- "We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste. We made this clear to the executive producers of the series who apologized immediately for this inadvertent, careless mistake. We are sorry this happened and will have it removed from any future DVD production."
- --A press release made by HBO, apologizing profusely when they learned that the Season 1 finale of Game of Thrones inadvertently included a shot of a prop head of President George W. Bush impaled on a spike.
Multiple reviewers and websites were very confused and upset by the sex scene between Jaime Lannister and Cersei Lannister in the Great Sept of Baelor (in front of their own son's corpse) in the third episode of Season 4, "Breaker of Chains" - saying that it was apparently portraying Jaime raping Cersei. This allegation/interpretation was near-universal – not simply "on messageboards" but in every measurable manner, as a reaction seen on almost every major critic or review website. These ranged from io9 and the A.V. club,, to the front page of Yahoo News,, Entertainment Weekly and Time magazine,, and even the front page of The New York Times itself.
What made this all the more baffling is that the sexual encounter between Jaime and Cersei in this scene in the books is presented as consensual.
TV-first viewers were offended, while book-first readers didn't understand why the TV show was, apparently, changing it into a rape scene – particularly because it simply didn't fit with Jaime's overall storyarc of redemption and trying to be a better person after losing his sword-hand. Moreover, Jaime in particular is a character who as a result of his backstory is horrified by rape: at King Aerys II Targaryen's court, he was forced to stand guard outside the doors as the Mad King raped his wife Queen Rhaella; later on and in the show itself, he saves Brienne of Tarth from being raped by Locke's men even though she was his captor and he could easily have just let it happen.
The TV writers were slow to respond to such massive outcry, and what few statements they did make were very vague, leaving reviewers and critics even more confused and to draw their own conclusions. As the premiere of Season 5 neared, it became obvious that the implication that Jaime was raping Cersei was never intended by the writers, not in the script, and was the accidental result of flawed camerawork and editing. Both the actors and director have publicly stated that they were never told this was intended as a rape scene nor did they play it as such. This is confirmed by closer freeze-frame analysis of the footage. Even George R.R. Martin wasn't informed that the scriptwriters ever intended such a massive change.
It is unknown why HBO did not simply re-edit and re-release the episode as soon as possible, as has been done in the past in Season 1. Apparently, one of two scenarios occurred: the first is that Benioff and Weiss were embarrassed by the bad editing, and somehow felt it was more embarrassing to admit the mistake happened on their watch, than to simply pretend that it was a controversial artistic choice they made on purpose - then they avoided making any further comment on the controversy, just hoping that with the passage of time it would fade from public memory without the need to give a clear answer. The second scenario is that Benioff and Weiss simply became honestly frightened that anything they said in response, i.e. "we never intended it as a rape scene", would be taken out of context and they would be accused of rape denial - in which case, apparently it didn't occur to them that while merely saying an explanation was no longer sufficient, re-editing and re-releasing the episode was still an option. Many critics were outright more upset and bewildered that the episode was not re-edited and re-released, and few if any said that re-editing it would be rape denial.
- 1 In the novels versus in the TV episode
- 2 Comments by Martin and the actors
- 3 Comments by director Alex Graves
- 4 Footage analysis
- 5 The Jaime/Cersei scene was subsequently ignored for the rest of Season 4
- 6 Benioff's comments at the Oxford Union on the eve of the Season 5 premiere
- 7 Why wasn't the scene simply re-edited and re-released?
- 8 What "really happened" in the TV show
- 9 References
In the novels versus in the TV episode
In the book version, Jaime first returns to King's Landing for the first time after Joffrey's death, so when he encounters Cersei in the sept is the first time they have seen each other in over a year, and they are overwhelmed by passion - explaining why they are both willing to have sex in front of their own son's corpse. Cersei's consent is much more explicit in the book version:
- "Hurry," she was whispering now, "quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime." Her hands helped guide him. "Yes," Cersei said as he thrust, "my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you're home now, you’re home." She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair." (A Storm of Swords, Jaime VII).
In the TV version, the only dialogue is:
- Jaime:"You're a hateful woman. Why have the gods made me love a hateful woman?"
- Cersei "Jaime, not here, please. Please."
- Cersei: "Stop it. Stop it. Stop. No. Stop it. Stop. Stop. Stop. It's not right. It's not right. It's not right."
