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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  1. 100% agree with this, there’s nothing more that I love than a well written, well fleshed out ‘evil’ female character.
    Game of Thrones has mostly managed to keep the female characters just as interesting as the male ones, there are probably much fewer women in the books/show but I can probably name a much higher percentage of them

  2. Wooooo! There’s no villain like a villain you respect, (secretly) admire, and even relate to. I may not agree at all with many of her methods, but I think Cersei is simply trying to make the most out of the hand she was dealt by her fucked up family and a fucked up political system while following her heart. When you look at the circumstances of her life and her personality, she’s really just pursuing something more than the life of a “seen and not heard” trophy wife that her father set her up for. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the books the Lannister words are “hear me roar”, either. Nice work.

  3. Plus, I was just so tired of Jaime by the end of the season. We get it, GoT producers, he’s a bad boy redeemed.

    Go be an overplayed trope and cry in a bath somewhere else, Stumpy.

    Btw, I want to go on record and admit that pic of Tyrion is as unnecessary as most of the boobs on the show, seeing as how I devote about three lines to him in the whole piece. I just hadn’t seen that one and hot damn does Peter D. look sexy in it.

  4. Yes! I despise Don Draper.

    Damn you Draper! I’ll never forgive you for what you did to Lane!

    And yet here I am waiting all another year to see what he does next. Cersei is very much like Draper and Heisenberg in so many ways. I hadn’t thought of it quite like that until you pointed it out. And I look forward to seeing what awful thing she is going to do next.

  5. This was incredibly well written!

    I’m going to make an argument for Dany in a similar vein. She started out as this weak woman who has grown stronger thru her adventures.(kid really despite Dany being aged up for the show, but I’m tryin to keep it show focused) She’s technically “Good” butI think she might be drifting more towards the Chaotic Neutral side

    By Season 3, Dany doesn’t really care what anyone thinks about her decision making. The scene where Drogon burns the slaver is the best example of this.
    She started down a path towards being a truly great character, and as a guy I like seeing strong female characters!

  6. Lena Headey is absolutely smashing this role. She doesn’t even need dialogue, as often times she’s stealing scenes with just her expressions.
    I never knew much about her before GOT, but I’m a big fan now.

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