In Defense of Game of Thrones' Sex

It's no shock that some people—including at least one of the fine folks at Vanity Fair—have a problem with the sex in Game of Thrones. Anytime a bare tit falls (or is forced) from a lass' blouse or a rhythmic thwack thwack thwack is heard, a thousand proper ladies will spit out their tea and cover their children's eyes. Some viewers are down with the freaky-deaky, some aren't.

But I've said it before and I'll say it again: The sex is absolutely necessary to the story so far, and the people who are complaining about it are focusing solely on the act and missing its importance to the characters and the setting of the series.

In Sunday's episode, we saw young princess Daenerys being taken by her barbarian husband Khal Drogo, and heard the clapping sound of flesh on flesh. Daenerys was similarly handled in the series premiere, on her wedding night (though we didn't actually see as much)—which of course happened after she was treated like a hunk of meat by her own brother, who fondled her and instructed her to show of her newly developed woman's body.

I'm hesitant to use the words "gratuitous" or "explicit" when describing Game of Thrones' sex acts because I hardly think they qualify as such (if you want to see something truly explicit, you're only one "Safe Search Off" Google query and a few clicks away). In Sunday's second-episode scene between Dany and Khal, the focus was not on the couple, but on Dany. And on a specific part of Dany: her eyes. As things progressed, the camera didn't pull out (ahem) to emphasize the sex; it zoomed in to highlight the terror on Dany's face.

If you got off on that scene, you have your own issues. The intent was to make you feel uncomfortable, because Dany was uncomfortable. It gave viewers an opportunity to connect with her character, to feel her pain. Great character arcs often involve someone overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and transforming a horrible situation into a happy one. And that's where Dany is headed. Indeed, we've already got some payoff to prove it: Later in Sunday's episode, Dany took control of her situation, so to speak, and the result was both romantic and empowering for her.

In Episode 1, we first met the dwarf Tyrion—one of the series' richest characters—while he was being fellated. Again, necessary. Tyrion, because of his small stature, has a long way to go to prove he's a force to be reckoned with. And what better way to show that he's every bit as manly as anyone else than to show he has a "normal" man's sexual appetite and knows how to satisfy it?

Let's keep going: Had Bran overheard Jaime and Cersei talking about what a grand ol' animalistic time they'd just had, the story would have suffered. But a 10-year-old boy stumbling upon them while they were in the middle of doing the deed? There's no way to misconstrue what was happening, so the series didn't have to pussyfoot around the matter. Again, essential.

From the show's first two episodes, the only scene I can think of that could be considered gratuitous is the one in which Dany's handmaiden taught her how to please a man. Though it didn't involve nudity, there was some female-on-female straddling. But I've never been to a pajama-party sleepover; maybe this kind of stuff really happens.

And if you go a step further and compare Game of Thrones' sex scenes to those in True Blood, GOT's look positively tame. Was there a takeaway from seeing Sookie and Bill rubbing blood all over their naked bodies in the shower? No. It was awesome, but no. There's nothing wrong with True Blood's approach—we're all adults here—but it's not fair to call out Game of Thrones' sex scenes as gratuitous when True Blood's are far more over-the-top.

Perhaps True Blood gets away with more because vampires are hyper-sexualized. I suspect a lot of the shock over the sex in Game of Thrones has to do with the show being labeled a fantasy series. Mainstream society's idea of fantasy likely involves a bunch of asexual hobbits jabbering on about The Shire, with no concern for the tools in their pants. But Game of Thrones is, first and foremost, about the lengths to which humans will go for power; fantasy comes in a distant second.

