Game of Thrones is one of the most beloved TV series of all time. With a multi-million show as famous and well-regarded as this one, it’s almost impossible to escape any form of defamation aimed at it — and the reasons for criticisms aren’t always in regards to the show’s quality.
The series has had its fair share of controversy, receiving flack for misjudged moments of insensitivity, poor taste, or negligence of its superb source material.
In a way, this is unavoidable. The sheer scope of the series, along with its unquantifiable amount of characters and plot lines that simply don’t work in a format such as television, make Game of Thrones ripe for dissecting. It’s not the flaws that necessarily condemn the show to some people though, but the decision making.
With book readers aplenty, there are a vast number of people with hopes for what the show includes, and what it chooses to leave out. With so many readers, and so many different requests, it’s impossible to please everyone. Yet there are some obvious inclusions from the books that are completely ignored.
There are moments and characters from the books that have also been changed, much to the show’s detriment, and that’s not mentioning the numerous scenes that paint the series in an ugly, politically naive light.
These are the 15 Controversial Things Game Of Thrones Has Ever Done.
15. Taking Out Lady Stoneheart’s Storyline
Ask any Game of Thrones fan which moment they think defines the series, and they’ll answer you with The Red Wedding. If they don’t, chances are that they’re lying.
It’s the series’ biggest, most shocking moment. With one fell swoop, the Stark rebellion has all but extinguished, and the Lannister forces are stronger than ever. Robb Stark dies, his wife dies, and so does Catelyn Stark.
For book readers, Catelyn’s screams of anguish in her final moments were music to their ears. She may be dead for now, but she would be coming back with a vengeance, as Lady Stoneheart.
Much to the lamentation of her fans, Lady Stoneheart didn’t make an appearance, with George R. R. Martin confirming that she never will.
He disagreed with the decision to remove her, as do many readers of the show — her storyline is bloody, brutal, and adds a complex slant on morality to a show known for its interesting characters.
14. Jaime Forcing Himself On Cersei
Back in season 1 of Game of Thrones, Jaime Lannister was a character everybody loved to hate.
His smarmy grin and penchant for pushing children off towers would have made it clear that he was one of the series’ antagonists, if not for some essential character development in season 2 and 3.
Through a great speech on how he was condemned for saving King’s Landing by stabbing the Mad King, moments of agonising pain he has to endure, and having the decency to save Brienne from death by bear, he quickly became one of the most intricate and sympathetic characters in the show.
Returning to King’s Landing with Brienne in tow, fans were eager to see what laid in store for his character, and how his relationship with Cersei would change.
However, in season 4 episode 3, all that character development went out the window as he forced himself on his sister Cersei.
Forget his carefully built up sense of honor over the last few seasons; an out-of-character non-consensual advance on his sister marked a low-point in his characterisation, and he hasn’t fully recovered since.
13. Stannis Burning Shireen
In the show, Stannis Baratheon is a straight-faced leader with a keen eye for battle strategy and a defiant, alienating personality. His only goal is to claim what he believes is rightfully his: the Iron Throne.
Stannis was a man of justice, but not a man of the people. His younger brother Renly Baratheon attempted to take the Iron Throne for himself, despite not having a claim simply because he knew that he would be the favored King.
Stannis did have a soft spot, however — a redeeming quality that proved that he was much more than a stern, solemn figure. That was his bond with his daughter.
Built up from season 3 onwards, the love he had for his daughter gave fresh insight into a character in desperate need of development. Which makes his decision to burn her alive in order to potentially capture Winterfell particularly perplexing.
12. Botching The Dorne Plot
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones made a mess of its Dorne subplot, and with the events taking place in season 7, it’s clear that the showrunners want to end its story and completely forget about it.
It’s one of the main reasons why most people view season 5 as the series’ weakest. While many grumble about the poor characterisation of the Sand Snakes and nonsensical decisions made by Ellaria Sand, what truly condemns the plotline is how much it diverts from a very engaging story in the books.
For one, Prince Doran is never killed by Ellaria and the Sand Snakes. He is revealed to be faking his illness so he can silently plot his revenge against the Lannisters.
Princess Myrcella is never poisoned, but instead valued — she’s wanted by several Dornish power players as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
11. The ‘White Savior’ Moment
Season 3 was Game of Thrones’ bloodiest, most shocking, and highest-rated season yet — what could top episode 9’s Red Wedding?
