James Franco, Emilia Clarke, and the Importance of SAG's New Sex Scene Rules

Recent revelations highlight the need for oversight in scenes involving nudity and simulated sex.

"Game of Thrones"

The Screen Actors Guild issued new guidelines on Wednesday for the role of an "intimacy coordinator" in overseeing simulated sex and nudity in film productions.

It might be hard to imagine an entire job that revolves around the R-rated scenes in movies, but in recent years it has become increasingly clear what an important and overlooked job it actually is. There are any number of ways in which performers can end up being exploited, harassed, or endangered in the course of filming nudity or a sex scene, and the process of protecting everyone's rights while still producing compelling sex scenes is surprisingly involved. To make the issue clearer, we can look at the cases of Emilia Clarke and James Franco.

Emilia Clarke turned 25 while the first season of Game of Thrones was filming. In theory, she was old enough to advocate for herself and decide what kinds of scenes she was comfortable shooting. But the power dynamics in that situation are potent. Clarke was an unknown actress at the time, fresh out of drama school. Her biggest previous role was in a SyFy original movie called Triassic Attack, and the prospect of a major role on an HBO drama would have been huge for her career even if Game of Thrones hadn't turned out to be such a hit. That position made her vulnerable to manipulation, and she ended up doing a lot more on-screen nudity than she was actually comfortable with.

Emilia Clarke Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa Instagram

In an interview with Dax Shephard for his Armchair Expert podcast, she talked about feeling like she was not in a position to advocate for herself or push for changes to the scenes that involved nudity and simulated sex. She explained that her attitude became "I'm gonna go cry in the bathroom, and then I'm gonna come back and we're gonna do the scene, and it's gonna be completely fine." It took her some time and some supportive advice from co-star Jason Momoa before she felt confident enough to assert herself in that context and refuse to shoot nude scenes, even when faced with coercive comments like, "you don't want to disappoint your Game of Thrones fans."

Clarke is clearly not alone in needing some help in these situations, which is what makes the details of James Franco's so-called "master class" on sex scenes so disturbing. Through the acting school Studio 4, founded by Franco in 2014 and since shut down, students were promised not only an education in how to navigate sex scenes but also opportunities to audition for roles in films produced by Franco's company, Rabbit Bandini. Subject to approval of audition videos featuring nudity and simulated sex acts—and for an additional $750—students earned the right to send Franco and his colleagues even more videos of themselves in various states of undress and to be pressured into participating in ever more explicit on-screen activity—all while learning very little about actual industry standards.

Whatever defense Franco might use to justify these practices—and any defense should be taken with a grain of salt in the case of a man who knowingly hit on a 17-year-old at the age of 36—the effect was to turn his acting school into a steady source of quasi-pornographic material for himself and his colleagues, some of which actually ended up on a porn site. And a true "master class" on the subject of sex scenes might have provided his predominantly young and female students with the tools to protect themselves from this kind of exploitation.

James Franco 17-year-old

According to Sarah Tither-Kaplan—one of the former students who filed a lawsuit against Franco and Rabbit Bandini—"I didn't know anything about nudity riders, the detail required in them, the right to counsel with the director about nude scenes, the custom to choreograph nude scenes ahead of time to negotiate them with the cast and the director — I knew none of that throughout that class."

And that is exactly the issue that intimacy coordinators are intended to rectify. They will function both as advocates who empower performers to assert their rights and "movement coaches" who assist in making sex scenes look believable while conforming to safety and ethics standards. The new guidelines SAG has released lay out necessary qualifications, and the role of intimacy coordinators in establishing plans for sex scenes—maintaining a closed set, utilizing appropriate "modesty garments," and establishing consent for every aspect of "intimate and hyper-exposed scenes"—and making sure those plans are adhered to all the way through a film's final cut.

Emilia Clarke was lucky to have a kind costar to encourage her to assert herself, but if a SAG-approved intimacy coordinator had been on hand, then any and all nudity would have been carefully agreed to, and she would most likely not have been subjected to the kind of coercion she experienced. Likewise, an intimacy coordinator could have protected a lot of women from James Franco's exploitative practices on set, and certainly would not have allowed him to remove two women's plastic genital guards in the midst of simulating oral sex.

The #MeToo movement has done a lot to expose the exploitation and assault that are an ingrained part of Hollywood's culture. But we can't continue to place the burden on survivors to call out predatory behavior after the fact. SAG's new guidelines are a clear and important step toward codifying practices to help prevent this kind of traumatic exploitation from occurring in the first place.


"Game of Thrones" Win Proves an Emmy Is Worthless in 2019

Industry awards are all about industry politics.

Emmy Awards

I didn't watch the 2019 Emmy Awards.

