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.