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Hannibal Showrunner Explains Why He Avoids Rape on His Violent Show, Yet Defends Game of Thrones

See what he says about that Sansa Stark scene

Shelli Weinstein

Hannibal's Bryan Fuller may be the creator of one of the darkest and most violent shows on television, but there is one subject he won't be addressing: rape.

Fuller spoke with Entertainment Weeklyabout his self-imposed ban while Hollywood is increasingly under fire for using rape story lines, and about how his view is being challenged by Hannibal's third season. When the NBC drama returns it will be telling the story of author Thomas Harris' serial killer Red Dragon, whose crimes include the raping of corpses and near-corpses.

"In crafting the story arc of the Red Dragon, it became a challenge on how to keep true to the novel but deemphasize the exploitive qualities of women being raped," he said. "It became a tricky matter of deemphasizing women being targeted, and making more pronounced the crimes against the victim's family as a whole." Fuller stressed that he doesn't believe crime procedurals are "glorifying" rape, though "it is certainly explored so frequently that it rarely feels genuine."

Take a look behind-the-scenes of Hannibal Season 3

To his point, Fuller noted that "the reason the rape well is so frequently used is because it's a horrible thing that is real and that it happens. But because it's so overexploited, it becomes callous." He added that a rape story line is an easy pitch for a drama, though it is too easily used for dramatic purpose and isn't explored thoroughly, thanks to the time and structural limits of television.

"You're reduced to using shorthand, and I don't think there can be a shorthand for that violation - it's an incredibly personal and intimate betrayal of something that should be so positive and healthy," he said.

When it comes to rape and Game of Thrones, Fuller believes that all things considered, the controversial Sansa Stark scene was "handled tastefully" and made sense within the show's universe. "With Thrones, you're telling a story based on a time where those sort of violations were common. And women did not have the stance in that world to effectively resist...It feels like we're in the Wild Wild West, and that's part of how they're choosing to explore the story. I see why they've made the choices they have in the stories they've told, so I can't criticize them for using that tool."

Downton Abbey and the insensitive portrayal of rape on TV

While he doesn't know if he would make the same choices were he showrunner of Game of Thrones, Fuller knows that when it comes to "a crime procedural story on Hannibal and seeing the things I don't like about other crime procedurals, it's easier for me to say I don't want that aspect in the one I'm doing."

What do you think of Fuller's stance on rape on TV? Do you agree with his take on Game of Thrones?

Hannibal returns at 10/9c on June 4 on NBC.