Game of Thrones, whether you’re talking about the books or the television series, is rife with scenes of violence. Sometimes this violence pushes the boundaries of what many readers/viewers are comfortable with. This is, of course, why the scenes produce such strong emotional reactions and arguably what makes George R.R. Martin such a good writer. One particular aspect, however, has begun drawing attention – that of the sometimes graphic rape scenes.
When asked about this, Martin had these words to share:
“An artist has an obligation to tell the truth. My novels are epic fantasy, but they are inspired by and grounded in history. Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too). Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil… [Westeros] is no darker nor more depraved than our own world. History is written in blood. The atrocities in A Song of Ice and Fire, sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book.
“As for the criticism that some of the scenes of sexual violence are titillating, to me that says more about these critics than about my books. Maybe they found certain scenes titillating. Most of my readers, I suspect, read them as intended.
“I will say that my philosophy as a writer, since the very start of my career, has been one of “show, don’t tell.” Whatever might be happening in my books, I try to put the reader into the middle of it, rather than summarizing the action. That requires vivid sensory detail. I don’t want distance, I want to put you there. When the scene in question is a sex scene, some readers find that intensely uncomfortable… and that’s ten times as true for scenes of sexual violence.
“But that is as it should be. Certain scenes are meant to be uncomfortable, disturbing, hard to read.”
Given the current context of our social evolution, the presence of rape has become a hot-button subject. In (somewhat) defense of Martin’s explanation, even one-hundred years past, our history shows that the viewpoints regarding rape were much different. When you take it back to the medieval era, even within a fantasy context, it becomes just another a fact of living life in a world where women were seen as objects and war was used as an excuse to indulge one’s evil passions.
The real question is – are we willing to deal with it being in our face, even if it is placed within a context that is being constructed in order to convey realism? Does the presence of rape in fiction become harmful if it’s brought out in the open and used as a literary device? Or should we avoid the fact that rape was common in times of war (or in times of peace, for that matter) and keep it hidden away in the darkness? And why do we object less to a pregnant women being murdered at her wedding than we do to scenes involving rape? Is the finality of life less traumatic than the potential for life-long scars?
But now I’ve entered into the realm of the philosophical…
Personally, I’m more pissed off about the fact that they changed the details of the story from the book and effectively destroyed Jaime’s character. Maybe the real question we should be asking is – Is the television adaptation using the rape scenes as Martin intended or are they simply exploiting the hot-button nature of the act in order to draw people in?
How do the Nerd Readers feel about the rape scenes in Martin’s work? Is it just too much? Or is it necessary in order to convey the full truth of what it was like to live within a society where human life was viewed as primarily expendable (especially to the nobles and the soldiers)? And has the television series taken it too far with the way they’ve chosen to adapt it?
For those that want an interesting discussion on the many aspects of the Jaime/Cersei scene that sparked this debate, head over to The Mary Sue and read what they have to say.
Source: New York Times