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‘House of the Dragon’ Episode Four Director Wanted to Subvert the Male Gaze

Sex and the Game of Thrones franchise have a complex history. Most of the sex scenes in the show have been marred by sexual violence or such an exaggerated male gaze that it never felt sexy. House of the Dragon is attempting to correct that somewhat. This means a lot more consensual sex, equal opportunity nudity, female directors, and intimacy coordinators.

Clare Kilner, who directed episode 4, “King of the Narrow Sea,” breaks down the scene between Daemon and Rhaenyra in the brothel where Daemon attempts to give his niece an education about sex. Part of his plan is to shock and seduce her to get back at his brother’s slights. However, he cannot do that because she is excited about the idea of sex for pleasure.

“And he basically can’t handle not being in control,” Kilner says in HBO’s official Inside the Episode program on YouTube. “I think what it’s saying there is that young women want sex as much as young men.”

She goes on to talk about the orgy scene. “Directing scenes like that can be difficult, it’s a big responsibility, and it’s important to shoot it from the right point of view. Being a female director, I’ve grown up watching how male directors have directed sex scenes and, as a woman, I have to really think about how to shoot it because my go-to images are ones that I grew up with, which aren’t necessarily from a woman’s point of view.”

In terms of Rhaenyra’s sexual awakening, Kilner says that it was “really important for it to be a scene where people were equally enjoying themselves and freeing themselves from the constraints of the world that they’d been living in.”

I found this to be so interesting because we often talk about the “female gaze” and honestly, that is still developing because of this very fact. Male directors have been the ones that set the standard for what film and sex on film look like from the beginning, but this is starting to change. Plus, it was nice to see queer sex as well on screen.

When depicting this intimacy, it wasn’t just about the director finding the right lens, but also an intimacy coordinator to protect the young stars. Emily Carey was only seventeen when cast in the show as Alicent Hightower and is only nineteen years old now. She told Newsweek how she was scared of the sex scenes at first, but having someone there helped make it easier. She also explained that “intimacy” was defined on set as any scene that “felt intimate,” not just explicit sexual scenes.

“We have an intimacy coordinator who was amazing,” Carey told Newsweek. “Again, still being 17, the first scene that I read from the show was my sex scene and my intimacy scenes, that includes the scene where I’m bathing the king—anything that felt intimate was considered an intimacy scene, which I thought was great.”

Carey continued:

“But, it scared me, because at that point I still hadn’t met Paddy [Considine, who plays her husband], I didn’t know how much of a joy he was and how easy he was going to make [the scene], and all I saw was, you know, a 47-year-old man and me, I was a bit concerned.

“And having that outlet of the intimacy coordinator, to be able to talk everything through and not be shunned, or not feel awkward, or not feel like ‘Oh, this isn’t your job. I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable but can I ask you…’ it was never any of that, it was just that open dialogue.

“In the rehearsal room she was a massive help and on set she was a massive help. Yeah, it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.”

Of course, that would be intimidating for a teenager, and thankfully, there were people to make her feel protected and safe. See Sean Bean; sometimes, people don’t need “spontaneity.”

(via Jezebel, image: HBO)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.