Meet Cersei Lannister: Queen regent, wine aficionado, widow, incestuous date-rape victim, grieving mother whose first-born son was the victim of regicide, betrothed to a “renowned pillow-biter” for the sake of the family legacy. She’s just like all you women out there.
Cersei, portrayed brilliantly by British actress Lena Headey, is the most powerful woman in Westeros, the mythical setting for HBO’s Game of Thrones, but she is in no way exempt from the depravity of men. She has even dispatched her only daughter to a distant land, Dorn, because Cersei has been assured the lass will be safer.
“We don’t hurt little girls in Dorn,” Prince Oberyn tells Cersei.
“Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls,” Cersei says with a resigned, faraway stare, the light gone from her eyes.
Earlier this week The New York Times cornered George R.R. Martin, who has written and is still penning the books on which Game of Thrones is based (collectively, A Song of Ice and Fire) to discuss the “incidents of rape or sexual violence” that take place in his novels. Of course, Martin might have asked The Gray Lady the same thing about herself.
NYT: May 6, 2014, “Nigeria’s Stolen Girls”
“Three weeks after their horrifying abduction in Nigeria, 276 of the more than 300 girls who were taken from a school by armed militants are still missing, possibly sold into slavery or married off...The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in a video released on Monday, ‘I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah.’”
GoT: April 27, 2014, “Oathkeeper”
In this episode we find that the plural widows and daughters—many of whom are both—of one very bad and insecure polygamist, Craster, have been liberated from his tyranny only to fall down a darker well. The mutineers who killed their husband/father have pitched camp inside his homestead and—never mind that they all once took an oath of celibacy—have transformed it into a den of mass rape.
NYT: April 26, 2014, “A Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation”
“A lawyer for (Jameis) Winston’s accuser said the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, told her that because Tallahassee was a big football town, her client would be “raked over the coals” if she pursued the case.”
GoT: April 20, 2014, “Breaker of Chains”
In which Cersei is date-raped by her own brother, Jamie Lannister, at the foot of the corpse of her own son. Granted, the deceased King Joffrey is their son, and perhaps Cersei should have never ventured into that dangerous territory in the first place—one woman’s incestuous relationship is another’s ill-fated ride back to a home populated by football players—and so we knew that Cersei was not about to press charges with the King’s Guard. Especially when the leader of the King’s Guard is the brother who raped her. We can just imagine Detective Angulo reminding her that Kingslayer is a marquee name in King’s Landing, and that she’d be raked over the coals—perhaps literally.
And so it goes, back and forth. Viserys Targaryen warns his sister, Daenerys, of the unmentionable atrocities he would allow a warlord’s entire tribe do unto her if it meant that he could ascend to power, while a Times headline declares “3 Oregon Basketball Players Face Rape Allegations” (May 6). In Martin’s world a smart and lovely career-oriented young woman (Talisa) becomes romantically involved with a national hero only to meet a violent end through no fault of her own. In the real world, Reeva Steenkamp.
Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.
Women are victims in Game of Thrones but they are also heroic. Daenerys Targaryen is on a one-woman crusade to liberate enslaved people on either shore of the Narrow Sea. Liittle Arrya Stark lulls herself to sleep nightly by reciting the names of the people who should meet justice at the “pointy end” of her sword. Meanwhile, back in our “civilized” world, the lone face of protest against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on human rights are a small group of young women, armed only with guitars, whom we know collectively as “Pussy Riot.”
The closest thing to a villainess, to a “power-hungry bitch” that Game of Thrones has to offer is Cersei, and yet all of her manipulations are in the name of keeping her family intact. She’s the Kris Kardashian of Westeros. It is the show’s male factor that is its malefactors, which echoes the headlines on home pages of websites the world over.
And, maybe this is a coincidence or maybe it speaks to a larger, more uncomfortable truth, but four seasons into Game of Thrones, the five most ethical and heroic male characters are: a midget, a cripple, an idiot who can only pronounce his own name (“Hodor! Hodor!”), a “bastard” and a highly literate wimp. As if any one of them would ever advance past the Iowa caucuses.
“Why have you included scenes of rape or sexual violence in your A Song of Ice and Fire novels?” the Times asked Martin last week.
“An artist has an obligation to tell the truth,” Martin replied. “The true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters (and the heroes, too).”