Cersei Lannister, the Lioness with No Teeth

The new seasons of Game of Thrones is about to start, so I thought it might be a good idea to look at another character that we love to hate, Cersei; only daughter of Tywin Lannister, wife to Robert Baratheon, and mother to Joffery. She is such an interesting character because she craves power, but as a woman in this world does not really have it. The other problem is that she thinks she knows how to play the game, but she really ends up a pawn pretending to be a Queen. This means that Cersei often finds herself in situations that she did not expect or really anticipate. She underestimates way too many people and then overestimates others. It is kind of a tragedy how miserably she usually fails because she thinks she sees everything, when she really doesn’t. (Spoilers for Game of Thrones the book and movie after the jump.)

Queen on a Power Trip

Part of the problem with Cersei is that being Queen has clouded her view. She comes from one of the most powerful families in the kingdom and then became Queen by being married off to Robert Baratheon, the conquerer. She has never known what it means to have to work for power and thus does not really know how to keep it. She seems to have this opinion that because she is Queen that people should just be willing to bow down to her and if not she just needs to force them.

The problem is she does not understand the subtlety that is required to play the game. She sees herself as deserving and has taught her son that same mentality. This means that she tends to run over a lot of people and while people may not defy her to her face, they are not exactly clamoring over themselves to help her either. She inevitably ends up more of a pawn then the queen that she is.

Different Game

The Queen on a power trip routine leads to Cersei playing an entirely different game. She thinks she knows what is going on. She is the only child of Tywin Lannister who has done anything worth mentioning, according to her. She thinks she is moving pieces around the board, but she does not even recognize who the real players are. She thinks she’s moving all these pieces around the board and really she does not even know what is happening. She only sees the most obvious of threats and does not realize where her real enemies lie. Another way to think about it is that Cersei is playing checkers when everyone else is playing Chess.

So many times you see Varys and Littlefinger with all their secrets and their plans and even when one plan might get disrupted they still have more. Plans within plans with so many layers of complexity on them so that no one really knows what they are doing. Cersei on the other hand only sees the most obvious threats and often these threats deal more with her own vanity and pride, then a real problem.

Penis Envy

Cersei lives in a world where women tend to be treated as objects and tend to not hold position of value. The value they hold is who they can be married to in order to create alliances. Constantly you hear Cersei bemoan the fact that she was born a woman and should have been the one true son of Tywin Lannister. If she were a man everything would work the way she wants it to. At the same time she uses sex as the best weapon a woman has, and tends to not use her brain quite enough. There are other women in the show who know how to control a situation so much more than she does. Also, as the Queen, the thought that no one would find out about her little indiscretions are surprising. She talks about wanting to be a man, but she still misses the point. It is not about her being a man or woman, she just does not know what to do.

Cersei has never really had to function in the real world. She lives with a distorted view of how the world functions. She things as simple when they are so much more complicated than that. There are people that she thinks she knows that she doesn’t. Jaime, her twin brother and lover, is someone that she thought she knew, but really she never gets to see in to the depth of his soul. She uses people, but does not actually know how to create true loyalty. Tyrion understands how to create loyalty and understands those that will turn on him at a moments notice. Everyone else is spinning circles around Cersei, which means she thinks she is the center of it all.

Utter Failure

The biggest thing about Cersei is how much she fails. She failed to raise Joffrey to be a good king, but she does not see it, because he is king and that is all that matters. She has failed to understand what it takes to run a kingdom and has failed to understand how to actually accomplish anything. It is amazing how wrong Cersei is about almost everything. She thinks she is so secure in her position, but it is always on the edge of a precipice.


7 responses to “Cersei Lannister, the Lioness with No Teeth

  1. And yet she still survives. By the only metric that counts in this world, that puts her ahead of a lot of the other beloved former characters.


    • That is very true, but does she survive by her own or because others still need her for some purpose. Meaning she is useful, but not in the way she thinks. Of course someone thought Ned Stark could still be useful and look at what happened to him.


  2. Loved this – I’ve never been able to watch Game of Thrones though I’ve wanted to. Cersei seems to be a modern woman set in an old world which is a genre I quite like to explore. I liked how you talked about her though, I could follow it while having never seen the show. Cheers.


    • I like the idea of Cersei as a modern woman set in an old world. That comparison does make some sense as she wants to be able to make her own choices, yet lives in a world where as a woman your father and then husband are really the ones in control.


  3. Pingback: C is for Catelyn Stark | Comparative Geeks

  4. “She thinks she is so secure in her position, but it is always on the edge of a precipice.”

    I have to totally and utterly disagree, I assume you have not read the books. Cersei is the one who says “when you lay the game of thrones you win or you die”. She doesn’t believe she’s in control and secure at all. She wakes up every morning knowing everything could change that day. Cersei is constantly on edge and knows that if she makes a wrong move it could all be over.
    And to be fair Joffrey was born of incest, we all know about the madness that runs in the Targaryen line, the books say that it was thought that when a Targaryen had a child the gods would flip a coin as to whether the child will be mad or not. So clearly insanity comes from incest. I don’t think you can fault Cersei for Joffrey (other than for having him out of incest obviously) he’s mad, what could she possibly do to change that now?!

    I invite you to take a closer look at the lioness of Lannister


    • Fascinating interpretation of Cersei it got me thinking, but I did not get that when I read the books. At the same time I do not like Cersei so my viewpoint might be tainted by that. I felt when she said “you win or you die” she sees herself as winning, but I don’t think she really is. I also disagree with Joffrey being mad because of the conversations Cersei had with him and not just Cersei, but Robert. Joffrey was raised as an entitled child believing as ruler that he can do whatever he wants. If Cersei was playing the game right I think she would have raised Joffrey differently. She also seems to be constantly surprised and indignant when certain things take place in the book. A “how dare this happen to me” attitude. She will sometimes wriggle her way out, but she is very dependent on others. A prime example and spoiler from the books is when she gives power to the church and then they arrest her. She tries to protest and yells, eventually she has to just give in. I think others are willingly letting her stay in power because the people hate her and the more they hate her, the more they hate the ruling family, and the more welcome they will be to someone new.

      Very interesting that we took out different thoughts like this from reading the same books!


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