George R.R. Martin explains why there's a shocking nude scene in the 'Game of Thrones' finale

Warning: There are huge spoilers ahead for the “Game of Thrones” season 5 finale.

Cersei lannister game of thronesHelen Sloan/courtesy of HBOCersei asking forgiveness from the High Sparrow on the ‘Game of Thrones’ finale.

If you tuned into the season 5 finale of “Game of Thrones,” one of the most difficult scenes to watch was Cersei’s walk of shame in which she walked nude through the streets of King’s Landing to atone for her sins.

For viewers, it was strange to see Cersei look so strikingly different on screen, with short boyish hair and bare for all to see in such a vulnerable position. 

But why did Cersei’s hair need to be chopped off? And was it really necessary to have her walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing? 


The scene is actually rooted in medieval French law and literature. Dr. Larissa Tracy writes of how a naked “walk of shame” was a normal punishment for adultery in France in place of torture and other forms of punishment.

George R.R. Martin explains in a behind-the-scenes featurette the necessity of the nude scene in the finale:

“There are symbolic aspects to the Walk of Atonement or the Walk of Shame,” Martin explains. “You’re naked. You have nothing to hide. All concealment has been denied you. Your hair has all been shaved off. You’re completely vulnerable. There’s nothing more to hide … That’s the spiritual justification for this sort of thing.”

“People didn’t see the kings and their lords very often except when they passed by in their incredibly lavish items,” continued Martin. “When you take all of that away from a Queen like Cersei, who, up till then has only been seen by her subjects as this incredibly beautiful woman attended by maids and protected by knights, it’s a way to strip her of all of the power that attends to her majesty.”

“Cersei is not beloved in the streets of King’s Landing. This is a woman who you dare not contradict for she could have your tongue torn out,” says Martin. “Now, people are calling her filthy names, and accusations, and they’re free to do so. It changes the entire public perception of her, and that is obviously part of the intent.”

You can watch the full featurette below:


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