- Jaime: "I don't care."
- Cersei: "Don't. Jaime, don't.
- Jaime: "I don't care. I don't care."
The camera doesn't specifically show Cersei embracing Jaime or kissing him back, and she never says "Yes!" or "Do me now, Jaime" as she does in the novel. At least as the TV scene presented it, Cersei seems to be half-heartedly saying, "No [we will be seen]", but eventually relents – but then the camera cuts away to the next scene too quickly, without really establishing that Cersei is indeed consenting to this.
Comments by Martin and the actors
Author George R.R. Martin is not free to openly criticize the HBO adaptation, but he did point out via his blog that "We never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection...If the show had retained some of Cersei's dialogue from the books, it might have left a somewhat different impression." Most importantly, he stated that Benioff and Weiss never discussed making such a change with him - meaning that it wasn't included in the "script outlines" that they submit to Martin. While Martin didn't review every finished script in the TV series, the showrunners have always discussed the general outline of each season with him and any major changes they intended to introduce. Implication of this is that had Benioff and Weiss intended to make such a major change as Jaime raping Cersei, they would have told Martin about it - and the fact that they did not is further evidence that they didn't intend it.
The only thing either Benioff or Weiss said about it in the week following the episode's airing was in the "Inside the Episode" featurette for "Breaker of Chains" that was released by HBO the same day that the episode aired. Benioff is the only person to comment on the scene, and only very briefly (neither Weiss, nor Martin, nor Graves, nor the actors make any other comments in the video). Benioff's exact words were: "It becomes a really kind of horrifying scene, because you see, obviously, Joffrey’s body right there, and you see that Cersei is resisting this. She’s saying no, and he’s forcing himself on her. So it was a really uncomfortable scene, and a tricky scene to shoot." Both TheMarySue.com and Vulture.com were aware of Benioff's line in the Inside the Episode video, and both expressed the view that it was so brief and vague that they weren't sure what he meant by it - when they were subsequently weighing it against interviews that the episode's director Alex Graves gave.
Otherwise, the cast and crew remained curiously silent on the whole matter, or only giving vague answers. In late April 2014, the week after the episode aired, both Coster-Waldau and Headey were asked about the scene in separate interviews, but gave only hesitant and nondistinct responses, seeming to not want to speak for the scriptwriters. TMS's editor concluded that Headey seemed hesitant to give a straightforward answer, as "it reads (and plays) as a woman who really doesn't want to land on either side of the fence."
In hindsight, it appears that they were only giving vague responses because they were afraid it would be inappropriate to make a public comment about it when showrunners Benioff and Weiss had not (no one considered Benioff's vague comments in the Inside the Episode video to be an explanation). In an interview on April 2, 2015, on the eve of the Season 5 premiere, fellow staff writer Bryan Cogman was asked about the scene (given that he is one of only four people in the writer's room who have access to and review the season scripts). Cogman considered that Benioff and Weiss still hadn't "given an answer" to the controversy at all, though he declined to comment further because he felt it would be inappropriate, as his superiors Benioff and Weiss had written the episode and scene. The exact exchange was:
- Question: The enormous, intense audience brings additional scrutiny, and the reaction can get very vociferous. I’m thinking of “that scene” from last season with Jaime and Cersei in the sept next to Joffrey’s body. Book purists felt the scene altered the character dynamic, people concerned primarily with social justice issues felt it excused sexual assault, and people parsed every word Dan, Dave, director Alex Graves and actors Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau said about it for what the scene was “really” doing. If you can speak to it specifically, what happened there?
- Cogman: "My bosses, the showrunners, haven’t publicly commented on it. So while there’s a lot I could say about it and the media’s reaction to it... I don’t feel it’s appropriate."
Apparently, the rest of the cast and crew were waiting ever since episode 4.3 "Breaker of Chains" aired for Benioff and Weiss to make some official explanation about the scene, and they continued waiting past the Season 4 finale into the months-long break between seasons. It is possible that some of them were anticipating the audio commentary track that Benioff and Weiss would make for the episode in the Season 4 Blu-ray set released in February 2015 (10 months after the episode aired, and 2 months before the Season 5 premiere). However, when Season 4 was released on Blu-ray months later, it was revealed that every episode except for "Breaker of Chains" had a commentary track - a very unusual and conspicuous situation, again as if the showrunners were making a very concerted effort to avoid discussing the sex scene at all.
