In Support of Cersei Lannister

A common trope exposed in many fantasy and sci-fi shows is misogyny and its justification due to the time periods, medieval-type settings, or cliche character archetypes. This is not a new concept either, as women have been watching the now stale-motifs of “strong” women ever since Star Trek aired. Now, with dozens of streaming services offering the likes of The Witcher, American Horror Story, and even The Magicians, these perceptions of women are even more accessible, especially to young adults. In one of the most sexist shows of them all comes a silver lining. Game of Thrones is over, but we can still revel in its fantastic lore, controversial ending, and perhaps one of the boldest female characters to ever grace the world of fantasy- Cersei Lannister.

I know, I know, Cersei is technically classified as a villain, but her ruthless drive is what made her such a robust character. Every move she makes is purposeful, each attack has intent. She is calculating, cunning, and beguiling, and her ambition is what allows her to endure in an oppressive patriarchy. I argue that most of the traits that label her as a villain are those that would brand a male counterpart as a leader. She is madly protective of her children, driven towards power and justice (even if her idea of it is skewed), and utterly loyal, perhaps not to people or ideals we would consider moral, but she certainly holds conviction in them. Would we not say that a man with a sense of protection, justice, and loyalty commands our attention? Lena Headly, Cersei Lannister herself, even claimed, “I don’t play her as a villain. I just play a woman who is a survivor and will do exactly what a man would do...she’s a woman surviving...desperate to be heard, saying something seven times when a man says it once.” 

Metal chess pieces

Cersei was effectively manipulating political pieces before her children even inherited the throne, sitting in on council meetings with her father and learning from his mistakes as she quietly plotted her family’s ascension to power. She wanted the best for her children, even Joffrey, who even she admitted several times, was not fit to be a ruler. Her advisors know better than to dissuade her from an idea once it has formed in her head; she refuses to surrender, even when it ultimately means her demise. Violence is only ever used as an objective, otherwise, she has plenty of methods of persuasion in the realm. In other words, Cersei is wickedly sharp and unreasonably overlooked simply because of her sex. She was meant to rule: fit for the crown and fashioned for the throne.

I think that what makes her so strong, however, is her flaws. Obviously, incest is not one of her celebrated traits, but there are other cracks in her character. She is deeply troubled, even from a young age, as her father teaches her that emotions are seen as signs of weakness. Spite towards her youngest brother leads to the death of more than one of her closest confidants (including her father), and her tenacity, while often producing action, can turn against her in times of compromise. Cersei becomes almost dehumanized on her journey to power, losing any empathy she once had, unable to reason within ethics. But, because she is flawed does not mean she is weak. She has the ability to grow, to learn from errors and continue building her dominion without ever being perceived as emotional. It’s incredibly refreshing.

Picture of a crown

I wanted Jon Snow on the throne, trust me, but a part of me wishes that there had been a better ending for the Lioness of house Lannister. In a world of fantasy so heavily populated with “chosen” dystopian women, under-confident women who must undergo a change to recognize their potential, flawless and intense women, or no women at all, Cersei Lannister is such a breath of fresh air. She embodies all of the traits we uphold in male heroes but is branded a villain because of it. I honestly think that Westeros needed an unrelenting ruler, someone who had survived, and even thrived in the face of adversity, and whether this article changes your mind about Cersei or not, I think it’s in our best interest to uphold her as a truly strong female character and demand more like her. They won’t quite be able to reach her level of prestige and power, but it never hurts to try.