One of the appeals of Game of Thrones is that it appears to be historical fiction. In reading the books and watching HBO’s adaptation, it’s easy to get lost in a seemingly historical portrayal of our world. Then a dragon or a White Walker appears and you’re quickly reminded that this is fantasy.
The third episode of the fourth season featured a rape scene. It’s not the first rape scene in the series – the books are sadly more explicit when it comes to rape – but it is one of the more disturbing violations yet. Jaime Lannister rapes his sister Cersei next to the dead body of their son, Joffrey. Sadly, the fact that the Lannister siblings are/were lovers has caused some viewers to question whether or not it’s rape. She said no. It’s rape. End of fucking discussion.
Before this episode aired, I’d been thinking a lot about rape in Game of Thrones. That anyone is debating whether or not Jaime raped Cersei is problematic and disturbing. It is also telling of our society. Why is rape up for debate? Why is there so much violence against women in Game of Thrones? I realized one reason the series feels like historical fiction is that it is riddled with white supremacy and sexism. Aamer Rahman has written about the white supremacy and white savior complex in the series, specifically in regard to Daenerys Targaryen. She isn’t just fair skinned, even her hair is strikingly white. She walks from Brown city to Brown city liberating poor Brown people from their slave masters. You know, so they can fight for her, win her the crown, and then…what? And Daenerys herself is the victim of violence. She was sold by her brother into a “marriage.” She was raped by her husband, but it’s written so that she totally gets into the rape and falls in love with him, so no worries, bros! Did I mention her husband was totally a savage and she helped tame him? So much racism and sexism intertwined, my head might explode.
Cersei and Daenerys are not the only victims of rape. In the fourth episode of season four, former Night’s Watchmen are seen raping women “until they’re dead” and threatening to rape Meera Reed. I felt my stomach churn watching these disgusting men. And I found myself wondering, “why I am still watching this show?” Every female in the story is either raped or threatened with rape.
Considering that Game of Thrones is fantasy, why is rape (and white supremacy) necessary? George RR Martin could easily have created a world without white supremacy and rape. And listen, watching vengeance enacted – most often by men – against the rapists is not as satisfying as it NOT EXISTING.
I understand that when creating art we use things we know, and all stories are variations of stories that have already been told. I also understand that this kind of writing is lazy and lacks creativity.
Arguing that Daenerys is a strong woman and genuinely invested in freeing enslaved people is a convenient way to ignore both issues. So what if she is? She still inhabits a made up world that allows her whiteness to gain the loving devotion of Brown people only she is apparently capable of saving; it also allows for her to be subjected to violence against her female body. As a female bodied person of color, I am tired of being on the receiving end of violence and discrimination.
I want creators like Gene Roddenberry who can imagine worlds where humans have evolved and are trying to better themselves. Star Trek is by no means perfect, but at least Roddenberry tried, and worked against expectations. I want writers who make up entirely fantastic worlds that reach outside the realm of what our reality is and create something better, something that challenges us, something to aspire to.