My Strong Objections To Game Of Thrones’ Jaime Choices

**This post contains spoilers for the entire Song of Ice and Fire series, and for the TV series up to S04e03** cj

I don’t have a problem with the continuous references, threats and instances of rape in A Song of Ice and Fire. It isn’t pleasant, and sometimes it’s incessant, but you look at wartorn or fraying countries past and present, and you’ll see infinite instances of rape used as a constant weapon against an entire female population. Rape in A Song of Ice and Fire has context. The victims of rape have context. Rape has consequences; the threat of it has consequences. Those consequences vary because the victims are also people, with their own context and character, and we see as many permutations and consequences as you would expect, just as we see so many permutations and consequences of murder. Rape is not there to ‘pretty up’ the novels. It is sometimes there to tell us things about men, or about women, or about the landscape. It is sometimes there because that is the horror of it all, that it would be there, that that is just how that world is. It’s not glossy, it’s not exciting, it isn’t sanitised and it isn’t fun to read, and there’s a lot of it. I don’t have a problem with that.

I have an increasing problem with the TV version of things, because it takes an unpleasant world and pretties it up. For starters, there’s the incessant naked women during plot points, never mind the sexualised violence against women where it either isn’t in the books, or is off-screen in the books. And then there’s the key relationships – Khal Drogo/Daenerys and Jaime/Cersei, most talked about – where the show has chosen to take away both content and context until all you have left are sequences that look like rape, sound like rape, are rape, where rapes do not occur in the books. The Khal Drogo/Daenerys one is cloudier, certainly difficult to discuss, and, presumably, to film, because in the book, Daenerys is a child and the consent of minors is not even the slightest consideration in that world, which, thankfully, it is in ours. I think that’s a lot harder to discuss, and I also have a lot less to say about it, save that, it bothers me intensely that they made what becomes a strong and powerful love story start out with the out-and-out rape of a crying girl.

But I have a lot to say about what on earth they’re doing with Jaime Lannister. I love Jaime. Is it because he’s blond? Probably. Except he isn’t, in the TV show. When I started watching, I’d assumed that might be the most of my problems, but, it transpires, I’ve almost forgotten that he isn’t blond, because the awesome parts of Jaime are all present, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is perfectly hot, perfectly witty and gloriously good at eye-rolling, and I am, after all, susceptible to the aesthetic appreciation of other things.

I love that scene in the book. I love Jaime and Cersei’s ridiculously twisted relationship – and then lack of it – in the books. Jaime’s utter adoration of Cersei prior to his return to King’s Landing, his unswaying belief that she is everything he could ever need, is beautiful and unusual and pretty interesting. The assumption that Cersei feels the same, until you get those Cersei chapters and discover that, no, the relationship for her is something different, is so subtle and clever, I was virtually applauding as I read. I have little squick for sibling incest, probably because I’m an only child with an utter inability to imagine having a sibling at all, so that might explain why I find it so easy to have such love for a relationship that’s fundamentally flawed. But even if you can’t get past that vital factor of their relations, I think it’s fairly hard to deny that the layers and depth of it are compelling and fascinating, and watching it all unravel is brilliant.

There’s very little of the context of their relationship in the TV series. Obviously, you lose all the POV stuff, obviously, but they managed to make Jaime and Brienne’s Excellent Adventure pretty damn good, so you know they can do it if they feel like it. And any relationship that’s first presented as a vehicle for throwing a small boy to his assumed death is going to be incredibly flawed.

There was some of this when Jaime’s escape from Catelyn was so unpleasantly twisted to have him murder an innocent person, simply to further his own ends. I hated that. Hated it. But I wondered if it might be to replace some other something elsewhere in the book and generate something…be a shortcut for the Lannisters having grudges against them elsewhere…it was a stupid change, to my mind, but I figured there might be a reason for it.

There is no reason for the Jaime/Cersei sequence in Joffrey’s tomb to be that different, though. The director had his say about it, and it’s just wrong. “Everything, ultimately, is a turn-on for them…” No, no it isn’t. And no part of that sequence is about having good sex. It’s about need and humanity and grief and relief and trauma and love and who they are together and separately, and you lose every single shred of that when you write that sequence as the most basic Rape 101 in the book.

My major concern is that that scene intentionally and directly plants the language and actions of rape into those characters’ mouths. It isn’t moderated, it has no context, it has no sense, it is explicit rape for no story purpose, it has no character purpose, it develops nothing, indeed, sets back all manner of things, and downright breaks still more things. There is no possible justification for it.