It's not because I had more important things to do. I was home Sunday evening eating a cold pork bun and playing a mobile game while half-watching Great British Bake Off. If anything, watching the Emmys probably should have been my priority as an entertainment writer. But here's the thing: I just don't care anymore.

Hollywood award shows are meaningless. When you see a TV show tout their "Emmy Award-winning" status, all that really says is that they pulled off the best promotional campaign. The real secret is that industry awards are all about industry politics, and if the winner also happens to be great, well that's incidental. Case in point: Game of Thrones won the coveted "Best Drama" Emmy for what might have been the most bungled final season of any major television show in history.

Game of Thrones Emmys Emmy Awards

If the worst season of Game of Thrones can win the Emmy for "Best Drama," that means one of two things.

The first would be that Game of Thrones season 8 was genuinely the best season of any drama series, in which case, what a sad day for television. But I don't think that's true. The most recent seasons of both Better Call Saul and Killing Eve received far better critical and fan reception than Game of Thrones.

The second possibility is that HBO spent a massive amount of money on promoting their Emmy campaign because, oh, I don't know, maybe they have a financial interest in counteracting the overwhelmingly negative reception to the show's final season. The funniest Emmy-related article I read this morning was this one, about how people who hadn't finished Game of Thrones yet were mad that the Emmys spoiled the Night King's death. These poor people don't realize that the real spoiler is David Benioff and D.B. Weiss's writing abilities. But don't worry, they still got awarded for their terrible job.

Game Of Thrones Wins Best Drama Series | EMMYS LIVE! 2019

To be clear, plenty of Emmy Award winners are overwhelmingly talented and deserving. Fleabag swept the comedy categories this year and absolute earned every trophy it won. But for an industry award show to matter to me, at least in my capacity as a viewer, I want to feel like a show's quality isn't incidental to its victory, and for that to be the case, winners would need to display a certain level of quality across the board. Unfortunately, Hollywood, like any other industry, is all about money, which means art often takes a backseat to profit. So next time you plan to watch an "Emmy Award-winning" show, please understand that the bar is practically on the floor.


Beyond Game of Thrones: When Will TV Adapt a Female Fantasy Writer's Work?

For years, under-appreciated female, intersectional writers have been challenging the real world's discriminatory systems of sexism and racism by deconstructing them in fiction.

The end of Game of Thrones signaled a definitive end for a significant portion of speculative fiction geekdom.

HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's series, Game of Thrones, ran for eight seasons and definitely proved its weight as a cultural and literary favorite. However, now that all the noise over the finale has settled, it's time to consider other fantasy writers who have been overshadowed: namely female writers and writers of color.

For all its popularity, Game of Thrones has been controversial for issues including its characters of color (and lack thereof), excessive and problematic depictions of sexual assault, and questionable treatment of its female characters. In response to the series' lack of racial diversity, particularly Asian representation, George R.R. Martin once wrote in a blog, "Westeros is the fantasy analogue of the British isles in its world, so it is a long long way from the Asia analogue. There weren't a lot of Asians in Yorkshire England."

Why is it that, to people like George R.R. Martin, it seems more realistic to have dragons in Medieval Europe than it is to include people of color? As Jane Epsenon, television writer and producer, once said, "If we can't write diversity into sci-fi, then what's the point? You don't create new worlds to give them all the same limits of the old ones."

It should come as no surprise that female writers and authors of color have been playing the speculative fiction game just as long (and just as well) as their white, male counterparts, from Angela Carter to Diana Wynne Jones to Octavia Butler. However, there's a continued disparity between female and male authors in terms of widespread recognition and commercial success.

For instance, if you Google "Best Fantasy Writers," the majority of the results consist of a pretty standard image: white, cisgender male authors, like J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Prachett, and Brandon Sanderson. But as far as female and racially diverse authors, what female (who isn't J.K. Rowling) has reached the same level of commercial success and cinematic treatment as George R. R. Martin or Neil Gaiman, whose various TV/movie adaptations include current television series, Good Omens and American Gods, as well as Netflix's upcoming project Sandman?

Ursula K. LeGuin

Nnedi Okorafor s "Binti"

With that being said, to say that no female, intersectional authors are earning acclaim in the fantasy genre would be a grossly inaccurate (and insulting) statement that would overwrite the contributions of various talented writers such as Tamora Pierce, Ursula K. Le Guin, N.K. Jemisin, and Nnedi Okorafor. However, these authors' success have unfortunately been the exception and not the rule in a field that's oversaturated with the same type of authors who share the same homogeneous experiences. As N.K. Jemisin says, there's frankly a "racist and sexist status quo."

For years, under-appreciated female/intersectional writers have been challenging the real world's discriminatory systems of sexism and racism by deconstructing them in fiction. As writers who stand at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, their work reflects on oppressive power structures and unequal power dynamics with personal insights that are too valuable to dismiss or overlook.

