Spoilers for Game of Thrones… if the writers haven’t already spoiled it enough.
Aside from being just horribly and needlessly misogynistic (Moffat has nothing on this. Nothing.) and basically relying on the assumption that Jaime can be redeemed despite being a rapist (presumably because Cersei is such a b*tch that its okay to rape her), it also perfectly illustrates something I was banging on about in a post about The Borgias a few years back.
It illustrates what happens when you purposefully remove consistent moral thinking from narrative texts just for the show-offy hell of it.
Now, I’m not a moralising finger-wagger (at least, I try not to be because it’s a deeply unattractive and narcissistic trait) but I do believe that morality is a vital part of fiction. Not in the sense that all stories should contain clear moral messages, or avowedly support a certain moral position, or anything like that, but rather in the sense that they should be aware that questions of justice and injustice are built into storytelling, at least in the Western tradition, and that it is literally impossible to tell a story in that tradition without raising moral questions, whether one wants to or not.
Such narratives depend, for their interest, on our moral engagement. (Would I do that? How would I respond to someone who did? That happened to me, I know how I felt. Would I react the way he did? Have I ever done anything that bad/good? Would I have the courage to intervene? Does anyone I know think like that? Etc.)
The adaptors of GoT have committed to the Jaime-gets-redeemed arc that is in the books. This clashes with their increasingly evident intent to make the GoT universe as brazenly nasty and cruel and violent and hateful and abusive as possible. I realise that its pretty nasty as GRRM wrote it, but the TV has repeatedly added to his nastiness quotient. The Jaime-redemption arc has now clashed with their rather adolescent – but also, sadly, rather widespread – intent to make the show into one without much of a moral compass, to show everyone as radically morally inconsistent.
Now, on one level – fine. People are not morally consistent. People all do bad things, even broadly good people. And shitty people sometimes do good things, etc etc etc. This is all obvious, or should be. And nobody wants simplistic, moralistic storylines which give us clear goodies and baddies and reassuringly makes the goodies perfect and the baddies irredeemable, and comfortingly has the goodies resoundingly and unambiguously triumphant. That sort of thing just makes for bad stories, at any level.
But. But but butty but butty but but but. Butsworth. Buttington Buttarama.
There is still such a thing as a yardstick to judge people by. It may be fuzzy and subjective, but its there. Even in stories. Perhaps especially in stories. It’s easier to judge people in stories, and it always will be, and you can’t deny or efface that, any more than you can deny that stories inherently raise questions of justice and injustice. Jaime is in the process of being ‘redeemed’. That’s the whole point of him at this stage. Despite being an awful person in many respects, he has better traits which are in the process of being awoken and fostered. Where does the rape fit into this? Nowhere. It obliviates it. It’s in there simply to shock – not in the simplictic sense (ie here’s a horrible scene of sexual violence – yeurch) but in the sense of showily undermining our sense of the morality of the character, and thus of the entire universe we’re watching. It makes for great telly according to the logic being employed (ie the war of all against all, conducted by people who are all utter shits) but rubbishes the story. The great shame about this lapse into moral illiteracy is that it makes the story less effective.
Well no, the great shame is that it once again puts loathsome misogyny on screen and bolsters rape culture, for no reason at all. But the damage done to the story is a part of it.