Matt Smith and Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon (2022) as Targ trash

‘House of the Dragon’ Creators Promise No Explicit Sexual Violence in Series

While HBO’s Game of Thrones was a global juggernaut of a series, it was not without its criticisms. And chief among them was the show’s reliance on graphic sexual violence. Season after season, viewers were exposed to graphic rape scenes, to the point that we as a website stopped covering the show. So when House of the Dragon was greenlit to series, we were naturally hesitant to watch and review the series.

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Our concerns grew after co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik told The Hollywood Reporter that the series would still feature sexual violence as a plot point, saying they “carefully, thoughtfully and [we] don’t shy away from it. 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. It shouldn’t be downplayed and it shouldn’t be glorified.” It’s disappointing, especially considering that as a fantasy series, House of the Dragon never existed in any time. Apparently you can fill a story with dragons and sorcerers, but you can’t imagine a world in which men don’t rape women?

Writer and producer Sara Hess clarified the show’s position on sexual violence in an interview with Vanity Fair. She said, “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. Hess continued, “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.”

She added, “There are many ‘historical’ or history-based shows that romanticize powerful men in sexual/marriage relationships with women who were actually not of an age to consent, even if they were ‘willing.’ We put that onscreen, and we don’t shy away from the fact that our female leads in the first half of the show are coerced and manipulated into doing the will of adult men. This is done not necessarily by those we would define as rapists or abusers, but often by generally well-meaning men who are unable to see that what they are doing is traumatic and oppressive, because the system that they all live in normalizes it. It’s less obvious than rape but just as insidious, though in a different way.”

It’s an important distinction to address sexual violence without explicitly depicting it. And it’s a decision that is likely thanks to the women writers on staff, of which Game of Thrones had nearly none. Over the course of 73 GOT episodes, women (Jane Espenson and Vanessa Taylor) were credited as writing on 4 of them. And the series only had one woman director (Michelle MacLaren) who directed 4 episodes. In contrast, House of the Dragon features a writers room that is nearly half women, and two female directors directing four episodes in the first season.

House of the Dragon debuts August 21 on HBO.

(via Vanity Fair, featured image: HBO)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.