Take, for instance, the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. This series, set in the city of Ketterdam (inspired by 17th-century Amsterdam), features a diverse cast of characters, including multifaceted females, LGBTQ+ characters, and badass disabled characters, as well as a nuanced and compassionate portrayal of survivors of sex trafficking. There's also N.K. Jemisin, who made history as the first author to win three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards for their Broken Earth series, which examines intersecting systems of privilege and power; it's become a staple in Afro-futuristic literature.

For the record, it doesn't make one a "bad person" to like Game of Thrones, or even other media with problematic elements. However, it's important to step back from the stuff we love and look carefully at its shortcomings, as well as the culture that surrounds it.

As a literary culture, we are always hungry for stories. And some of us have been starving for stories that feature characters resembling us, whether that be in terms of body diversity, racial diversity, neurodiversity, LGBTQIA+ representation, or more. Winter has come and gone, and while we can still appreciate the stories we've been handed, we need to pay more attention to the stories that feature diverse and female voices, because embracing them now makes room for more inclusive voices in the future.

For more diverse speculative fiction recommendations:

  • N.K. Jemisin (African-American) - The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Book #1 of The Inheritance Trilogy)
  • Leigh Bardugo (Jewish, Disabled) - Six of Crows duology
  • Tomi Adeyemi (Nigerian-American) - Children of Blood and Bone Series
  • Helene Wecker (Jewish)- The Golem and the Jinni
  • G. Willow Wilson (Muslim) - Alif the Unseen
  • Nnedi Okorafor (Nigerian-American) - Who Fears Death
  • Daína Chaviano (Cuban-American) - The Island of Eternal Love
  • Malinda Lo (Chinese-American, LGBT+) - Ash
  • Charlie Jane Anders (LGBT+) - All the Birds in the Sky
  • Erin Morgenstern - The Night Circus


Celebrity Wax Figures Worse Than Ariana Grande's

Ariana Grande's terrifying wax figure isn't the only one in need of a good melting.

Madame Tussauds London just unveiled their newest wax figure of Ariana Grande, and it's an absolute nightmare.

This very pink-skinned, thin-lipped, dead-eyed wax version of the pop star seems more likely to make you her next victim than to sing "thank u, next." But Madame Tussaud's rendition of Ariana Grande is far from the worst celebrity wax figure ever made. Here are some more terrifying wax monstrosities that should be melted down.

Emilia Clarke

emilia clarke wax figure The National Wax Museum Plus and HBO

If Emilia Clarke ever wondered what she might look like if she grew her eyebrows out really long and then contracted mumps, this should give her a good idea.

Daniel Radcliffe

daniel radcliffe wax figure Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images and Alberto Rodriguez/Getty Images

Weird-Cheekbone-Daniel-Radcliffe has some truly weird cheekbones.

Justin Timberlake

justin timberlake wax figure Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images and Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This would be an excellent representation of Justin Timberlake if he were a weak-chinned man, sniveling in fear right before getting smacked in the face.

Robert Pattinson

robert pattinson wax figure Kris Connor/Getty Images and Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Why is he so moist? Twilight vampires are supposed to sparkle, not look perpetually wet.

Lady Gaga

lady gaga wax figure Getty Images

Lady Gaga should actually be offended. Her wax figure looks more like the Creature from the Black Lagoon than it does the "Shallow" singer.

Donald Trump

donald trump wax figure Getty Images

He looks like a rotting honey baked ham, and the wax figure is pretty ugly, too.


Top 10 "Game of Thrones" Sex Scenes

Don't worry, we've all googled this at least once.

If you say you don't watch Game of Thrones for the flashes of magnificent knight butt and frequent corset-dropping, you're lying.

Sure, it's the biggest budget production in the history of television, features award-winning acting, stirring moments of cinematography, and illuminating character studies, but if we're honest with ourselves, we're in it for the full frontal.

Khal Drogo and Khaleesi making sweet love for the first time? Why else have an HBO Go subscription? Every single time Daario's magnificent rear end was on screen? A religious experience. John Snow and Ygritte breaking the oath of the Nightswatch in the geothermal spring? Renly Baratheon and his handsome lover?

Uncomfortable to watch with your parents for the first time, very comfortable to watch under the covers on YouTube later that night.

Just try not to think of Bran Stark and his creepy eyes.

As a show that ruined the psyche of every twelve-year-old whose parents said "I mean it's probably fine if he watches," Game of Thrones has a long list of steamy moments only HBO could get away with. Winter is coming, and so are we. Here are our favorite GOT hot scenes:

10. Daario and Khaleesi

Michiel Huisman's Scenes: Game of Thrones - 5x07

Remember that divine ass we mentioned before? Ah, Daario Neharis, you turned out not to be the reliable bedfellow we may have hoped for our dragon queen, but we sure did enjoy the ride while it lasted. By the looks of it, so did Daenerys.

