied with only the unrealised potential.

Well, so much for this being a short post; my long wind strikes again (air currents are notoriously chaotic, so I suppose I shouldn’t fault myself too much for this failed prediction). Next time on Homecoming, we’ll meet the actual characters and start in on the actual story! I’m so excited.

*I must correct myself on something I said in a previous post; for some reason I’d thought this series was set at least forty thousand years in the future, but as is clearly evident from one of the above quotes, the actual figure the book gives is forty million. Mea culpa. (Though in fairness to myself, I must say that it seems absurd to me that humanity would change so little in forty million years that the society depicted in these books would be plausible.)

(Image of sentient apple is copyright 1999-2014 Neopets, Inc. Used for non-commercial purposes with permission.)

(Kyubey is a character from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the image thereof is taken from a screen capture of the anime, and the author claims no rights to either character or image.)


Posted by on April 27, 2014 in mitchell


This is a very thought-provoking article

[Major content notes/trigger warnings: rape, murder, sexual violence, dehumanisation]

It’s hard to know exactly what to say about it in all honesty, it’s worth reading in its entirety. And I think it’s very important that we not forget that othering people as “monsters” when they do harm actually doesn’t help, it just makes us feel better about not being one of them while sweeping the systemic factors that actually contribute to violence, etc, under the rug.

(h/t to Avicenna for the link)

1 Comment

Posted by on April 24, 2014 in mitchell



Everyone say ‘happy birthday’ to Mitchell!


Posted by on April 24, 2014 in loten, mitchell


Let’s look at Rowling again – The Cuckoo’s Calling, introduction and prologue

[Content Notes for the whole spork so I don’t have to worry about missing a tag in later posts: racism, classism, ableism, sexism.]

So, after this post about The Casual Vacancy, it’s time to move on to Rowling’s other non-Harry Potter work, before its sequel comes out and I have to make myself read it. Oh, sorry, ‘Robert Galbraith’, not Rowling. Credit where it’s due, the timing of the leak concerning his true identity was superb, it coincided nicely with the paperback release of The Casual Vacancy and helped to keep Rowling in the public eye in the dead time between the Potter franchise ending and the announcement of the forthcoming Fantastic Beasts film. (Which is now going to be a trilogy, because of course it is. I don’t know whether to describe this as overmilking the cash cow or flogging a dead horse, but either way the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Metaphorical Animals should be informed.)

Let’s start once again with the official synopsis from Rowling’s website – she continues to maintain a separate site for Robert Galbraith despite the fact that he doesn’t exist (by the way, I hate her websites. I have to disable most of my security settings before they will load properly):

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.

Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger . . .

A gripping, elegant mystery steeped in the atmosphere of London – from the hushed streets of Mayfair to the backstreet pubs of the East End to the bustle of Soho – The Cuckoo’s Calling is a remarkable book. Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Who writes these things? When I read a plot synopsis, I don’t want to read how wonderful the book is, I’ll judge that for myself once I’ve read it. Also let me just say right now that this summary sounds a lot more dramatic than the actual book proves to be. Taken paragraph by paragraph, the opening is fine. The second paragraph seems to be about a different book that sounds more fun than the one I read. And the third is just the publishers raving about how amazing it is and can be ignored.

A note about the title: it appears to be purely because Rowling wanted to include a poem at the start of the book, “A Dirge” by Christina Rossetti. It’s every bit as depressing as it sounds, and also has no bearing whatsoever on the novel in any way. We’re being very intellectual and pretentious in this book, each part opens with a scholarly quote of some sort, mostly Latin. I have no problem with this, I do it myself in fics and I like books that do it, but these quotes don’t have anything to do with the actual content and are apparently just there to show off. Anyway, in an attempt to make the poem relevant, we will later find out that our murder victim’s nickname is Cuckoo – I’m not doing a ‘title drop’ count because it’s only mentioned two or three times and only one character ever uses it.

There are five parts to the book, which at least helps me divide it up nicely between multiple blog posts. This book gets far more coverage than The Casual Vacancy, because it’s a better book and because I read it far more recently. No rape scenes, hurrah! There is a lot of weirdness though, as you’ll soon see.

Onwards then, to the prologue.

We’re plunged straight into the plot, opening with a crime scene. Our victim has been found dead after apparently jumping from the balcony of her apartment, and the police are trying to keep the public and the press away while they try to sort things out. Descriptively it’s fairly well done, you can picture the scene quite well, but there are some odd grammar mistakes and a lot of comma abuse in this short four-page scene. The POV character for this scene is a policeman, I won’t bother with a name or a description because he plays no further part in the story and is there purely because Rowling wanted to write the dramatic suicide scene and couldn’t plausibly get her main character there. There’s not a lot else to say here, it’s a decent scene, it lets us know this is probably going to be a crime story even if there’s no evidence of an actual crime yet.

Next time: part one, when we meet our main characters and the plot starts and then not a lot happens.


The Cuckoo’s Calling:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five


Posted by on April 23, 2014 in loten


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Game of Thrones, Rape Culture, and Bad Adaptation Decisions

[Content Notes: rape, statutory rape, incest, Game of Thrones]

[Spoiler Warnings: Game of Thrones S04E03 “Breaker of Chains”, A Storm of Swords]

(This is expanded from a conversation I had with Jennie in this open thread at Shakesville, as well as a conversation I had with Loten on Skype)

Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was… strange. Things happened but I couldn’t think of much to say about it, and in talking to Loten last night I didn’t even think to mention what, in retrospect, was clearly the part of the episode that most needed talking about.

