Sara Hess has clarified that the new fantasy series will instead focus on "the violence against women that is inherent in a patriarchal system."
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There's been plenty of speculation about what exactly will go down in HBO's highly anticipated Game of Thrones sequel series, House of the Dragon. (If you haven't read EW's in-depth cover story yet, you can find some of the answers there.) One particularly important question is how, or if, the show will depict explicit sexual violence.

After remarks on the subject made by co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik — who directed many of Thrones' most acclaimed episodes — rang some alarms, House of the Dragon executive producer Sara Hess is correcting the record.

While Game of Thrones was sometimes controversial for how it portrayed sexual violence, Sapochnik said in a recent Hollywood Reporter cover story that, by contrast, House of the Dragon's approach to it is done "carefully, thoughtfully, and [we] don't shy away from it."

He added, "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."

House of The Dragon
Emma D'Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen struggles with Olivia Cooke's Alicent Hightower in HBO's 'House of the Dragon.'
| Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

The quote was in the context of a discussion about how the civil war at the center of the show is kicked off because "the patriarchy would rather destroy itself than see a woman on the throne." It came right after another quote from Sapochnik about how in a medieval fantasy setting, childbirth is itself a violent, possibly fatal experience. These are all obstacles the series' lead female protagonists — Lady Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) — have to contend with in order to make headway in a world so oppressively dominated by male kings and lords.

But the quote reminded some readers of the heated controversies surrounding Game of Thrones' use of sexual violence, and left them wondering if House of the Dragon would also present scenes that to them felt gratuitous. In response, Hess had made it clear that House of the Dragon's treatment of the theme will not be as visceral.

"I'd like to clarify that we do not depict sexual violence in the show," the producer said in a new interview with Vanity Fair. "We handle one instance off-screen, and instead show the aftermath and impact on the victim and the mother of the perpetrator."

She 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."

One sexual encounter in Game of Thrones between Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his sister and lover Cersei (Lena Headey) was played more as assault in the show rather than consensually, as it was described in the books (though Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin weighed in to say the changes made sense considering the characters' different circumstances in the adaptation versus in his original novel).

Most infamously, lead Game of Thrones character Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) was raped by her evil husband Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) on their wedding night, leading to much outcry from fans.

Writer and producer Bryan Cogman, however, has stood by the show's take on the matter, saying, "We made the decision to not shy away from what would realistically happen on that wedding night with these two characters, and the reality of the situation, and the reality of this particular world."

Cogman added that the decision to present the rape's impact on horrified onlooker Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) — which also sparked criticism — was about "being respectful to Sophie." Turner, for her part, told EW at the time that she "loved" the "daunting" scene.

House of the Dragon premieres Aug. 21. Read Hess' full Vanity Fair interview here, and stay tuned to EW for more House of the Dragon coverage.

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House of the Dragon

A Game of Thrones prequel focusing on the dragon-riding Targaryens.

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