I am almost half way through reading the books of ‘A song of Ice and Fire‘. Last night, after watching the first Comic Con that the Game of Thrones cast attended, I had a revelation. I feel sorry for Cersei Lannister. And I believe what Lena Headey, the actress who plays Cersei, says about the Queen Mother: she is misunderstood by the majority of people who hate her.
The books have given me a better perspective of the story. And here is why I think Cersei Lannister is troubled, but by no means is she a villain.
A long time before the story of ‘A song of Ice and Fire’ began, Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, married Cersei Lannister. He was a great warrior, a young king, that all the ladies in the Seven Kingdoms dreamt of marrying. But Cersei Lannister was the one chosen to marry the King, to strengthen the relationship between two very important houses (Baratheon and Lannister) and to bring stability to the Kingdom. As she confessed to Ned Stark, she considered herself the luckiest woman in the world and she was worshiping Robert. However, on the night of their wedding, while in bed with her for the first time, he called her ‘Lyanna’, the name of his great love who died in the war that ended with him on the Throne. This woman is a Lannister, very proud, high born, the daughter of the richest Lord in the Seven Kingdoms. She wants to be loved by her new husband, yet the ghost of his previous love follows her even to their bed. I can understand why Cersei got bitter. With a drunk husband, who always reminded her that Lyanna is his true love, Cersei could not have grown anything else than bitter and unhappy with him. It’s the only thing a smart woman could have become given the circumstances.
But there is another source to Cersei’s bitterness. She is a smart woman, a true leader born in a world ruled by men. I think, as she stated many times, she was born the wrong sex for the reality of the days. Cersei is great at politics, she is resourceful and strong enough to rule. However, her biggest ‘defect’ is she’s a woman. She is the image of women’s drama in a strongly patriarchal society. She is growing frustrated with all the obstacles that men put in her way. And for good reason. I will give one example: Ned Stark’s execution. She never agreed to that. She ‘counselled’ her son to leave Ned Stark take the black and spend the rest of his days on The Wall. This way, he would’ve been punished for his treason, in the eyes of the people. There would have been no war with the Starks and Jamie Lannister would’ve probably been released, on some conditions. But her son, boy more than man, decided that her mother’s thinking is weak because she’s a woman. He killed the man and started a war that lasts for 7 books.
A lot of the things that Cersei does are to protect her children. She might be guilty of many horrific things, but not for not loving her children. When Stannis comes to attack Kings Landing, Cersei commands her guard to have Joffrey removed from the battle, for fear he could be injured. She doesn’t care about his role as a king, she doesn’t care men will be demotivated by Joffrey leaving the field. She doesn’t care about lords and kingdoms and kings. At that moment, Joffrey is only her baby and she is a mother that will step onto lords’ heads and king’s pride and anything else to keep her baby safe. Can anyone blame her for that? Certainly not I. I would’ve done exactly the same. That king was her baby. She protected her baby, as loathed as he might have been by many.
The thing I cannot justify (nor I want to) is her intimate relationship with her brother. I think her vanity goes beyond the limit with this. She loves Jamie because he is her twin, he looks like her, he feels like her. Cersei loves Jamie because he is her. She loves herself, actually. That is the twisted part of the Queen. And that is their family heritage. If Lord Tywin had a twin sister, she would’ve probably been the mother of his children.
George RR Martin himself said that there is no good or bad characters in Game of Thrones. Every one of them is grey, just like real life human beings. There are no heroes and no villains. Our doings are the result of many circumstances. Cersei is only human; too dark sometimes… but nevertheless human. I feel sorry for her.