The sex in Game of Thrones is absolutely necessary. No, Vanity Fair, the show is not "veering into porn-parody territory." The sex helps establish the series' universe, its characters, and especially its power dynamics. While men carry big blades and slit each other's throats on their way to the throne, the women stake their claims to power between their legs. And the latter may prove mightier than the sword.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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May 01, 2013
I don't think anyone realizes how gratuitous the tv show's sex scenes are until they read the book. The sex in the book serves some purpose in establishing the storyline or the setting. Also, importantly, GRRM is pretty clear in what consent is. For example, in the tv show, we see Danny's "honeymoon" with Drogo, where she is basically raped and then later in the show he's her moon and stars. However, in the book, Drogo does not have sex with Danny without her expressed consent the first time. Also, the tv show uses many scenes with Tyrion to provide endless fanservice with "whores." I've noticed a whole bunch of scenes in Season Two where they showcase nude women with men, who by the way are characters with lines, but the women just sit there like decorations. (Also, all the actors, male and female, look quite uncomfortable, esp. watch Bronn scenes.) Plus, a lot of sex scenes are doggystyle--Danny to Cersi to Ros--seriously wtf? (While the same scenes in the books, sans Ros who is not a character, are much more graphic and emotional on varying degrees).
In the book, GRRM shows (not tells) the misogyny and female degradation of the medieval era, while the show uses that as an excuse to titillate, mostly male, viewers. I don't think anyone is upset that they show breasts on this show, it's just HOW they do it is the problem (after all, who doesn't like to see sex on screen, given that it's sensibly done?). Come Season 3, it's only worse. They've introduced an absolutely pointless storyline, only used as a reason to show some skin.
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Feb 07, 2012
So obviously I'm commenting late on this article, but I just began watching GoT after I saw the SAG awards and just wanted to say this article is so well-written, and makes its point in such an eloquent way. I personally have no problem with sex in tv or movies but esp here it's necessary- even the scene between Dany and Doreah. It shows the lengths Dany will go to connect with and please her husband. It's a turning point in their relationship, and the story as well. Sex is a powerful weapon for women in this society, and it's important to show the differences between the way Daenerys, Cersei, and Catelyn all use sex to influence the men in their lives, and through that, their positions as well. Anyone who takes issue with it is likely a prude and would do well to go watch ABC Family or something of the sort. So tiresome to hear complaints, esp in regards to a series such as GoT, in which the sex is, IMHO, quite mild.
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May 01, 2013
I think this comment shows just how WORNGLY GoT sex scenes play on its male viwers minds. ("Sex is a powerful weapon for women in this society" LOL)
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Jan 07, 2012
Firstly we're talking about the tv series not the book - it's not a compare and contrast exercise. Apparently there are plenty of differences between the two - that is par for the course.

Secondly, I think it is more than a little unsettling that nobody seems to blink an eyelid at graphic beheading, disembowelling, etc., but at the first glimpse of breast or intercourse (nowhere NEAR as graphic as the violence) people start frothing at the mouth.

If it offends you shut the hell up and stop watching and let the adults enjoy one of the best tv series ever.
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Jun 06, 2011
A lot of the sex scenes in the series are not even in the book, and the book surely didn't suffer for it! The only ones that are, are the scenes with Danaerys & Viserys then Khal Drogo - the rest is just the usual HBO pandering to mass audience appeal,and everyone knows sex sells to the masses, even if it isn't necessary. I for one could do without all of that and as CAYTE said it only steal airtime from plot development. What does having two prostitutes engage in TEN minutes of lesbian sex add (apart from appealing to teenaged boy wet dreams) especially as neither are even proper characters in the book or series? Littlefinger could've had his monologue (something which was added to cut corners as it isn't in the book) in almost any private situation. Just the standard formula of slipping sex in whether it belongs or not to boost ratings. There is nothing in the book to insinuate Robert's brother Renly was gay either except him always dressing neat and he was a pretty good fighter/knight, not the wallflower in the show either! This aside it is a decent series and that is because it's based on a great set of novels. Episode 8 was the best to date and apart from a 2 second penis shot had no sex and didn't need any did it?
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Jun 02, 2011
i'm just waiting for Ned and Catelyn's sex scene.
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May 30, 2011
what a crock! As someone who has read the books let me let you in on a little secret - the only sex in the book that is necessary to drive the storyline is Jaime & Cersei, Drogo & Dani. Not Theon, not completely made up characters like Ros. For those who have read the book, the exception taken to all the OTT sex scenes in the series, is the departure from the book's storyline - taking precious air time from the actual storyline to add pointless extras for ratings.
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May 02, 2011
ONE OF MY FAVORITE SHOWS...hott women,tuff guys,descent story,warrior and kings tale,the women are basicly sluts n whores ( just like the real life).LOVE HOW MEN DOMINATE THE WORLD N WOMEN..we run this world,and women lay in it ...we just move on to the next one,like this show...luv it..oh yea THAT PRETTY WHITE HAIR CHIC IS SOO DAMN HOTT,another reason to watch to see how and which way she'll be fu??ed again
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May 02, 2011
This strange need to defend the sex on this show over and over are just as laughable as the people who are moaning about them being there in the first place. Both sides of this argument make way too big a deal of it, imho.
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May 02, 2011
Agree whole-heartedly; anyone who has problem with the scenes in this show merely based on how the sex is portrayed are saying a lot about themselves, and I suggest they hope for a Victorian drama next (where everyone is just miraculously born and chair legs are considered vain!). Clearly, as you could see in the second episode, sex, and how it was been portrayed, was for the woman about power play in the end (and with the one-on-one straddling lesson, of course). I agree as such that the discomfort anyone felt over the scene(s) Dany simply means the director was very successful in conveying his message, and the contents of the books (I'm assuming) as to how she really felt.
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May 01, 2011
This show doesn't need defending as it is on a pay channel, I enjoy it as much as I enjoy other period series such as "Spartacus", "Camelot", and "The Borgias" They tell their well written stories in an adult manner for adult viewers and I am appreciative of their efforts.
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Feb 15, 2012
so because you've paid for it ..and the sex is willing to Go to the edge (mainly for a ratings boost, the more of the distraction needed .the weaker the storyline this is historical fact)..why not just support soft-core pornography??.If you look at all the sex scenes on channels like HBO or Showtime ..they are essentially soft core ..by nature .this is what i think vanity fair had issues with .while i dont have a problem with sex . problem is putting emphasis on it ..No matter how much it is a part of any story ..Sex is as important as showing someone take a shit or pick their nose.plain and simple..ive seen some of the stuff .with all do respect half of it .isn't tasteless its pointless ..and long ..Orson wells said it "the two things that shouldnt be made real on film are praying and sex"...Once again ..I understand its a paid channel..but how far is to far?...Most of the sex is made graphic for ratings purposes ..so even when the current graphic element of sex in paid for channels .becomes dull and audiences start to lose interest.Forceing the networks to become even more explict .where what your watching is porn with a decent plotline ..Are you going to come out in defense then?.....



