Femme Friday is here!
Femme Friday focus this month is fictional femmes. I started with talking about space princesses. But now I’m heading into some Femme Fatale territory, starting with the most recent and arguably most powerful femme in current fiction: Cersei Lannister.
What makes Cersei Lannister a formidable character? What is her weakness. Why is or isn’t she a femme fatale?
“Every man’s a piece to start with, and every maid as well. Even some who think they are players. Cersei, for one. She thinks herself sly, but in truth she is utterly predictable. Her strength rests on her beauty, birth, and riches. Only the first of those is truly her own, and it will soon desert her. I pity her then. She wants power, but has no notion what to do with it when she gets it.” Petyr Baelish
Some say Cersei is a flawed character who has managed to skip a character axing spree simply by being a Lannister, a family that for some reason, Martin has avoided destroying. Maybe. But the Lannister demise comes from within, rather than getting a Stark body count from political enemies outside the family. And we all love Tyrion because let’s face it, he got all the brains and none of the beauty.
As wicked queens go, Cersei is the worst example. Once’s Regina could run rings around her. There’s no cunning to Cersei, no finesse. She’s a cat with no teeth. She can’t control her own children and yet expects others to respect her. By contrast to her younger brother, Cersei is a mental midget. Or is she? Why does GRRM always make his women characters so weak and tortured or stupid? But my bone picking with him is a blog post for another day…
What begins Cersei’s fall? As usual, a lie. One lie follows another and soon she is in a web of them. Which lie? Well, it’s hard to pick one since she was banging her brother when they were children. Blech. But most agree it was when she was about nine or ten as a result of the prophesy of the wise woman Maggy the Frog. What ole Maggy predicted, accurately down to the last detail so far, was Cersei’s marriage to a king, their mutual infidelity, that she would outlive her children, and that eventually a younger and more beautiful queen would come and kill her. But this isn’t a lie, this is the truth and it’s something nobody would want to get out. Covering up this truth with her friend Melara Hetherspoon, who was with her, is the lie that starts the fall. Literally. Melara died in a well. Melara, it is implied, was killed by Cersei soon after they agreed never to speak of the prophesy which also included Melara’s death that night. Some argue that it wasn’t to cover up the lie but in a fit of jealous rage as Melara asked the crone if she would grow up to marry Jaime. Cersei and Melara are eleven or twelve at the time.This plants the seeds of moral corruption in her psyche even more than her own sexual activities. Cersei doesn’t have enough sense to know that you can’t hide from a prophesy or change it. Because magic will mess you up.
Lies. She’s up to her eyeballs in them before she’s even in her first training bra. Unfortunately, she’s not bright enough to keep track. She relies on lies and deceit to keep her in power but as she builds on these lies, she loses her credibility with those that she allies with and who ultimately abandon her. What does she do once she regains her position as Regent? Disregards all of her father’s previous arrangements and advice from advisors like Kevan. Paranoia creeps in with the alcohol dependency. Worst of all, the family saying “A Lannister always pays his debts,” goes unheeded. She refuses to honor debts to some very powerful groups and makes political enemies as well as an enmity between the Lannisters and their allies. Her political prowess is null, though she is blind to this weakness in her character. She cannot see past her own ambition and subsequently she is an ineffectual leader that the powerful ignore.
Cersei, who started out as such a promising character with femme fatale written all over her in the first book, ends up with her moral corruption taking on physical manifestation as a bloated and hungover pustule that nobody, not even her twin Jaime, will rescue.
But lo! Wait! Is there a redemption coming? Will she die as depraved as she is being steered towards? When Cersei’s political machinations fail, she is sentenced to a walk of shame like no frat party hussy has ever been made to endure. By the end of this walk, is she stronger? Weaker? Better? Worse? Will she be the same predictable Cersei and lash out in anger or will she hunker down and get smart? She has a new weapon. New Cersei or same old Cersei?
What do you think?