While the rest of the cast and crew had avoided discussing the scene when even their bosses Benioff and Weiss had not, after Benioff and Weiss didn't make an expected Blu-ray audio commentary for the episode discussing the scene, and after so many months had passed, some of the cast and crew apparently decided that they had politely waited long enough, and started openly contradicting Benioff and Weiss about it. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) both eventually denied that they ever played this as a rape scene, and also denied that they ever received any instruction that it was a rape scene. This further implies that the script that Benioff and Weiss wrote contained no written instructions that it was a rape scene - the result of which is written proof that even Benioff and Weiss could never have intended for this to be a rape scene.
Eventually, in January 2015, both actors appeared in a Q&A panel at the FanX convention in Salt Lake City. When directly asked about this scene in an unprepared question, Coster-Waldau explained that when they were filming the scene, he thought the characters having an intimate moment next to their dead son's corpse is what would cause the outrage, and it never even occurred to either of them that the sex would be construed as controversial. This is the reason why the actors and writers pervasively made stray comments that it was a "tricky" scene to film and they had reservations about it - not because they thought it was a rape scene. Even book readers who acknowledge that it was consensual in the books still consider it somewhat disturbing that they had sex in front of their son's corpse.
The actors' exact words were:
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: "Maybe I was just being naive, but I never thought of it as rape, I thought of it as two people that had a long, very physical relationship and they were both in a very extreme emotional state and needed something that was expressed in that way. I didn't see it as rape."
- Lena Headey: "That sense of loss and not being able to stem your grief. Like Nick said, they've had this long history and it was a moment where she needed him, that's how I was playing it. The confusion was a just mother who had lost her son. We didn't set out for it to be taken as such [as rape], but I guess people see what they see."
Speaking again in early 2015 with Entertainment Weekly, on the set in Dubrovnik, Croatia during filming for Season 5, Headey again reiterated:
- "It’s that terrible thing as a woman—talking about something as horrendous as rape and dismissing it, which I’m not. But we never discussed it as that. It was a woman in grief for her dead child, and the father of the child—who happens to be her brother—who never really acknowledged the children is standing with her. We’ve all experienced grief. There’s a moment of wanting to fill a void, and that is often very visceral, physical. That, for me, is where she was at. There was an emotional block, and [her brother] was just a bit of a drug for her.”
Entertainment Weekly also spoke to Coster-Waldau about the scene while he was filming for Season 5 in Spain, and combined it with their report of Headey's comments. He also said:
- “I’ve spoken to a lot of people [privately] about this. I haven’t spoken to the people who got the most upset, because they were online. Most people I spoke to got from the scene what we were trying to show—a very complicated relationship, and two people in desperate need for each other. All these emotions going through them, it was never intended to be something where he forced— it wasn’t a rape, and it was never intended to be. But it’s one of those things where you can’t [publicly] say ‘it wasn’t rape,’ because then everybody goes, ‘How can you say it wasn’t rape?!’ But that was definitely not the intention.”
This apparently offers some insight into the attitude going around among the cast and crew, and the scriptwriters themselves: they somehow became convinced that admitting it was just an accident of bad camerawork and bad editing and not intended as a rape scene, would itself (paradoxically) be accused of being rape denial. In truth, many of these cited critics were more confused and upset about why the TV producers hadn't simply admitted this sooner, or taken steps to re-edit the scene.
Comments by director Alex Graves
Alex Graves was the director for the episode and the scene. He also confirmed that he was the editor, and had final cut on how the scene appeared, and there are no alternate or extended cuts of the scene.
In the week after "Breaker of Chains" aired, Graves gave three separate interviews - with HitFix.com, Vulture.com, and HollywoodReporter.com. The interviewers found that at times he made poor choices of words - i.e. that the scene was "consensual by the end" but not indicating if he meant the entire scene or just the sex act - but overall, Graves denied that he intended for this to be a rape scene, and denied that the writers ever instructed him to make it one.
In HitFix.com, Graves said that he didn't have any particularly in-depth discussion with the actors about their characters' motivations and they were going by the script: all of them thought (as Coster-Waldau said) that it was disturbing for Jaime and Cersei to be consensually having sex next to their son's corpse, so they avoided discussing it in any detail with each other. According to Graves the rehearsal consisted purely of a blocking rehearsal, i.e. basic stage movement directions.
