Game of Thrones features rich costumes and storytelling, but those aren’t the only things the hit HBO series is known for. Violence is also a key component on the series, with many characters killed off in intense and gruesome ways and many women facing brutal misogyny in their daily lives. One of the characters who was cruel toward women before he faced an untimely end himself was Joffrey Baratheon, and now the actor who plays him, Jack Gleeson, is speaking out about why he thinks the brutal scenes are necessary on HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Obviously, as a 23-year-old man, I can never put myself into the mindset of a woman who has been sexually assaulted, but I think that sometimes you have to represent awful things happening onscreen even if they’re for entertainment because you have to expose the brutality of them, because the chances are you’re not going to see that anywhere. So there’s a chance it engages some kind of empathy but it is a gray area. It might be very traumatic and stressful to watch those scenes.
It’s interesting that Gleeson is touching on this issue specifically, as he was one of the most violent, abusive and downright scary characters on the series before he was killed off during Season 4 after drinking some poisoned wine out of a goblet. Despite the fact that he terrorized Sansa and killed prostitutes with crossbows, he was terrible at playing the political game in King’s Landing, and it ultimately led to his undoing (and a really uncomfortable death scene). Still, it would probably be hard to film all of those heart-rending scenes without having some context about what they do within the entertainment landscape.
Then again, Gleeson’s perspective doesn’t come from having watched the series himself; rather, it comes from simply filming the drama and knowing the content involved. He also told The Daily Beast that he doesn’t actually watch episodes of the popular fantasy series.
Not really—sometimes I catch clips,” he said, laughing. “You know the willing suspension of disbelief, it’s kind of hard to suspend, because you kind of know that the sets aren’t really real, and you kind of know that the actors aren’t really the characters—obviously people know that anyway, but you’re able to convince yourself more when you haven’t actually seen the thing in real life. So, I find it hard to watch.
I think we can all agree that Game of Thrones is violent, but whether all the violence is necessary is certainly open to interpretation. It’s not as if Game of Thrones is the only series dealing with the issue of violence on television as it heads into Season 6, though. Recently, Criminal Minds actor Joe Mantegna also spoke out about the violence his show portrays and whether or not it is fitting for the TV landscape. The good news? If you ever feel a show is getting too violent, it’s very easy to just switch channels.