Here are a few things that characterize Game Of Thrones: dragons, political infighting, the Iron Throne itself, and of course, graphic sexual violence against women. The latter tends to be hand-waved away because the series is based on real medieval times, which seems a dubious reason to keep traumatizing Sophie Turner like that.
Given that it has all the other GOT hallmarks, it was not a surprise to hear that House Of The Dragon would include the sexual violence, too. Misogyny is actually baked into the premise of the show, as the trailer really hammers home that “No queen has ever sat the Iron Throne.”
In a Hollywood Reporter cover story published July 20, co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik claimed the writers were coming at this aspect from a fuck-the-patriarchy feminist angle, but they weren’t going to “shy away from” sexual violence. “If anything, we’re going to shine a light on that aspect. You can’t ignore the violence that was perpetrated on women by men in that time,” he says, referring to a fantasy setting that some guy made up in his own head. “It shouldn’t be downplayed and it shouldn’t be glorified.”
Now, writer and executive producer Sarah Hess is walking Sapochnik’s words back a bit in a statement to Vanity Fair. “I’d like to clarify that we do not depict sexual violence in the show. We handle one instance off-screen, and instead show the aftermath and impact on the victim and the mother of the perpetrator,” she says. “I think what our show does, and what I’m proud of, is that we choose to focus on the violence against women that is inherent in a patriarchal system.”
Off-screen violence is an improvement, at least, and probably healthier for the actors who have to depict these things. As a plot point, though, it still requires an incredible amount of care to feel earned and not exploitative. “In general, depicting sexual violence is tricky,” Hess tells VF, “and I think the ways we think about it as writers and creators are unique to our particular stories.”