An Open Letter to Lena Headey’s Cersei Lannister


Note: This post draws upon Lena Headey’s performance as Cersei Lannister through season 3 of Game of Thrones (no books).

Dear Cersei,

I don’t propose to use this letter to expound your hidden virtues, or to make a case for how misunderstood you might be. I won’t paint you as an antihero, some kind of female Richard III. Not that you’re without some redeeming features—as your beloved (not by you, by us) brother once said, “You love your children. It’s your one redeeming quality; that and your cheekbones.” Notwithstanding that love, you often treat them as political pawns. You certainly have no qualms about ignoring the elder’s psychotic cruelty in order to maintain what power you wield, however fleeting it may be. The truth is, I find you rather horrid.

And that’s why I want to thank you.


Thank you.

Thank you for being difficult.

In today’s television landscape, difficult men are constantly and consistently praised. People are writing whole books about them. Tony Soprano, Walter White, Don Draper, Dexter Morgan and the like are the guys that we don’t even bother loving to hate. We just love them. Because they’re badasses, or brilliant, or the best in the business, or follow their own warped moral code, or combine all of these qualities into one enigmatic package.

They also steadily destroy the lives of themselves and everyone around them (full disclosure, I thoroughly enjoy watching them do it) through heinous crimes, lying, infidelity, or any combination therein. You know what I’m talking about. There are plenty of difficult men in Westeros, too. Every male in your immediate family, for starters. Well, I suppose Tommen’s demeanor remains to be seen.

Your brother is a real piece of work.


No, no. Not him (though a piece of work, to be sure).

The other one.


The one who’s an extension of you.

Jaime gets a pretty sweet deal, as far as I can tell, spending a whole season and a half palling around with Brienne, a character who’s nearly impossible to dislike. Making Brienne like Jaime is a pretty surefire way to get us to like him, hmm? Throw in a Skywalker-esque behanding and a naked bathhouse confession and we’re all drowning in those pools of crystal blue he calls eyes.

No one speaks well of you, though. And no one seems to like you. Not even your own father, who you try so hard to please/emulate. Joffrey is surely incapable of empathy. Perhaps Myrcella and Tommen count, but what do we care? We hardly know them. You also had a direwolf puppy killed.

That was low, Cersei. Direwolf puppies are even more likeable than Brienne.

Thus, you remain a queen of ice.

Chin up, though. It’s not like you pushed a child out of a tower window. That’s our Jaime! When he’s not killing the mad king to save the people, he’s attempting murder on the cutest pre-warg in Winterfell. What a rascal!


Even you seemed shocked by that move. And that’s what I do like about you, I daresay.

Every now and then, a tiny crack appears. You’re surprised by Jaime’s horrible impulse. You bond with Catelyn over the loss of your firstborn and your innocence. There was a time when all you wanted was to be a beloved, beautiful queen. You recognize yourself in Sansa. Sometimes you try to teach her how to survive—at least in the way you know how.

In those moments you’re a woman in what is very much a man’s world, looking into the eyes of another, and seeing your own reflection there.

Thank you for being complicated, Cersei. They may be few and far between, but I’m glad for the times I see myself in you.



Sara Clemens


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