Nudity is ok. i think we've gotten to a point where we should except Male and female nudity .as being the human beings that we are ..Sex should also be exceptable ..The line needs to be drawn though between legitimate entertainment and pornography..there is nothing wrong with pornography .soft-medium-hard..just remember it has it's place.it should be kept that way ..when legitimate programming resembles it in anyway ..it should no longer be considered legitimate .If thats what people are willing to except ..Then stead of defending legitimate programming ..start defending pornstars like sasha grey wanting to go legit ..its only fair
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Apr 29, 2011
Vanity Fair is a hypocrite...anyone remember that Miley Cyrus photoshoot scandal...?
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Apr 29, 2011
I find it rather a stupid title: "In Defense of Game of Thrones' Sex". Defend? From who? What for? The show is very good indeed. If someone does not like the show, let them not watch it any more.
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Apr 28, 2011
I am surprised they waited for two episodes to be aired before this article was written. I too feel that the sex on this show is to the driuve the story forward, and character development. When that stops being the case, I'll say something different but that's how it is for now. Great article Tim!
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Apr 28, 2011
finished watching Spartacus - Gods of the Arena, after blood and sand; the question i ask how did the actors and actress do it. Do not give judgments on Game of Thrones at least till the last episode.
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Apr 28, 2011
some people just don't watch - they look.
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Apr 28, 2011
Lol....this is HBO....its not like your turning on the disney channel and seeing the jonas brothers getting it on with miley cyrus and...(whoever the hell else is part of the curent teeny bopper fad)....dont like it? dont watch...but like the article says its essential to the characters depth
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Apr 28, 2011
"oh yeah, let's not forget, Vanity Fair never talks about sex... it's all virginal in there... lol..."

x2. What's that phrase about the pot and the kettle again?
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Apr 28, 2011
oh yeah, let's not forget, Vanity Fair never talks about sex... it's all virginal in there... lol...
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Apr 28, 2011
let\'s not forget Spartacus!! that was certainly more gratuitous (and delicious), albeit also historically accurate in more than a few parts... still, that was way more gazongas (and rivers of blood) than really necessary. not that i minded.
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Apr 28, 2011
If any show should be criticized for gratuitous nudity it should be Spartacus. If no character, man or woman, is naked in "Blood and Sand" you at least get a crowd member ripping her shirt off. And don't get me started on "Gods of the Arena" with its multiple three ways between the main characters, and then good ol' Roman sex parties. Maybe Capua was the depraved city of Roman sexuality and violence, but its still ridiculous and isn'
t necessary to forward the story. Game of Thrones uses its sex not for tantalization but is wielded as a tool and seems to be a powerful weapon for lots of the characters, just think of the relationship between lady Stark and John Snow.
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Feb 15, 2012
i saw and episode recently that showed a male and female engaging in sex the man and women were .having sex doggystyle .They clearly showed the guys balls flopping as he was finishin up on his lady from behind the very meaning os softcore porn is male and female in the act of sex Naked..Minus the penetration ..which im sure their was no penetration ..but still .even if it was CGI ..You've crossed the line for what?..to stay true to the story or shock value ?????...when the days of "Dry humping" and the nudity shown in glimpses as the couple gets out of bed to put their clothes ..It means there will come a down when..they is actual penetration and this wont bother either right ????.....sex doesnt help progress anything in a story ..its just part of the story ..its a part that the story can do with or without ..thats how insignificant it is ..whether you think its not tantalizing Is B.S because in the current world we live in..theres a genre that makes it tantalizing ..another thing which is pointless is the dialogue mixed in with the sex scenes ..just started to get into the t.v show "Shameless" ..emmy rossums half the sex scenes are a waste of time ..why even put in the effort to make them..it just gets in the way of dialogue .Which if written right should never be done ..sex should always be boring and direct .wtf is up with multiple positions being shown ?..You say this is important in forwarding the show how ?...Pointless even with a solid story line ..which is being claimed that this show game of thrones has . .
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Apr 28, 2011
Dramas no, please!! :) Just enjoy the show or you know always can change channel
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Apr 27, 2011
There is a reason why the show has "mature" rating. It's not there just because it looks nice. This is not a show you watch with your kids on Sunday afternoon. It may be fantasy, a low fantasy to be precise, but it is first and foremost a show about human drive for power and all the depravity we are ready to commit to attain that power.

