George RR Martin defends sexual violence in Game of Thrones
Author George RR Martin has defended the inclusion of sexual violence in the HBO series Game of Thrones, claiming it would be “fundamentally false and dishonest” to omit the scenes.
Martin, whose book series A Song of Ice and Fire inspired the TV show, told the New York Times: “An artist has an obligation to tell the truth. My novels are epic fantasy, but they are inspired by and grounded in history.”
“Rape and violence have been a party of every war fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day,” he said.
Warning: Spoiler alert ahead
“To omit them from a narrative centred on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes in the books – that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves.”
The debate about sexual violence in Game of Thrones has been ongoing since the TV series began, but has been reignited in the current fourth season after popular character Jaime Lannister was shown forcing himself on his sister Cersei.
The scene was particularly controversial because it wasn’t portrayed as rape in Martin’s account.
But Martin, who has worked as TV writer since the early Eighties, said he understood the show’s creators would want to make their own artistic choices for the books to work in a different medium.
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“The graphic novels and television programmes are in the hands of others, who make their own artistic choices as to what sort of approach will work best in their respective mediums,” he said.
He added that many scenes in his books are intended to disturb the reader, and would apply the same principle to the TV show.
“Whatever might be happening in my books, I try to put the reader into the middle of it, rather than summarising the action,” he said.
“That requires vivid sensory detail…When the scene in question is a sex scene, some readers find that intensely uncomfortable. And that’s 10 times as true for scenes of sexual violence.
“But that is as it should be. Certain scenes are meant to be uncomfortable, disturbing, hard to read.”