Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

When writer Sara Hess was enlisted to join the staff of “House of the Dragon,” it was with the intention of improving on the depiction of women in the “Game of Thrones” franchise – and that extended to how the show portrayed childbirth.

“I met with Ryan [Condal], and he was asking me – he was sort of recruiting me, I was reluctant to do it at first, and I sort of expressed all my reservations to him,” Hess said as part of the Changemakers panel at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit on Wednesday. “And his response was, ‘Listen, this is why I need you. I’m married to a girl from Jersey. If I don’t get this right, she would kill me.’”

Hess added that after looking at the material, which is based on George R.R. Martin’s book “Fire & Blood” and chronicles the fall of House Targaryen 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones,” she saw an opportunity to tell a story from a female perspective “that had perhaps not been told before.”

That extended to the show’s numerous depictions of childbirth, which Hess wanted to contrast with how birth is usually depicted on television.

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“The first season is compressed time, and many children are born during the course of the story, so it was kind of a back and forth about are we going to show all these births? Is it going to be boring?,” Hess said. “That definitely was a thing that I felt very strongly about because I felt like every birth scene I’ve ever seen in any TV show or movie ever has looked exactly the same, which is the woman’s lying on her back — whatever time period — and she’s like on her back pushing, and then the baby comes out. And it’s like, ‘Oh, congratulations.’”

Hess continued, saying she explained to the men in the writers room that every birth is different, and she wanted to depict these differing experiences in the show.

“I was saying to the guys, like every birth I’ve ever heard about from my friends or experienced is they’re all completely different. They are a different experience depending on the woman who’s doing it and what the circumstances are. That is a part of a woman’s story that I feel is just completely sort of blandified in popular entertainment,” she said.

Emma D’Arcy in “House of the Dragon” (HBO)

Emma D’Arcy in “House of the Dragon” (HBO)

To that end, in bringing the four different birthing scenes to life in the series, Hess made sure to depict a wide array of birthing experiences.

“So we sort of made it a point actually to go in and show four separate births and make them all different and bring to it the variety of experience. One of our themes on the show, which I think Ryan and Miguel [Sapochnik] have probably talked about before, is that the birth in that time period was the woman’s battlefield. So the men are out doing their fighting with swords, and for a woman it was, you know, every time you’re pregnant, this could be the day you die. And you’re going into battle to sort of preserve the human race.”

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The graphic nature of the birthing scenes in “House of the Dragon” has led to viewers talking to Hess about abortion rights, she said.

“A lot of people have said, ‘Oh, my God, this is making me feel differently about abortion rights.’ Because when you see what it really is and what you are forcing a woman to go through in all its graphic grimness, if you don’t want to do that, that’s a kind of horrific thing to put somebody through.”

“House of the Dragon” will return for a second season on HBO.

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