Graves gave a lengthy and very revealing interview about the scene in Vulture.com:
- Question: "What kinds of things did you talk about with the showrunners in terms of how to play the sex scene between Jaime and Cersei, and why was it changed from how Martin had written it in the book?"
- Graves: "There wasn't a lot of talk about it, to be honest."
- Question: "There’s a lot of chatter about it online this morning. Have you read the books?"
- Graves: "I have read a lot of the books, but I didn’t read that scene because I wasn’t doing that scene; I was doing the scene our writers wrote."
- Question: "One of my colleagues suggested that the tweak, making Jaime the kind of person who might force himself on Cersei, might have happened to remind viewers that he’s not a morally upright guy, pouring out his heart to Brienne notwithstanding. Was that part of the decision to your knowledge?"
- Graves: "No. It’s a very, very complicated scene..It’s also setting up something that happens in the finale."
- Question: "You say it 'becomes consensual by the end.' I rewatched the scene this morning, and it ends with Cersei saying, “It’s not right, it’s not right,” and Jaime on top of her saying, “I don’t care. I don’t care.” It leaves some room for debate. Were you involved with cutting the scene? Was there a longer version of the scene that might have read more like they were both consenting?
- Graves: "It’s my cut of the scene. The consensual part of it was that she wraps her legs around him, and she’s holding on to the table, clearly not to escape but to get some grounding in what’s going on.-- And also, the other thing that I think is clear before they hit the ground is she starts to make out with him. The big things to us that were so important, and that hopefully were not missed, is that before he rips her undergarment, she's way into kissing him back. She’s kissing him aplenty."
Weighing these two interviews, TheMarySue.com concluded:
- "OK. So going by these two statements it could - could — be read as a case of Graves genuinely intending to film consensual sex but just screwing it up royally. He needed to get some outside eyes on that incredibly sensitive scene and ask their owners “Hey, just curious, you’re getting that Cersei’s consenting, right? No? Crap, back to the editing room.” It’s not like he walked into work that day thinking “I’m going to film one of the show’s fan-favorite characters raping his sister."
The week after the episode aired, Elio Garcia, owner of Westeros.org and co-author of the World of Ice and Fire sourcebook with Martin, appeared on Sky Atlantic's Thronecast to discuss it. He summed up the comments of Graves and others on the scene, saying:
- "It seems that what they wanted to convey is not what shows up on the screen in the end. There have been interviews with the director in particular, Alex Graves, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as well, where they said, they wanted to do something ambiguous, more ambiguous than what's in the novel, but they still wanted the ambiguity of, well, maybe this is how they're interacting, that it is forceful and its rough and its dark, but it's in the end a consensual relationship."
The Atlantic also surmised:
- "Given the responses by Graves and Coster-Waldau, it seems more likely that everyone involved somehow believed they’d constructed a scene that was more unpleasant than the book’s but still at least moderately ambiguous, rather than the not-at-all-ambiguous scene that viewers saw. How does a mistake like this occur? My best guess is that Benioff and Weiss indulged in their longstanding penchant for ramping up the sex and violence of their source material, and this time they did it so carelessly that even they didn't recognize where it had taken them.
As TheDailyBeast.com more bluntly put it: "The rape wasn't supposed to be a rape. It was supposed to look consensual. The filmmakers messed up."
The key points by Graves were:
- 1 - Graves wasn't basing the scene on any knowledge from the novels and was purely working on the script Benioff and Weiss gave him. He also never received separate verbal instruction/discussion from the writers that wasn't in the script, in fact they barely discussed it with him. Graves denies it was intended to be a rape scene, i.e. the script given to him by Benioff and Weiss must not have contained the word "rape" or instructions to that effect.
- 2 - Graves insists that there were set directions indicating consent: Cersei embracing Jaime, grabbing the table to steady herself, wrapping her legs around him, and passionately kissing him back (though the interviewer pointed out these weren't really visible in the finished cut of the scene).
- 3 - When asked if this was an attempt to portray Jaime as a morally grey character who sometimes does bad things, Graves flatly denied it (this is important because Benioff later directly claimed this).
- 4 - Graves admitted it was meant to parallel the much later scene seven episodes later in the Season 4 finale when Cersei advances on Jaime sexually in the White Sword Tower.