So, yes, there will be sex. There will be murder. There will be torture. There will be rape. Heroes will die. No one is above. "Evildoers" will prevail that. Honor can get you killed. Dire wolves will get slaughtered. But all of that is in the service to the story. Nothing is there for the sake of being there. All these scenes have a place and a purpose. They move the story forward. They establish motivations for the characters. They damage them in a way that makes what they do next believable and plausible. Should HBO tone down these scenes, the show fould suffer for it. If someone can't stomach all these things, they should watch some other fantasy show that is aimed at younger audiences.
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Apr 27, 2011
The *thwak thwak thwak*'s and *clap clap clap*'s of skin on skin have the opposite effect on me. I am particularly drawn to them, I think that's partially why I even read this article :P .
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Apr 27, 2011
The girl on girl may have been somewhat redundant, but other than that everything else seems fine. I don't get where all these "rape" insinuations are coming from, having read the book I can assure you that she was NOT raped. The reason she looks so uncomfortable and in pain is because her thighs are sore from riding (they even show a scene where she's helped from a horse and walks with grave discomfort). She is simply performing her wifely duties. The dothraki way of fornicating is from behind (I guess they mimic their horses), which is why it's always that way. Sadly, the sex scene from their wedding night was cut short because in the book you would read how Drogo was very gentle and caring (in spite of his appearance and demeanor) and he did not take her until she wanted to be taken, after a healthy dose of foreplay. Sadly, at this point in the story Dany's life revolves around riding horses by day and "bedding" by night. There is little, if anything, to object to in Game of thrones, sex is a part of any person's life and there's no need to sugarcoat it as if it were the Disney Channel. What ya gonna do, hatas be hatin'.
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Apr 27, 2011
@writerpatrick I find it jarring when shows have sex scenes without nudity. It breaks my suspension of disbelief. Just seems contrived. Call me old fashioned, but I get naked when I do it.
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Feb 15, 2012
^ naked on naked is Softcore porn..instead of watching a show..which is obvious you care nothing about the story ..why not save yourself the time and just watch porn ..the plots are close to non exisitant .and you get all the naked mixed in with the sex ...im sure Game of thrones isnt just about people getting naked and humping each other .i understand its a new era ..There still is no need to take it to that next level just to achieve a realistic affect ..Hollywood sex=simulated/fake not real Porn sex=real/realistic/authentic :/ its true Sex sells ..and helps with lack of creativity to by hollywood standards ..
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Apr 27, 2011
people complicate too much, seriously, its just sex
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Apr 27, 2011
Does anyone remembers "Rome"....it was awesome!!! Game of Thrones seems to be another great series....I agree 100% with Tim. The sex is necessary in these kind of series...So Vanity Fair and anyone else that might think the same....get a grip!!!
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Apr 27, 2011
God forbid that we have a show with sex scenes in, we will all go blind, or be condemned to the fiery pits of Hell for watching them.
There is one solution, if you don't like it, turn it off and watch the Cartoon Channel, I'm sure that has not yet been polluted by scenes of a sexual nature. I sometimes think people just watch these programmes so that they can moan constantly about being disgusted or otherwise.
Damn, I've written these comments without checking either the spelling, or the grammar, no doubt some righteous nit picker will put me right on my mistakes!
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Apr 27, 2011
I'm not in love with this series (yet?) - but I managed to watch most of Episode 2. My reaction to Khal Drogo was quite frankly, disgust - he appeared monstrous, so the sex acts seemed monstrous. I can see where Dany is going to "grow up" and become enabled - as witnessed by the final sex scene. But sex, gratuitous or otherwise, permeates everything we see or read - all this talk about it in one show is ludicrous.
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Apr 27, 2011
While one might argue the need for the sex in a show, there's no need for the nudity. Scenes can be shot with modesty. But it seems that film and TV makers today have lost that skill. It's like the way they feel the need to show the gore rather than convey it through the acting and dialogue.
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Apr 27, 2011
I knew some people would have problem with it. It's all necessary as TIM clearly explained.
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Apr 27, 2011
nice revieew! Vanity Fair can fire their mormon writers :)) And yes sex is rather essential in the development of Dany. And for the american families that are shocked by F&^%ing on TV I should remind them ....the family started of just by doing that....by F&^%ing
