Thursday, June 18, 2015

sitting pretty on the throne

“Queen you shall be, until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”
The following post contains spoilers to both the HBO TV show Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire book series the show is based on. 

I have a bit of a history of loving the characters that other people seem to love to hate, and the reactions I've seen from casual show watchers to Cersei's infamous Walk of Shame scene in the fifth season finale demonstrate a spectacular interest in seeing falls from grace. Cersei Lannister is written to be a hard character to empathize with in part because she is everything men say they want in a woman and everything women want to be: beautiful, intelligent, charming, and confident in herself. As the queen of Westeros, she occupies the highest position a woman in a patriarchal monarchy can ever dream of achieving—and it will never even come close to being enough for her. 

The ruthlessness to which she craves power is unsettling because it represents a very masculine-coded desire despite the fact that being the queen requires a particular emphasis on feminine gender roles, first as the wife of the king and later as the mother of the next king. At the end of the day it doesn't matter how close she can get to the Iron Throne herself: she will always be ruled by her father, her husband, and her sons simply because men will always be in a greater position of power than what she can access, and the injustice of it all sparks a violent anger within her that manifests itself in her cruelty and selfishness. 

At the heart of what makes Cersei such a tragic character are the moments in which we're allowed to see her vulnerability beneath the cold glares and begin to comprehend her rage and paranoia. "Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls," she says to Oberyn Martell in season four, and it was a line that became almost thematic to the gratuitous depictions of every kind of violence imaginable against women this season. Cersei understands better than anyone that sometimes you can't ever win when the world is waiting to bring you down every chance it gets; she's known that ever since she walked into Maggy the Frog's tent asking for her fortune to be told to her that being hurt isn't a question of "if" but rather "when," and it's the most heartbreaking thing to watch her demand bravery of herself in spite of it all.
There was something in her eyes, stinging, blurring her sight. She could not cry, she would not cry, the worms must never see her weep. Cersei rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. A gust of cold wind made her shiver violently.
And suddenly the hag was there, standing in the crowd with her pendulous teats and her warty greenish skin, leering with the rest, with malice shining from her crusty yellow eyes. “Queen you shall be,” she hissed, “until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold most dear.”
And then there was no stopping the tears. They burned down the queen’s cheeks like acid.
A Dance with Dragons
Cersei's tenacity in her own self-preservation is so admirable to me because she refuses to let herself give in no matter how badly she wants to be able to let go and express all the pain and grief and anger and raw emotionality she has built up beneath the surface. That Cersei continued to demand such bravery of herself during her Walk of Shame was one of the most powerful moments in the entire series; her ability to keep fighting no matter how much the world wants to tear her apart is absolutely terrifying. 

"A woman may weep but not a queen," she tells herself, because she can't let the world know how badly it hurt her, especially not when she's already so close to the top. Betraying weakness has never been an option, and it's something that I find myself being able to identify with. In the face of fear and uncertainty, sometimes the only thing that you can do is to keep fighting no matter how scared you are of what could happen. For Cersei, it doesn't matter how terrified she is of losing everything: her family, her children, her crown; in a world that seems to want nothing more than to see her suffer again and again, Cersei's resolution to fight for herself and for everything she holds dear represents the ultimate endurance of the human spirit. 

xoxo, vivian

Graphics in this post are my own, originally posted on tumblr. Do not repost without express permission.

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