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Fans Demand "Trigger Warning" for "Gruesome" Birth Scene in "GoT" Prequel

The House of the Dragon premiere features a graphic sequence that's shocking viewers.

On Sunday, Aug. 21, the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon premiered, and the show is already facing backlash. The first episode features a birth scene that viewers are calling "gruesome" and "traumatic," with some complaining that the show should have included a trigger warning for it. The creators of the show have already defended the controversial and shocking birth scene, but it sounds like it may have turned some viewers off of the fantasy series altogether.

Read on to find out more about the prequel and the premiere's most shocking scene. Spoilers ahead.

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The series takes place before Game of Thrones.

Ollie Upton / HBO

House of the Dragon is set about 200 years before the events that play out in Game of Thrones. Same as the original HBO show, the new show is based on the A Song of Ice & Fire book series by by George R.R. Martin—specifically the novel Fire & BloodHouse of the Dragon focuses on House Targaryen in the lead up to a civil war called the Dance of the Dragons.

The premiere features a graphic birth.

Sian Brooke in "House of the Dragon"
Ollie Upton / HBO

The birth scene in the first episode of House of the Dragon results in the deaths of both the mother and her newborn. As reported by Vanity Fair, in Martin's book, the birth is described with just two lines: "Queen Aemma was brought to bed in Maegor's Holdfast and died whilst giving birth to the son that Viserys Targaryen had desired for so long. The boy (named Baelon, after the king's father) survived her only by a day, leaving king and court bereft."

The show extends that short section into a lengthy scene that involves Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke) being forced into a C-section without her consent in an attempt to save the baby while sacrificing her life.

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Viewers took to social media to criticize the show.

Paddy Considine and Sian Brooke in "House of the Dragon"
Ollie Upton / HBO

On Twitter, some viewers spoke out about the birth scene, with many upset at how violent and potentially triggering it is.

"I'm not seeing this discussed a bunch but in case you haven't seen House of the Dragon yet: EXTREMELY BIG TRIGGER WARNING for a very violent and traumatic birth scene," tweeted one user. Another wrote, "There's been so much death in this series but this scene of her giving birth with a no anesthetic c section?? Might be the most gruesome scene I've watched."

Some found the scene particularly upsetting given the state of reproductive rights in the United States. "First ep of House of the Dragon is predictably but still disappointingly violent. That birth scene should've come with a trigger warning considering the state of 'Murica," someone tweeted. Another user posted, "the birth scene in house of the dragon was agonizing to watch, especially thinking about modern laws being made to control womens bodies, removing the 'problem' of our consent from the process of giving men children."

The creators defended the scene.

Paddy Considine and Sian Brooke in "House of the Dragon"
Ollie Upton / HBO

In an interview with Vanity Fair, series creators Martin and Ryan J. Condal addressed the extreme scene and explained why they felt it was necessary.

Condal said that the tragic birth sets up the story of King Viserys (Paddy Considine), the husband of Queen Aemma. "Just like that, mother and son die in childbirth. Suddenly, everything changes and flips the chess table," Condal said.

He also explained that the scene is meant to speak to the time period that influenced the show. (The series itself does not take place in the real world or in any real historical time period.)

"It's not meant to be gratuitous. It's meant to show there's a heavy theme in this particular period. In Fire and Blood, there's a lot of very difficult births. It was something we wanted to carry over the season. There's this whole idea in Game of Thrones, or in the Middle Ages, or in historical age like this, that the men marched off to the battlefield and the women's battlefield happened in the child bed. That was a very dangerous place to be," he said. "We wanted to dramatize that … We also wanted, on a dramatic level, to have Viserys have to make a choice. It was really important to make him an active participant in what happened to Aemma and to Baelon."

Martin denied that it's "gratuitous."

Paddy Considine and Sian Brooke in "House of the Dragon"
Ollie Upton / HBO

In the same interview, Martin called the scene "powerful" and said that extending the sequence from its original novel version was "the right way to go." He also fought back against the idea that it's gratuitous.

"There's a larger question, a larger issue, that your question raises," he told Vanity Fair. "The word 'gratuitous' I see occasionally in reviews, and it always annoys the hell out of me. I don't think anything is gratuitous. Of course, I've been accused of gratuitous violence and gratuitous sex and occasionally of gratuitous heraldry and gratuitous feast scenes." He continued, "I want to live the book. I want to be there. I want my emotions engaged. Those are the kind of novels I love to read and the kind of things I love to write."

Some fans found their defense "disheartening."

Milly Alcock and Sian Brooke in "House of the Dragon"
Ollie Upton / HBO

Some Twitter users pointed out that they also have issues with the way those involved with House of the Dragon go about defending the series.

"i think it's very funny that the house of the dragon guys are like 'we want to reflect the misogyny of the time period' the time period is the twelfth of makebelieve. it's the 149th year of sir gooby the dragonfoot. it's the eighth age of targabargabor. it's literally made up," a Twitter user wrote in a now-viral post.

Someone else tweeted, "It's so disheartening to watch the after show commentary of House of the Dragon be entirely all yt cis men talking about trying to portray 'the female perspective' after watching that absolutely horrific birth scene."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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