9. Tyrion and Shae

Tyrion meets Shae - Game of Thrones S01E09

There are too many excellent Shae and Tyrion moments to count and it's hard to beat this couple in terms of virility or witty repartee. To get to the really steamy stuff, we recommend heading to the beginning of the second season, you know, before things got all complicated by patricide and betrayal.

8. Ros and Littlefinger

Tyrion Lannister and Ros - Game of Thrones (Season 1)

Warning: this clip is particularly NSFW. Or public transport. Or when family is around. Or roommates. Or pets. Realistically, lock yourself alone in a room with headphones and closed curtains before watching this clip of Ros's introduction to the capital city and the ways of southern lovemaking. Jaime and Cersei don't have anything on their little brother.

7. Jon Snow and Ygritte

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow - All Parts HD - (Spoiler Alert)

Does it make this iconic scene hotter that these two actors are married in real life? Yes. Is it creepy that we all have a solid approximation of what their marital love sounds and looks like? Yes. Is it weird that that kind of makes it hotter? Yes. Jon and Ygritte forever. To make things even better, Rose Leslie and Kit Harrington are together in real life!

6. Oberyn, Ellaria, Olyvar

Oberyn Martell in a brothel with Ellaria

Ah, Oberyn (RIP), so tantalizingly slimy. While GOT has provided a lot of "oh man I wish I wasn't watching this with my Dad" brothel scenes over the years, this is by far our favorite. How could we leave a good ol' bisexual orgy off the list!

5. Viserys and Doreah

Viserys and Doreah's bathtub scene - Game of Thrones S01E04

We certainly don't miss Daenerys' mewling older brother, but it's hard to resist a little bit of dirty dragon talk and bathtub sex. We wish he could have been a little more chill about her attempt at hot wax play though.

4. Robb and Talisa

Talisa's History - Game of Thrones 2x08 (vostfr)

Hot tip: fast forward to the end of this clip just like you fast forwarded to the part in this season where you finally got to see Robb Stark's fine northern body. AWWOOOO! (Dire wolf howl)

3. Missandei and Grey Worm

Missandei and Grey Worm love

This one is equal parts hot and heart wrenching, a true molotov cocktail of GOT nudie scenes. We know grey worm can't exactly deliver in the bedroom, but Missandrei shows she wants him anyway. If you're looking for an even spicier scene, head here to see when the couple finally seals the deal.

2. Jon Snow and Daenerys

Daenerys & Jon Snow || Sex Scene [ Emilia Clarke & Kit Harington ] - Game of Thrones 7x07

You didn't think we'd forget to include this, did you? After seemingly endless episodes of "will they or won't they" and plenty of sexual tension, Daenerys and Jon finally do, they ever. The old and new gods truly blessed us with that candlelight contour of the kind of the north's southern hemisphere. This scene almost saved the final season...almost.

1. Daenerys and Drogo

Daenerys Targaryen has Sex with Khal Drogo - Game of Thrones S01E02 | #rememberGOT

Last, but certainly not least, we have the scene that probably left you in night sweats for weeks. Khaleesi finally does what every modern woman has to learn how to do: ask for what she wants in the bedroom and our hunky horse lord is into it. This scene is a far cry from the couple's wedding night love making, and we couldn't be happier about that.

Don't lie, you've whispered in a lovers ear, "tonight, I would look upon your face" at least once since the first time you saw this scene. We don't blame you, Jason Momoa's barbarian build inspires that kind of carnal risk-taking.


They Do! Game of Thrones Co-Stars Tie the Knot

The Scottish Wedding was Wonderful

Fans of TV's hit show Game of Thrones must be even more thrilled about their favorite small screen actors. Kit Harrington and Rose Leslie mixed business and pleasure in the best way possible by marrying one another on Saturday in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The happy couple met on set in 2012 and played lovers on the show as well. All that practice made perfect for the gorgeous pair who said "I do" before friends, family, and some co-stars including Maisie Williams, Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, and Sophie Turner.

After the tasteful church ceremony came the lavish reception at Wardhill Castle – a spectacular site owned by the bride's father. Leslie looked lovely, Harrington handsome, and the guests had a ball seeing it all.

As per People, "Leslie, 31, looked radiant in a delicate long-sleeve lacy dress. The actress wore a floral garland on her head as well as a white veil, which appeared to extend all the way from the top of her head to the hem of her gown. Leslie also carried a small bouquet of flowers."

From television to reality, the lovebirds can now bring work home with them, where the "king and queen" of the house can sit on their "thrones." Congrats to the couple!

Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G,, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, Better Homes & Gardens, AMC Daycare, and more.

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