×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Game of Thrones’ Rape Scene Stirs Backlash

HBO is on the defensive this week as a growing chorus of critics are taking aim at the cabler’s flagship drama “Game of Thrones” following a brutal rape scene in Sunday’s episode.

Those publicly blasting the show include Sen. Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.), who tweeted Tuesday that she was “done” with the show because of what she called the “gratuitous rape scene” that was “disgusting and unacceptable.”

The episode titled “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” was written by Bryan Cogman and directed by Jeremy Podeswa. “Thrones” is based on the successful fantasy book series, “Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin. But the scene in question departed somewhat from Martin’s treatment of it in the book — as the author himself noted via social media on Monday as the reactions spread online.

In the TV scene, one of the central characters, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), was raped on her wedding night by her sadistic new husband, played by Iwan Rheon. Readers of the books have also noted that Sansa’s story has been altered significantly from Martin’s vision, making her a victim of the brutality as opposed to a secondary character.

The debate over Sunday’s episode follows an equally controversial scene last season in which the characters of Jaime and Cersei Lannister, a brother and sister with an incestuous relationship, had a forced sexual encounter as she grieved over the death of their son.

At that time, the New York Times ran a front-page feature about the outcry, quoting HBO Original Programming chief Michael Lombardo as saying “the choices our creative teams make are based on the motivations and sensibilities that they believe define their characters. We fully support the vision and artistry of Dan and David’s exceptional work and we feel this work speaks for itself.”

HBO declined to comment on the outcry over Sunday’s episode, adding that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would not comment. Martin and others have also noted that sexual violence has been a devastating consequence of war for centuries.

The backlash against “Thrones” creates a quandary for HBO, which has for decades burnished its image as the home of high-end programming that no other network can provide. McCaskill’s comment is an unwelcome swipe for a channel that has a strong presence in Beltway circles, in part because of its news and documentary programming.

HBO original series such as “The Sopranos” have long pushed the envelope on sexual and violent content. But “Thrones” has regularly spurred public outcries over the graphic depiction of brutality. And yet there is no question that the show’s popularity has been a significant factor in keeping HBO atop the pay TV pack. The clamor among viewers for “Thrones,” now in its fifth season, has also been a driver of HBO’s decision to launch its broadband-only HBO Now service earlier this year.

Defenders of the show maintain that the violence, sexual and otherwise, is organic to Martin’s creation of a savage world dominated by warring factions in a medieval-like period. The flouting of social norms and taboos has been key to adding depth to the mythology and characters.

“This scene felt of a piece with the way I’ve always understood ‘Game of Thrones’ and George R.R. Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’: as a story about the consequences of rape and denial of sexual autonomy,” the Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg wrote Tuesday in an online story headlined “‘Game of Thrones’ has always been a show about rape.”

Violence in the show is not limited to female characters; in a past episode, a key character was castrated.

More TV

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Rejects ATA Offer, Seeks Individual Talks With 9 Top Agencies

    The Writers Guild of America has called off negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents in favor of pursuing individual talks with nine top agencies as it enforces a total ban on packaging fees and affiliated production for agents representing guild members. WGA West president David Goodman announced the guild’s decision to reject the ATA’s [...]

  • cap 08 cena 31 - Bastidor

    Globoplay’s ‘Aruanas’ Amazon Rainforest Series Bows in 150 Countries

    Globoplay, the streaming platform of Brazilian media giant Globo, is set to bow one of its most ambitious fictional series to date, “Aruanas” (“Sentinels of Nature”). The new series premieres worldwide July 2 on Vimeo-powered platform araunas.tv in more than 150 countries with subtitles in 11 languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Turkish [...]

  • Spain Mediapro Studio Lola Flores Bioseries

    Spain's The Mediapro Studio Develops Bioseries on Flamenco Matriarch Lola Flores

    Spain’s The Mediapro Studio, the recently-launched content production-distribution giant, has teamed with Argentine-based company Non Stop TV to develop a bioseries on Lola Flores, the Spanish flamenco matriarch. The project is backed by The Flores Family, with Lolita and Rosario Flores, Lola Flores daughters, attached as executive producers, alongside Mariola Orellana. The series will recreate [...]

  • Mark-Paul GosselaarFOX 'The Passage' TV show

    'Mixed-ish' at ABC Adds Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Recasting

    Mark-Paul Gosselaar has boarded the upcoming ABC comedy “Mixed-ish.” “Mixed-ish,” a spinoff of “Black-ish,” focuses on the experience of Tracee Ellis Ross’s character, Rainbow Johnson, growing up in a mixed-race family in the ‘80s. Gosselaar will play the role of Bow’s father, taking over from Anders Holm, who played the role in the original pilot. [...]

  • Greg Berlanti

    Greg Berlanti on Why Movies Are Lagging Behind TV in LGBTQ Representation

    Greg Berlanti is television’s most prolific producer. With a record-breaking 18 series from his production company greenlit for the 2019-2020 season, the openly gay Berlanti is using his power to ensure the LGBTQ community is reflected on the small screen — both in front of and behind the camera. From casting the first transgender superhero [...]

  • Legion

    How Production Designer Marco Niro Created a Visual Climax for FX's ‘Legion’

    FX’s “Legion” has always drawn inspiration not only from the Marvel “X-Men” comics on which it is based, but also from the weirder corners of pop culture. When creator Noah Hawley cast “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens as the lead — David Haller, a mutant whose telepathic powers have been misdiagnosed as mental illness — [...]

  • DEAR WHITE PEOPLE

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Sets 'Dear White People' Season 3 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV roundup, “Dear White People” sets an August 2 premiere and Showtime acquires the six-episode comedy series “Back to Life.” DATES “Dear White People” will return for its third season on August 2. The news was announced in a comedic sketch posted to Netflix‘s Youtube channel, in which the series’ cast members debate [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content