Alex Graves was one of the showrunners' favorite episode directors in Seasons 3 and 4 - they gave him solid praise for the two episodes he directed in Season 3, and then had him direct an unprecedented four out of ten episodes in Season 4. After the debacle caused by the Jaime/Cersei sex scene in episode 4.3 "Breaker of Chains", however, Graves was not asked to return to the series at all in Season 5 or Season 6. This might be pure coincidence, as other directors have left the show suddenly to work on other projects in the past - though there is some suspicion that behind closed doors there was a falling out between Graves and Benioff & Weiss, because it was Graves's final editing cut of the scene and poor filming of it that caused the controversy (though Benioff and Weiss didn't notice it in time to fix it before the episode aired).
Analyzing the footage of the scene, frame by frame, confirms Graves's earlier statements that he gave the actors set directions to indicate that Cersei was consenting to this sexual encounter:
In real life, a woman being raped or coerced into sex may still kiss back her attacker for fear that she might anger him if she doesn't (battered wives in abusive relationships, etc.); the fact alone that Headey is embracing Coster-Waldau to kiss him in these shots by itself does not disprove that this was intended as rape - but it does confirm director Alex Graves's specific claim that Headey leaning in for a kiss like this occurred (many critics missed it entirely), corroborating his claim about what the stage directions were.
These screenshots confirm the stage directions that the actors were performing were intended to portray consent: Lena Headey wouldn't be pulling Nikolaji Coster-Waldau closer to lean into a kiss if she was instructed (verbally or in the script) that her character was being raped. Graves even cited her kissing him back as meant to convey consent. However, poor camerawork and editing result in these set directions being barely visible in the finished cut of the scene without watching it in slow motion. Live audiences could not possibly have noticed them in the finished cut.
The Jaime/Cersei scene was subsequently ignored for the rest of Season 4
Multiple professional reviews and critics were confused that for the rest of Season 4, even in the next episode, Jaime and Cersei do not seem to act as if Jaime had raped her. They concluded that if it had been the writers' intention to portray this as a sexual assault, it was extremely incongruent that it is not reacted to as such in subsequent episodes. Instead, several reviewers took this as further evidence that this had never been the writers' intention in the first place, and that the impression that it was nonconsensual was just a result of poor camerawork and poor editing.
TheDailyBeast.com produced an article titled "Why We Should Pretend the ‘Game of Thrones’ Rape Scene Never Happened":
- "In short, despite the fact that virtually nothing onscreen suggested “giving in,” neither the director of the scene nor the two actors who played it seem to think that Jaime raped Cersei—and the story itself is continuing to chug along as if the rape never happened and Jaime is still a character we're supposed to root for."
- "The fear that was plaguing so many of us has been confirmed: Game of Thrones forgot about Jaime’s despicable rape scene. The show continued Jaime Lannister’s storyline as though he never laid an unwanted golden hand on his sister-lover, Cersei. The Kingslayer continued on his path of redemption...It was like the rape never even happened. It was as though the show didn’t take a cue from its previous sexual assault that, oddly enough, wasn’t a rape scene in the book. (What’s up with these showrunners forgetting to add in a line in these sex scenes that indicates consent? Facial expressions of terror do not indicate consent — a 'yes' does"
TheMarySue.com also concluded that not really referring to the scene again, instead of as a long and developed subplot, trivializes rape - if, in fact, it was ever their actual intention to portray it as a rape scene. In real life a woman would be traumatized by being raped, not act as if nothing had happened immediately afterwards. TheMarySue.com was also critical that even if they didn't intend it as a rape scene, ignoring all questions about the scene and simply hoping they would go away over time was very insensitive to the audience.
Benioff's comments at the Oxford Union on the eve of the Season 5 premiere
On March 20, 2015, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Kit Harington, and David Bradley appeared on a panel discussion at the Oxford Union, in anticipating of the premiere of Season 5 which was only three weeks away. The panel took place over 11 months after "Breaker of Chains" had aired containing the Jaime/Cersei sex scene - and 11 months after the firestorm of attention it received among critics and in the mass media, the time period when director Alex Graves and actors Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau had spoken about it in several interviews. In that entire 11 month period, Benioff and Weiss gave no public comment on the controversy to clearly state what their intent was.
