A year or so ago, I wrote a blog about abortion laws in Ireland and Cersei Lannister’s creepy mastery of her incestuous offspring. A year later, I’m still just as obsessed by Cersei as I was when I first read this sympathetically unsympathetic ice-queen’s story because. You may be asking yourself why anyone would be so fascinated by such a concoction of nasty attributes, but that’s exactly why I find her fascinating. In a world system very similar to our own, we see a character that is so overtly a product of her over-dominating patriarchal society.
And this is why I love her. She’s always so reactionary. What she does and why she does it reflects what has been done to her. She makes sure she doesn’t have any of Robert’s babies because she was forced to marry him. She kills Robert and then uses the children that she has from her brother to claim (in her own warped way) power for herself through the status of her eldest son, power that she is otherwise denied by the very virtue of her sex. But still, men think that they can control her because, well… WOMAN IS SMALL AND WEAK. So of course she can’t stay alone for long, as we see when her father steps back in to the picture and tries to control her body again by arranging to marry her off again. (Seriously, fuuuuuuuuck off Tywin! Cersei is an independent, power-hungry, brother-fucking, narcissistic, sociopath – POKING SUCH A BEAR IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA.)
Anyways, in the latest episode of the Game of Thrones Cersei loses her one and only son (kidding, she’s got a back-up one). If you were surprised by this death, it was probably because you were expecting the unexpected rather than the OF COURSE HE’LL DIE HE’S A TERRIFYING PSYCHOTIC LITTLE SHIT turn of events. Good ole George R.R. Martin.
Rather than focus on Joffrey’s disgusting face after he dies (seriously, my stomach did this weird flip thing at how not-realistic-but-terrifying his face looked), I’m going to focus on what that means for his mother. Cersei, very wittily titled “the mother of madness” at the beginning of this episode, is for all of one minute, completely lost (or kind of distracted) in grief for her son. Then, before we have time to fully digest our stomach churning moment from looking at Joffrey’s weird, bulgy face, she jumps straight in accusations as to who her son’s murderer was. Rather than mourn her dead son that is lying in her hands, she immediately demands action taken against his murderer (of which there is no evidence). Because, of course that’s what you’d do if you’re a creepily un-maternal, un-feeling creature. You wouldn’t be sad that you’ve lost your son, you’d be mad that you lost your connection to power. For Cersei can exist without her son, because she sees herself as a Queen first and foremost, and that has not necessarily been killed with the loss of Joffrey.
Looking at Cersei’s immediate reaction to her first son’s death is made even more interesting when compared to Catelyn Tully’s own loss of her first born son. Catelyn, who had suffered through the death of her husband and (to the best of her knowledge) the death of her two youngest sons, now must watch her first born son murdered violently right in front of her. When Rob is killed, Catelyn Tully breaks. There’s two versions of this event, the literary one where Catelyn loses her mind, tears out her hair and is murdered and the TV version, where she becomes completely immobile, and is murdered – both versions of events see her incapacitated. Catelyn, who identifies as mother first and foremost, loses her will to live along with her son. The connection is clear in this scene – Catelyn sees little good in surviving after her son is murdered. She doesn’t call out at her murderers, she doesn’t threaten them, she doesn’t take any action – because her son is dead, there is no motivation to move on. Instead she is paralysed by what she’s lost. Paralysed by the death of what was, in her mind, the most important thing in her life.
So what’s the difference between Catelyn and Cersei? They’ve both lost their first born sons. They’ve both lost their connections to power. They’ve both lost their sons publicly and violently. They both lost their sons while dining. The two instances are shockingly similar (and if you know Martin’s style of writing, you know it’s not a coincidence). Cersei sees herself as a Queen first. Catelyn sees herself as mother first. Thus, in their grief, their priorities, their self-identifications with their roles, are revealed.
Now, I’m not saying all mothers should just drop dead and die when their kids do (although most parents will probably tell you that outliving a child is one of the worst tortures that someone could go through), but what I am saying is that the impact of losing a child should probably leave you somewhat lost, be it in shock or sadness. To be so calculating as to already assign blame whilst your son’s body isn’t even cold in your hands, well… maybe give it five minutes Cersei?