We had the epic birth of Daenerys’ dragons in season 1’s finale, and a horrifying depiction of the White Walkers in season 2. Fans were hoping for Lady Stoneheart as a cliffhanger — that proved to be more than wishful thinking.
Instead, we were met with a saccharine Daenerys scene in which, post-sacking Meereen, its citizens greeted her with open arms and name her their queen, or “Mhysa.”
A whole city of people of color mindlessly celebrating their caucasian hero and immediately claiming her as their queen has some ugly connotations, and many fans construed it as a “white savior” moment.
This is a problem that’s shared with the books, but it is still a problem no matter how well-intended it is. Season 2 ended with ice, and the only ice in season 3’s finale were the ice-cold reactions of many of its viewers.
10. Changing Stannis From Atheist To A Religious Zealot
The version of Stannis Baratheon in the books is very different to the Stannis in the show. That was made apparent when he burned his own daughter in season 5, and perhaps that decision was taken due to Stannis’ faith in the Red Priestess Melisandre.
In the show, Stannis blindlessly follows Melisandre, and is portrayed almost as a religious zealot. This trait is nowhere to be found in the books.
In fact, Stannis is an atheist in the books, though his relationship with religion is a little more complex than that.
Due to the fact that evil exists in the world, he refutes the idea of an omnibenevolent god. Once he sees Melisandre’s miracles, such as surviving poison, he converts to the Lord of Light without worshipping it, believing that it is a supernatural being rather than a deity.
All of these intricacies are lost in the show, though. Stannis commits to his beliefs to the point of burning his daughter; seduced by the Red Woman and her faith in his victory, he abandons any resemblance he has to his book version.
9. Sansa Being Forced Upon During Her Wedding Night
Season 5 episode 6 is the series’ worst-rated episode. If its shoddy Sand Snakes battle and glacially-paced storytelling didn’t condemn it, its horrifying and crude final scene did.
We’ve grown up along with Sansa, so to see her unflowered on her wedding night by a wicked Ramsay was tough to watch.
This scene is so controversial because it needn’t have happened. We already know that Ramsay is a monster, we already know that Reek is feeble, and we already know that Sansa’s situation is dire.
Showing the scene adds nothing to any of its characters. To go ahead and depict it anyway comes across as exploitative and indulgent, a shocking scene that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
8. Dumbing Down Loras’ Character
One of the positives that Game of Thrones has over its book counterpart is its insistence on developing the series’ most peripheral characters.
Margaery Tyrell, Missandei, Grey Worm, and Osha have all received this treatment, fleshing them out into characters rather than plot points. The same, however, cannot be said of Margaery’s brother Loras Tyrell.
The books portray him as a man whose love for Renly Baratheon knows no bounds. When Renly died, Loras became celibate.
As a competent fighter, he took up position as Kingsguard, and taught Tommen Baratheon how to fight; the young king developing the brotherly bond that he never had with Joffrey.
Much to the chagrin of book readers, his character is converted from George R. R. Martin’s intricate depiction to a one-note gay stereotype.
Most of his scenes before imprisonment involve him sleeping with an array of different men (he got over Renly pretty quickly), or talking about flowers and embroidery with Sansa in a scene that offensively hams up his sexuality for laughs.
7. Cersei Forcing Herself On Jaime
At least the Lannister twins keep things consistent between them. Jaime may have forced himself on Cersei in season 4, but Cersei returned the favor in a similar scene this season.
Clearly hot and bothered from imprisoning and tormenting Ellaria and Tyene Sand, Cersei marches into Jaime’s quarters to give him a kiss.
Jaime offers a feeble “no” but Cersei goes ahead with it anyway. It’s a perplexing moment, Jaime looking unsure throughout as Cersei indulges herself, but the scene ends and they wake up in bed together the next morning like nothing happened.
While its more hazy whether the moment was consensual or not than in season 4, the fact that the showrunners didn’t make it absolutely clear reveals a problem in their writing — the scene passes, ignoring what actually happened.
6. Changing Daenerys’ Wedding Night From Romantic To Anything But
It’s difficult to remember, considering the transition she’s undergone since, but season 1’s Daenerys Targaryen was initially naive and unsure of her brother’s actions. F
orced to marry Khal Drogo, her wedding night was a big occasion, and one which was handled entirely differently between the two mediums.
In the show, Daenerys’ acceptance and love for Khal Drogo seems more than a little rushed, considering the torment she was under during her wedding night. In a scene of undeniable rape, Daenerys cries while Khal Drogo silently forces himself on her.
