Cersei in Breaker of Chains

We’ve all forgotten Cersei.

Well, not all of us. Some people who are far more sensitive and aware than me have been talking about her since Breaker of Chains aired on Sunday. But most of the conversation has been focused on Jaime. How the writers have destroyed Jaime’s character. How this is going to affect Jaime’s plotline from now on. How this makes no sense for Jaime. My own reaction post was titled “Jaime Lannister in Breaker of Chains,” and although I did touch on the disturbing idea that Cersei is being punished in the scene for being “hateful,” the entire post is written from a perspective of “look what they’ve done to Jaime.” And that’s pretty darn problematic. Yes, the changes to Jaime’s character are more startling and more active, and so seem like the obvious thing to write about. But by focusing on what this means for Jaime, we’re prioritizing the rapist in the scene and completely ignoring the victim.

And that’s exactly what the show wants us to do. The scene itself certainly prioritizes Jaime, focusing on his disgusted face, making his dialogue louder and clearer, giving him more prominence in the shots. We never get a shot of Cersei’s face, and even her dialogue becomes hard to understand in moments. Her protests all blur together, her body is shoved to the edge of the screen, while Jaime takes prominence. We don’t see the scene from the perspective of the victim. We’re not expected to try to get into her head or sympathize with her. It’s all about Jaime, and most of us have responded to the scene in kind.

And, to be entirely honest, I’m struggling to come up with a response to Cersei in this episode, in part because we’re not supposed to be thinking about her. We’re supposed to be thinking about Jaime. And so there isn’t much material to grapple with. Assumedly, more people will talk about Cersei if, next week, we see her acting in response to this scene, or at least see its impact on her. But I predict that we’ll never see such a thing. Several people involved in the show have made very clear that they don’t think the scene was really rape, and as Cersei’s entire plotline this season is her desire to get revenge on Tyrion for the death of her son, I doubt that they’ll want to linger and give her a sympathetic moment. She wasn’t even allow thirty seconds of grief over her son’s death before she started screaming about arresting Tyrion and Sansa. Why would the show give her time to respond to a different fan favorite’s abuse of her when she could just be evil instead?

In fact, the trailers for next week’s episode reveal that Cersei is going to demand that Jaime brings her Sansa’s head. Straight back to the psychotic revenge plot, then. And although Cersei acts in a similar way in the book, the change to the altar scene paints it in a rather different light. On the one hand, we have Cersei denying him affection and screaming for an innocent girl’s head. On the other hand, we have Brienne, good and virtuous, asking Jaime to find Sansa and protect her. Add in the conversation between Cersei and Brienne from episode 2, and we see a clear-cut rivalry between them, a dichotomy where Brienne, understandably, is the preferable side. But from this perspective, Cersei is now the irrational harpy. How dare she ask Jaime to prove her love for him? How dare she deny him after he fought so hard to return to her? Why SHOULD we feel sympathy for her, or even see what Jaime did as unjust?

The changes in Breaker of Chains did not just steal Cersei’s agency, turning her from a character who is in control of her relationship with Jaime and who uses sex to her advantage into a character who is a sexual victim and at Jaime’s mercy. It also denied that she is a full character in her own right. Cersei has been given interesting development on the show before, but all of that has been torn away in order to provide a nonsensical backdrop for a male character’s story. To juxtapose her against Brienne and show how long-suffering Jaime really is. To make her into an “evil” influence that Jaime can now free himself from with his nobler deeds.

And almost all of us have bought into it, even as we condemn the show for this change. Because yes, this change destroys Jaime’s character. But it destroyed Cersei’s too. And it did it so completely that most of us didn’t even notice.

10 comments on “Cersei in Breaker of Chains

  • Síle , Direct link to comment

    I agree about the Jaime/Cersei/Brienne love triangle thing, just a bit heavy-handed, but when you look at where Cersei is at this point in the books, it is a relatively powerless position as well, dominated by other characters such as Jaime and Tyrion. Once her whole AFFC plot arc begins, which probably won’t be till the next season, we’ll hopefully see her rise into power once more as a character in her own right, as she was in the early seasons. This rape scene was a blunder in directing and writing, and I’m pretty sure no one enjoyed watching it, but I believe the show can recover.

  • Maddy , Direct link to comment

    Thanks for this – I will fully admit that when I first saw this scene my immediate response was about how they destroyed Jaime’s character – and the conversation has definitely been all about Jaime. Like a lot of people, I have some sympathy for Cersei but I am more invested in Jaime’s redemption, and part of the reason I had respect for him even while recognising he obviously is very flawed, is that he is one of the few men who have respect for women and recognises how horrible rape is. I’m still not sure whether GRRM intends for Jaime to be more sympathetic than Cersei, or if that’s my own bias.

    Cersei is definitely an interesting character in her own right, and I have definitely appreciated that the show has attempted to flesh her out more as she is not a POV character by this point in the story in the books. But I really wonder about the motivations behind this scene and if they’re trying to set up this whore/ madonna distinction between Cersei and Brienne (which is horribly stereotypical and simplistic and does a disservice to both of these complicated women).

    I don’t necessarily think depicting something horrible means the creators or writers endorse that horrible act, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. Even the interview with the director is all about Jaime and his motivations and what he is feeling. If I was being charitable you could argue that they are trying to make Cersei more sympathetic or call attention to the fact that Jaime is not completely redeemed or honourable. But even that is problematic – did they really need to use rape as a plot device to do that?