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Apr 27, 2011
i just finished the first book and I'm halfway through the second and I must say there are a lot of gratuitous graphic sex scenes in the book. Some scenes are important to the story but most aren't.
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Apr 27, 2011
I think the disagreement I have with you is calling all of them "sex" scenes. Dany is raped. That's different from sex, and I believe the semantics are important here because I'm sure that's a big part of why people are uncomfortable with the series so far. I know I'm not thrilled with the way the show seems to glorify the days (fictional or real) when men could treat women as property, have affairs publicly, and rape girls. I am not a prude, not by a long shot, but I also don't appreciate the seeming emphasis placed on the abuse of women for sport in this show.
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Apr 27, 2011
yeah i liked the scenes. nothing wrong with them
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Apr 27, 2011
Funny, I was just commenting on Tim's continued grammar and spelling issues in another article just a few minutes ago...
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Apr 27, 2011
Also, the person who wrote that article can't even spell one of the character's names right - it's Khal Drogo, not Drago. I don't know how journalist's expect us respect their work if they have such blatant errors.
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Apr 27, 2011
I HATE watching sex on television or in movies, because all I can think is how embarrassing for the actors. But seriously, seriously agree with this whole article. I think because it's less of a gratuitous thing. It is absolutely necessary in this story. I hate all the sex on True Blood because it's so overdone and unnecessary, done for the shock factor rather than for the story and for character development. Dany is a perfect example.
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Apr 27, 2011
The sex in GoT has had more purpose than pretty much any premium channel series ever. Spartacus, True Blood, Dexter, these shows rarely ever use sex to advance the story and 9 times out of 10 they could've jumped to just after the sex scene and lose nothing. Unlike GoT where the sex itself is advancing the plot.
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Apr 27, 2011
It's as if Tim is trying to convince people to like the show. It's a good show, but enough of these pointless articles.
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Apr 27, 2011
The sex on "Spartacus" is just as important to the story and the telling of the story as on this show yet "Game of Thrones" sex gets praised as art and "Spartacus" gets panned for being nothing more than soft-core porn by critics. Doesn't make sense to me.
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Feb 15, 2012
^ what doesnt make sense is Art and sex being put in the same context..i agree with you there the critics dont know what their talking about it ..Both Shows are Softcore porn .they should be praised as such .there both the same ..show the same kinds of material with different stories ..critics ..should learn to see things for what they are..after all that is there job
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Apr 27, 2011
after the lord of the rings, the best fantasy books and series ever. and thats that. outstanding job George and the crew. keep it up.
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Apr 27, 2011
Well spoken once again tv.com! I only hope the people who need to read this will do so, else it's a case of preaching to the choir I'm afraid. All the fans agree that the sex scenes fit well into the whole and are essential instruments in showing more of the story and world of Game of Thrones. I hope the show will continue to show whatever is necessary (be it sex, violence or profanity) so long as it helps tell the story.
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Apr 27, 2011
It's hypocritical to complain about the sex scenes in Game of Thrones when you have the character of Eric on True Blood treating women like pieces of meat and chaining them in torture chambers and no one has anything to say about that. In fact women are proclaiming him the sexiest character on tv.
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Apr 27, 2011
critics, will be critics. they will say anything but the good just because they didn't think about it first. or they just add flame to pick up a prick point.
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Apr 27, 2011
i was like WOAH when it first happened, but then you get used to it. this person is exactly right. the story would be boring if bran had over heard the Lannisters and then was pushed.
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Apr 27, 2011
I prefer TV.com writers much better!
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Apr 27, 2011
I found some things gratuitous and unnecessary... But, it is an HBO series. I expected it.
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Apr 27, 2011
I agree with teambff, it's on HBO so it's not an issue. Thank God for cable.
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Apr 27, 2011
I completely agree, I don't think the sex in this series is gratuitous at all. It is integral to the story and portrayal of the characters.
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