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Why Cersei Lannister is an Important Feminist Character

Warning: Spoilers ahead

I know what you’re thinking. Cersei? Feminist? Well, I didn’t say that she was a feminist (although the argument could be made) I said she was an important feminist character. By that I mean that her very existence as a strong feminine villain makes her a feminist character. Anyone who watches the show can agree that she is pretty much the worst. She has a child thrown off a building, for god’s sake. However she is also smart and cunning and ambitious (Slytherin to the core).  She is an incredible example of a powerful woman who is so much more than her femininity and uses her name and her intelligence as a weapon.

Honestly, I think that Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion are beautiful mixes of each other. You can’t argue that Tyrion isn’t one of the smartest people in the show, and there are so many smart people, but Jaime is also more intelligent than people give him credit for. He basically talks himself out of Robb Stark’s prison and in the most recent seasons has gone through some complex character development that I think makes him so much more interesting. All of the Lannister children are smart people, it seems to run in their family (see Tywin Lannister). Jaime also relies pretty heavily on his charm and looks to get by as well as his name and reputation, but here’s where his siblings differ. Tyrion (in the books) is freaking ugly and on top of that he is an “imp.” This puts him at a major disadvantage and he must be constantly looking for ways to exploit people and use his intelligence to get the upper hand. Cersei has to do a similar thing because she is a woman. She does rely on her looks and femininity to manipulate people, but at the same time she is constantly playing a battle of wits. Her combative dialogue with Ned Stark at the end of the first season was so beautifully written and laden with double meanings that every time I watch it I pick up on a different thing. You can really see how the three of them are related simply through the writing of the show.

What Cersei wants is power. She is constantly looking for ways to put herself in a higher standing. First she marries Robert Baratheon and becomes Queen, has “his” babies, and then kills him to maintain her son’s right to the throne, and that’s all in the first season! Over the course of the show she is behind the scenes, manipulating and forcing the outcomes she desires. Up until Lady Margaery shows up shortly followed by the creepy religious guys, I was sure that Cersei was just going to win everything. As we saw in the last season, she knows what she wants and is going to do everything in her power to ensure that she gets it.

Cersei is an incredibly complex and well developed character. Yes, she’s evil, but she’s so much more than that. She loves her children with her entire being and would do anything that she could to protect them. When they die, it rocks her to the core. Listening to her talk about losing her and Robert’s child was heartbreaking and her speech about trying to love a man who is in love with a dead woman made me cry. As much as I want to hate her, I can’t help but find myself sympathetic at times. That’s one of the great things about Game of Thrones. You can relate at least a little bit to all of the characters — some more than others, for sure, but there have been times throughout the show that I have related to every single one of the characters.

The major feminist factor in Cersei’s character is her complexity. She is a strong, beautiful, smart, and powerful woman on TV in a time when queens are portrayed as elegant and sophisticated (which Cersei certainly is)…but these queens have no layers. They are either regal and professional or downright horrible and mean, but they don’t have the same depth that Cersei does. Now, I’ve mentioned how Thrones has strong characters in general, and I can hardly talk about queens without bringing up Daenerys. She is also incredibly strong, but I think that she is just a little more obviously feminist, and she juxtaposes Cersei beautifully. Dany is another great example of a wonderful female character on TV who I am personally so grateful for, but this article is about Cersei.

We need more characters like Cersei Lannister on television. She isn’t exactly a great role model, but she isn’t supposed to be. The point is that we need imperfect women, mean women, smart women, on TV because we need to showcase all of the things that a woman can be. There are enough soft, loving, friendly women on TV, we need women with edges and curves and spikes to let the world know it’s okay to be any kind of woman you’d like to be.

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Sophomore double majoring in English and Psychology at the University of Utah.
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