This time for Cersei! Sorry guys, I promise, Jon and Dany are coming along soon! This one is a little off course for me as I tried to make it as musically-diverse as the feelings Cersei promotes. I hope you like it :)
BTW, everyone should fill out these questions; I probably won’t get to read them, but the more feelings, the better.
- What are the main reasons why people hate Cersei? Let’s say 6 main reasons and I will find arguments against these reasons and why they actually make her a wonderful character. In my purview? They don’t think she’s a good person (she’s not? but that’s the whole narrative point), she fucks with their favorites, she’s MEAN, she’s CRAZY, she’s a MEAN CRAZY LADY, and she’s, uh, a lady. (The rhetoric of misogyny around her runs from blatantly aggressive to insidiously passive, but either way, it’s everywhere and super gross. Basically, everyone should stan this woman because the alternative puts you on the side of some really virulent bullshit. Come to the gilded side! We have meta, mirrors, and Lena Headey’s face.)
- Why do you love Cersei? O HEAVENS. Look, the first sentence I ever heard about anything in these books was “Cersei, you crazy bitch”—and I thought, even from that, that I would skew toward her. I have something of a proclivity toward evil queens. What I expected, then, was that loving her would be wrongheaded of me; what I found was better, that she wasn’t a villainous shadow in a skirt but a character, fully-fleshed and fascinating, more and moreso book by book. She might as well be written for me: I love her because she’s a Lady Macbeth figure in the Macbeth-titular position; I love her because she’s a Classical figure in a medieval framework; I love her because she’s Margaret d’Anjou, tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide; I love her because she is a synthesis of all my favorite tropes that simultaneously calls them all into question. She is the Evil Queen, yes, the Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask (and shattering under it), all the tropes I love, but she’s more than that, subverting them in ways that I think throw people off a lot. She’s a seductress as a weapon, but it comes at huge personal cost; her body is a battleground and a cage and always defined as one. We know exactly the terms of her physical give-and-take; she’s not a libertine, she’s a goddamn warrior. She’s not a chessmaster, either—none of the Lannisters are; she’s impatient and furious and, again, a better warrior than she is a ruler; she can play the game when it’s changing and working against her, but she has no idea how to function when the world is technically for her, because she has no concept of the world working for her. She’s a lion’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide and she’s felt that discrepancy since she was born; the act of womanhood is a battle for her, and one that she’s learned to fight incredibly well, but she’s fighting all the time even when the battle cools and the only one left to fight is herself. She is not strategy: she is wildfire. I’ve seen people get angry because she isn’t a strategist, but she’s never been presented as one, not even at her finest. She knows the game inside and out, but a gameswoman does not a strategist make: she understands the terms, but she as a character is never given us as patient or calm or, ever, compromising. She wants power, not because it will let her rule, but for its own sake, because if she gives up struggling for power she gives up the terms of the struggle that defines her entire life and gives herself over to a world trying to shape her into the very things she has defined herself by not being, the very thing the world at large defines as weak. She’s a product of her world: a feminist text in a vicious misogynist mind. She’s unapologetic and cruel but also brave and entirely capable of love. She’s never easy to love but she is ruthlessly human, human in her ruthlessness, jawdropping in her ruthlessness, understandable even in her horror, internally logical even in her external senselessness, a villain and a person and the heroine of her own story even as and even because she is the architect of her own downfall. Functionally perfect narrative being.
- Favourite Cersei passage in the book? UGH ALL OF THEM. Cersei II in ADWD, though, is actually a triumph of prose as well as characterization in a way that GRRM rarely ever manages (I’d say that, the Red Wedding, and Dany’s dragonbirth at the end of GoT are actively on a higher plane of writing than the series ever gets otherwise: as @itsinthetrees put it, queens in apotheosis), so that has to win out—besides which, as painful as it is to read, it also functions as the ultimate fuck-you to anyone who a) sees her as a flat/”crazy” villain and b) has ever wanted her to “get what she deserves”—like, you know who else thought this was what she “deserved”? Kevan. And what happened to Kevan? Quarrel in the belly. Basically, if you still hate her from a character-construction standpoint after reading Cersei II, you are empirically wrong and deserve to be told so. (As a person, fine, whatever, I think that’s unfortunate, but eh, she’s a meanie, innit, and bias happens. But as a constructed character? Nope. Wrong. Actually incorrect.) Shh, it’s okay. I’ll fix it.
- Favourite Cersei moment in the TV series? Putting my twinship stanning aside, for pure Cersei it has to be the scene with Catelyn—which is twofold wrenching; we know the child’s death is more and darker than she lets on, but even so, Lena’s face is magical and poignant. God, she’s good.
