Hero or Villain: We Decide # 6 – Cersei Lannister

Surely Cersei is no hero?

TV isn’t real. Walter White didn’t do all that illegal stuff, a zombie apocalypse has not been sent to sort us out and superheroes are not running about major US cities killing people. That’s obvious right? Yet take Game of Thrones. Clearly fantasy, clearly exaggerated beyond metaphor or allegory, but able to excite devotion and identification like few fictional works before it. Actor Peter Dinklage recently told a story where someone died in an accident after doing a double take when seeing him on the street, and the actress who plays his fictional sister, Lena Headey, is regularly accosted by people insulting her or adoring her instead of her creation.

No one excites the passions of viewers more than Cersei and her character’s history on the show is a litany of villainy. Just think about it, she begins by having Brann thrown from a tower to hide her incest, we’re led to believe she has the old Hand killed because he discovered her secret and then had Ned Stark, the successor, ruined and put at the mercy of her megalomaniac son after she had engineered the death of her husband. She tortures and lies to his offspring and fails to check the sadism of Joffrey.

She is also vengeance personified, the kind of person who will take sentiment and sympathy as an opportunity to wound them. When Tyrion rises to the task of holding Kings Landing as acting Hand, she takes his efforts to safeguard her other children as a form of betrayal and tells him that one day she will visit upon him the ultimate in payback. Around her are men she can seduce, buy, and beat – if only she were a man too. Driven by her father’s patriarchy, she wishes to rule to put right the wrongs done to her.

Yet, she has been wronged. Forced to marry a drunken, brutal oaf whose adultery is open and shaming. Ignored by a father who puts all his hopes into Jamie, her brother and lover. And marginalised by the teen King as he indulges his sadism and then usurped in her influence by Margaery Tyrell. As she has been used as a pawn in men’s games she has longed to have their power and their respect, she is determined that she will make her opportunity to rule happen.

Even in her worst moments she is trying to teach others the way of the world. With Sansa, she rips through her surface to the truth and tries to get her to understand – “Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs”. Cersei also appreciates her sad fate like when she admits to Tyrion – “if it weren’t for my children, I would have thrown myself from the highest tower”. So I suppose, we have to decide whether Cersei is a troubled survivor who loves her kids or a power crazed murderess filled tip to toe with venom. Season 4 will start with a rapid rise for her fortunes and she will have the opportunity to use power wisely and be loved, will she take the opportunity to be happy and good or will she turn her enemies to ashes, along with the kingdoms?

Sadly, we believe she’ll not change her path or learn humility. And for this reason she has to be a villain….

John White

Updated: Apr 01, 2014

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Hero or Villain: We Decide # 6 – Cersei Lannister | The Digital Fix