In the books, the scene actually comes across as romantic. Drogo is delicate with Daenerys, murmurs to her as a way of soothing, and asks for consent before initiating.
When he sits her down on his lap, he asks her “no?.” Daenerys replies “yes,” and from there, their relationship only looked like it was heading in one direction.
5. Giving Ed Sheeran A Cameo
Picture this: you’re in the Riverlands, on your way to King’s Landing to kill the Queen, when you hear singing.
You investigate it, only to find Ed Sheeran’s mug staring back at you. You’re taken aback, right? Eventually, you ask for his autograph.
In a show as immersive as Game of Thrones is, fans were discontented to discover that the very-recognizable pop icon Ed Sheeran had taken center stage in one of the scenes in season 7’s opening episode.
That he didn’t talk at all after Arya sat down is irrelevant — the damage had been done, and we were no longer rooted in the world that Game of Thrones created (well, those who know who Ed Sheeran is, anyway).
While an argument has been made that dragons and ice monsters are also in the series, those creatures are established in the world and attributed to it — unlike Ed Sheeran, who very much belongs to ours.
4. Killing The Blackfish Off Screen
Since his arrival in season 3, fans have taken to Brynden Tully’s no-nonsense attitude. His introduction is spectacular: swiping the bow off his hapless nephew Lord Edmure, before sinking his arrow into his deceased brother Hoster Tully. He’s honorable, capable, and just plain awesome.
So the news that we would return to Riverrun in season 6 was met with excitement. It would, of course, mean the return of Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully, and fans were clamouring to see his straight-faced antics and sharp defiance of the Freys’ siege.
To be fair to the showrunners, for a short while we did get just that. The Freys threatened to slit Edmure’s throat, and Blackfish called their bluff. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.
Through some clever tactics from Jaime, the Lannisters and Freys managed to prevail, and Riverrun was theirs again. Instead of opting for the exit, Brynden chose to stay and fight.
We were notified of his death from a no-named soldier reporting to Jaime. Unlike Lady Olenna’s off-screen death this season, we never saw Brynden take the killer blow.
3. Killing Off Barristan Selmy
Renowned as one of the best swordsmen in the Seven Kingdoms, Ser Barristan Selmy, also known ominously as “Barristan the Bold,” met his end trying to protect Meereen from the Sons of the Harpy.
It was a surprising moment to say the least — and not just because Barristan is alive and kicking in the books.
While Ser Barristan Selmy is a valuable asset to have, with many book readers believing that he’ll be useful in the imminent war against the White Walkers, the show had other ideas.
Yet it’s not the fact that Barristan Selmy was killed off by the showrunners which annoyed fans — it’s more a case of how exactly they did it.
It may have been a large group of them, but the Sons of the Harpy are unarmored men without fighting experience.
Barristan should have had no problem in dispatching the lot of them. That he was instead killed by them, left to die unceremoniously in an alley, irked many fans who were hoping to see more fight from him.
2. Including George Bush
Not many people know this, but George Bush followed in the footsteps of Ed Sheeran and Ian McShane by making a cameo in Game of Thrones… sort of.
His appearance was as a prosthetic head on a spike, featured in a scene where Joffrey is showing off Ned Stark’s head to Sansa.
Only revealed to be George W. Bush during season 1’s DVD commentary, the scene predictably caused uproar, with HBO forced to apologise and showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss insisting that no political commentary was intended.
Still, as far as goofs go, it’s a pretty big one, as political commentary can still be inferred regardless of whatever Game of Thrones’ showrunners claim.
1. Killing Mance Rayder
In both the books and the show, Mance Rayder is a unique and interesting character. As “the King Beyond The Wall,” he united factions of wildlings together for the common goal of getting to the other side of the wall and out of reach of the White Walkers.
The one major difference is that we simply don’t see enough of Mance in the show. His scenes are few and far between, and then his story is ended by being burned alive (or by Jon Snow’s arrow).
He’s a character with a reputation that precedes him, and a rather unfulfilling character arc.
In the books, however, the Mance that burns is actually a decoy, using Melisandre’s magic to disguise himself as another wildling leader called “Rattleshirt.”
It’s a testament to how strong Mance Rayder’s characterisation is that the books’ version is inherently better simply because we get to see more of him.
What things in Game of Thrones did you find controversial? Did you think any of the controversy for these was undeserved? Let us know in the comments!
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