Some of the articles and posts I’ve read about this week’s episode have been excellent, all demonstrating not only anger, disappointment and sadness for the show’s decisions, but also a sense of exhausted confusion about why we’re seeing rape storylines everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, where they serve little purpose, and need not be used. It’s true that Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider prequel, which featured sexual violence as a character-creating point, generated some fantastic dialogue about the female role in video games, but it’s a shame that it took the retrofitting of one of the only leading female characters to get that going. It feels by this point as though TV has gone so far past that that it’s just ‘not another rape scene…’ now, and a proportion of the TV audience feels let down and confused by the decisions and simply switches off.

However, Game of Thrones is so vast, so epic, and has so much incredible stuff going for it, people aren’t going to switch off. There isn’t going to be a massive exodus from the show if it deviates from the books (because so much of the audience couldn’t care less about the books/hasn’t got time to read them, and there’s absolutely nothing at all wrong with that) and I get that there have to be changes to make the sprawling story work for TV.¬†

But they didn’t need to change that.

Am I upset because the fictional character I have a thing for was turned into a rapist? Yes. I don’t have to apologise, or be ashamed of this. I am upset by it. I’m angry about it. That’s okay. I am angry about the larger issues I’ve lightly mentioned like, y’know, the continued existence of rape as a weapon in this world, and the continued use of it in virtually every major show as a convenient storyline to get a female character from A to B. I have continuous issues with the devaluing of many of the female characters in the show, and I could equally have written a post about this from the angle that Cersei as a character deserves far, far better, and that the choices with this sequence vastly damage her character in the most ridiculous way. But that’s another blog, and there are plenty of other blogs being written from brilliant angles about this, so let me do this one.

Here’s the deal: I won’t try and lie and seem like a more worldly, clever commentator than I am: I’m pissed off because I derive considerable pleasure from being attracted to Jaime and the show made him something he isn’t for no reason, then tried to gloss over it and say it wasn’t what it is, then virtually tried to go down the line of “Oh well he’s really fucked up and so is she so it might look like rape to you but they’re superspecial and it’s different for them.” I’m pissed off because this show ought to be better than that, ought to be able to pick up on something that is so much more interesting than that, and should know better, and should just be able, from the incredible source material, to see something so much more interesting that they could have shown. What, having incestuous parents fucking next to their boy-king son’s corpse WASN’T SHOCKING ENOUGH? I don’t know how you work any more, television, I really don’t know what you’re after.

Part of Jaime’s point and story is that he is a) all misunderstood and stuff and b) going through a redemption process, largely to make up for (I think) not the Kingslaying thing, because that has unravelling to do as well, but, actually, for chucking Bran out of the window and paralysing half of him. The decision to not just ‘hamper’ his journey to potential redemption but to render it impossible is just plain character assassination. I don’t deserve that, as someone who enjoys the show. And you can’t take Jaime Lannister away from my appreciations like that. But you can really, really colour yourselves, your attitudes, your complete lack of understanding of a considerable percentage of your audience, and my enjoyment of the show as a whole. Believe it or not, I’d actually rather have spent this ranting time on Tumblr rewatching my favourite bits in .gif form. I don’t want to be angry with things that shouldn’t be there. And I’m sick of seeing rape used against female characters as an illustrative device as common as dramatic music or clever camera trickery.

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Woman: Why Does It Always Feel Like I’m Being One Wrong?

I follow and am friends with a lot of very wise and interesting women, most of whom have lengthy and strong opinions on many of the issues that crop up, both on and offline, which tax, penalise and threaten women around the world in various ways. I concede that a lot of my understanding of many of these issues comes from their commentary, from secondhand understanding of these issues, and from reading heightened and removed discussion and debate of them.

This is partly because I don’t spend a great deal of time ‘in the real world’. I am fortunate enough to have not experienced many of the issues that allegedly affect ‘all women’, to the extent that, many a time, I’ve wondered what’s wrong with me, ‘as a woman’, that I’ve not been sexually harrassed – although that’s nearly another post than this. My strongest experience of sexism is really that mentioned in another post here (I’m Sorry You’re Upset, and Other Ways to Patronise a Colleague) and for this, I’m grateful.

I am one of those women that finds it very difficult to call themselves a feminist, but then, I don’t like to call myself anything if I can possibly avoid it. I don’t enjoy the wealth of labels attached to gender or sexuality, and I like the consistency of my existence to be within me, rather than with a load of badges I’ve chosen to wear. Indeed, the struggle I’ve had with terming myself ‘a writer’ has shown me, in a much more pleasant and curious way, how unsure I am about saying that I am anything at all.