During the Oxford Union panel's open Q&A section, however, they were publicly asked about the scene for the first time, at a live event. A young female audience member directly asked them about the scene - which she specifically described as "a rape scene" – and put forward two separate questions about it: first, why they had included it (what their intent was), and second, what sense it was supposed to make in the context of Jaime's overall storyarc. (Click this link for full video, if time stamp doesn't work skip ahead to 49 minutes, 15 seconds).
The question apparently took Benioff and Weiss by surprise, and they had no prepared answer. After a stunned silence, D.B. Weiss tried to defuse the tension in the room by sarcastically asking "Jon?", turning to John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), who was also at the panel (the joke being that Bradley wouldn't be in a position to know anything about it, and she was directly asking Benioff and Weiss).
David Benioff then spoke up, but for three minutes he gave an awkward, rambling response in which he often avoided the questions entirely by going off on unrelated tangents about how “the actors work really hard”, apparently stalling for time. Cutting out these tangents, the only thing that Benioff specifically said about writing the scene was:
- ”But you know, it felt to us, when we were writing it, like this was, this is something the character was going to do at that moment. And it's a, it's a horrible thing, to do, and, and at the same time, I think, you know…and in that particular scene, given what he had been through in the past, and his tortured relationship with his sister - this felt like something he would do."
Benioff did not "answer" the first question, he simply restated the question back at the audience member as an obvious stalling tactic: "we did it because we felt like it was something he would do". Then he simply finished, making no attempt to answer her second question at all: how this scene could possibly fit within Jaime's overall character arc, or why Jaime and Cersei don't seem to act like she was just raped in the next episode. The one way in which he did address this was by saying that:
- "I think part of the reason it was so hard for some people is because Jaime's had this kind of redemptive arc, and it feels like he's becoming a good guy, you know, and uh, and that's true, he did a lot of heroic things in previous seasons, and he saved Brienne, and all sorts of stuff. But we also can't remember that this is a guy who in the very first episode shoved a little boy out a window, you know. He's not a good guy, he's a very complex guy. He's not - and one of the things we loved about the books from the beginning, is that there are so many characters like this, that are not so easily aligned, you know, you can't put them in Dungeons & Dragons alignments of Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil, I don't know where you would align Jaime Lannister.”
First, Jaime threw Bran Stark out a window because if he didn't, Bran would have revealed that he was having an affair with his sister, and both of them would have been executed – this is not morally comparable to Jaime randomly raping his own sister. If anything, Jaime has been shown to be a character who is disgusted by rape, who went out of his way to save Brienne from it (and in the novels was horrified by the Mad King raping his own wife as he stood guard outside the door). Second, Benioff was unaware that director Alex Graves had previously been asked the same question, and specifically denied not only that it was rape, but that there was any intention to use sexual assault to portray Jaime as a morally grey character. Benioff's hasty, generic response directly contradicted what Graves said.
One question was answered during the panel: previously, it was unclear if Benioff and Weiss were even aware of the controversy surrounding how this scene was filmed, or if they were ignoring all professional critical reviews on general principle, out of fear that it might influence there work. Actually, Benioff went on to say how shocked he was when the week after the episode aired, the front page of The New York Times (which he noted is a paper of record in his country) carried a story about the scene. So far from ignoring the reaction to the scene, Benioff and Weiss were apparently quite startled and frightened by the response - further indicating that they might not have made any attempt to publicly deny that they intended to make it a rape scene, for fear that a media blitz would only cause further controversy, somehow accusing them of rape denial.
Notably, during his entire three minute response, Benioff seemed to actively avoid using the word "rape" at all - only referring to it with vague distancing language such as "that scene", "he did it", etc., further implying that he really didn't intend it as a rape scene but was overly cautious about how the media would react if he said anything definite.
Why wasn't the scene simply re-edited and re-released?
It is now clear why Benioff and Weiss did not simply issue a statement making it clear that they never intended this scene to be depicting rape. It is likely they feared they would be accused of denying that it greatly resembled rape and was perceived as such by many viewers.
What is very confusing is why the executive producers did not simply re-edit and re-release the scene, such as overdubbing Lena Headey's voice in so that off-camera Cersei is shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" as she did in the scene from the novels it is based on.