    Regardless of the scene in the books (which on the reread is definitely much more problematic than I initially realised), they made a choice to include this scene and depict it this way. And I don’t understand why. Isn’t the death of Joffrey and all the other stuff that’s going on in the story enough to drive Jaime and Cersei apart?

  • M.C , Direct link to comment

    tbqh I don’t think that scene made a difference for Cersei’s arc at all. Her relationship with Jaime was already crumbling and her slow descent into madness is already happening.

    I’m more worried how this is going to affect Brienne. Because she is already the pure virgin whose inherent goodness and nobility inspired Jaime to become a better man. But now she’s also going to be the lady whose chaste love and devotion is going to turn a raping monster into a good man and true hero?

    Fuck you, HBO! That’s why I’m stopping watching. My Brienne is a great girl, but she’s not the stupid virginal goddess you’re making her out to be.
    Brienne is so empathic that she would probably forgive Jaime for his rape if he felt sorry and tried to make up for it. But Brienne would not forget it, she would not trust him, and she sure as hell wouldn’t even dream about sacrificing Pod and Hyle for Jaime.

    • Eve , Direct link to comment

      I love what you said in your last paragraph about Brienne. I think it describes her to a T. She is empathatic and I think still sees the good in people, and might forgive, but she wouldn’t forget. I think she’s more like Catelyn than a lot of the other female characters.
      But on the other hand, how would she (or anyone other than Jamie or Cersei) even know about the rape…

  • Lars Sjöström , Direct link to comment

    It is unfair to compare Brienne and Cersei, since they have hardly anything in common save their sex. We have no idea what Brienne would do if her son was murdered, in the books she has agreed to lead Jaime in what likely is a death trap to save Podriks life(GRRM has confirmed it was her motivation) and Podrik might be the closest thing she has to a child to care for. Cersei can also not be compared to a warrior out on her own, she has never been like Brienne.

  • VVendetadlc , Direct link to comment

    And that scene it’s not the only change in that episode. I mean, it’s horrible for Cersei and Jamie, but later, when Danny goes to Mereen, why change Belwas for Dario Naaris? Because Belwas was an eunuch, non white and a slave, and that’s the reason Danny choose him. It’s a slap in Mereen’s face, because she show them that you don’t need a dick or being noble to be a great champion. That point it’s lost with that change.

    Instead, we have Dario Being Cocky and peeing to show he has a pennis… Changes the dinamic Danny-Dario where she lust after him only because he’s hot even if she knows he’s not to be trusted. I think that it’s another change that adds to the idea that you need a penis to be an interesting character… Really sad.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      Yeah, there was way too much badness going on in this ep to address it all. The Sam and Gilly scenes made me uncomfortable too. But I have to admit, I missed the change to the Dany scenes, because I don’t clearly remember the Meereen plotline from the book. That’s a really crappy change — and considering the impact it would have on Dany’s speech, it doesn’t even make sense. Sure, Belwas isn’t in the show, and I can understand them wanting to simplify the number of characters, but surely then Greyworm could have taken his place.

      • VVendetadlc , Direct link to comment

        Agree, Sam and Gilly doesn’t even make sense, when she is the one who usually takes charge of “practical things” and latter she’s at the castle for a plot point… (I don’t elaborate because it would be spoilers from the book).

        And yes, Greyworm would have been a better choice to make up for Belwar. Or even an anonymous eunuch. But if they going to cut characters then, why not to cut on whores? After all, most of them don’t add to the plot, while Belwas is important to Danny’s plot twice. Sure, last whore was the man who has sex with the red viper, but doesn’t add to the plot. Sure, less characters make the show easier to follow, and I agree with that. But that explanation won’t hold if they add a pointless sex escenes with characters who re only there to titilate. A nameless gladiator would have been a better choice than another whore.

  • Danielle , Direct link to comment

    I was so incredibly disgusted with Game of Thrones after this episode. Your pointing out of Cersei’s loss of self-agency is not only brilliant but so incredibly vital to the discussion of this scene. No matter what explanation the creators have given, this scene is undeniably RAPE. Have the writers never heard of consent and the importance of it? This was not a case where Cersei was reluctant to give into her desire for Jamie but instead she explicitly protests his advances and verbal exclaims “no” many times. I find it deeply troubling that the writers (and viewers for that matter) are not aware that this scene was indeed rape.

  • ANDREW , Direct link to comment

    I really enjoy your articles. This scene was rather controversial isn’t it? I think whats all the more disturbing is reading comments on the internet, not just from men but from women saying Cersei deserved to be raped! I am going to be completely honest and say it, I did not interpret that scene as rape, yes I am aware she was resisting and saying no, but she was also kissing him and raising her leg. If the roles were reversed and Cersei was the one piling on the pressure, no one would accuse her of rape, they would merely say Jaime succumbed to her advances, which is what I interpreted the scene as. And having sex in a church in front of their son’s corpse reminds everyone whoever had romantic notions about their relationship despite its taboo, that Jaime and Cersei are very twisted and unlikable people. However whether you see this scene as rape or not, the fact that people even women are saying Cersei deserves to be raped is a shocking sign of how cruel and misogynistic we have become, whether a woman does terrible things or not as a man I have never said that about a woman no matter how horrible they are. When men do terrible things we want them punished but do we wish rape on them?

What do you think?

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