To be a feminist, to me, implies action, activity. Motion towards fixing a specific issue. I am not fixing anything. I will talk about things, but I probably won’t fight about them if I don’t think I can change the mind of the person arguing with me. I don’t have the experiences or understanding to campaign for anything much without people telling me I don’t count, and I find the reception to the majority of campaigns virtually sets the clock back every time. People always bring up the suffragettes at this point in any dialogue about the rights of women, and yes, I do love my right to vote, but that’s one right, just one, in one hundred years. That doesn’t mean they aren’t relevant, but I don’t think Emmeline Pankhurst is a flag to wave to end every conversation about whether or not protest works, any more than I enjoy a placatary response to a fuss about the most peculiar state of affairs that was the lack of any women on UK currency.

It feels like there’s a pattern of fuss, now. And just that, too – fuss. Or, worse, ‘outrage’. Real issues being lost in a sea of Tweeted capslock and summarised in Guardian articles and by on-the-pulse bloggers, everyone vying for the most pointed thing. And all it looks like, more and more, to all the people that you desperately wish would listen is one great extended coffee morning, or dessert round of the dinner party, where ‘the women’ get together and make a fuss about something and look at their husbands and say, “See, darling?” and they say, “Yes yes, quite…” and go off to have a cigar in the drawing room.

Don’t mistake me here – I’m all for the comments, the articles, the conversation, and, as I said at the beginning, that’s how I get most of my education on these things…but when you look at the way that the critical mass is received by those it’s aimed at, it is so quickly reduced to insignificance, or pasted over with misunderstanding platitudes, that it’s no better than an angry scrawl of A4 taped to a lamppost in the rain. It doesn’t matter how well you wrote it – people appear to have already decided what they think, as soon as they read words like ‘feminist’, ‘women’s rights’ etc.

And it isn’t just the men dismissing women I mean, either. Women dismissing each other, women feeling completely lost when it comes to things like ‘fourth wave feminism’, women who don’t have a full grounding in the history of society in every country going being completely dismissed, women who’ve only just had the lightning bolt of “Instead of saying to the victim, you shouldn’t have worn that, why not say to the rapist, you shouldn’t have done that?” put forward to them floundering with the realisation that they, too, have been a huge part of the problem without even realising it, women who haven’t 100% decided if they’re women or not wondering where/if they fit in, or even care…

…the thing is, men don’t have to be all the same. Men don’t have to hold a single set of beliefs, or act in a set way because of their gender identification. They don’t have to explain when they get angry, and if they get angry in a reasonably literate way, people will probably listen to, and engage with them without shouting back or dismissing them because they haven’t ticked xyz boxes with their life/heritage/experiences.

Groups of women dismiss other groups of women with mass vehemence and unpleasantry, and are surprised when they receive the same treatment. Women who take a stand and suggest a solution, a plan of action, a campaign, are often villified by other women for not having done it right, for not solving everything for everyone at once, for not representing ‘women’ right.

Maybe we stop expecting all women to represent all other women. It’d be nice to look at each thing in itself, regardless of its originator, without profiling to the end of the world and back the woman who ‘dared’ to take a stand. It is shocking, disgusting, and all the terrible things that women who, by virtue of being female, attract the levels of abuse seen publicly over the last week, and it is excellent that the law was adhered to and, hopefully, has an effect, but the mass of noise around the outcome of this situation looks so very much like nothing learned, one step forwards, two back, talking about the process and not the problem, spending so long in outrage and being so frustrated that you can’t even work out where in this horribly tangled screw-up of society to start unpicking the problems. Women who’ve picked up a thread and tried to do something, with the sum total of their experiences and understanding, find themselves slated because it wasn’t the ‘right’ thing, because goodness, loud woman who thinks she’s all that, don’t you know that you should just shut up and stop making us all look bad, omg, remember that time you said this and this and you’re such a terrible woman, etc…

…the amount of time spent shouting and criticising and reporting on the shouting and criticism of women by other women, and the whole sorry lot of it being either gently patronised, completely disregarded, or out-and-out slammed by everyone else just doesn’t seem to move the conversation forwards, to expand understanding, or to get much done. Either we get half-arsed quick fixes that don’t do anything or come from enlightenment, or we tie that knotty mass of issues even tighter.

Worst of all, and, I think, the point I want to make, the pattern of issue-awareness-outrage-attempted solution-personal attacks-next issue feels so familiar, so regular, that it starts to look the same, to become too much, to be too easy to disregard because we saw it last week.