This would not be the first time that the production team redited the re-release of an episode because viewers were offended due to an unintentional filming error. In the Season 1 finale, "Fire and Blood", one of the heads on a spike next to Eddard Stark's head is actually a dummy head of U.S. President George George W. Bush in a wig. In the Blu-ray commentary, the writers stressed that this was not a political statement, but happened simply because the props team bought stock heads, and famous political figures are more likely to have dummies made based on them, and this is simply what was available. Their comments in the audio commentary began being criticized in the media, however, and enough viewers and critics were offended that HBO (apparently over the heads of Benioff and Weiss) later digitally altered the head in re-releases of the episode (in the next Blu-ray set and when it is re-aired through HBO and its streaming services), changing the shape of the chin so it doesn't look like Bush anymore. HBO released a statement to io9.com when they made the change, saying:
- "We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste. We made this clear to the executive producers of the series who apologized immediately for this inadvertent, careless mistake. We are sorry this happened and will have it removed from any future DVD production."
The most that can be discerned is that somehow, Benioff and Weiss became so afraid of being accused of rape denial, that they somehow became convinced that even re-editing the scene to make it overtly consensual, would somehow be seen as a "rape-denial" - that the original version seemed to be a rape scene, and as if they were trying to "cover it up". If anything, re-editing the scene in a re-release would be expunging and undoing the previous error, not an attempt to hide it.
What "really happened" in the TV show
In terms of what happened "in the TV continuity", as a persistent alternate fictional reality and not merely within the frame of the camera in a single scene, based on the intentions of the actors and director, Jaime did not rape Cersei in "Breaker of Chains".
Analysis of their comments and the footage indicates that Benioff and Weiss could not possibly have intended this to be a rape scene either, as there is no indication they ever gave instructions for the actors and director to play it as rape, either verbally or in their script. Unlike actors or directors, scriptwriters have tangible evidence of what they intend to convey in scenes, in the form of their actual script: if Benioff and Weiss had ever intended this as a rape scene, someone would be able to publicly produce a physical copy of the script for "Breaker of Chains" that contains the word "rape" in it (or just a photo of the single page in the script for this specific scene) - but to date, no one has. The fact that both the actors and director said they didn't consider it a "rape scene" nor did they play it as such also strongly indicates that the exact word "rape" couldn't have been present as a description in the actual script they were given.
Moreover, Benioff and Weiss remained extremely evasive about the topic for over a year and never gave a clear answer about it: the very fact that they have avoided and never given a coherent explanation of why they intentionally changed it to a rape scene - or how it could possibly fit within Jaime's planned storyarc the rest of the season - is a strong indication that it was never their intention at all. For that matter, they have never actually claimed that Jaime is actually supposed to be "raping" Cersei in the scene - when directly asked what their intent was with the scene, they have just attempted to bluff their way out of the question entirely by giving vague and noncommittal responses. Thus taking the position that "it wasn't meant to be a rape scene it is just poorly filmed" doesn't even contradict anything Benioff and Weiss ever said - they didn't want to be caught lying about it so instead they just avoided talking about it entirely.
Staff writer Bryan Cogman, while declining to comment, also stated there was much more he could say about it - again, if this was a major change Benioff and Weiss intended, they wouldn't be so extremely evasive about sharing their reasoning behind it. They also never gave any explanation of it to author and contributing scriptwriter George R.R. Martin.
Giving only vague or evasive comments about their intentions with how the scene was filmed served to mislead many viewers and critics into thinking it was an artistic choice - thereby deflecting the more widespread criticism and potential calls to re-edit and re-release the scene which would have arisen at the time if viewers and critics more widely understood that they never truly intended it as a rape scene, and it only carries this implication due to poor camerawork and editing which the showrunners failed to notice until it was too late.
Therefore, throughout the "Game of Thrones TV continuity" as documented in Game of Thrones Wiki, Jaime and Cersei were having disturbing, rough, angry sex next to their own son's corpse - but consensual sex.
It is unknown if HBO will ever acknowledge what really happened and then re-edit and re-release the scene, to fix the error.
- Not A Blog, George R.R. Martin, April 21st, 2014.
- TheMarySue.com, Lena Headey.
- FanX 2015 panel video, skip to time index 18 minutes for their specific comments, ending around the 20 minute mark.
- Oxford Union panel, March 20, 2015. If time skip does not work, go to 49 minutes 15 seconds.
- Den of Geek