I’m referring to a certain scene between Jaime and Cersei Lannister. I’d been anticipating this scene for some time out of curiosity about how they’d adapt it; I suspect anyone who’d read the books found it a memorable one (if not necessarily pleasant). It’s the scene in which Jaime and Cersei have sex in the sept of Baelor next to their dead son Joffrey’s corpse on a bier. Disturbing, and creepy, and fucked-up in myriad ways. But, in the book, it was consensual, and for the most part enthusiastically so (Cersei is a bit reluctant at first but quickly gets into it and is very vocal about that; her only fear appears to be getting caught).

In the show, for some reason, they decided to change this into a rape scene. A forcible rape scene, in which Jaime, apparently overcome by lust (I hate that narrative but I’m not sure what else to call it), seizes Cersei, holds her down as she struggles and shouts things like “No!” and “Not here!” and rapes her. (The scene ends with both of them pretty much fully clothed, which I suspect may be due to a no-nudity clause in Lena Headey’s contract). This change makes no sense, honestly. I think it’s wildly out of character for Jaime to rape anyone, let alone Cersei (who is one of very few people he really cares about, his twin sister and longtime illicit lover).

What bothers me the most about this is that it seems to be at least the second time the show creators have changed a consensual sex scene into rape.

In the first episode of the first season, with Daenerys and Khal Drogo. In the books, while the scene was still rather problematic (in the book Dany is thirteen and by any reasonable standard cannot meaningfully consent to sex, even disregarding the surrounding coercive circumstances of it being her ‘wedding night’ after she’s been sold to Drogo by her brother), there was at least some notion of consent there, and Drogo legitimately seemed to be trying to respect Dany’s consent somewhat (and, notably, her internal thoughts express consent). It’s still problematic, and at least somewhat rapey (truthfully considering the circumstances I’d probably classify it as coercive rape), but it’s also not the brutal rape we see in the show during which she cries and grits her teeth (and in which they twisted Drogo’s using the word ‘no’ repeatedly into something sinister rather than the more complex way it was portrayed in the book). But as Jennie said in the Shakesville thread, regardless of the problematic aspects of the source material, “the show took what was at least a very complicated story and just turned it into a straight up rape because they thought it was more thrilling.”

That time, I could talk myself into excusing it. Maybe because of my white male privilege, and various racist narratives about what ‘barbarians’ (who are usually people of colour) do to white women, I explained it away with the thought that they may have been trying to make the scene more ‘realistic’. Drogo is the chief of a nomadic warrior tribe who is heavily implied to maintain his position by force (references to his never having been defeated in battle, etc), and who engage in rapine and pillaging, so I thought it was at least consistent to have him using force in a sexual context as well; the book portrays at least a more interesting character even if it’s not clear where or how he would have learned to respect his wife’s consent.

Now, while I do not intend to defend the above reasoning, I can think of no comparable rationale (however problematic) for them to have changed the Jaime/Cersei scene. They seem to have changed it to a rape solely for the sake of changing it to a rape.

Game of Thrones (the television programme) has never been particularly good about its portrayals of sex; there is far more female nudity shown than male and almost always in a male-gaze kind of way where the intent is clearly to titillate (leading to people coining the term ‘sexposition’ to describe scenes where objectified women are displayed to the audience while a character is monologuing about backstory), there are some very problematic portrayals of sex workers, among other things. But I have to say none of that strikes me as nearly as bad as this; does somebody working on the show have a rape fetish? Do they think rape is “edgy”?

This is rape culture. I’m not sure what else I can say. I have no idea why they would change this except that they thought it would be more interesting to audiences, and for the life of me I can’t imagine why it would. (Rape culture is why, but I can’t personally imagine the appeal).

And now that they’ve done it more than once, I’m afraid the trend may continue.

Do the creators of the show seriously mean to tell me that it was more important to them to squeeze in more rape than to tell a consistent story? Fuck.

I’ll continue to watch, because I love these books (I will fully acknowledge their problematic elements, but I still enjoy them and admire their craftsmanship), but I’m not sure it will be the same. I’m going to keep wondering when they’re going to betray the story for the sake of rape again. And how many viewers, who may themselves be rape survivors and find these scenes triggering, they will lose each time they do. And how many rapists and potential rapists will feel validated each time they see a scene like this.

Edited 22 April 2014 to add:

It gets worse. Apparently they weren’t even intending this to be interpreted as a rape scene? (If this isn’t proof we live in a rape culture I’m not sure what is, it’s about as rape as rape gets)

clownybee at Shakesville linked me to this interview (huge content notes/trigger warnings for rape, rape culture, and rape apologetics)

And Loten found this interview with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (the actor who plays Jaime), which she said “sounds like he’s trying to make himself feel better about having to act in a rape scene, which is fair enough.”

This image of Apple Chia is (c) 1999-2014 Neopets, Inc. and used for non-commercial purposes.

I’ve got nothing.

Edited to add: Melissa McEwan makes a very good point on Twitter that nobody seems to be asking for Lena Headey’s perspective on this, or considering it at all relevant to the discussion, but seem to be talking to all of the male persons involved. That’s a huge problem in and of itself, even independent of all this context.

(Image of sentient apple is copyright 1999-2014 Neopets, Inc. Used for non-commercial purposes with permission.)


Posted by on April 22, 2014 in mitchell


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