I don’t think this post is particularly eloquent or sensible, and I worry it doesn’t make a lot of the points I wanted to set out clear, but, I think, one of the things I want to say is that I don’t want the fear of not being the 100% Perfect Woman for all other women to stop me from at least trying to get some of my knotted mass of issues out of my head and into the world, because, when so much of what you see and read around you is about something that everyone thinks ought to also pertain to you ‘as a woman’, it’s difficult when you don’t understand it, don’t have a view on it, or can’t find the point of it. I realise I’ve started a lot here and worked through very little, but maybe I’ll make this a starting point and come back to it in future.

The thing I think I’ll end with is, I see nearly everyone’s point, and I wish equality was normal, but it isn’t, so where’s the beginning of the thread? Where’s the starting point where all women are the same? Is there one? And if there isn’t, can we all stop looking for it and try solving the issues we can solve, or give our own experiences to, without having to sign up for an agenda, or to represent everything and every woman?

“I’m Sorry You’re Upset” and other ways to patronise a colleague

I’m quite physical with my moods and feelings. I quite literally raise the temperature in a room by two degrees the moment I become irritated with the way a conversation is going. I don’t make unusual levels of effort to contain my facial expressions or moderate my body language, because, well, I’m busy thinking about the thing that’s provoking such a physical reaction, and I figure that it’s all part and parcel of human communication, seeing how someone feels about something, as much as discussing it and fixing it.

However. The problem I have is that, when things around me are difficult or not working, people treat me as if I were the only one experiencing this, as if the actual issue was my emotion, or feeling, or discomfort, rather than the problem itself.

Some of me wonders if this is because I’m a girl who, whilst not quite in manic-pixie-dream-girl land (I’m simply not skinny enough to take the lead in an emo-romantic comedy, for starters), is obviously a bit unusual, quite possibly has silly hair and ‘immature’ clothing on. Perhaps I don’t project ‘stereotypical businesswoman’. I understand that feelings are difficult, that it’s human nature to want to stop someone experiencing negative emotions from doing so, but, especially when we’re in a business situation, rather than a personal one, I’m tired of people asking me if I just need to ‘take a break’ or if I’m ‘a bit tired’.

No. Or perhaps, yes. It doesn’t matter. It isn’t about what I’m actually feeling. It’s about the fact that there is a clear problem, which needs to be fixed. This happens to me a lot, usually when I try to, quietly, professionally, sensibly, fix something. And when I talk about being emotional, I’m not talking about being in floods of tears, being incomprehensible, or being hysterical, simply about being visibly pissed off or even just explaining that you’re uncomfortable with/unable to work amidst a state of affairs.

And this is where it seems to get wider, and how I do or don’t look is maybe not as relevant as I’ve wondered. I’ve talked about this with a number of friends, all of whom are far more professional and experienced than I am, and they’ve all got experiences that match. Times when you’re visibly experiencing an emotion as a result of a problem, and colleagues/bosses choose to focus on your emotional response, rather than the problem itself.

There’s little more irritating than being patted on the head/back/arm and told to go and get a coffee when you genuinely need to address an issue about computer systems or server backup tapes or Jeff in the post room or whatever. That look of concern/understanding/fear that says, “I can see you’re in strife and all I want is to get the hell out of this conversation ASAP” but disregards everything that would actually get them out of that conversation quickly and effectively and, eh, cease the negative emotion! Namely: recognising and resolving the problem.

I’m not sure if this is an exclusively female problem, so don’t let me be reductionist here. I’ve also had this experience of having actual, business problems reduced to my personal emotional problems from both male colleagues, and male and female bosses in the past, so there’s that. I do think, though, that there is a level of perfectly normal emotion in younger women that is treated as needy and out of place, rather than symptomatic of an actual, fixable issue. If I think of male colleagues experiencing frustration with a clear issue, say, infinite misdirected telephone calls, and their equally tangible and emotional responses, it’s laughable to imagine the boss coming up to them and gently placing a hand on their shoulder and asking them if everything’s okay at home.

I’m not saying that there aren’t times at which it’s appropriate to be compassionate or kind in the workplace, and I realise that this sounds rather like I’m complaining about an abundance of that, which is unfortunate, but when you’re trying to do your job properly and the environment lets you down in an obvious, fixable way, the fact that I’ve been driven to a place of emotion does not mean that I am not capable of continuing to be my workplace self and sorting out that problem. Telling me you’re sorry is fine, but I don’t need an apology from someone whose fault it is not; I need an issue fixing. Asking me if I’m okay is a peculiar response to my need to have access to my email.

I’m always wary of talking about anything as common to any group of anyone, but I’m curious as to whether more people understand what I’m talking about.