“She never forgets a slight, real or imagined. She takes caution for cowardice and dissent for defiance. And she is greedy. Greedy for power, for honor, for love.” – A Dance with Dragons
There are few certainties in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire series: a Stark will act with noble intentions, those who act nobly will be betrayed, and Tyrion Lannister will do something badass mother-fuckerish. One learns from the first novel to love characters at their own risk.
That love for characters is a very delicate line. Jamie Lannister, the cold-hearted warrior feared in A Game of Thrones, becomes beloved in A Storm of Swords. The ambitious treasurer Petyr Baelish goes from pitied to despised in a few short chapters. Sansa Stark, who inadvertently betrayed her loving father, gains reader sympathy as she gains wisdom. No matter the character, no matter the action, the reader can be certain their initial impression will not hold.
Save for Cersei Lannister, Queen Regent of the Seven Kingdoms. For she must always be reviled.
A Song of Ice and Fire and the companion television series Game of Thrones borders on obsession among my friends and family. Only those who have not read or watched it remain normal. Naturally, there have been discussions and debates over the series’ direction.
One evening, there was a heated discussion over Sansa Stark. Did she deserve sympathy? There was obviously a little to drink and I’m sure the majority of people felt foolish for their contribution. I was struck, afterwards, that this conversation might not be duplicated for Cersei.
Sansa, in the first novel, acted in her own self-interest without regard for her family. But she is 11 when the series begins. There is reason to forgive the selfish actions of a child. As as the series continues her empathy grows. She is shown as redeemable.
Can Cersei, a grown woman who has committed great evil, be worthy of redemption?
First, I’d like to argue that Cersei is not as evil or selfish as those around her. Yes, she was one of the key figures in the execution of Eddard Stark. She helped murder both her husband and former Hand of the King Jon Arryn. She is cruel to the Stark family, convinces the King to put down Sansa’s direwolf Lady . . . oh, and is complicit in paralyzing Bran Stark.
But Jamie Lannister, her twin and lover, is the one who pushes Bran out the window. He is known as a butcher and fierce warrior, the Kingslayer. Her father, Tywin, massacres Stark forces at a peaceful wedding party. And Tyrion (who I love with all my heart) singlehandedly and knowingly destroys the Greyjoy ships in the Battle of Blackwater Bay.
“But,” you might reply, “There were all circumstances for each action. We ultimately understand why they committed their sins.”
I would counter, “But we are never given Cersei’s circumstances. Might we say the exact same if we were to hear her side?”
I absolutely hate Anne Hathaway. I’ve hated her for years. This award season created a festering pustule in my stomach. Those bleached teeth and big eyes were everywhere.
Understand my joy when the world suddenly came against her. Her over-practiced and falsely-humble acceptance speech at the Oscars summoned vitriol from every corner of the country. Now, this sudden and loud rage was routinely questioned in the press. I can concede she does not hurt puppies or babies, probably recycles, pays fairly on her taxes, and has friends that genuinely like her. So, many in the press were asking, why the hell did we hate her?
In this article (http://www.salon.com/2013/02/26/anne_hathaway_hollywoods_most_polarizing_star/ ) from Salon, one reason may be that Anne Hathaway was openly ambitious. She wanted that Oscar and would not let anyone stand in her way. And to see an ambitious woman is unacceptable.
Now, I don’t hate Anne Hathaway because she’s ambitious. I hate her because she’s obnoxious and fake. To hate ambition in a woman is counter to equality. Why is it OK for a man to want an Oscar/CEO job/hot lady and openly pursue this goal, but is unacceptable if this person has a vagina?
Cersei’s ambition parallel to Catelyn’s. Both want their children to be safe, happy, and successful. Both are willing to go to outrageous lengths to ensure their well-being. Is Catelyn’s justified because Cersei is mother to the king?
In one tête-à-tête, Cersei mentions she wanted to be a knight when she was little. She had the heart of a warrior but unfortunately the body of a woman. Jamie, her other half, was able to live this life she desired. The only way she could fight was politically. Even then, Westeros is a land of men. She was only granted access to power because she married into it.
If we hate Cersei for her ambition, isn’t it the same as hating Anne Hathaway for hers? Shouldn’t we hate Anne Hathaway because she’s grown-up Rachael Berry?
One quick note: it is wrong to hate Cersei for her infidelity. She gave birth to three children that were not the King’s. Let’s not forget the king was openly mourning his love Lyanna when he married Cersei. If there was a contest for how many bastards could be created in Westeros, King Robert won. Theirs was not a marriage of love. One could not be expected to be faithful if the other was not.
Yeah, the whole incestual sleeping-with-her-twin thing is pretty gross. I won’t argue with that.
A reader can find many connections between the characters. Both Tyrion and Bran are conquering their disabilities. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen discover power they never knew. Two sides of a coin, both finding conclusions through different means.
As stated above, there are some similarities between Cersei and Catelyn. But that’s the whole “mother” angle.
One argument could pair Cersei and Sansa. Both are women of the court, forced into relationships with men who despise them, controlled by forces out of their control. But I don’t see that link solidified.
Instead, it is my opinion that Cersei is simply a grown-up version of the beloved Arya Stark. How? Arya and Cersei are made from the same material. They both desired what they could not have: adventure, danger, a life beyond court and skirts. Had Arya followed the path intended for her, she would have been married off to some great man, had many babies, and most likely would have hated her life.
Arya’s path is obviously destroyed after the execution of Eddard Stark and the War of the Kings. She disguises herself as a boy, becomes a serf, an assassin, all the while seeing the whole of the country.
Cersei is Arya. We like Arya because she is brave, resourceful, clever, and noble. We’ve rarely seen Cersei as a child, only stories as told by Tyrion (who obviously despises her). There may have been the potential to be Arya in Cersei, just as it is likely Arya would have become Cersei when she grew up.
I’ve not read book four and five. I assume Cersei does not spend those two books knitting or making brownies. I do not approve of what Cersei Lannister commits through the series. I simply want the context provided to the other characters. They are all evil until they are understood.
Except for Gregor Clegane. Dude is a hot pile of shit.