A top HBO executive has defended the often extreme scenes of sex, violence and rape in Game of Thrones, arguing that his job is not to police “how many breasts there are on a show”.
The global hit show is known for airing graphic scenes for which has been criticized but Michael Lombardo, president of programming at HBO, said the writers have always toed the line of remaining authentic to the source books.
“I personally don’t see myself as a libertine,” said Lombardo, speaking at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival. “I don’t think [graphic scenes] have ever been without any purpose. Dan [Weiss] and Dave [Benioff] are two very sober, thoughtful men. They have books as a map. Which involve wars, violence, sex. We have certainly not given them an edict or a note that they need to tone down the sexual content in the show.”
The level of violence and graphic scenes in the show has raised debate within the vast community of fans. A recently aired rape scene was widely discussed in the media, sparking a storm of criticism and debate about sexual violence.
The scene involved the character of Jaime Lannister raping his twin sister, Cerise, which critics said was a gratuitous departure from George RR Martin’s books, where they have consensual sex.
“I appreciate there was some controversy and it generated a conversation about what consensual sex is and isn’t,”Lombardo said. “People responsible for programming have two responsibilities. To be responsible, not to have sex and violence that’s gratuitous. That is certainly not who we are. At the same time we don’t want to be a censor that inhibits the authentic organic creative process by policing how many breasts should be on a show.”
Lombardo pointed out that Martin was surprised by the “push back” in the media – critics included the New York Times and The Atlantic, which labelled it an appalling mistake – and said that the author did not believe the scene was taken out of context.
Lombardo said that HBO was a responsible broadcaster but added that as a pay-TV service it is an adult channel with more freedom than free-to-air broadcasters.
“It is an adult service,” he said. “Our subscribers pay a fee for uncensored shows. My job is to be in business with responsible creative forces. And if I am doing that I trust their decisions about what is appropriate for the character or not. And I feel we made the right choice with Dan and Dave and they continue to try to be responsible.
“As long as I feel that [violence] isn’t the reason [people] are watching the show, that it isn’t a show trying to attract viewers with sex and violence, I am not going to play police