- How would you defend her relationship with Jaime? It doesn’t need defending. It makes perfect sense, it defines both of them, it is equilibrated between the both of them, and anyone who thinks that Jaime Lannister is “over” his sister has had the actual fact of the text drowned out by their own loud wish to get someone more “”“”likable”“”” to climb up the Kingslayer’s tall gold form, whilst anyone who has ever said Jaime is TOO GOOD for his sister, deserves “better” than to be “used” by her, gets thwapped with ADWD, and hard. No. These two don’t function separately, by which I mean a) Watsonian terms, they each fail to function as successful human beings when they’re apart, and b) Doylistically, they’re a twin narrative, quite literally two halves of a self-consistent textual whole. Her arc is bound up in the structure of Classical tragedy, in which she’s fated both prophetically and personally to bring about her own downfall; he’s the valonqar (we don’t have to question this, do we? no), which means he is her downfall in the making, the hand of it, the physical embodiment of the action she brings about with her mind. And that’s the thing with them—she is the thoughts and he is the hand and she shapes her thoughts because she believes he will always be there to serve as the hand and he doesn’t think before he acts because she’s meant to think for them. Really, neither of them are the thinkers of the family, as they both bear the Lannister privileged insularity raised exponentially by the fact that they’ve always been islands unto each other: they have had no perspective of the world not informed by each other since he followed her out of the womb with his hand wrapped around her ankle. Even their transformations double back in the end; even their sacrifices, the things that are supposed to “change” them (which serve to shift their modes operandi—he’s robbed of his sword hand, her of her sexual masquerade, both of them their respective battlegrounds—but not their essential characters, as look at exactly how “declawed” they both are. Hint: they’re not) end up symmetrical (HEAD-SHAVING MOTIFS AS PREPARATORY PHYSICAL STEPS WHAT’S UP). So let’s talk about the islands they are to each other, let’s talk about how they’re supposed to be the one person for the other around whom the masquerade they hate—her performative courtly femininity, his performative chivalric honor—gets to be discarded. And, ooh, let’s talk about how violently nuts they go when they are denied the island. Let’s talk about how they spend a book trying to access the patterns that will link them back to the island, let’s talk about how they’re always one step out of place (which is only the most violent kind of frustrating to read about when you have both points of views talking about how much they want each other back-to-back and not acting on it, oh, FOR AN ENTIRE BOOK), let’s talk about how completely they fall into the worst possible patterns their personalities allow without the mitigating factor of each other—her spiraling in on her thoughts because there’s no force of action to break her out, him wandering aimlessly through the riverlands, punching dudes and making Ilyn Payne beat him up whilst he talks about how he wants to tear out his family’s tongues, because he has no ambitious outside compass to direct him. Let’s talk about how they want exactly one real thing apiece, and that thing is each other, and how they are both trying to rip that out of themselves because they believe they cannot have it, and how that is going to see them into exactly the same place: namely, tragedy; namely, death. It’s going to be perfect. They’re going out the way they came in. And I don’t know where “defense” comes into it: they don’t make each other Good, neither is Good, no one here is Good; they make each other People and, Doylistically, they make each other full narrative creatures. I am basically sorry for people who want to put that aside, whatever the reason. (If you think Jaime is getting out of this unscathed, I’m sorry, you’re fucked.)
- How would you defend her treatment of Sansa/the Starks in general? Starks? Survival. It’s simple, it’s political, it’s mercenary, it’s the game. Cersei is good at the game as battle; she’s at her absolute best in tight, desperate corners (see: Cersei I, ADWD, actually, where she’s cannier and more successful than we’ve seen her in a long time, because she is more desperate), and Ned fights her in his very weakest not knowing to what extent it’s her strongest. I actually think that her relationship with Sansa is riveting, too; there’s something almost like genuine liking there, which she can’t access, but it does make things weird and maternal. She sees herself in Sansa, no matter how little she’d like to admit it; the difference is one that lies in Sansa’s favor, too, which doesn’t make the admitting easier—Sansa is intrinsically more at ease in the game of girlhood; her body isn’t a battleground for her. But being young and groomed into the game and believing in princes and happy endings because it’s the best possible result of the game—this, Cersei understands, and the part of her that once drew herself flying dragons with Rhaegar, long since forcibly silenced, must ache.
(IT’S BEEN WHAT LIKE HALF A WEEK SINCE I FLOODED YOUR DASHES WITH WORDS. WELL THIS SHOULD TIDE YOU OVER FOR THE REST OF THE MONTH. HAVEN’T YOU GUYS MISSED ME. ♥)
But there’s a breech in the hull where the truth and the water’s too deep to prove.
He made an enemy then. He made an enemy of all of you.