Cersei Lannister is a character that captivates both in text and on screen. When my friends find out that Cersei is one of my favorites within A Song of Ice and Fire, they are shocked, and it has nothing to do with the fact that my favorite character within the entire series is Lyanna Stark. Instead, many take the opportunity to attack Cersei. The most common points brought up are "Cersei is crazy," (which is extremely dismissive to individuals suffering from mental health challenges, but that's the topic for a whole other post), and that "Cersei is evil." There is no doubt that viewers of A Game of Thrones may continue to find reasons to dislike Cersei when the upcoming season debuts.
Cersei Lannister may be the Westerosi blonde viewers and readers love to hate, but in my opinion, Cersei is simply using the tools she has in order to fight for power in Westeros' patriarchal society. Yes, fellow book readers, I am well aware of Bear Island's and Dorne's feminist history (I'm looking at you, Nymeria and Dacey Mormont, Rest In Power), as well as the warrior Targaryean Queens of old. That being said, Cersei is from the Westerlands, where a patriarchal influence was certainly felt, and spilled over to Westeros' capital in Kings Landing. Here are some reasons why this Lioness of House Lannister is the baddest (not bad meaning bad, bad meaning good):
Cersei Uses What She Has to Get What She Wants
Cersei would have loved Missy Elliot's iconic line in "Work It," in which Missy Elliot spat: "Ain't no shame ladies do your thing. Just make sure you ahead of the game," as this is exactly what Cersei Lannister strives to do. Because Cersei was raised believing that girls should only wear skirts, never chain-mail, Cersei uses her beauty and body in order to be a major player in the power dynamics in Westeros. This technique has been used by numerous powerful women throughout history, one of the most notable being Anne Boleyn. Cersei successfully arranges assassinations, imprisonments, and implications by simply being intimate with the right people (Lancel, Osmund Kettlebeck, and Moon Boy for all we know). Cersei is willing to use this tool, regardless of gender, to get what she wants. No matter how nefarious Cersei's intentions may be, Cersei deserves to be lauded for using what she has in order to get what she wants. Viewers and readers should note that she may not be ahead of the game for long, as her growing dependence on alcohol and untreated mental health challenges may complicate matters. But, for now, way to go Cersei!
Cersei Pushes Gender Boundaries By Never Being In Her Proper Place
Cersei Lannister is never in her proper place as Queen, and by doing so, makes men uncomfortable. Cersei makes her presence known at various small council meetings, much to the chagrin of the male members. Although Cersei's suggestions are of varying amounts of merit, her instance on being present for these meetings can certainly be interpreted as being a feminist action. Cersei openly opposes the confines placed on her because of her gender, she makes due by ensuring that her voice is heard. Cersei Lannister also has numerous personality traits and environmental similarities with Margaret of Anjou, another real life Monarch that struggled to maintain power during an extremely tumultuous time. Like Cersei, Margaret was viewed by some as being a vengeful and ambitious woman that brought strife, war, and chaos to the country that she ruled. Like Robert Baratheon, Margaret's husband, Henry VI, was a notoriously incompetent King. In fact, Henry VI's apparent incapacity to manage government is one of the reasons why the War of The Roses started. In the latter years of Henry VI's reign, the monarchy became increasingly unpopular due to corruption, and the steady troubled state of the crown's finances. It can be confirmed that nobody named Petyr Baelish could be found at Henry VI's court, nor was it documented that the Crown of England was borrowing hefty sums from the Iron Bank of Braavos. Margaret, like Cersei, also struggled with the public believing that her child was illegitimate. The views of the common people in England, or small folk in Westeros, are universal for these two Queens. Margaret was ubiquitously disliked by her subjects, who viewed her as a woman whose grim purpose was to hold onto the crown for her progeny. Cersei is viewed similarly by the smallfolk. In lieu of this view, another interpretation can be that Margaret and Cersei were disliked because they fought for their children no matter the cost, and smashed boundaries set in place by society in order to do so.
Cersei is Resilient
Cersei Lannister is a survivor of numerous traumas, the first being the death of her Mother, Joanna, who died giving birth to her brother Tyrion. Cersei then had to suffer the embarrassment of a rejected engagement to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen . When Cersei was finally married, she heard her husband utter the name of another woman, Lyanna, in their marital bed, with the stink of wine on his breath. Robert also beat and raped Cersei occasionally, when he drank too much. With all of these traumatic events, it is no surprise that Cersei is a deeply damaged individual, prone to capricious, rash actions and controversial decisions. That being said, Cersei never stays down for long, and always has her eyes on her ultimate goal: ensuring that House Lannister and her children remain alive and in power. Cersei, a consummate narcissist who only loves her children and her brother, Jamie, when she sees them as extensions as herself, should at least get some kudos for always overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. At the end of A Dance With Dragons, Cersei reminds readers of her resilience several times when she utters: "I am a lioness. I will not cringe for them," and when she leaves readers with this:
"I am Cersei of House Lannister, a lion of the Rock, the rightful queen of these Seven Kingdoms, trueborn daughter of Tywin Lannister. And hair grows back."
Whether or not House Lannister will end up Tywinning at the end of the series is yet to be revealed. Regardless, when the new season of Game of Thrones begins, I'll pour a glass of Arbor Gold and will watch Lena Headey slip into character as Cersei with great satisfaction. I am a Stark through and through. My allegiance to The North does not mean that I can't relish watching and reading about a puissant woman like Cersei, who defies gender roles throughout Westeros.
Image Created By Michael Komarck